Review: Public Service Broadcasting

Newcastle City Hall, 5 November 2021

Onstage

Three years after last seeing them storm the Empire in Middlesbrough, Public Service Broadcasting are back on the road, promoting their latest album, Bright Magic.

It’s actually been a long time since I was in City Hall. In fact, 6 years to the day after seeing Harry & Paul there. This time the stalls were seat-free, which was a new experience for me. Even at other shows I’d seen many years ago, the seats stayed in. I managed to get not too far from the front, so we got a decent view of proceedings¹.

Pretty much to time the lights dropped, and just to give us a feel for what the evening held, we were treated to the (familiar & customary) sounds of Bowie’s Sound & Vision in the dark before the band made their entrance. Bright Magic is heavily influenced by Berlin and German music and culture, so the fit felt perfect. Sound & Vision is pretty much my favourite Bowie song anyway, so no complaints from me on that score.

As you might expect, most of the set list is made up of Bright Magic songs, some of which included the presence of EERA, who was also this evening’s support act. But they drop in some old favourites along the way. They sound wonderful, with the low end sounding great in the Bright Magic songs, especially Rhythmus, which sounds properly thunderous. It’s interesting that the latest album doesn’t just have echoes of Kraftwerk and German electronica, but also reminded me in places of later period Jean-Michel Jarre (specifically stuff like Heart of Noise, and even the earlier Industrial Revolutions). The stage presence even had faint hints of Kraftwerk in it too as you may be able to see form the photos, so all of this worked a treat for me seeing as I’m a big fan of both Kraftwerk, and JMJ.

There’s only so much you can squeeze into a show, so they were missing some old faves like their signature, eponyomus Public Service Broadcasting, or ROYBIV, but there’s a nice representative smattering of earlier stuff, such as the sitrring Spitfire, and Sputnik. All Out still sounds properly muscular and very, very angry: I approve of that hugely. The last songs of the main set are the moving, and atmospheric The Other Side, closely followed by another perennial crowd favourite, Go! that always gets the crowd going. And that is (nominally) it.

But of course there’s the encore, so along with White Star Liner, we get People Let’s Dance. Cleverly, the breakdown section has a more than a hint of the mid-section of Thriller, and then the horn section comes and in there’s a smart little overlap into what comes next: Gagarin, which is always a delight, and of course the crowd love it, because we always do. The traditional end to any PSB show is Everest. Tonight is no exception: a fine end to a fine night.

Fact is, they sound amazing. The show has evolved a little from the Every Valley period; the band sound fabulous (including the horn section!) and the lighting, the visual design, and sound all do it all. A great night, and a great band.

Encore: Gagarin

Setlist

  • Der Sumpf (Sinfonie der Großstadt)
  • Im Licht
  • Der Rhythmus Der Maschinen
  • Progress
  • People Will Always Need Coal
  • Sputnik
  • Night Mail
  • Gib Mir Das Licht
  • Blue Heaven
  • Spitfire
  • All Out
  • Lichtspiel I: Opus
  • Lichtspiel II: Schwarz Weiss Grau
  • Lichtspiel III: Symphonie Diagonale
  • The Other Side
  • Go!

Encore:

  • White Star Liner
  • People, Let’s Dance
  • Gagarin
  • Everest
  1. I was with friends. I’m not that sad and pathetic. Not this time.

A man shouting at passers-by on teh Interwebz

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Darren Stephens

Darren Stephens

A northern man

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