Gig review: Public Service Broadcasting @ The Roundhouse

Public Service Broadcasting have a simple message: to bring history to life through music.

An easy idea in theory but in practice it is an intricate show of musicianship and artistry, intertwining archive footage with modern-day electronic folk-rock.

As the south London duo took to the Roundhouse stage on the night of 2015 General Election, the tension was palpable as to what lay ahead – and not just with the vote.

The band did not disappoint as the final leg of the UK tour came to its climax, following the February release of the band’s second album ‘The Race for Space’.

The pair – led by the corduroy-clad, multi-instrumentalist J. Willgoose, Esq and equally debonair drummer Wrigglesworth – look more akin to teachers, who took refuge in a music room supply cupboard, than rockstars.

As their musical history lesson unfolded, ranging from a 200km Dutch speed-skating race Elfstedentocht Part 2 to safe driving campaign Signal 30, the twosome’s audio-visual broadcast kept the audience entertained in quiet awe, bar the occasional whoop and bobbing of heads.

The silence is in part due to the lack of singing in the performance except on ethereally beautiful  Valentina.

Here the band was joined by support act Smoke Fairies to pay homage to the Soviet heroine Valentina Tereshkova, who became the first woman, and civilian, in space in 1981.

In fact every song has a noticeable nostalgia as the band attempt to highlight amazing human endeavours from across the ages, such as ROYGBIV which commemorates the invention of colour television.

London’s stoicism during the Second World War is celebrated in London Can Take It – a song given extra significance with the 70th anniversary of VE day.

But it is the ingenuity of the music which adds to the spectacle – shown expertly as a giant Sputnik revealed itself during the opener Sputnik while the infamous bleeps of the world’s first man-made celestial body were spliced with synth.

Willgoose, the commander of the good ship PSB, alternated between instruments with consummate ease – from synth to electric guitar to banjo – while still operating the soundbites to thank the crowd for their deserved applause and acclaim.

Ending with the break dancing astronauts of Gagarin and archive footage of Sir Edmund Hillary’s successful ascent of Everest –the coolest history lecture was over, with the audience suitably educated and entertained, incidentally similar to the band’s debut release Inform – Educate – Entertain.

Forget the cult classic history film Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure – this was Willgoose and Wrigglesworth’s Musical Extravaganza.

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