Public Service Broadcasting perform ‘This New Noise’ at the Royal Albert Hall

Live Review

Public Service Broadcasting at the Royal Albert Hall. Photo by Terry Marland.

By Terry Marland, Rock At Night Wales

Live Review: Public Service Broadcasting with the BBC Symphony Orchestra-This New Noise (Prom 58)-The Royal Albert Hall, London, UK – Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Public Service Broadcasting  (PSB) are no strangers to  the Royal Albert Hall. They were here most recently in 2019, as part of the BBC Proms season, and drew critical acclaim for the performance of their 2014 album “The Race For Space”, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.  It was around this time that it was first mooted that they could compose and perform a piece of music to celebrate the centenary of the BBC.

Tonight, with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Jules Buckley, they performed for the first and perhaps the only time, their newly commissioned piece “This New Noise”. The show was broadcast live on UK Radio 3 and filmed for TV broadcast on BBC 4 on Friday 2 September, and should now be available for streaming.

With the full orchestra in place, the four members of PSB took to the stage. Band leader J. Willgoose Esq. flanked by drummer Wrigglesworth, multi-instrumentalist and orchestrator of the evening J. F. Abraham and Mr. B who is responsible for visuals.

Public Service Broadcasting & BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall. Photo by Terry Marland.

Once the full ensemble was on stage, there was a period of silence before two men dressed in brown overalls brought out an oversized radio and placed it front of stage. This signified the advent of BBC broadcasts through the medium of radio and set the tone for an evening that focused on the formative years of the organisation.

As is customary with PSB, they performed a predominantly instrumental set overlaid with vintage newsreel footage and radio samples, some original and others reconstructed with voices of modern-day broadcasters where the initial recordings no longer exist.  It made for a compelling performance as PSB continued with their mission of “Teaching the lessons of the past through the music of the future”

The performance was delivered in eight movements, the first of which was “Ripples in the Ether” that authentically re-enacted early radio testing, set to a sweeping orchestral arrangement.  “This New Noise” debates the power and possibilities of radio while ”An Unusual Man” salutes the pioneering work of Lord Reith, the first Director General of the BBC.

Willgoose spoke briefly to the audience for the first time to introduce folk singer Seth Lakeman who provided atmospheric vocals to a “Cello Sings in Daventry” that celebrates the opening of the first BBC transmitter in Daventry, again interspersed with an engaging archive narrative.

Public Service Broadcasting & BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall. Photo by Terry Marland.

With two tracks still to come, Willgoose took a break to thank all those responsible for bringing this performance together. He took the opportunity to ask the audience to reflect on the importance of the BBC, the threats it faces and the gap it would leave if it were not there.

The performance concluded with the eighth movement “What of the Future?”.  This was the most impactive  part of the evening, again using archive material set to a pensive score that saw members of the orchestra and the band slowly depart the stage to leave a vacant space reprising the earlier words of Willgoose when speaking of the BBC “If it goes nothing will take its place.  It will just be a void, an empty stage”

It’s a poignant, powerful and thought-provoking conclusion that leaves the audience rapturously applauding a stage without performers and departing the hall in a reflective mood.

PSB have produced another landmark piece of work that deserves to be released as an album for a wider audience to enjoy.

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Terry Marland

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