Public Service Broadcasting at The Button Factory: Review

PublicServiceBroadcastingThis originally was published on Goldenplec.com

Public Service Broadcasting at The Button Factory May 31st 2013

Public Service Broadcasting have travelled the length and breadth of both the UK and Ireland on this tour, before arriving for a show in The Button Factory in Dublin, in support of their debut album, ‘Inform – Educate – Entertain’. Borrowing the album’s title from the BBC’s charter, the band have used samples from archive information films and fused it with their musical ethos to forge something special, which would be a feat to recreate live.

Entering the venue, The Violet Roadkills had taken the stage. Playing tracks from their new album, ‘Led Kindly Light’, the krautrock fourpiece were tight with each instrument balanced beautifully in the soundscape. Just a pity there weren’t more people there to hear them.

Bank Holiday weekends in the capital can be strange affairs as people escape to the country. It was not until moments before Public Service Broadcasting were due to take the stage that the venue actually filled up. As the stage crew readied for the event, it became apparent that this wasn’t a gig, it was a proper audio visual show. Either side of the stage, the shells of old televisions were stacked four high, for use with projectors. Hanging at the back of the stage was a main screen and to the left towards the back of the stage was another huge ‘TV’ screen.

For the live shows PSB have three people on stage, Wigglesworth on drums, sitting to the left, Mr. B on visuals and J. Willgoose, Esq. ‘on everything else’. There are no vocal microphones set up for interaction with the audience, instead comunication is made through a series of sampled phrases in a ‘proper English’ accent. The trio themselves beautifully add to this co-ordination as they are clad in corduroy, tweed jackets, dickie bows, shirts and ties.

The band start the night off as they mean to continue. The stage comes alive. For ‘London Can Take It’, the venue lights mimic search lights and vintage war footage is played on the main screen at the back of the stage, with other imagery lighting with stacked television sets either side. Musically, it’s really interesting. Alongside samples and triggered noises, J. Willgoose, Esq. plays banjo. Not something you’d really expect to see in this environment. This really is a feast for the senses.

As they progress through their set, J. Willgoose, Esq. moves between instruments, to guitar sampling riffs, and thermin on ‘Dig for Victory’, he’s never still. During ‘The Now Generation’, to make the visuals a little different on the tracks, Mr B, leaves his spot at the back of the stage and wanders the stage with a roving camera, from which we can see his point of view on the stage. At points during this track, there’s a subtle synth sound not unlike Paul Hardcastle’s 19, this track rocks a little harder though. The rock is continued with a ‘New Dimensions in Sound’, starting off quiet and thoughtful, with sampled string plucks and bells before add a good dash of distorted guitar.

At the end of eack track J. Willgoose, Esq. plays a polite ‘Thank You’ sample before adding ‘Dublin’. A heckler shouts ‘Sligo Rovers will win the league’ towards the stage, to which J. Willgoose, Esq. retorts with a ‘Yes we’ve all had a few’ sample, which makes the entire audience laugh. The lack of direct verbal communication from the band isn’t an issue, Willgoose acknowledges the well populated venue. The audience are enjoying the audio visual spectactle, though it does take a little while for them to dance. There are calls from the floor for ‘Spitfire’ and ‘Everest’.

Listening to ‘Inform – Educate – Entertain’, it’s easy to picture what the visuals may be for the sampled material. The live show fuses the the music and the visuals so tightly together, it may be hard to return to listening to the audio only.

‘Spitfire’, the track that brought PSB to many people’s attention is a definite fan favourite, with cheers bellowing from the crowd from the first roar of the sampled plane. This gets everyone dancing as the visuals explode across the screen. The splash of colour around the screens onstage beautifully portrays ‘ROYGBIV’, each television set on either side of the stage, features the PSB satellite logo on a different colour background. The trio leave the stage to rapturous applause but the audience are going no where. They want to hear/see ‘Everest’. On the week of the sixtieth anniversary of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s ascent to ‘the roof of the world’ there really is no other way to finish off the show.

Public Service Broadcasting have achieved what they wanted to with ‘Inform – Educate – Entertain’, they have provided us with a look at the past which we probably wouldn’t have looked at twice. They’ve educated us with images of wartime rationing and encouraged self sufficiency and they’ve entertained us. This show is something very special, visually engaging, musically sonically gratifying, they’ve set a new high for audio visual shows.

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