Public Service Broadcasting
The Ritz, Manchester
On a night in which space travel loomed large, Public Service Broadcasting’s special guests proved a heavenly addition to the bill.
The Smoke Fairies – Sussex vocal talents Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies – were part of a five-piece on this occasion, and certainly showcased their sonic depth.
Some of their five-LP back-catalogue suggests more bluesy and folksy roots, but tonight was about raw energy amid the front pair’s beguiling, often exquisite vocal delivery.
They were definitely on a high by the time they launched into the gorgeous Eclipse Them All from last year’s eponymous album, another apt tune given the evening’s overriding theme.
Voices and guitars apart, there was added visual impact thanks to the girls’ matching sparkly metallic space wear.
And the title tracks of Blood Speaks and Wild Winter suggested a darker edge PSB fans may not have expected, but certainly appreciated.
There was never any doubt Public Service Broadcasting would live up to crowd expectations, and while this show had a different dynamic to that of my last viewing at Preston’s 53 Degrees two years before, success has not gone to their heads.
J. Willgoose Esq and co arrived amid an entertaining public service broadcast about the general etiquette of gig-going, and never lost the charm factor from there.
The corduroy legend and his drumming sidekick Wrigglesworth remain at the heart of it all and resolutely anti-rock, ably assisted this time by techno wizard Mr B and new addition JF Abraham on bass.
The stage set added to it all, banks of TVs and video backdrops augmented by fancy but never showy lighting and even their own satellite creation.
This crowd knew just what the South London outfit were about, and the band mirrored their enthusiasm while alternating between new and old material and a variety of styles.
From the Balearic beep-beats of Sputnik to the grunge of Signal 30 and a toe-tapping banjo-fuelled Theme from PSB onwards, we were on the same side.
As one, we defied gravity in space-walking soundscape EVA, clambered aboard the Night Mail and were wide-eyed at a colourful ROYGBIV, Willgoose almost rampant on his synth.
The mood changed as Jessica and Katherine returned for a stirring, heart-felt Valentina, the punters swooning again in their presence. There was a new song, too, PSB’s talking computer asking randomly if we enjoyed films about ice skating in Dutch, before a glide through Elfstedentocht Pt. II.
Next up, a reminder of PSB’s beginnings, If War Should Come, giving rise to breakthrough hit Spitfire before a return to new LP The Race for Space. I swear the temperature dropped, hairs rising on the neck for dark side of the moon drama The Other Side.
That was followed by the sheer exuberance of Go! as the Apollo landing tests saw us to new heights that only first encore Gagarin could match, the guest brass trio belying their initial stage presence with a few stunning dance moves.
There was even a spaceman up in the gallery for that number, and after part-elatory, part-poignant show-stopper Tomorrow came a fitting finale, Everest coming with its own dedication to victims of the Nepal disaster.