Public Service Broadcasting brought their new album, Every Valley, to Glasgow on Wednesday night and the outcome was monumental, emotional and epic.
The trio’s latest album is a poignant and powerful look on the rise and fall of South Wales’s coal-mining industry which beautifully captures the strife, anger and passion of the Valleys at the time. The extensive research for the album, conducted by the band makes it an incredibly personal story, accurately depicting a view of these times of prosperity, progress, decline and rage. This whirlwind of emotions became far more real off the album, on stage at the Barrowlands.
The first glimpse of PSB’s magic was a recorded message in the bands signature 1950’s-BBC-style voiceover instructing fans not to use their phones too much and to enjoy the experience in the moment. A sensible instruction - even though I have to say I could not have been less interested in my phone- I was completely glued to the band’s rip-roaring performance for the duration, a fixation i’m sure I shared with the rest of the crowd.
Every Valley kicked off the show, with frontman J. Willgoose entering the crowd’s gaze first to deliver the stark, building guitars of the title track. The rest of the band - joined by a three-piece brass outfit clad in their finery then appeared to take the track to its full, shivering heights. A collection of miner’s lamps flooded the space above the band’s heads, suspended from the ceiling, filling the stage with an almost claustrophobic light. As the song faded to a close we knew we were in for something special.
Stage design with Public Service Broadcasting is always a spectacle, this time featuring two large coal pit wheel towers spinning behind the musicians as well as six LCD screens, totally engulfing the band and dazzling the crowd with PSB’s trademark visuals, as much a part of the experience as the music, with the man behind them being a full stage member of the band rather than hidden behind-the-scenes.
The set was comprised of tracks from Every Valley and some favourites from its predecessors, a fan favourite Theme from PSBrecognised by fans in its first few milliseconds and duly celebrated throughout. It’s bouncy synth and banjo melodies lighting up smiles around the room, the song became one of the highlights of the night.
But the light, danceable euphoria was short-lived. Signal 30 gave fans their first thrashing head-banger of the night. Paired with hectic clips from British Institute car safety documentaries, the song allowed the band to truly let loose. This energy was mirrored in another Every Valley song, All Out, which focuses on and encapsulates the unadulterated rage felt by the Welsh coal workers and families during the factory closures and the resulting nationwide strike of 1984-85. Visuals of violence and strife build the tension, and an audio sample of a Welsh woman proclaiming that she doesn’t respect the police release it, resulting in a menacing sonic and visual assault on the crowd, without doubt the loudest point in the evening and my week.
They Gave Me a Lamp contrasts entirely with its snowflake xylophones and haunting vocals. This time we are shown scarce positives of the mining industry - community, prosperity and identity. The suspended miner’s lamps twinkle in the dark, we see peaceful campaigning, smiles and joy on screen, a rare occurrence in the the new album’s tracklist. The lead single from Every Valley, Progress, shares the same sense of positivity as it plays, a delight even with the absence of Tracyanne Campbell, the featured Camera Obscura singer who was scheduled to appear, but cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances.
An encore featuring space-funk odyssey Gagarin (featuring a dancing spaceman taking to the stage) and long-time fan favouriteEverest goes down a treat. The latter gives a suitably epic conclusion to an epic show, and certainly left me yearning for more.
The secret, I feel, to Public Service Broadcasting’s roaring success and dedicated following is the unique experience they provide. They emanate a wide variety of emotions created via incredibly clever songwriting and pair it with powerful, interesting and immersive visuals, getting you totally lost in the moment in history that their songs focus on. Informing, educating and entertaining - I guess they do what they say on the tin.
PSB'S UK TOUR DATES CONTINUES:
Thurs October 19th 2017 - LEEDS : O2 Academy
Fri October 20th 2017 - WARWICK : Arts Centre
Sat October 21st 2017 - NOTTINGHAM : Rock City
Mon October 23rd 2017 - BRISTOL : Colston Hall
Tues October 24th 2017 - PORTSMOUTH : Pryamids
Wed October 25th 2017 - BEXHILL : De La Warr Pavilion
Thurs October 26th 2017 - LONDON : Eventim Apollo