I went to see the band, British Sea Power, at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire last Wednesday, 17 April, with my friend Jon. He’s a big fan; I’ve been an occasional acquaintance. I’d forgotten I owned one of their albums, “Open Season”. The one with a profile of a bear on the front. BSP like bears. They have eight foot versions roaming around on the stage. Brown and polar. Bizarre. BSP like a bit of the bizarre. They do shrubbery as well. Which lights up in the dark.
I saw them once before. I think it was also at the Empire. My diary tells me it was 2004. Blimey! The bears were there then too. And I recall the singer brandishing some branches. I remember less about the music.
So I went into the concert last week with a clean slate. Yes, indie. Yes, some interesting guitars. Yes, a bit quirky, a bit intellectual. I mean, you wouldn’t call yourself British Sea Power without a bit of knowledge of history, would you? And a desire to be not quite rock’n’roll.
And I couldn’t remember any of the music, so I was listening afresh.
And it was good, very good. A really entertaining evening. The cavorting bears and shrubbery add to the jollity, but it was the music that made it. Some big guitars, big tunes. Some wistful moments. Some panoramic sounds. A real mix, intriguing and engrossing. A very receptive crowd too, which made for an excellent atmosphere.
I couldn’t resist my usual approach to what was essentially a new band for me. Who did they sound like? Well, there was a hefty dose of Echo and the Bunnymen, some roots in Joy Division, a bit of shoegaze, Ride maybe, a touch of the Boo Radleys. The latter in the way they’d go from all out noise to some gentle warblings in the flick of a guitar switch. There was something of an anthem with the fans called “The Great Skua”, with a sea bird video, which took me into Sigur Ros territory. And, being a seventies child, I even heard a bit of Be Bop Deluxe in the adventure of the guitars and the musical switches within the songs. Dare I say even a touch of U2 in the ringing guitars?
Quite a mix, but with a distinctive sound of their own. BSP are a band with their own vision, without doubt. I was really impressed. When I got home, I added to my collection of BSP albums. First album, “The Decline Of British Sea Power”, which has a punkier feel than the music now. “Do You Like Rock Music?”, a rhetorical question if there ever was one. And the new one, “Machineries of Joy”. Bit of a clunky title, but classic soaring indie sounds.
British Sea Power have always been a band I knew I needed to listen to more. The concert confirmed that. So many bands you see live benefit from the fact that you already know their music and you are there to celebrate what you know. So even if the sound is a bit crap, or they are a bit off form, you still like it. With BSP I was listening fresh and liked what I heard.
Here’s another review of the concert, from a blogger who knows a bit more about the band than me and also took some decent photos.