Trinity Centre | 6th April
British Sea Power fans are an interesting bunch. Go to a BSP show anywhere in the country, and you’ll no doubt see a similar scene. A surprising diversity of ages and genders, a significant proportion of whom will be sporting an item from the band’s (admittedly impressive) range of merchandise.
The number of BSP t-shirts on display in the audience at Thursday evening’s Trinity Centre show was a sight to behold. A compact mobilised army, flying the flag for one of the most undervalued of UK indie acts. BSP don’t seem to have casual fans, they are the kind of band who engender a gently maniacal obsessiveness in their devotees. Full disclosure: yours truly is very much one of these obsessives. And proud.
As such, anticipation was high to see how material from recently released long player, Let The Dancers Inherit The Party would sound in the live setting. The stage was set. Literally. Draped in foliage, as any good BSP fan would expect. A couple of owls here and there. After a brief mood-inducing intro, on come the heroes of the hour. Opening with a salvo of newer tracks, including The Cure-informed lead single ‘Bad Bohemian’, BSP seem like a band comfortable with their place in the current UK scene. Theres an open, direct nature to the relationship with their fans which is quite special to behold.
The Wilkinson brothers (Yan & Hamilton, sharing lead vocal duties throughout), seem at peace with the notion of BSP being a very important band to a lot of people. If anything, they appear to revel in that idea. Hamilton, ever the subtle showman, replete with John Rambo headgear, balancing his drink on his head just for the hell of it. Yan, delightedly yelping “Sechs Freunde!” in between songs, a nod to recent single ‘Keep On Trying’.
In simple terms, the music BSP have crafted over the last 15 years is majestic. On a personal level, these songs define different times in this writer’s life with such crystal clarity that even Proust would baulk at the nostalgia levels. No surprise then that the older tracks scattered across the set list are the ones that have the biggest emotional pull. ‘Carrion’ here is immense, one of the most evocative songs of the evening, Yan’s confessional, breathy tones like the ache of missing that certain someone; ‘Machineries of Joy’ an elegant metronomic build, like scaling a gentle incline, reaching the summit and looking back, surveying where you’ve come from.
The band prove they can still wig out like the best of them; ‘Remember Me’ is jagged and raw, while ‘Spirit of St Louis’ brings out the inevitable dancing bears. On the opposite spectrum, the delicate ‘Alone Piano’, with its military drum rolls is a tentative, elegiac joy. ‘Waving Flags’ sounds absolutely massive, a wall of sound reaching up to the stratosphere, its “all are welcome” message even more poignant to post-Brexit Britain than it was back in 2008.The centrepiece of this table of embarrassing riches was ‘The Great Skua’.
Perhaps only Sigur Ros have the power to create soundscapes able to summon the sense of awe and breath-taking beauty of nature, landscapes, the sea. As the song climaxed, BSP’s well-drilled army threw their heads back and roared in unison to the wordless crescendo, pure sound soaring above our heads like the bird its named for; the cathartic and transformative power of rock music is real, and exists.
Check out ‘Keep on Trying’ below.