Public Service Broadcasting at The Music Hall of Williamsburg

Since my last review in March, I’m now married and have relocated to the ‘Land of the Free’. New York to be precise. It’s been a long time coming – and although I could write ten pages on married life, oversized portions and tragic manglings of The Queen’s English, you’ll be pleased to hear this is not one of those essays.

After booking last minute tickets for a number of cracking shows, this week has been rather mental. Juggling work with working out for the past few months has left me somewhere between immobile and, well, truly knackered – and in need of something to soothe the soul. No matter how many bagels, chicken tenders or pizza ‘pies’ I consume, my lack of live music attendance this summer has disturbed me. Eager to get back into the swing of things, I spent most of Sunday scouring the web for any semi-interesting gigs in the local area.

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Thankfully my findings were so far from ‘semi-interesting’ – in fact I found three of the best gigs I’ve been to in a long time – though sadly one was ruined by a massive bellend seated in front of me, causing me to leave after 4 songs.

Having gone to see Norah Jones at a 500-capacity jazz venue, Le Poisson Rouge in Greenwich Village last Sunday night, I was thoroughly blown away by her silky soulful voice and transcendently mellow jazz-blues fingerwork on the piano and couldn’t wait for Tuesday’s show – Roger Waters’ ‘Us + Them’ tour at the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn. Having seen him at London’s O2 arena performing ‘The Wall’ in its entirety a few years ago, the opportunity to see the rest of my Pink Floyd favourites live in concert was certainly something to look forward to.

Sadly though, things didn’t turn out so well that evening due to a blatant neo-nazi seated in front, donning a spike-riddled denim jacket, screaming his head off for an hour before the music started as if he was at a Cannibal Corpse gig. Throughout the Floydy ‘whale sounds’ build up as the band prepared to come on stage, and through every song, this guy was essentially that one guy who the entire stadium could hear. I think the only time he did shut up was for about a minute during the vocal solo on ‘Great Gig in the Sky’ – which succeeded in making me weep with joy and awe. Unfortunately, this redneck’s incessant screaming and fascist salutes (I know it’s Roger Waters but we’re ultimately there to listen to the music of Pink Floyd, not take political aggression to another level.. That’s Waters’ job!) coupled with the lack of intervention by security led me to walk out after the first 4 songs (the best 4 songs in my opinion; ‘Breathe’, ‘Time’, ‘The Great Gig in the Sky’, and ‘Welcome to the Machine’). I wasn’t too fussed about the rest of the set, since I’ve seen Gilmour perform ‘Wish You Were Here’ on his own and saw Waters perform ‘Comfortably Numb’ on the epic ‘The Wall’ tour in all its glory.

When one of your favourite bands of all time is ruined for you, it’s a miserable affair. Thankfully, I had one last gig to look forward to this week. One of my more recent ‘new favourite bands’, Public Service Broadcasting! Anyone who hasn’t given them a listen, I’d strongly recommend. Having missed these guys perform numerous times due to illness and family emergencies, management kindly hooked me up with a photopass for this show (even though I’d already bought the $20 tickets… Bargain!).

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Featuring J. Willgoose, Esq. on guitar, banjo and synths, Wrigglesworth on drums and new touring member J F Abraham on flugelhorn, guitar, bass guitar and more synth & percussion, the multi-instrumentalism in this band is simply superlative. Luckily, this was indeed a ‘third time lucky’ situation – there were no screaming knobheads anywhere to be seen or heard and the venue wasn’t madly rammed at all… Busy, but not sold out.. Surprising, given how popular these guys are back home in the UK – sold out every time I’ve failed to see them.

On the second stop of their ‘Every Valley’ North American Tour to promote their new album, at The Music Hall of Williamsburg, Public Service Broadcasting were accompanied by their familiar Pathé-esque video backdrops. The band kicked off with ‘The Pit’ and ‘People Will Always Need Coal’ from their new album, interestingly, and as you may guess by the song titles, about coal mining in Wales. They ploughed through hits from their catalogue – ‘Theme from PSB’ and ‘Spitfire’ from their debut album ‘Inform – Educate – Entertain’ and popular tracks including ‘E.V.A’, ‘The Other Side’ and ‘Go!’ from their cosmic follow-up ‘The Race for Space’ – ending with an encore of ‘Gagarin’ and ‘Everest’ from their first two albums.

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Honestly, I’ve never been a mad fan of most modern electronic music – it’s usually relatively unimaginative and repetitive, but Public Service Broadcasting have always managed to breathe fresh life into their almost self-created genre. J. Willgoose, Esq and Wrigglesworth’s combined understanding of soundscapes, melody and rhythm never fail to keep the audience entertained. With awesome riff after awesome riff, catchy beat after catchy beat, the subtle use of backing tracks and loops / samples, every song alluded to all great genres of music – ambient, funk, rock, dance and electro, a fresh take on the whole Lemon Jelly vibe – and adding the use of the flugelhorn and banjo, their musicianship is truly exceptional. I’ve always listened to their albums wondering if they can they pull it off live. Believe me when I say they do – like no other band I’ve seen (and I’ve seen hundreds).

Anyway, rounding this piece up, I would say buy PSB’s albums. All three of them. They will make you dream, make you dance and make you listen to them over and over again. My personal favourite album being ‘The Race for Space’ (which was the only one sold out at the merch desk) – a chronologically pieced-together album featuring audio excerpts from JFK, Apollo missions and each track contrasting America and Russia’s head-to-head race in such a historically significant period of time and technological advancement.

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Don’t hesitate to buy tickets for Public Service Broadcasting on their current North American tour at the links below – they’ll be arriving back home in the UK in October before heading across Europe in November, following dates throughout September across the US, Canada and Mexico. Like I said earlier, If you haven’t heard them yet, buy their records because they’re simply brilliant.

https://www.publicservicebroadcasting.net/#events

Words and photography by Ed Jacobs.

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