Written for Epigram
Taking position on stage, British Sea Power guitarist, Martin Noble affably declares “There’s no sound!”, strumming his guitar to no avail. But it’s a credit to the band’s talent that this is the only mishap of their sold-out gig at Bristol’s Trinity Centre. It’s been a busy, triumphant week for the sextet – they’ve released their tenth album, Let The Dancers Inherit the Party, to widespread critical acclaim, made TV and in-store appearances, and, last night, provided a live soundtrack to a set of Polish animations in London. So, it’s no wonder that it seems as if frontman Scott Wilkinson is able to will away the technical issues with just a few determined words: “We’ve been rehearsing hard – this is gonna be smooth” – and it is. Whilst the new material features heavily, their set spans over two hours and their entire corpus.
Lead single from the new album, ‘Bad Bohemian’, is up first. When the band managed to fit in an acoustic set a few hours earlier, at Queen’s Road’s Rise Records, the track was a gentle yet gripping demonstration of the power of Wilkinson’s voice. Here, it is equally enchanting but more full-bodied. The latter performance of the track makes it clear why the Trinity website billed British Sea Power as an “anthemic indie rock band”, as do the glorious ‘Machineries of Joy’ and ‘Waving Flags’ – but even in their more anthemic moments, they are far more than run-of-the-mill singalong indie. The former, acoustic version illustrates their more delicate (and equally fantastic) side. Their cover of Galaxie 500’s ‘Tugboat’, and their own new track, ‘Want to Be Free’ are brilliant showcases of this, and perhaps the highlights of the night.
Attention to detail is a hallmark of British Sea Power, ever-present in the fastidious intricacy of their sound, and in all aspects of their gigs. Whilst setting up the stage, their crew spend at least 15 minutes tying faux tree branches to pretty much anything they can, and carefully position the beginnings of a model menagerie, comprising of a set of antlers, an owl, and a heron. Their merch stand (complete with tweeting shopkeeper – @BSPshop) has even been revered by the media as purveyors of the “best merchandise on the planet”, tonight, selling items from the more traditional – t-shirts and keyrings, to British Sea Power-brand chocolate.
Just before their crowd get the chance to go merch shopping, a trio of old-school BSP is served up for the encore. The band return to the stage fully clad in shiny silver outfits, and whilst they look ready to be sent into space, they send their crowd into excited frenzy. As the introductory chords of fan favourite ‘No Lucifer’ are plucked, the venue unites in chanting its opening salvo, “Easy! Easy! Easy! Easy!”. ‘The Spirit of St Louis’ becomes a completely unhampered, tireless jam, and sees the band at their most free, before leading into the final track of the night, ‘Carrion’. It stretches over eight minutes, with an indefatigable energy that proves that after 17 years, British Sea Power are still one of the most exciting live bands the nation has to offer.