It is now 12 days into Wakefield’s Festival of the Moon, a fortnight’s series of cultural events and activities in the West Yorkshire cathedral city to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the American astronaut Neil Armstrong having become the first person to walk upon the moon.
The centrepiece of the festival is Museum of the Moon by the British installation artist Luke Jerram. Measuring seven metres in diameter, this artwork is an extraordinary replica of the moon featuring detailed NASA imagery of the lunar surface, ambient moonlight and an evolving soundscape. It hangs suspended from the roof of Wakefield’s former market hall, a building whose last trader moved out 10 months ago, is due to be soon redeveloped into a creative arts hub and which tonight plays host to Public Service Broadcasting.
It is the final night of Public Service Broadcasting’s tour – in all likelihood their last live show for some six months, the band’s guitarist and songwriter J. Wilgoose Esq. informs us – and making the occasion even more special is the fact that in keeping with the festival’s lunar theme, PSB will be performing their second album, 2014’s The Race for Space in its entirety.
Public Service Broadcasting arrive on stage as the last strains of David Bowie’s ‘Sound and Vision’ fade away, a most fitting introduction given the extraordinary fusion of these two senses the PSB live experience generates. JFK’s famous ‘Moon Speech’ at Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas in September 1962 ignites the record and by the time that ‘Gagarin’ has been reached three songs in and much earlier in a PSB set than would ordinarily be the case, their three-piece brass section are bouncing wildly around the stage to be joined quickly thereafter by one of their similarly energised astronauts.
The record concentrates on the US-Soviet space race – a tense Cold War rivalry between the two countries to develop their respective aerospace capabilities – that took place between 1957 and 1972. Played out in front of dramatic public information film footage from that period and accompanied by the most astonishing of light shows, the music shifts from respectful mourning (‘Fire In The Cockpit’) through heightened suspense (‘The Other Side’) to unbridled elation (‘Go’).
The second half of this evening’s performance comprises material from Public Service Broadcasting other two albums, their 2013 debut Inform-Educate-Entertain and Every Valley from two years ago. Every Valley recounts in both euphoric and poignant musical detail the rise and fall of the Welsh coalmining industry. Having been at the National Coal Mining Museum a few miles down the road earlier on the day, J. Wilgoose Esq. acknowledges Yorkshire’s proud mining heritage and dedicates ‘They Gave Me A Lamp’ to the local legacy. It is a very special moment.
This show – Wakefield’s biggest ever such single event – sold out all of its 1,000 tickets weeks and weeks ago. And in finally closing out the show, Public Service Broadcasting scale it’s jubilant heights with ‘Everest’.
“The moon belongs to everyone”. The opening line from Bing Crosby’s ‘The Best Things In Life Are Free’ fills the former Market Hall as we file out of the building and into the cool September night. And that much is undoubtedly true. A quite remarkable evening.
Additional research: Claire Eggleston
Photos: Simon Godley
More photos from The Festival of the Moon feat. Public Service Broadcasting are HERE