Back in 2017, three men from south London decamped to Ebbw Vale and recorded a concept album about the coal industry that once dominated the southern valleys of Wales. Using excerpts from archive news reports and interviews with local people, Every Valley is a tender, touching, and uncompromising work of art that also serves as a document to a way of life that, in the words of one of the voices on the album, has “gone completely.” The 11 track album also featured Welsh rock and folk royalty from Manic Street Preachers frontman James Dean Bradfield and 9Bach vocalist Lisa Jên.
This gig, which features archive footage of the coal industry and life in the pit villages, was part of a five date tour of southern Wales apart with the final gig in the more opulent setting of the Royal Albert Hall. With that in mind, there is unquestionably nowhere more apt in the world than Blackwood Miners Institute – a venue built with contributions out of the hard-earned wages of colliers – to see the delights of this audio/visual masterpiece.
After a warm-up set filled with reverb, feedback and dreamy vocals from the promising Cardiff-based My Perfect Body, Public Service Broadcasting take to the stage and are greeted like adopted sons of Wales. They launch into the one-two combo of The Pit and People Will Always Need Coal which, to this first time viewer of the band, sets out immediately the superlative musicianship that underpins the band’s offering over the course of a set lasting more than 90 minutes. Every Valley is plundered heavily over the course of the gig but the band also dip into the previous two albums, not to mention the brand new EP White Star Liner, to maintain the energy in the intimate venue. Go! and Sputnik from 2015’s excellent Race for Space album are particular highlights.
Inevitably, Bradfield, joins the band for the encore for a rousing rendition of Turn No More. Having grown up a stone’s throw from the venue, he is greeted like the revered local hero he is. Before he departs, he heaps praise on Public Service Broadcasting, stating “no other f***ing band in the world has played as many gigs in Wales as Public Service Broadcasting.” Wales is clearly important to Public Service Broadcasting. At some point during the gig J Willgoose Esq – the band’s founding member – says “We have been lucky enough to take this album all over the world….it’s nice to bring it home now.”
For the devoted crowd at Blackwood Miners Institute, the word ‘nice’ was something of an understatement.