Monday, 7 April 2014

British Sea Power

6th April 2014
Abi Fry - British Sea Power
Edinburgh April 2014

The Liquid Rooms, Edinburgh

I had a work colleague who once asserted that “All the good songs have already been written, with all the interesting chord progressions already used”.  Whilst I would not say I totally agreed with him, I do often feel there is a grain of truth in what he said.  For with pretty much every latest big thing on the music scene these days, all appear to me to be derivative to a certain extent of some Sixties, Seventies or Eighties band from my past.

One exception to this rule I feel is Brighton based British Sea Power, who have over the last decade or so carved out a fairly unique niche for themselves.  “Indie-Prog” another, rather more enlightened colleague once described their music, although (contradicting myself here) I have to say I would not be at all surprised to learn both the Wilkinson brothers spent much of their teenage years listening to Crocodiles and Heaven Up Here.

As the band took the stage last night, I recall thinking it is a long time since I last witnessed such a bunch of unprepossessing looking rock stars; if they may be described as such. 

Lead vocalist Jan Wilkinson ambled on wearing a thick woolly jumper – the sensible sort your mum would ensure you wore to school on a chilly winter’s day.  Quite how he dealt with the heat I do not know, for I was wearing just a short-sleeved T shirt and ended up with a puddle in the small of my back, such was the temperature in the place. 

Drummer Matthew Wood, bless him, popped in a pair of ear plugs before the set started.  Something I don’t recall Keith Moon or Bonzo ever doing.  Viola player Abi Fry’s one concession to a rock’n’roll image was to perform in her stocking soles, but I did note a length of the hem of her dress had become unstitched; she either not noticing or not caring.

Jan Wilkinson & Matthew Wood
British Sea Power - Edinburgh April 2014

Neil Wilkinson & Abi Fry
British Sea Power - Edinburgh April 2014

British Sea Power - Edinburgh April 2014

The set opened in sedate fashion with the gentle instrumental Heavenly Waters, after which some wit in the crowd yelled out “Play something slower!”  This ironic request brought a grin to the face of guitarist Martin Noble -  this response had we but known it, would come to represent the evening’s high water mark in band/audience interaction.  For BSP are clearly a bunch of folks, who take the whole performing business very seriously.

Fine renditions of Machineries of Joy and Fear of Drowning followed, before the Wilkinson brothers swopped places with Neil taking over the vocals/guitar bit.  They shared the bass guitar though, which I thought was rather sweet.  I could not imagine sharing anything with my brother.  Of Neil’s tunes, Once More Now sounded a bit too U2-ish for my tastes, but I loved the quirky Loving Animals.

Throughout this period we had to put up with a single pea-brained arsehole attempting to create a one-man mosh-pit, heedlessly clattering into all around him.  On more than one occasion I thought he was just one more bump into the burly bloke to my left, away from being in receipt of a right sore face.

But once BSP upped the tempo and decibels with Atom and Remember Me the lone-mosher was immediately joined from seemingly nowhere by half-a-dozen shaven-headed middle-aged guys, and they all flailed away in that self-conscious manner one often sees in such situations.

Driving to the gig earlier I had sort of wondered if I may be the oldest person in the room, but had been more than a little relieved to note a very wide range of ages present – from late teens to early sixties, I should say.  But I have to say, I have never seen so many bald heads at a gig. 

Now I have nothing against baldies, you understand.  After all I am half-way to becoming one myself – although I am presently persisting with the Derek Nimmo/Oh Brother/monk’s tonsure style – a form of sartorial elegance I am sure will come back into fashion if I persevere long enough. 

But what I did discover is that anytime I attempted to take a pic of the band, 90% of the light from my camera’s flash would bounce straight back off one of those albedo-rich shiny-polished pates in front of me.  That at least is my excuse for the crappiness of the shots I did get.

Anyway, after the Gregor Fishers had enjoyed their rammy things settled down a touch, and BSP chose to close the main set with my two fave tunes: the soaring Waving Flags and the really rather beautiful instrumental The Great Skua

Which really was rather considerate of the boys (and girl), I thought.

British Sea Power - Edinburgh April 2014

British Sea Power - Edinburgh April 2014

Set list

Heavenly Waters
Machineries of Joy
Fear of Drowning
It Ended on an Oily Stage
We Are Sound
Once More Now
Loving Animals
Remember Me
Spirit of St Louis
Waving Flags
The Great Skua

No Need to Cry
No Lucifer

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