Saturday, 18 May 2013

Public Service Broadcasting 18 May 2013 Birmingham Institute Gig Review

Big TV, will make your eyes go square
Public Service Broadcasting Live in Birmingham: Last year for me was the year of Public Service Broadcasting, being introduced to them through the stunning Spitfire, then on through the other war room tracks, London can take it, checking out older tracks ROYGBIV then Everest and the war room remix ep (with an equally good, if not better version of Spitfire). I was gutted not to be able to see them live in my mega gig year, I think I was out the country when they toured.

As such it was with great enthusiasm I arrived at the little Temple room in the Institute, already rammed with quite an audience of older enthusiasts, I think this must be the typical 6 Music crowd, (6 Music fans keep voting PSB as rebel playlist winners) so I felt pretty much at home.

The support were on when I arrived, the unpronounceable XTXGXWXSXCX (The Grafham Water Sailing Club) a local band who made a good sound the 4 members stood round a table in the middle effectively, or that's what it looked like! But overall a good 'wall of sound type band'. Worth a listen on their sound cloud here

Then the covers came off quite literally, banks of TV's appeared looking like a scene from Max Headroom. All showing static, with a giant TV at the back, not beautiful flat screen TV's but old school wood surround. Minutes to go and on came the testcard. Then on walked the 3 members of Public Service Broadcasting, not a word was said, except a 'Hello' from the computer, and a cheery wave from the bow tie sporting Willgoose.

First track, inform, educate, entertain got us prepared for what the gig would be like, Guitar, Driving Drums, TV's showing cracking visuals plucked from Black & White movies / educational films and keyboards. The films taking centre stage, the band stepping back into the shadows, happy not to be focussed on by anyone, looking appropriately Geek Chic in their ties / bow ties and thick black rimmed specs.

It takes a little while to get used to not having any vocals, just being replaced by the narratives from the films, even between the songs there aren't any vocals, there are comments from the computer 'thanks' after the applause from the first song. It is very different to what you normally expect to hear, a sound tracked evening on National Geographic perhaps. This is though not a complaint, smile on face throughout.

The other aspect that jumps out differently to every other gig is the humour that is used by the interspersed Computer voice between tracks. For a particular favourite, we got
It's great to be here in......(press other button) ...Birmingham, then, We always wanted to play here in......Birmingham. They are definitely a band that doesn't take themselves too seriously, which is a good thing. Another example I thought of this was "Night Mail" which started with recurring pictures of train tracks and train wheels, a stirring beat, which could have continued in a serious manner being a Kraftwerkesque tune, but it wasn't to be, as the narrative from WH Auden Poem is interspersed, again bringing a wry smile as it states.

This is the Night Mail crossing the border,
Bringing the cheque and the postal order,
Letters for the rich, letters for the poor,
The shop at the corner and the girl next door.

Two thirds of the way through and the highlight for me, Spitfire gets a run through, for me the ideal choice for the end of the gig or encore, but it wasn't placed there. It was epic as I had hoped it would be, the audience Euphoric in their response to the song, the footage looking amazing with the Spitfires swooping all over the screen.

The computer announces the last song after an hours set, ROYGBIV another excellent tune and they walked off stage right, the computer requested the opportunity to intro the band (it shouldn't take long) and band introduced as Drums, Visuals (first time I have had a band with a Visuals person) and Everything Else.

Encore back on, and the other Epic tune Everest. Uplifting sums it up best for me. Then the end of the gig, Vinyl purchased (copy of the War room EP finally acquired) and home by 10:30.

So in overall terms, the PSB guys did not disappoint, every song is entertaining at least, not something you can say for many bands, no checking of facebook or twitter required for album filler tracks. I would recommend them to anyone, they had thought through their set, didn't take themselves too seriously and played some belters.

Reflecting on the songs though, it's interesting to consider whether they have anywhere they can go now with this mode of music as it may be that they are a one trick pony, providing an excellent artefact that people will hear in 10 years time and try to remember their names.

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