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PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCASTING - London Hammersmith Apollo - 26 October 2017   Print  E-mail 
Written by Mark Reed  
Tuesday, 14 November 2017


This wonderfully British band cap off their biggest tour yet with their biggest headline show yet ; and it’s a work of art, with a 2 hour show of conceptual, danceable art rock and approximately 412 special guests. They play almost all of their latest album “Every Valley”, and get every guest from it on stage (with the exception of James Dean Bradfield from the Manic Street Preachers) for the show.

The nearest comparison I can probably reach with them, conceptually is a modern day rock Kraftwerk, effortlessly melding spoken word interview segments from history around a danceable framework of grooviness to create a sum more than the parts : for tonight, the set is constructed in such a way as to enhance and add to the existing material as much as it is to present the new stuff. From the first record, which was built around the struggle of war, and the next, around the innovation of space, the new one – “Every Valley” touches on something much closer to home – the nature of identity, work, and labour, using the closure of the Welsh pitmines forty years ago as the key in the lock.

Whilst watching these songs, the old footage of derelict Welsh towns I know well from spending many years in Wales, and feeling the same, nationwide loss from the time these are just songs about Welsh miners. They’re songs about my childhood as well – a world that no longer exists – a world where you could buy a house on a single income (or buy a house, at all), a world where the women did the house work and the men went to work, and the identity was in that, and where the books just about balanced and where Dad worked and Mum didn’t. This is the world that has been swept away by rampant capitalism, and a coldness that isn’t in the weather. Part of the songs though, now build a third level into the past – all of the industry is mankind, as a whole, building towards something – advancing technology through work at war, advancing mankind through conquering space, and advancing survival through energy.

As a show though it’s assured : the stage set is made of multiple projections, and two huge prop Steelmill turnwheels, alongside an assortment of suspended lightbulbs, to create an atmosphere, aided by a lively set of fluently executed instrumental rock that sounds simultaneously futuristic, retro, and utterly of the moment, whilst also reminding me of the best TV soundtrack theme tunes you never heard. It’s utterly Mark Catnip for me, and where the heck have that band been all my life?

The hits – if anyone has hits anymore – are all delivered authoritavely – in “Spitfire”, “Go”, “Everest”, “Night Mail”, “Sputnik” – as well as new songs that will become live staples in future. The show ends, surprisingly, with the Male Welsh Voice Choir (I think) performing “Take Me Home” – the albums finale, before the band come out and shake the hands of the front row in an emptying venue. It’s quite a victory really, for an act as determinedly singleminded of vision to slowly rise to this point as an autonomously entity, but it’s a better world for it, and a great night with friends new and old. Art communicates. It brings people together. It opens minds. It makes the world a better place. It cheers me up, and makes me dance. What more can you ask?

Every Valley
The Pit
Theme From PSB
The Now Generation
Theme From Korolev
People Will Always Need Coal
Night Mail
They Gave Me A Lamp
All Out
The Other Side
Lit Up
You And Me
Take Me Home


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