Public Service Broadcasting. You wonder how many names the band went through before they settled on three words that, to those of a certain vintage, conjure images of grainy civil servants dryly lecturing Brits on wartime best practice and crossing the road.
So what of the music? In truth where to start? PSB described themselves as ‘pop / soft rock’ during the pre-show (Public Service) broadcast. But they do themselves an injustice. If soft rock conjures big hair, leather jackets and growly vocals then PSB couldn’t be further removed.
Three young chaps, all ‘Alfie’ glasses, ties and tweed, backed by a similarly attired gizmo geek take the stage which is adorned with two pit wheels and miners’ lights. There goes the tour budget.
Last time round they got a projector screen and a wobbly stage. Now as word gets around, their vision of bringing modern history to life with audio pyrotechnics, over lapping video footage, live and from the library, has the platform it needs and its performers deserve.
If an album of songs dedicated to the rise and rapid decline of the Welsh coal industry sounds as appealing as tea and biccies with Arthur Scargil, then think on. The material might be a throwback to the days of Billy Bragg and Red Wedge but the delivery is a mile and 30 years away. Strobe lighting fills Cardiff University’s Great Hall as the speakers thunder through the majority of ‘Every Valley’, tune after tune (the vocal is usually a sample from archive footage) build, carefully arranged to a thunderous, lung-bursting crescendo. The effect is mesmeric. The audience transfixed by the musicianship from a trio that move seamlessly between instruments, audio loops and samples, backed by a brass section that brought their own ‘A game’ to the party, ducking and weaving, orchestrating the crowd and busting their specially choreographed dance moves. They almost stole the show, but in truth added yet another layer of joyousness.
A couple of astronauts bobbed in the audience, gravity keeping their feet just about on the floor to the dance anthems ‘Go’ and ‘Gargarin’, intertwined with cuts from the back catalogue (“someone emailed me three times to request this track” explained Wilgoose (real name)). Three times eh? The charm of these guys, aside from their intentionally tailored geek-chic and unaffected charm and wit, is their accessibility. They are in touch with their audience and their material. The audience in Cardiff included those from The South Wales Miner’s Library who helped bring ‘Every Valley’ to life and, touchingly, the Beaufort Male Voice Choir who were handed the honour of closing the night by performing the final track on the album ‘Take Me Home’.
As the choristers slowly shuffled off stage an audience by now brim-full of hwyl broke into ‘Mae hen wlad fy nhadau’. After an evening where Public Service Broadcasting gave everything, it was only right that they got something in return.