With adventure all over the city centre, Rebecca Worthington picks the right choice when she caught Public Service Broadcasting at the Liverpool Olympia for Sounds From Nowhere.
With mining lamps hanging from the ceiling, dimly illuminating the venue, and two winding wheels either side of stage, the scene was set at the Olympia for Public Service Broadcasting.
The art rock trio from London weave samples from old public information films, archive footage and propaganda material into beautifully-crafted, guitar-laden electronica. Their latest album, Every Valley, is no different, chronicling the rise and fall of the mining industry in the Wales.
On walked charming frontman J Willgoose Esq., playing the delicate opening chords of the new album’s title track before the powerful voice of Richard Burton described “the arrogant strut of the Lords of the Coalface.” Drummer, Wrigglesworth, and multi-instrumentalist, JFAbraham, chimed in with the trumpeters, adding the musical layers to this dramatic show opener.
The theatrics continued with the pounding drums and downwards pitch gliding of the trumpets in The Pit, portraying the bleak, dangerous conditions faced by the coal miners and giving a sense of the turmoil that was to be caused “Drilling out from their native rock, the foundations of the future” over emotive strings.
Willgoose acknowledged the crowd “Thank you very much… Liverpool!”, making use of his gameshow-host voice over samples for the first time. His quintessentially English stage attire – comprised of tweed suit, bowtie and thick-rimmed glasses – even made him look like a gameshow host! A savagely ironic recruitment ad sings “Come on be a miner. There’s money, lots of money and security”, marking the beginning of “People Will Always Need Coal“. Footage of young aspiring coal miners beamed from the projectors, alongside an evocative score.
As emphasised in the next track “Theme from PSB“, this is a band on a Reithian quest to ‘Inform – Educate – Entertain’ audiences around the globe.
Their second album The Race for Space highlights milestones in space exploration. The story of the first spacewalk was told during the expeditionary track “E.V.A“, which features an assortment of retro-game synths, banjos and violins and a quiet piano section depicting the weightless atmosphere experienced by Alexey Leonov stepping out into space. Similarly, suspenseful track “The Other Side“, follows the communications between mission control and Apollo 8 on its orbit of the moon.
When voice contact was received from the spacecraft, the music exploded victoriously, and the crowd cheered in celebration. This mission paved the way for the moon landing, the topic of “Go!“, which had the whole crowd throwing they arms into their air to the go/no-go decision. It was a surreal atmosphere
A personal highlight of the night was “They Gave Me a Lamp“, a poignant and moving piece about the importance of women’s support groups. Willgoose emphasised the collaborate nature of the album. Special thanks was given to the South Wales Miners’ Library (where most of audio and film footage was found for the album) and instrumental trio Haiku Salut, who joined the sample wizards onstage. Another guest performer, Lisa Jên Brown, of the Welsh group 9Bach followed for a bilingual duet of “You + Me“, the only track featuring the dulcet vocals of Willgoose.
During the encore, images of protests depicting the anger and despair felt at the closure of the mines accompanied the striking heavy-metal guitars of “All Out“, which was dedicated to the Justice for the 96 Campaign. They certainly were taking us on an emotional rollercoaster.
The band showed off their groovy choreography together with two dancing space men, for the jazz-fusion space journey of “Yuri Gagarin”. The evening came to a magnificent close with the uplifting, triumphal track “Everest“, completing the goosebump-worthy, inspiring and gripping performance.
Public Service Broadcasting have the instruments to teach, illuminate and even inspire. And that night they achieved this in the most spectacular way.
Words by Rebecca Worthington, photography by Brian Sayle.