Public Service Broadcasting

Public Service Broadcasting


We may have failed to land a probe on Mars this week, but despite the project coming crashing down to Earth, Manchester’s love of science is still in orbit.

So much so that the city’s tenth annual Science Festival is being opened this year by the recently much-celebrated Public Service Broadcasting in an evening that fuses both science and art.

Beginning with a Q&A session, Tim O’Brien of Joderell Bank grills the band’s geekily charismatic J Willgoose. esq with real-time Twitter questions, such as “Will you make an album about Apollo 13?” and “Do you prefer corduroy to tweed?”

There’s also some discussion of the band’s nervousness at performing their seminal album ‘The Race for Space’ live in its entirety for the first time with an orchestra from the RNCM. In true Manchester style, the question that gets the loudest cheer is “when will the music start?”

A bonus to the show tonight is brilliant set design. Screens show vintage moon-landing clips under lights scattered like twinkling stars as an onstage sputnik replica moves around changing colours.

The title track opens proceedings spectacularly with celestial vocals from a live choir, followed by the set’s highlight ‘Gagarin’, which brings a suited brass section to the stage animating things with a Blues Brothers/Madness-style vibe.

‘Go’ sees a room full of music and science buffs shouting along side-by-side, proving that the potentially risky combination of spoken-word recordings, guitar riffs, synths and classical music work in a live setting when executed this meticulously.

Amid the the technology and special effects, it’s a joy to see Public Service Broadcasting launch into some of their older tracks at the end. Those who love traditional gigs would not have been disappointed to see Wilgoose brandish a banjo and demonstrate his incredible guitar skills, which are worth seeing the band for alone.

Another aspect that’s on top form is the Albert Hall itself. Just a couple of years after opening it has cemented itself as one of Manchester’s preferred venues, its stunning church setting and ambience somehow never failing to complement its events.

It’s always something special to see Manchester burst into life for a festival, but even more so to witness apparently polar opposite disciplines brought together so memorably. This is important not only for the sake of showmanship or even the festival opening, but for the universal message that science, creativity and even religion need not exist on different planets.

After yet another successfully organised event in an increasingly forceful city, its obvious that Manchester should have been put in charge of that Mars probe – we’d have sorted it right out.

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