Thursday 1st November, 2018
I was itching to write this as soon as the gig ended, but being away from home and without laptop (this I must remedy) I have had to wait until now to get words down.
Tom had originally booked us tickets to see First Aid Kit on this date, who I love and really want to see live, that I would give that up for PSB pretty much tells you all you need to know. Public Service Broadcasting at the Royal Albert Hall! Who would pass up the chance of that? Not me.
I have been to RAH only once before, many years ago, to see the Scissor Sisters so I was very much looking forward to going back to this historic and iconically British venue. It is a special place for us Brits, long associated with the Proms, Land Of Hope and Glory and all the pomp, circumstance and pageantry that go with it.
The excitement of getting to our stalls seats was only added to when I discovered that they swivel! Swiveling chairs, how civilised darlings. The ceiling was lit in the most beautiful purples and teals and the architecture of the place is pretty breathtaking.
Support was from the equally impressed Tracyanne and Danny, who were clearly chuffed to be playing at RAH themselves. All the time I was thinking, I know I know that voice, and it turns out I do because Tracyanne is none other than Tracyanne Campbell of Camera Obscura. This is a great partnership of a band, playing wry indie pop tunes. Cellophane Girl and the one called Jacqueline about “a girl called Karen” stood out for me.
Public Service Broadcasting came onstage with a string section and full brass section. Oh yes. I knew in my bones this was going to be a special gig and my instincts are rarely wrong. Playing the Albert Hall is a big moment for any artist and PSB rose to the challenge of the place superbly. The lighting, the audio visual effects, the sound, were all spot on. We had perfectly placed seats to take it all in as a spectacle I think (thank you Tom).
Highlights? Best bits? Almost too many to mention. From the opening notes of Every Valley onwards I was in awe. They brought Traceyanne out to sing on Progress, as she does on the album and that was superb. Then Haiku Salut came out for They Gave Me A Lamp and I was crying. Happy tears. A song dedicated to the women of the pits, to feminism, sung in a Hall where Suffrage campaign concerts took place, 100 years after some women won the right to vote. It was pretty stirring stuff. Then to hear White Star Liner live for the first time and London Can Take It, in London, a year after I lost my Nan (who survived the Blitz), I was goosebumpy all over with the sense of history. Theme From PSB has never seemed to appropriate or apt as it did in this environment. I felt every ounce of passion and love PSB have poured into their music coming out at this gig. They are so quintessentially British, in the very best way, celebrating all the aspects of our past that make us Great. Including women. Including working class life and culture. Telling stories with great compassion and care. It is history without nostalgia or rose-tinted spectacles, documenting the best of us.
All Out, dedicated to Orgreave, was anger and pain and I felt it. PSB should get angry more often, righteous fury harnessed like this is potent.
By Go! I was in tears, of wonder and joy at the journey we had been on with PSB. To see a crowd the size of the Albert Hall chanting along, fists pumping the air, all the way to the very top of the Hall, was just wonderous.
The encore included the rather beautiful You+Me with Lisa Jen Brown duetting and Gagarin with the fabulous brass taking a well deserved slice of attention. We were all up on our feet and dancing, how can you not groove to this tune?
After PSB left the stage. the Beaufort Male Choir came out to sing Take Me Home. Oh wow. Tingles and tears. Not only a standing ovation, but louder applause than the band had received I think! That PSB chose to end the night with a historic Welsh male voice choir tells you everything; this is a band of generous, collaborative souls who care very deeply about the subjects they sing about. The attention to detail and meticulous research that must go into everything they craft is so self-evident. What a swell bunch of lads they must be!
It was such a show. I cannot imagine a more perfect combination than Public Service Broadcasting and the Royal Albert Hall. A special place, a special band and a special night.