Public Service Broadcasting, All We Are @ The Refectory, Leeds University

Posted by vibrations on 09-02-16

‘Look at them…’ says my friend beside me, ‘they know nothing about the British Documentary Movement.’ He is addressing the capacity crowd at The Refectory with thinly veiled… nay, forget the veil, contempt because it is true that we hate it when our friends get famous. It was barely two years ago that we watched them in The Brudenell Social Club, touring their debut album ‘Inform, Educate, Entertain’, playing to a room full of the select few who had heard them on 6music and had got all dewey eyed about Airfix models and Commando comics. Now geek is chic and everyone wants a piece of the PSB action… but they don’t get it like us…

Taking a step back for a moment, this gig should have been in November but was postponed for personal reasons in the band, and had they played in November they would have been supported by Leeds band, Fold, which would have been ace. Not that All We Are aren’t perfectly fine, a three piece mish mash of M83, Phoenix, Hot Chip and Maps, but feel very Fleetwood Mac, airy, but with a hint of prog too. As I said, perfectly fine, and I get a vague impression of niceness but nothing substantial yet. Given time, they will coalesce, I have no doubt.

I must say, I have been looking forward to Public Service Broadcasting touring with ‘Race for Space’ for quite some time. I’m a sucker for a concept album and yes I am a bit geeky about the whole space thing. I am hoping for a cross visually between ‘Koyaanisqatsi’ and ‘The Wall’, not that I am asking much. They have again raided the National Media Museum for old tellies, but the key feature of their stage set is a scaled up replica of Sputnik, which we discover later is capable of projecting LED digital images in a piece of stage furniture that is a lot more useful that an undersized Stonehenge, I can tell you. As for the performance, it is faultless, almost too faultless – Mr J Wilgoose still speaks through samples and he and Wrigglesworth have honed their instrumental work to machined accuracy. There is a worthy addition of a brass section and Mr B on visuals, so the stage gets pretty crowded at time. The only gripe I would have is that the order of the album has been sacrificed for popularity and loses its conceptual cohesion. This said, it does make the set pitch perfect, with ‘old’ favourites like ‘Signal 30’ and ‘Spitfire’ being thrown in at just the right point, the latter greeted with a roar of approval comparable to the Merlin V12. It also means that the best is kept until last – ‘Go!’ is a spirit lifting climax to the show, while ‘Gagarin’ turns the encore into a horn strewn fiesta. They sign off with ‘Everest’, an emotional moment for those of us who’ve been there from the beginning. From what we thought was just for us, infopop appears to have captured the imagination of the masses. Now they just need to get those BFI boxsets and all will be well.

Rob Wright

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