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.
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.
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.