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First Look: Public Service Broadcasting At Brixton

Live Review

Venue: Brixton Academy, London

Geek duo take prog to the masses...

Public Service Broadcasting are almost impossible to define...

Many consider them a prog band, while some of their songs lean so far toward the rock/pop style that Radio 1 consider them playlist worthy. But there’s no denying their live shows are a fully immersive experience. Only six months after headlining a sold out Camden Roundhouse show, the band stun a packed Brixton Academy with an even bigger, brighter and more impressive stage show. Every time they tour they bring more to the live show – this time they had enormous video screens, a huge number of special guests and spectacular pyrotechnics.

The show is a mixture of old and new material, with longtime favourites Night Mail, Theme From PSB and Spitfire all in the set. The addition of the larger video screens add a new dimension and breathe fresh life into these songs, as the effects of the often hugely moving video backings are greatly magnified. With the current political climate at the forefront of the audience's collective consciousness, there's a noticeable reaction in the watching crowds as they watch footage of England at war on the screens, and the performance of If War Should Come has a depth and poignancy to it beyond any previous show.

Material from their latest record, The Race For Space, is lapped up by the thousands watching. Valentina sees the appearance of The Smoke Fairies as guests, and their haunting, soaring melodies twist and turn, perfectly showcasing the lighter, more melodic side that the band have to offer. Go has absolutely everybody on their feet and dancing, singing and shouting along with the words and refusing to sit still; the song even receives a standing ovation from those seated upstairs. Gagarin is a highlight – already a song that refuses to leave your head, and here embellished with an extended brass section, a string section and spacemen dancing on podiums. Closing on the always moving, always stunning Everest, snow is fired into the audience to end arguably the best performance the band has given to date.

While the music, the visuals and the performances are absolutely incredible, one of the most memorable aspects is in hearing the one and only J. Willgoose, Esq. actually speaking to the crowd - something he’s always avoided before, but here he good on a promise that “If we ever play Brixton, I’ll actually speak to the crowd”. He levels this out by also bringing onstage the ‘Voice of Public Service Broadcasting’, the face behind the spoken parts of the music, somebody who many hadn’t believed existed until this moment!

The night is a true triumph of musical performance that encapsulates everything prog music is celebrated for – huge variety of songs and musical styles, engaging visuals and a show that is so obviously an ever-evolving entity.  

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