Public Service Broadcasting

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  • All We are
02 Academy 16/2/16

PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCASTING are a band that flirt round the edges of categorisation. Their sensibility is one of post-rock with large doses of electronics, funk and even jazz, all presented by a bunch of fine young chaps you’d expect to see working as archivists at the BFI. So here I am at the O2 Academy in Liverpool to sample what they have to offer.

Support comes from local stars ALL WE ARE. They weave hip hop, soul and funk into a cohesive whole, creating a late club groove that still manages to remain indie. Their sound is huge, yet created from a small set-up of drums, guitar and bass. Opener Ebb/Flow is a propulsive train-ride of chugging sequencers, strobing bass and soaring vocals. Visually they are appealing and fun to watch: O’Flynn flays the drums acting as the heartbeat, Santos is wild and expressive, and Gikling swings the bass while cementing the whole with her spiralling falsetto. It is a powerful and compelling set that leaves the audience cheering.

Public Service Broadcasting take to the stage and open with Sputnik, a slow-building electronic funk track. The band perform in front of a satellite acting as an LED display, flanked by two large screens displaying archive footage and two stacks of old monochrome CRT televisions flickering with stock footage at the front.

Tracks like Dig For Victory with its slow-rock grooves and atmospheric voiceover work on several levels: audio and visual come together to create an immersive experience. Night Mail and Spitfire are supreme examples of this. Both are so embedded with nostalgia that music and film transcend the performance. I’m thrilled by a rare outing for the rousing, blitz-inspired London Can Take It and the patriotic If War Should Come, accompanied by footage of upstanding Brits preparing for the battle ahead.

Many of the clips and samples send chills as images and voices so familiar and embedded in our collective history flash up and great achievements of the last 100 years fly by. Willgoose Esq leads his men with understated aplomb, dressed in tweed and corduroy, while his companions Wrigglesworth on drums and JF Abraham on keys and flugelhorn ably support him. During certain tracks he plays his banjo and welcomes on stage the Brassy Gents, three chaps playing trumpet, trombone and saxophone, all to great and heartening effect.

There is an old-world charm about the show. It feels like being taken on a tour of the British Museum, the exhibits springing to life as we pass by, our tour guides all charm and affability. More recent offerings from The Race For Space ramp up the tension and provide epic moments; Korolev, E.V.A., The Other Side and Go! are effusive, evoking the suspense and triumph of the space race illustrated by powerful and vivid imagery.

Public Service Broadcasting evoke a time of wonder, when all things seemed possible and little boys dreamt of being train drivers, test pilots, adventurers or astronauts. It is this delving into the deepest parts of our psyche that elevates the performance beyond a mere gig. The concept is high but so is the euphoria of the sleigh ride through history that J Willgoose Esq. and friends brilliantly take us all on.

Mike Stanton / @DepartmentEss

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