Public Service Broadcasting Live In London

Unique setting for space-loving duo's arty sounds.

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It’s been barely a year since Prog saw Public Service Broadcasting launch their second album, The Race For Space, at Leicester Space Centre. At

that time, the South Londoners were cult-popular, but had a Top 30 album under their belts and an ongoing penchant for quirkily curated events that struck a chord with their scholarly fanbase. Leicester, and TRFS, became a turning point as the new record grazed the Top 10 and PSB booked their biggest headlining dates, the tiny genome that debuted in Tooting’s 100-capacity Selkirk pub in 2009 headlining Brixton Academy six years later.

There’s no doubt that PSB are in the ascendant – musically and commercially – but they still get a kick out of organising wonderfully niche experiences, such as tonight’s show in the Science Museum’s IMAX theatre. As in Leicester, the ticket price includes a wander through the building, most specifically via the exhibition on Cosmonauts, largely creative fuel for TRFS. So after enjoying eye‑popping Doctor Who-ish exhibits and the frozen White Russians available in the museum shop bar, we finally take our seats.

(Image credit: Kevin Nixon)

Weirdly, as it’s a cinema, the band are situated down low and we’re high up on an opposing raked slope. There’s state-of-the-art surround sound and a full stage production of lights and gizmos, but in this setting it’s PSB’s films that really dazzle, appearing on a giant screen the height of four double-decker buses.

Sputnik sets the tone after Soyuz is seen streaking off into space and the band’s own home‑made satellite elevates and lights up. Later, we get goosebumps from the strafing lights and Blitz-era visuals of If War Should Come, and the surge of adrenalin as Go! accompanies the Apollo landing. Valentina is an unexpected emotional peak, grainy footage showing Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, soundtracked beautifully, giving the images a language that’s universal.

In this setting, it’s PSB’s films that dazzle, appearing on a giant screen the height of four double-decker buses.

(Image credit: Kevin Nixon)

Mixing material from both albums and The War Room EP, the setlist is nicely familiar, a celebration of the band’s charm. The audience are more reserved than usual, perhaps because of the museum environment. But the aerial view of the quartet hopping between instruments is quite fascinating as they move between genres and rarely misstep. Frontman J Willgoose Esq’s guitar on tracks such as Spitfire is maybe the rawest and rockiest it’s ever been – belied by his bow tie, corduroy jacket and horn-rimmed specs, of course.

“We always wanted to play the Science Museum – and not a lot of bands can say that,” Willgoose’s banter-bot announces close to the end. To be frank, there are not a lot of bands who could pull off a show like this with such style and affection. Pioneers, indeed.

Jo Kendall

Jo is a journalist, podcaster, event host and music industry lecturer with 23 years in music magazines since joining Kerrang! as office manager in 1999. But before that Jo had 10 years as a London-based gig promoter and DJ, also working in various vintage record shops and for the UK arm of the Sub Pop label as a warehouse and press assistant. Jo's had tea with Robert Fripp, touched Ian Anderson's favourite flute (!), asked Suzi Quatro what one wears under a leather catsuit, and invented several ridiculous editorial ideas such as the regular celebrity cooking column for Prog, Supper's Ready. After being Deputy Editor for Prog for five years and Managing Editor of Classic Rock for three, Jo is now Associate Editor of Prog, where she's been since its inception in 2009, and a regular contributor to Classic Rock. She continues to spread the experimental and psychedelic music-based word amid unsuspecting students at BIMM Institute London, hoping to inspire the next gen of rock, metal, prog and indie creators and appreciators.