Bringing their unified goals of informing, educating and entertaining, London trio Public Service Broadcasting called in at the iconic Olympia and Getintothis’ Matthew Wood lapped up a spellbinding night of conceptual art rock.
Tonight, Public Service Broadcasting prove that not all gigs are equal – tonight’s gig showed that convention can be ignored to spectacular effect.
But first, a homecoming performance from Jane Weaver opens the night’s proceedings, her often kaleidoscopic, avant garde pop arrives informed by Yoko Ono and European art-house cinema and is wholly enchanting to the senses.
Well rested and recuperated after support Belle & Sebastian on the last leg of their European tour, Weaver and her band fellow bandmates set to add another layer of gloss to the recent sparkling months since the release of 2017’s Modern Kosmology.
The Olympia has an eerie feel as we enter, the high ceilings barely lit and the salmon pink paint work is oddly haunting. As Weaver and co. enter the stage it all looks a tad cramped, sheets drape over Public Service Broadcasting’s equipment, resembling spooky figures encroaching in on the band, which doesn’t help with the ghostly atmosphere.
Their first track is sharp and punchy, a quick fire kraut-rock beat leads the chase, Weaver‘s lofty vocals joining ethereal synth work and catching the attention of an already bubbling crowd. Sadly what strikes us first is that certain aspects of the quartet are lost amid the overly booming drum kit which commands every track.
A their set progresses it becomes a tad one dimensional and predictable, their jams cry out for a bass guitar and they need to shake it up a bit here. Thankfully their set strengthens with time, The Architect simmers to life with elasticated synths and sweet, dominant vocals, giving us a glimpse of the guitarist’s technical ability as he rattles of a short-lived but sonically satisfying solo.
She ends with a strong trio of tracks through I Wish, Don’t Take My Soul and I Need A Connection, and here we are allowed to witness the strength of Weaver‘s vocals as they sit more comfortably amid the minimalist electronic landscape, as opposed to the punchier waves of psych rock that preceded them.
A strong ending is cemented and they’re met with a warm reception, but as a band they look uninvolved and lethargic, with little passion flowing through their playing, something we could never criticise the headliner of.
As Public Service Broadcasting take to the stage joined by three horn playing members who will become key members of the night’s narrative; as they ease gently into a warming instrumental, mining lamps descend slowly from above until the space above their heads is glowing tranquilly and the Olympia immediately feels like the iconic setting it is.
2017’s Every Valley, the band’s third full-length record narrates the momentous rise and crushing decline of the coal industry, leaving communities distraught and devoid of self-worth and value. They settle into an arduous rhythm, images of miners flashing up on the many screens and industrial props are shrouded in fog to complete the set.
There’s a feel of hope and promise coursing through the opening minutes of their set, there’s footage of young men with bright futures, and great sweeps of encouraging guitar launch us into the first momentous climax of many, topped off with the resounding pang of the vibraslap.
From the depths of the darkened mines we return to the band’s debut record Inform – Educate – Entertain for a track brimming with tropical guitar riffs and frantic calypso percussion; the grimy underground world is soon forgotten, and “the importance of ideas and information” resounds in our ears.
Once again we switch drastically to a roaring, intimidating jam of destructive guitars and a cacophony of screeches for Signal 30, a punishing number featuring equally punishing footage a 1959 US road safety film. Accompanied with the extreme visuals and violent strobes, this is the hardest hitting track thus far, demonstrating the band’s ability to transform their sound at the flick of a switch.
J. Willgoose, Esq. and co. are not ones to shy away from a challenge, striving to connect intimately with each album’s concept and allowing landscapes, recordings and interviews with strong characters to seep into their sound and ensure their projects blossom from deep-seated roots. This close connection reverberates through their set, and each song feels like a new tale with historic secrets to uncover within. Particularly tracks from Every Valley, they’re marked with a sense of nostalgia, like returning from a long journey to a bucolic setting and a home-cooked meal complete with a side of crisp layers of percussion and rich harmonies.
The trio of horn players return to the set, launching us into the space race, triumphant and jubilant blasts accompany shuttle take off footage and the crowd grows ever more excited for what’s to come. Amid the mesmeric visuals we notice live footage of each band member smoothly intertwined and it becomes apparent that PSB are pioneering a most accomplished sensory experience, and one that is so perfectly suited to our generation, one stricken with short attention spans and rapid fire onslaughts of information.
There’s a brief moment of stillness as a spaceman floats out into outer space and we breathe a quick sigh in unison before they explode back into action. With each fleeting image and scenario the band display their knack for describing an overriding, very human feeling in each composition. Whether it’s the heart in mouth moment in ground control, the sheer rage felt during the mining strikes, or the sheer complexity of launching a shuttle into orbit, this is so apparent in not only what they play, but how they play it in each fleeting moment.
Spitfire and Go! are obvious favourites, their electric energy is relentless and percussionist, Wrigglesworth is tireless and his work is enthused with a driving kraut-rock pulse.
The crowd roars in anticipation of an encore, and an encore we get. Appealing to the importance of justice, and dedicating this one to the Justice for the 96 campaign, All Out documents the typically brutal fights during striking and serves as a brief yet welcome moment of ernest.
To conclude, a celebratory performance of Gagarin to honour 57 years since Yuri Gagarin became the first human to journey into outer space in the Vostok aircraft. To commemorate him, our trio of horn players return with slick dance routine, before two spacemen join the funk-fuelled mayhem and salute us on our way before one last track, Everest, leaves us quite frankly blown away.
Photographs by Getintothis’ Martin Saleh