Public Service Broadcasting at The Academy, Dublin on the 24th January 2018
From a set that started in the coal pits of Wales, Public Service Broadcasting took a sold-out Academy on a prodigious journey to the peak of Mount Everest and further still into the outer reaches of space.
The ambient lighting and tendrils of smoke that spread across the stage as the trio emerged set the scene for what was far more of an experience than just your run of the mill gig. Opening with the combination of The Pit and People Will Always Need Coal from their latest offering, ‘Every Valley’, they took the crowd deep into the coal mines that the album captures.
While the first two albums took a more extra-terrestrial approach, ‘Every Valley’ tells of the decline of the coal mines in South Wales and the portrayal of this is not just in the music but in the foreboding setting PSB create on stage.
Omissions of the powerful Turn No More and other tracks off ‘Every Valley’ do slightly take away from the narrative but when it’s either play the album sequentially and fuel the story or juxtapose tracks throughout to create an experience, it is clear that the right choice was made.
Tracks off of preceding albums ‘The Race for Space’ and ‘Inform – Educate – Entertain’ melded into the newer tracks seamlessly and required little to no introduction. The usual trio of J. Willgoose Esquire, JF Abraham and Wrigglesworth were joined by a brass section that added even more to their already captivating live sound.
What sets PSB apart is their use of poignant samples, live instrumentation and accompanying visuals together to create a sound that envelops you and takes you into another realm. To experience this in a live setting is staggering, because it isn’t something that you are usually treated to outside the confines of a cinema. Crowd interaction is limited, and much of it is done by Willgoose through samples on a launchpad.
The mixture of instruments used throughout the night ranged from standard guitar, drums and bass to trombones, glockenspiels and shakers and beyond. The eclectic selection of instruments meant that no section of a song became stagnant, as the rattling of a tambourine and the interjection of a flugelhorn kept tracks cycling through.
An instrumental show was too much for an Irish audience to keep quiet during and regular shouts to the stage from fans were rife. During Go!, which was one of the gleaming highlights of the show, revellers were in full voice with fists pumping the air during the choruses. This is something that made the members of PSB smirk, as they fired through a spirited rendition before exiting the stage.
An appearance from a spacesuit-clad Yuri Gagarin* and synchronised dancing from the brass section assured that the penultimate song was as poignant as the beginning. The encore closed with a raucous rendition of Everest. What is usually a down-tempo and chilled-out song became an awe-inspiring retelling of a climb up the tallest peak in the world. The power of the song resonated through the entire room, leaving its mark on an audience that probably won’t experience anything quite like PSB again anytime soon.
*We can neither confirm nor deny the presence of Yuri Gagarin at this show.