Public Service Broadcasting @ O2 Academy, Bristol, 23/04/2015

Public Service BroadcastingIt's a bit of a bizarre sight to walk into the O2 Academy in Bristol and see it packed to the rafters for Public Service Broadcasting: a band who intersplice World War and Cold War samples with a mish-mash of electronic sounds and guitars. It hardly screams mainstream. However, it is a fitting reward for the seemingly never-ending tour schedule of the one-time duo, who have now expanded into a five, six and sometimes seven-man brigade.

It's this sense of expansion that greets me from minute one; bigger band, even bigger tunes and a bigger stage setup. Much bigger. The O2 stage lies adorned with vintage-style televisions projecting wartime propaganda, a life size re-creation of the Russian Sputnik satellite and two further screens at the rear, all of which sit alongside a vast array of instruments on stage.

Head honcho J. Wilgoose, Esq. does his best to bridge the gap between performer and audience, not by actually speaking to them, but through a quirky and oft-hilarious use of samples used to communicate with the crowd. It makes the evening as funny as it is engrossing but, far from being a novelty act, Public Service Broadcasting back-up their vast stage show and quirky touches with some seriously good music.

The setlist is a mix of both albums, despite the full lengths being pinned around different themed-samples of Britain and the Cold War respectively. The band kick off with the slow-burning second album cut "Sputnik" before ploughing into "Signal 30", possibly their hardest-hitting rocker, which comes early on in the set to warm the capacity crowd. Other debut album favourites "Theme from PSB" and "Roygbiv" soon follow to rapturous receptions, but the set really picks up pace in the second half as the number on stage swells and swells.

Smoke Fairies join Public Service Broadcasting for a rendition of "Valentina", and the killer guitar riff for "Spitfire" draws the biggest reaction from the crowd all night. However it's perhaps the encore where the group reach their peak. "Gagarin", the joyous lead single from second album The Race For Spacebrings with it a three-piece brass section and dancing astronaut (in keeping with the video), for probably the highlight of the night. Set closer "Everest" brings things to a close to round off a grandiose set that is admirable in its ambition.


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