The reason for the shelf life tag seemed to be based purely on the finite number of public service broadcasts available. The non-genre specific music certainly was never going to be a problem. (At one point tonight I was stood between one guy head banging – there’s no other word for it – and one chap dancing to euphoric trance. At the same time. They were both right). The finite number of broadcasts available doesn’t really stand up to much questioning either but, quite possibly just to prove a point, J. Willgoose Esq. went away and wrote the finest concept album the 21st Century will see – The Race For Space – taking samples from JFK’s ‘not because it’s easy’ speech, Gene Kranz’s ‘keep the chatter down’ as The Eagle approached touchdown on the moon, Russian news reports on Yuri Gagarin, Valentina Tershkova and Sergei Korolev and more.
It’s a magnificent album with Educate getting pushed forward now as well as Entertain. I was particularly looking forward to seeing the new songs performed.
First up though support band All We Are, a three piece Liverpool band who’s members come from Ireland, Norway and Brazil. They describe themselves as The Bee Gees on diazepam. That alone should make you want to learn more about this band. Talking Heads have just come on my iPod which is handy as my first thought with All We Are was there’s some Talking Heads in there, buried in an array of effects it has to be said. Then suddenly bassist Guro Gikling gets funky and we’re off in a totally different direction. Imagine The Edge playing guitar for Talking Heads with Niles Rodgers producing. My only real criticism is the shortness of the set. I was still trying to work out if I liked them and if so how much and it was all over. Definitely one to catch again
Never have a road crew deserved the moniker ‘technicians’ more than PSB’s roadies. For someone who currently gets an error message every time he plugs his iPod into his PC and has decided that the best way to rectify said error is to ignore it and hope it goes away it’s all very impressive.
We’re all plugged in and after a brief message from Ralph and Geoffrey (be like Ralph) Mssrs. Willgoose, Wrigglesworth, Abrahams and B take the stage. The addition of J.F. Abrahams on bass/percussion/flugel horn (it’s not a trumpet) has fleshed the live sound out and as the band launch (no pun intended) into Sputnik The Refectory is pounding. ‘That was a new one’ Willgoose’s computerised communicator informs us, ‘This is an old one’ and we’re into the magnificent, swirling car crash of Signal 30. Staying with Inform-Educate-Entertain we go straight into my own personal favourite from the first album, Night Mail and I find myself ‘singing’ along to John Grierson, ‘Letters for the rich, letters for the poor, the shop on the corner and the girl next door’.
Next up is tribute to the Father of astronautics, Sergei Korolev. How this track never made it to the album I don’t know. The build and drop on this tune are worth the admission fee alone. PSB are relentless in their onslaught of the senses, the visuals are as much a part of a PSB show as the music. It’s easy to forget the sheer brilliance of the musicianship on offer here as you’re bombarded from all sides.
Things slow down with the gorgeous Valentina before ‘a very old one indeed’, If War Should Come which can only realistically be followed by Spitfire, this is when the head banging/trance arm waving happened. Another old one in ROYGBIV follows and every now and then you see smiles flicker between the band members knowing that they are producing something very special indeed up there.
My favourite tracks from The Race For Space follow, The Other Side and Go! The Other Side uses the NASA communication between Houston and Apollo 8 as the 3 astronauts became the first to see the dark side of the moon. You can feel the tension as NASA waits for contact after the radio blackout. It’s a track that shows just how damn clever those PSB chaps are. ‘Keep the chatter down in here’ says Gene and the band pile into Go! with the crowd punching the air to emphasise that one short word. It’s joyous. 3 days later and I’m grinning like an idiot at the memory.
The set ends with album closer Tomorrow and the plea that manned space exploration will continue.
Encore time and the brass section are back. Did I mention that a three piece brass section has been added to the mix on a few tunes? It’s Gagarin. J. Willgoose Esq. is sporting a shiny silver jacket (‘Yes I am still wearing corduroy’), the brass section are wrapped up in some serious moves. It’s not what I expected from a PSB gig.
Everest naturally closes the show, now with added crowd singalong. It also sounds like the brass section has always been there.
And it’s over. I’m a little bit breathless. It’s my 4th time of seeing PSB and given how good they’ve been before and the nature of their music I didn’t see how they could possible improve. They have though. And then some. This is a band at the top of their game, until they raise the bar again. Which they will do.
Oh and Geoffrey Went Too Far should be played before every live show by every band, everywhere.
Words by Mr Simon Saynor of the The Notorious Aardvark record shop
Photography by mark Loraine of Eclectica