Last week saw British Sea Power return to Leeds and while it was fantastic to head off to Brighton (where they are based) last year to see them it felt good to see them touring again and returning to their Northern roots. It’s interesting to think of place with some bands and how that links to their sound and British Sea Power are, for me, very much a band of place. Firstly, they are and sound, quintessentially British in a way that say Band of Horses are not – both great bands but their sound is very much dictated by where they are from and in the Sea Power’s case this is a sound from the North, of country lanes, hills and hedgerows, mining communities and seaside fishing villages, yet lyrically they combine this music that is influenced by the past and often place it right in the present when looking at the treatment of economic migrants for example. A complex trick to pull off but one that they do beautifully.
There is an element of complexity and thought throughout much of what British Sea Power do, be it playing at the highest pub in England, writing sound tracks to ancient film of Scottish Fishermen, eulogising bird watching or nods to cycling (check out the video to machineries of joy and guitarist Noble’s rainbow stripes) for example. This is all well and good and could easily be dismissed as gimickery or perhaps wilfull uncommercialism but the consistently developing albums over the last 10 years and rip-roaring live performances suggests to me that it is not gimickery but creatvity that drives the band.
I have never seen British Sea Power play a bad gig and this one promised to be another belter with rumours of an acoustic set first followed by a full on cranked up set after the support band. This of course meant that we all turned up unusually early to see what might go on before the support band and happily they did not disappoint by doing not an acoustic set but a warm up of some of their more mellow numbers. The second part of the gig was not at first the full whig out that I was anticipating but more of a continuation of the warm up with the band producing lush, fully laden harmonies but concentrating on their slower numbers, albeit delivered with considerable power and passion. Slowly but surely they weaved their way through old and new songs alike gradually building up the pace and atmosphere as if reading a good book before climaxing with All in It which brought on the bears ! Noble donned his flying glasses and I thought he was going to launch himself into the crowd for a bit of surfing as I’ve seen him do before but seemed instead to be quite happy grapplying with the bears.
It was good to see the Met pretty packed out for a band that happily plough their own furrow and I for one can’t wait to see how they continue to evolve, a trick that not many bands can pull off. Never mind Machineries of Joy I think Machinations of Joy might be more appropriate for this compelling, complex band.
Huge thanks to fellow BSP fan Carl Milner for the fantastic photos. Check out Carls excellent blog here