Review: Public Service Broadcasting, Boiler Shop, Newcastle

Public Service Broadcasting.
Public Service Broadcasting.

Having seen Public Service Broadcasting several times and loved them, I wondered how they'd handle latest album Every Valley live.

It's theme is the decline of the coal industry in South Wales – on the surface not a promising subject, but PSB could wring any sort of emotions they wanted to out of the phone book if they saw fit.

Their trademark mix of archive films and voices blends seamlessly into any number of forms, from Krautrock to bluegrass banjos and beyond.

On previous album Race For Space, the vocals were provided by The Smoke Fairies, who were their support act on that tour, so handily came back on stage to fill in the blanks.

However, with major-league vocalists on Every Valley (including Manic Street Preachers' James Dean Bradfield and Tracyanne Campbell from Camera Obscura), presented more of a challenge, namely how do you cope with guest artists when they're not there?

On Progress, Tracyanne's vocals were part of the band's video screens and sound experience – the sound was great, so there were no complaints there.

However, Turn No More, arguably the best song on the album (and the current single), which prominently features Bradfield, wasn't played at all - so that's one way of coping with your vocalist being missing!

On the visuals side, replacing the slightly wonky but endearing 'special effects' Sputnik on the last tour was a pit wheel, along with much slicker and bigger back-projection videos.

AS you'd expect, there was a fair sprinkling of back-catalogue favourites interspersed among the new songs – Signal 30, Spitfire and The Other Side being the real crowd-pleasers.

But PSB's tremendous brass section, The Brassy Gentlemen, really shone on the Every Valley songs.

The encore kicked off with Inform – Educate – Entertain's The Now Generation, followed by the much-loved Gagarin (with two dancing cosmonauts) and ended with the classic Everest.

I couldn't fault anything with the band's performance, but the packed-out venue, unless you were right at the front, meant a lack of intimacy with the musicians.

One of the things I most admire about PSB is Wrigglesworth – he's an excellent drummer and well worth watching in his own right, but you couldn't actually see him.

Also, 'frontman' J Willgoose Esq seems to be ditching his computer-generated 1930s-style voice for his own, which was a bit of a departure.

All in all, however, it was a nicely balanced set which seemed to hit the right note with fans both old and new.