Brilliantine Mortality

Third Battalion

Third Battalion home / The Origins and Early History of the 3rd Battalion / Embrace the Past / A Rock in our Hearts / First Rites / BSP on tour Jan-Jun 2003 / Cath Aubergine's 2003 BSP Travelogue / ULU / BSP on tour Jan-Jun 2004 / Cargo / Springtime at Sea / True Adventures in the Land Beyond / To Cork and Dublin / The Children of the Summer's End / The Fall of British Sea Power

Footnotes The Search for HMS Sussex / Irish Jack

Fan reviews of BSP gigs can be found on the main site

Springtime at Sea

British Sea Power on tour April 2005

In the beginning an assemblage of some 80 spectators crammed into the basement of Covent Garden's tiny Rough Trade record shop to celebrate the opening day of spring and the release of the single – the song formerly known as Elegiac Stanzas. The small gathering was treated to a 25 minute selection of acoustic songs by BSP minus Martin Noble who had reportedly remained with the band's bus which had broken down between Sussex and London. Highlights of this intimate affair included the delightfully whimsical Bird and a splendid rendition of Salty Water. The set concluded with Old Sarge generously scattering Open Season beer mats to gleeful recipients. The band remained behind for photographs and autograph signing before joining a lucky few fans in a nearby pub.

Two weeks later the anticipation mounted whilst the dawn chorus struck song. BSP's website witnessed a flurry of excitement. Some fans reminisced fondly about yesteryear's German encounters. Others struck deals from behind their northern work stations, shamelessly agreeing exchanges of rocket-fuel strength alcohol. Shortly after 6.00 pm at Oxford Street HMV, Yan introduced this short tour of England and Edinburgh with a brief "Hello London town." The band performed an enjoyable 30-minute set including golden oldies Remember Me and Carrion to launch the release of Open Season. What followed four hours later was a very good, but not quite breathtaking, performance in the kiln that is Camden's Barfly. Could the total lack of on-stage shrubbery and decoys provide further evidence that the band are maturing into a less unconventional unit?

Wednesday, 6 April, 2005 was a day of mixed feelings. Bristol was the location of my first close encounter with BSP when, in the fall of 2002, the band signalled their arrival on stage at the Louisiana by tossing baked potatoes into the audience. It seems that the days of plastic birds, hour long blitzkrieg style shows, souvenir chocolate and BSP Kendal Mint Cake have been replaced by an extended set, encores, corporate type heraldic banners adorning the stage and slick merchandise. Nobody deserves success more than BSP, but returning home from Bristol that night reflecting on how fortunate I have been to witness this incredible band grow into what it has become today, I knew things would never be quite the same again. Such progress doesn't amount to all doom and gloom. Tonight's performance was my most enjoyable since Cargo. The stage set, complete with life sized rustic deer, was truly special. BSP have certainly retained enough of their own brand of uniqueness with Yan crowd surfing majestically during a wonderful, slightly reworked The Spirit of St Louis and Lately being performed as the opener (read a full review here).

Arriving in Birmingham from the south-west, the main thoroughfare passes the Longbridge car manufacturing plant and King William's grammar school, backdrops to Jonathon Coe's highly acclaimed insight into 1970s adolescent life The Rotters Club. Whilst BSP take the Academy stage on Thursday, 7 April, 2005, the MG Rover board reluctantly decide to call the receivers into Longbridge. The move could lead to 6,100 job losses: another blow to the local economy in the world's first industrial city. Fear of Drowning and Blackout make a welcome return to the set list and church bells, a lapping tide and calling seagulls provide intriguing sound effects. With Martin Noble perfectly executing an Olympic champion-style stage dive during Rock In A, forcing one regular BSP consumer to spend an unplanned overnight stay in Birmingham to recover, and another fan concluding a day's overindulgence by throwing up before crashing out face down in the fire escape, the foundations are firmly in place for what promises to be a rather raucous weekend.

Returning to Birmingham Academy on Friday morning to collect my travelling companion's valise that was left behind last night, we are informed that the key holder to the cloakroom isn't on duty until about 6.00 pm. Our inability to collect the bag and its essential contents scuppers plans to abandon the car in Manchester, where we are staying overnight, and catch an onward train to Leeds. While the delayed departure allowed us time to spend the afternoon feeding ducks and moorhens in Halesowen's Leasowes landscape gardens, laid out by the poet William Shenstone between 1743 and 1763, the downside is that tonight's trip to Leeds now involves a 'dry' run as we are out of time to go via Manchester and leave the car. We arrive at Leeds' Blank Canvas, a gothic cellar of a venue complete with high ceiling and, tonight, a ghostly presence, in the nick of time to see the welcome addition of The Scottish Wildlife Experience to the set and the re-emergence of the spitfire sound effects to introduce The Spirit of St Louis. Following the concert, the short hop to Manchester is achieved in time for a late drink.

Lunch on Saturday is taken at Tebay services in Westmorland, surely the finest motorway service station in the galaxy. Joy is in the air for BSP have made front page news in this week's Westmoreland Gazette. The United Kingdom is in the grip of election fever and BSP are reportedly being courted by the Monster Raving Loony Party to launch its general election campaign by performing at a top secret location out at sea. Founded in 1983, the party's 2005 manifesto includes making the Millennium Bridge wobbly again by building a pub at each end and providing bright school pupils with dimmer switches to prevent them from distracting the rest of the class. Sharing our lunchtime table with a couple of other BSP aficionados also making the trip north, my best friend Emma and I share tales of BSP-related dreams with our new-found acquaintances. Hearing that one of our cohorts once dreamt about meeting Prince Charles and the soon-to-be married again future King of Albion asking him whether he could get him a copy of the Fear of Drowning single made the conversation just a little disconcerting.

The western approach to Edinburgh brings visitors into the city through the Sighthill district, a bleak, monolithic housing estate, more resembling a suburb of communist Smolensk than it does Scotland's fine capital. The packed Liquid Rooms audience is treated to a fine performance with Yan glaring chillingly through his tambourine during The Spirit of St Louis before performing a neat backward stage dive and backward roll over the lively crowd. The aftershow celebrations went on well into the early hours of Sunday morning, resulting in a rude awakening startling several hotel guests in Murrayfield in the middle of the night. 'Inspired' by Scotland's somewhat laissez faire licensing laws, two of the band's more elderly fans who were staying at our hotel returned at 3.00 am and - unable to fit the television set through the barred windows - ripped a large picture from their hotel room wall before hurling it through the window sending it shattering to the ground below. It is unfortunate how the mindless activities of these asocial morons can threaten to tarnish the good reputation that 99.9 per cent of the band's fan base so deservedly enjoys.

A leisurely Sunday drive south via the A7 Borders Tourist route provided some of the British Isles' most idyllic driving scenery. Tawny owls, pheasants, partridges and butterfly orchids flourish in the valley of the river Liddle among the farms and woodlands. A mid-morning coffee stop is taken in the rolling hills of Dumfries and Galloway, close to Hadrian's Wall. We stop at Langholm, birthplace of Hugh McDairmid, founder of the Scots Renaissance: the literary movement established soon after the Great War. The drive south is completed late afternoon when, once more, we dock in Manchester.

Support for tonight's Manchester Academy performance is ably provided by Field Music while BSP perform a well received set against a magnificent dry ice and lighting display reminiscent of the glory days of Echo and the Bunnymen. Following more late-night socialising in Manchester, plans to visit to Norwich the following day (see the review here) are abandoned in favour of a night off at home to catch up on some much needed sleep.

Expectation was in the air for the final performance of this short tour at the Forum in London. Open Season was riding high in the charts at number 13 and the band had attracted a good few new supporters. The afternoon was spent strolling around Highgate Cemetery, final resting place of Mary Ann Cross, better known as George Eliot, and Lizzie Rossetti, whose grave inspired Bram Stoker to write of an exhumation in a North London cemetery in Dracula.

Arriving at the venue, BSP sweat bands signed by the band on sale for 10.00 each with proceeds being donated to the homeless charity, Shelter, sold out a good 15 minutes before the first support act arrived on stage. The Brakes made for a lively opening to the proceedings with a 30-minute set, including their hit single Pick Up The Phone and Cheney. BSP delivered a fine set, enhanced by the inclusion of the classic Favours In The Beetroot Fields, leaving little doubt that they are perfectly comfortable performing to the larger audience. Great news arrived during the performance: one of BSP's long standing and best loved fans – notably absent from the tour due to the latter stages of pregnancy – had given birth to her first son. Typically, the set ended with a fine recital of Rock In A, involving Yan pouring what appeared to be cold tea over the audience from his new teapot stage prop. The culmination of the wicker deer being mercilessly thrown to the bloodthirsty audience to be torn to shreds by a baying mob somehow seemed like the perfect end to some of the most chaotic, eventful days of my life.

Sarah Nicholls

HMV and Edinburgh photographs by Cath Aubergine; Britsol by Alan Lonsdale; Forum by Daniele Boselli. More of Dan's photos from the show can be seen here

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