Written for The Music Fix.
Inform, educate, entertain. That’s Public Service Broadcasting‘s motto, the band famous for turning archive and propaganda material into engaging, chin-stroking, head-nodding sonic extravaganzas. While their last album drew upon different eras of British history, Race For Space looks further afield, to the heavens in fact. Two albums in and they’ve sold out one of the most popular venues in Manchester. Seems like people want a little bit of learning with their beats.
It’s interesting to see how PSB have developed as a live band. They never speak, but use retro style pre-recordings to interact with the audience. Before, this had seemed a little stiff and awkward, but now they return as more experienced performers with a much more versatile range of comebacks and interludes. The duo (backed by a couple of touring musicians) finally seem comfortable on the stage.
Variety is the name of the game as the show swaps from upbeat, hook heavy songs such as ‘Spitfire’ to slower songs with more complete narratives like ‘The Other Side’. They bring support act Smoke Faeries on for the only track with live vocals ‘Valentina’, proving the format can cope with a more organic approach.
When they return for an encore, J Willgoose Esq has changed his tweed jacket for a shiny silver one. ‘It’s OK, I’m still wearing corduroys!’ he reassures the audience. ‘Gagarin’ inspires much dancing among the crowd. Closer ‘Everest’ is thoughtfully dedicated ‘to Nepal’.
On paper, Public Service Broadcasting may seem like a bit of a one trick pony but this is one act that gets better the more times you see it.