26th February 2015
Public Service Broadcasting
The National Space Centre
by Keith Jobey
On the 4th October 1957 a small metal sphere with four trailing radio antennas, launched from the former Soviet Union, achieved an orbit around the Earth. The first man-made object to do so. It could be seen crossing the night sky and the beeps it transmitted could be heard by radio. The Americans were a little perturbed. The Space Race had entered a new era.
On the 4th October 2014 (57 years later) Public Service Broadcasting announced details of their second album The Race For Space. It was to be launched at the National Space Centre in Leicester with a two night special show where they would play the album live throughout for the first time. The first performance on Thursday 26th February, the second on Friday 27th February. Both nights sold out well in advance of the dates.
Public Service Broadcasting is a unique band comprising J. Willgoose, Esq on guitars, synths and computers ably assisted by drumming companion Wrigglesworth. They never talk on stage but instead use sampled statements strung together, controlled via laptop and interact with the audience that way. It sounds as if it shouldn’t work but it does.
Using projected archive footage and spoken word samples, layered over with guitars, banjos, synths and drums, previous releases have seen World War II, Dutch ice skating, the conquering of Everest and mail train films used amongst others. The new record tells the story of the American and Soviet space race in the 50s, 60s and 70s and draw upon footage from that epic era.
Prior to the show we are free to explore the Space Centre and to watch a short film showing in the Sir Patrick Moore Planetarium called Astronauts. One of a number of films the Space Centre has in its library. Or you could have a beer specially produced for the Space Centre by the Belvoir Brewery called One Small Sip.
First appearing in Leicester at the Cookie Jar in November 2012, Public Service Broadcasting next played the Musician and then O2 Academy 2 before this landmark appearance tonight at the National Space Centre. The first noticeable point since those early shows is the growth of technology on stage. Looking like a techie’s playroom the stage is full of gadgets sandwiched between the two columns of working TVs stacked up on either side. The second noticeable point is that when they come on stage there are now four members. We are later introduced to the two newbies, Mr B and J F Abraham.
During opening track Sputnik, a life size replica of the famed satellite rose from midstage to become a feature of the show. At times appearing silver like the original but at other times lights revealing a bank of LEDs inside programmed to add to the visual display. Second new track E.V.A. followed before a few older more familiar tracks were thrown in. That set the tone for the evening, a mix of old and new to make sure the crowd were kept happy with the tunes they knew, while introducing new tracks, most of which people were hearing for the first time. A brief interlude ended with the band reappearing for a three song encore featuring the last new track of the night Gagarin. This saw the band not only joined by a three-piece brass section, but also a dancing cosmonaut!
Ironically despite having far more computing power on stage than anybody had during the Space Race, there were computing problems mid-set. PSB coped with this in there usual calm, quirky way with a ‘We are experiencing technical difficulties’ interlude being played, rather like you would see on TV many years ago when things went wrong, while they corrected the glitch. A missed opportunity to use the line ‘Leicester, we have a problem’ I reckon.
The crowd left more than satisfied and as we wandered out into the cold clear night one could gaze up at the stars and the bright half moon in awe, recalling the space race and the events we had just witnessed inside.