Brilliantine Mortality


Fan reviews


BSP live 2002-2005

This page contains gig reviews written by fans of the band (most recent first). For reviews of BSP tours and pages for particular shows, please visit the following:

Spring 2003
Autumn 2003
ULU (2003)
Spring 2004
Cargo (2004)
Spring 2005
US May 2005
Ireland June 2005
Summer 2005
Autumn 2005

More written contributions by fans of the band can be found here.

Check other pages for links to published live reviews and extracts from press reviews

Some BSP song titles mentioned have changed since their earlier incarnations: Bass Rock – The Scottish Wildlife Experience; Elegiac Stanzas – It Ended On An Oily Stage; Leaving Here – How Will I Ever Find My Way Home; How Animals Work – Please Stand Up; Mother – Like A Honeycomb; Chicken Pig – True Adventures; Ropes – Salty Water. Rock in A is the traditional live set closer.

The photos accompanying the reviews are the copyright of the photographer where credited or the writer of the review where not, except in a few instances where they have been taken from other sources. Please do not use without permission.



Haldern Pop Festival, Germany, 04/08/05

To queue outside for an hour in the muddy, chilly gloaming and then be confronted with the serious, sonorous jazz-rock of penultimate act Zita Swoon was too much for some. One bold gentleman went so far as to screech "hippies" at all concerned, before storming out of the door (doubtless to drunkenly re-join the ever lengthening, increasingly desperate human line outside). After a good forty minute session of sonorous noodling, Zita Swoon packed up and left to respectful and (in some quarters) relieved applause. The chin-stroking crowd retreated to the safety of the back, whilst a determined collection of people, some bedecked in leaves, linens and marching band paraphernalia, flooded the dance floor.

Before we can proceed any further with this review, a word must be said for the considerable beauty of the Mirror Tent. A mobile wooden dance hall of the old style, it boasted a circular dance floor, surrounded by a raised-aisle walkway, which, in turn, gave access to a dozen or so partitioned snugs, each replete with tables and chairs. Coloured glass windows placed just below the rafters gave the interior an ecclesiastical feel. At one end was a bar serving beer and food, at the other end, framed by two rather wobbly speaker stacks, was the intimate, low-set stage on which British Sea Power were shortly to perform.

The band duly turned up, seemingly walking straight from their tour van onto a set already festooned with various "props", most notably a cardboard box and a plush toy horses head, which kept guard over the set list. Both of these items were later to play a role in the proceedings, a role as yet unforeseen by both band and audience. Sea Power, seemingly dressed for a days' ramble in the countryside (except, of course for keyboardist Eamon who, as ever, sported a tin helmet) began their set with a rumbustuous version of Scottish Wildlife Experience and a heady take on Carrion. One thing that was immediately apparent about British Sea Power – and, indeed, has been all the times I've seen them – was how graceful they looked on stage, despite their anti-rock and roll demeanour. Singer Yan's and guitarist Noble's balletic, ethereal poises and gestures contrasted sharply with the galloping attack presented by Hamilton's bass playing and Wood's thunderous drumming.

Another thing immediately noticeable was Yan's continual battle with the sound guy. Baleful stares were sent towards the mixing desk throughout Carrion, Remember Me and Oily Stage, Yan going so far as to pause halfway through Remember Me to bark out instructions for "more of everything, please" (to which Noble quipped "and more horse head for me, please"). Yan's baleful stares had a glassy eyed nature about them. Whisper it, but the band may have had a wee tipple pre-gig. When one crowd wit told Yan it's no good asking for more vocals, the singer replied with a disdainful "Oh, I assure you I can get more, actually", just like a prim choirboy telling some oik in the tenors to sing on-key.

For a while, the show thumped along like many other Sea Power set; artistic, other-worldly, eccentric guitar rock, albeit with a twist. The band certainly know that there is something in the air this evening. Eamon disappears into the crowd with his drum during Remember Me and Apologies to Insect Life, and Yan does a little jogging on the spot during a scorching version of Spirit of St Louis, a rendition made all the more brain-frying by the psychedelic lighting behind the drum kit, which occasionally turns the room into a set from Top of the Pops in the mid-seventies. So far so good. The audience enjoys the spectacle in a friendly, relaxed manner.

Things get considerably more interesting when the props come into play half way through St Louis. The cardboard box, which has sat untouched on Noble's amp for the first part of the show, is opened by the guitarist. He plunges his hand inside, grabs a handful of its contents, and proceeds to throw these objects (which look suspiciously like tulip bulbs) around the room with some vigour and aplomb. The audience, up to that point respectful and fairly docile, begins to show dissent. Cries of "das kan nicht" are heard. Guitarists, after all, are not supposed to assault their paying public. Especially with objects as compact as tulip bulbs. A plastic glass flies through the air and things are on the verge of becoming troubled. Luckily Noble, using a couple of defiant gestures, demands that the audience throw the tulips back. And they are. Suddenly the mood lifts, the band begin to smile at each other, and the whole tent realises there is something special in the air. Things step up a further gear as the Sea Power smash their way through the last few songs of their set. Fear of Drowning is presented as an epic gothic melodrama, whereas Please Stand Up is beautiful and warm, and possessing a real thump and verve. The song's heady, singalong nature is made all the more wonderful by the sight of tulip bulbs flying through the air. Oh Larsen B is simply brilliant; the juddering riff that underpins the song is played out for all it is worth. A beautiful and dramatic softening of the music allows a seamless segue into Lately, which rises and falls in intensity, crashing over the crowd like a tidal wave, a seemingly never ending, pulsating throb of feedback. The crowd is utterly entranced now. Surely this can't be the last track. The band's stage time is almost up. Except of course it isn't.

Other people have already described the last (unscheduled) twenty minutes of this performance elsewhere on the web. These writers have, for the most part, depicted the following events as ones that verged on insanity. I wholly concur with their estimation. It was insane. Rock in A (the live tail off from Lately) contained all the elements of what made this show so special. Noble's continuing tulip-throwing battle with the crowd increased in intensity. Hamilton began to jump up and down on the spot with such force that when he eventually came a cropper, he did so with disastrous effect, smashing through Eamon's keyboards, and rendering them useless. Hamilton sat on the keyboards like a rag doll, his head lolling like a string less puppet, yet still somehow playing his bass guitar. Eamon didn't seem to mind this intrusion, as he was already employed in destroying his equipment with a spare drumstick, shards of which flew in all directions. Yan decided to go for a stage dive, his small frame carried off into a crazed audience, Eamon followed his singer, accompanied by the plush horse's head, which he waved with abandon above his prostrate form. Yan came back, grabbed the horse head off Eamon and proceeded to enact a strange ritual mime, hiding his features behind the horses, seemingly caught up in some appropriation of a long-forgotten pagan ritual, neighing and whinnying for effect.

On thundered the music, the roadies joining in the playing, Wood smashing the drums like a man possessed (or a man fried by the set-long close encounter with the psychedelic lighting that framed his kit). As for Noble, he was engaged in a battle with a now terrified sound man, who was imploring the guitarist to vacate his perch atop the increasingly mobile stack-speakers. Obviously Noble could vouch for their safety, as he hadn't fallen yet. Contenting himself with rearranging the lighting bank, he jumped onto Hamilton's shoulders, and continued to destroy the stage. And on the music thundered, squalls of feedback and the humming and groaning of destroyed equipment all the while backed up by incessant, triumphant drumming. The security shook their heads and abjectly turned away, as if in defeat.

At this point, Noble gestured to the crowd to join the band in their merry-making. One or two adventurous souls did so. A couple of guys (BSP virgins apparently), who had repeatedly shouted "das ist illegal" throughout the last twenty minutes, seemingly gave up the ghost of respectability and began to hit each other (and themselves) in wild abandon on stage. Noble was engaged in a charming waltz with a supporter festooned with vine leaves. Hamilton danced enthusiastically with another audience member. On Wood drummed. Shamefully, your correspondent saw his chance for glory, grabbed the horse head and held it aloft to the crowd as if in communion. Yan reappeared, (from God knows where) to berate the audience, a half finished bottle of wine in his hands, seemingly going through some ballet exercise, as he asked the crowd in a sing-song chant, "I hope you liked it, I hope you liked it".

We did. Very much.

A final band hug and they are off into the night.

According to certain sources, when asked about this gig the following day, some of the members of British Sea Power had very little, if any, recollection of the events that occurred. Maybe they should read this.

Richard Foster

This review first appeared in Incendiary – reproduced with kind permission.



Arezzo/Turin, Italy, 14-15/07/05

It all started at the end of March after I bought my ticket for the Forum show in London. I was at home surfing the net with no plans to go out, just happy to have made my plans for the final gig of the UK tour. Then a friend tells that BSP will be playing Turin at an indefinite date. I was shocked! After all the time spent hoping they will play Italy, to hear it just after making plans to go to England to see them?? Anyway, after calming down, I managed to find out a bit more about this, and saw that they were also scheduled to play Arezzo Wave, so that the Turin gig would no doubt be in the summer. The Forum and Electrowerkz gigs were amazing, of course, but here's a short report of how things went in Italy.

Arezzo Wave Love Festival

Setlist: Spirit of St Louis/ Carrion/ Remember Me/ It Ended On An Oily Stage/ Please Stand Up/ How Will I Ever Find My Way Home?/ Oh Larsen B/ Lately/ Rock in A

Think about leaving Milan in a terrible morning heat, having to face the whole trip in my friend Laura's 1998 Mini with no air conditioning and a broken sunroof... this was scaring us already. With good reason. We ended up in a terrible traffic jam that kept us stuck in a sunbeam 20 miles away from Florence on a crazy hot afternoon. At least the scenery was gorgeous as we were surrounded by the beautiful green hills of Tuscany! And it was these sun-drenched landscape colours pushing us to the motorway exit for Arezzo, a beautiful town set in the heart of Italy.

When we reached the Stadio Comunale's parking, we just wanted to have a rest after a long hot drive and listen to the doing soundchecks. The good thing about this festival is that it's free; but seeing so many people paying no attention whatsoever while the bands were playing made me think they were here just because there's nothing really better to do there. Anyway, by the time we got in, there were only about a hundred people around as the first band, metal dudes from Genoa, ended their set. The Rakes got a little larger audience, some of whom were dancing, and they told us that this was the biggest stage they've ever played. The Liars managed to get even more people down the front and ended the show in total madness.

Of course, most people there were not familiar with BSP. And quite honestly, despite this being my fifth gig, I was taken aback as well. I was left almost speechless when they walked onstage all dressed in full AC Arezzo's football kits, running and jumping like they were coming from the dressing rooms entering the pitch! Isn't this the thing that makes them so special, you never know what to expect. Maybe the sight from the stage had inspired them, finding themselves back in Italy after two years (when they toured in support of Interpol) and playing in a stadium with lovely hills just over the stands and foliage on amplifiers.

Louis kicked off quite softly; it almost seemed as if they were studying the best way to break the audience. But it wasn't difficult as Eamon's crazy drumming on Remember Me immediately won everyone over as he jumped offstage and marched through the crowd. From this point on, they got huge support from the audience. With Hamilton on acoustic guitar to play Leaving Here, the show hit a definite high point, especially when he shouted "YAYAYAYA" just before the last chorus. Larsen B paved the way for the explosive end. A superb Lately, and Rock in A proved to the crowd that BSP can out-crazy the Liars in their sleep. Eamon bid goodbye to his Arezzo teammates, jumped offstage again and went drumming again all over the stadium, not to return until the show was over and the band had already walked off the stage. Noble began feeding Yan and Hammy oranges before squirting juice on a security man.. but it was clear that he was justy getting ready for a truly memorable climb up the stage steel frame, reaching 5m, all of it captured on the festival's video cameras.

The boys conquered Arezzo with their astonishing final antics, including Yan's overhead kicks of a paper ball thrown over the audience – did he hurt himself? Maybe, but he no doubt knew they've just given a great performance that will remain a highlight of the whole festival. They walked off to thunderous applause, leaving Eamon to scramble his way back on the stage with some help from the front row. With that, it was all over, but what a performance! We stayed for a while waiting for them to come and talk to fans, but we only got the Rakes. No problem, Turin is a much smaller venue. So we left, and drove home all night, still excited about the gig and looking forward to the second that will be next night, finally in my home town. We got back home at 5am. With barely time to rest, before getting ready for another long day.

Spaziale Summer 2005

Setlist: Intro/ It Ended On An Oily Stage/ Remember Me/ Apologies to Insect Life/ How Will I Ever Find My Way Home?/ Oh Larsen B/ Please Stand Up/ Carrion/ Lately/ Rock In A

The next day, on very little sleep, I had to go and pick up two more friends from Milan that I pretty much forced to be here tonight (of course, I knew they would not be disappointed). I brought along ten of my friends to this special night, only two of whom had seen BSP before, and they were all quite excited about it. We arrived at Spazio211 around 9pm, and the venue was still pretty sparse. It wouldn't be that crowded, but on the upside, it meant it would make for an intimate open-air show.

The Rakes kicked off, and got the crowd well warmed up. Woody and Noble were watching them as well, and after a while were joined by Eamon and Hammy. I went over to chat with them, and it was nice to see that they remembered me from the post-gig at the Forum. I told them how much I enjoyed the Arezzo show, and they said they all had a great time too. I managed to find out that it was Nobby's idea to wear the football kits. Sadly, they wouldn't be doing it again tonight, which was probably for the best since Turin has two rival teams. And I was happy to hear that Eamon said the Brakes might be touring in Autumn.

When the organ intro began, the audience gathered round the stage. BSP began with Oily Stage, which unfortunately was marred by technical problems, with Hammy's bass not working until the last chorus. Anyway, that didn't seem to set them back in the least, and they proceeded to launch into a perfectly rocking Remember Me, followed by a punky Apologies. As Hammy took centre stage to start Leaving Here, I yelled out "Vai (go) Hammyyy!" and he cheered back; the song was again a top moment of the show. Please Stand Up sounded great, and Carrion built up the momentum to the closer. With Lately and Rock in A, which featured hardly any vocals this time, the noise just filled the venue while the band got up to their usual tricks. Eamon launched into the field with his drumming and Nobby lept from an amplifier to climb the light rigging. Continuing with his antics, he came to the front of the stage and poured a bottle of water in one ear, and spat it out his mouth. Everyone loved the whole rocking finale, and the boys cheered for applause.

The band proceeded immediately from the stage to be interviewed. But it did not go the way the journalist wanted, with BSP giving silly answers to even sillier questions, and Yan singing instead of replying the interviewer. They asked me to join them on the sofas, after my friend practically demanded it. When the interview was thankfully over with, we joined Eamon and a very happy Hammy. I told them how grateful I was that they finally played Turin; I'd been waiting ages for this, and it'd finally come true. The merchandise sold out quickly after the show, so hopefully they'll be back someday as they seem to have enjoyed these two Italian shows. Moments like these seem to end too quickly, but they will be nice memories forever. I hope I won't have wait two years again before seeing them back to Italy; this short tour was really amazing. We said goodbye, cheered again, by smiling good good boys.

Dan

More of Daniele's photos from the two shows can be seen here



Gorky Park, Moscow 10/06/05

Set List: Carrion/ The Scottish Wildlife Experience/ Please Stand Up/ North Hanging Rock/ Childhood Memories/ Fear of Drowning/ It Ended on an Oily Stage/ Remember Me/ Leaving Here/ Spirit of St. Loui / Apologies to Insect Life/ Oh Larsen B/ Lately/ Rock in A

When I came to the venue about five minutes before the supposed start of the gig, the band had just finished their soundcheck, but I'd managed to hear Please Stand Up while coming down the alley. At 8pm, the gates were opened and just when I came inside, all the band went by heading to some place. I was too shocked to see them to be able to talk to them this time, but that made me happy already. There were not too many people and the stage was just a wooden scaffold in the open air, with a bar to the left side, so one could come up pretty close to the band. While waiting and drinking Guinness, I met a lot of excited friends and ensured they were going to record the gig and take some beautiful pictures of the band.

Support act, Twiggys, began to play. I became weary of waiting already, then all of a sudden I saw Hamilton standing there with no-one around. I realised this was my chance, and came up to him asking to sign my copy of Open Season. He was nice beyond expression, gave me their latest patch and said they're likely to come out after the gig. Then I got Yan, Noble and Woody, who were hanging around there as well, to sign the album – and told them how 'Fyodor' in Apologies should be pronounced in Russian. Every one of them was unexpectedly friendly.

About 20 minutes later, their performance started with Carrion, my favourite track, and... well, I don't really know what to say. It was exceptionally good. All the songs were played just as I wanted them to be, causing overwhelming happiness inside me, and I managed to take some pics of them myself. It appears I was the only one in the crowd to know the lyrics of all the songs, so there were not many singalongs I could notice. But everybody seemed very pleased with the band's performance. It seems to have come as a surprise for many that BSP were that good.

Highlights included a beautifully performed Leaving Here with Hamilton playing an acoustic guitar, Noble and Yan standing together on their heads during one of the last songs, Yan coming up tp the first row of the audience to give them a bottle of vodka, which he seemingly couldn't finish by himself and being presented with flowers by some girl. By the end of the gig the band went particularly crazy. Martin began throwing tomatos at the public, then some other vegetables. Then he found some nine foot high dias, climbed on to it and jumped down. I still don't understand how he managed to do it so gracefully. Then Eamon decided it's time for show and went through the crowd in his orange helmet, offering everyone his drum to strike. During Rock in A, Yan attempted to stage-dive, but the stage was so low, he flew right to the ground. He was lifted by the crowd then, though, and stood up and started jumping high with some of the guests, while Noble began picking up girls from the first row of the audience, and putting them on the drums and rig, before he was stopped by security. Everybody had fallen in love with the band by this time.

Afterwards, I managed to get Eamon to sign the album and took pictures with BSP. Hamilton was so kind to get me backstage and I talked a bit with Noble and Woody. All in all, a brilliant concert I shall not forget. I can only hope they'll come here again.

Kent747

Photo by torrentman



Spring and Airbrake, Belfast 8/06/05

Set List: Carrion/ The Scottish Wildlife Experience/ Please Stand Up/ North Hanging Rock/ Fear of Drowning/ It Ended on an Oily Stage/ Remember Me/ How Will I Ever Find My Way Home/ Childhood Memories/ Spirit of St Louis/ Apologies to Insect Life/ Oh Larsen B/ Lately/ Rock in A

Katy Daly's Bar, adjoining the Spring and Airbrake venue, midweek, shortly after midnight, post-gig. I am ensconced between members of the Third Battalion who have traveled over from England to follow British Sea Power on their Irish dates, and some friends from Belfast who have never seen the band before. I'm thoroughly enjoying the nice mix of company. The stimulus of conversation with new faces and different accents is complemented by my local pals and their new found appreciation of what I've been banging on about for the past two years regarding 'The Power'. I've done this before; go out, have a few beers, meet new people and feel a bit excited about the world we live in. Add in a great gig beforehand and I'm thoroughly stimulated. Imagine then, my mate who has disappeared for 15 minutes taps me on the shoulder. He is sitting at the next table, and opposite him are three members of British Sea Power. I respond as most provincial people with a few beers on them would respond; I'm straight over, grinning from ear to ear and shouting like Jim McDonald when he gets out of prison.

Hamilton and Wood have pints of the local brew, Harp, bought for them. They show me the keyrings they are wearing, these are the ones I presented to Wood during soundcheck, and he has distributed them along with the other souvenirs I gave him in a Tesco bag among the band accordingly. Wood has the keyring with RMS Titanic on it. Noble laughs at the football programme I left for him. As the bar shuts and we are booted out the door Yan tells me I don't know my own strength as I have him in a friendly half-head lock. There is much mingling on the street between band, Battalion and Belfasters. The former have only had a couple of pints, while us lot have been euphoric on alcohol for quite some time now. These are the moments which light up yer life, which will be talked about in years to come.

When British Sea Power walk away with five Brit awards in 2009 I'll be tellin' everyone who'll listen I saw them four times before Please Stand Up sunk down the charts. Next to the infamous Clash riot outside the Ulster Hall when the cops had to drag young punks off a sit-down street protest, next to BSP outshining main act Snow Patrol at the Empire, next to Blur causing injuries at the King's Hall at the height of their Britpop fame when no bands had this city on their 'must visit' list, next to several other moments countless auld rockers in fading Smiths T-shirts enjoy recalling in boozers up and down the town, this is now Belfast Rock 'n' Roll folklore.

As the group disperses I walk off arms aloft with stage foliage on top. It's just not every day the most exquisitely talented band I'm ever likely to come across play a wee venue in your home town. I get in my Belfast-built De Lorean car and go back in time to earlier in the evening. As I sink my third or fourth Harp I mingle through the Spring and Airbrake crowd on the lookout for people I might know. I locate Northern Pete of the Third Battalion sitting cross-legged in the corner. I've met him at BSP gigs previously, at the Empire in Belfast backing Snow Patrol, and in Edinburgh. He introduces me to Cath, and later to Kevo and Callum. I ask Pete what he thinks of the band. "They're fucking terrible" comes the reply. Luckliy Pete is referring the local support act and not the Power. This is a little harsh, I thought the couple of young lads spluttering their guitars were all right but we are there for one reason only.

Next up I go behind the mixing desk and introduce myself to Joe who is pushing buttons and turning knobs. He says he saw me earlier handing over a Tesco's bag to Wood and gives me important inside info on the setlist and on the bands whereabouts, so I feel I'm in the know. In fact I think I'm in the band. I also get talking to local lads well into the Power, Shane who writes for Alternative Ulster, and later Crack-Shot Jones. There are others I speak to with long hair (blokes), with short hair (women), and with tails (dogs) and it seems obvious there is a small, but highly fanatical band of BSP followers in Belfast, all anticipating the gig with much fervour. The venue is maybe about half filled, say about 300 souls. And on they come. A wee girl near me squeals like the Beatles have just arrived on the tarmac at JFK. Actually, I may as well tell the truth; that wee girl was me Ð a 26 year old fred perry-clad fella. But others down the front are equally well into it.

They open with Carrion and the gorgeous Please Stand Up shortly after. Having seen them three times previously all with tightly packed in crowds I can't help feel there is something slower in the opening few songs. Pete later refutes this but for me I have too much space down the front. A gig is always more enjoyable with being elbowed in the face and urinating in a pint glass (I have honestly never done that). Spirit of St.Louis sounds gorgeous, and I feel the intensity I'm used to at BSP rising. "There he comes, Eamon's up". And so he is, with his drum, running around the audience. I just rejoice at the looks on the faces of other gig-goers for whom such behaviour from the keyboard player is not the norm. At the risk of sounding like an American, Larsen B just plain fucking rocks. The extended outro to this song as led by our friend and spiritual guru Martin Noble is extended further still for the live show, and we don't want it to stop. His guitar noises journey on to the South Antarctic, or the North Pole, and reverse the retreat of the icecaps allowing their echoes to be heard all along the North Channel. That Titanic keyring was very apt.

The crescendo ascends higher, and Yan exclaims his Apologies to Insect Life, the strength and force of which for me is one of the highlights of the night. I'm looking forward to True Adventures and I think its starting, but Yan announces Victorian Ice, but he's a cunning young chap as he instead launches into Lately as confirmed by Crack Shot standing next to me. Despite how many times you've heard Lately you are still never quite sure when its finished. A nice piece of branch comes my way. Noble, dressed as a tree, puts a bottle of water to his ear and spits the liquid out his mouth, and jumps into the crowd. It is a trick I marvel at and resolve to try later. And despite the lack of True Adventures I'm well hyper as I stagger next door to the Katy Daly's Bar where I inform Pete with my arms aloft they are "better than the Clash". It is a statement I sometimes ponder.

G from the North Channel

Photos by Cath Aubergine



Cyprus Avenue, Cork 6/06/05

Dedicated to Jack Lyons

Set List: The Scottish Wildlife Experience/ Remember Me/ It Ended on an Oily Stage/ Be Gone/ Fear of Drowning/ Please Stand Up/ Carrion/ How Will I Ever Find My Way Home/ Spirit of St Louis/ Apologies to Insect Life/ Oh Larsen B/ Lately/ Rock in A

The temperature in the pitch black darkness of Cyprus Avenue had reached melting point when – at a quarter to midnight – BSP exploded on stage with their finest opener by a country mile, The Scottish Wildlife Experience. The band looked much fresher for having pulled out last week's French shows supporting The Kills to take a well deserved break. The moment they arrived on stage, Yan was immediately glaring at Noble, then Wood, providing a welcome reminder of the true brilliance of this band when they return to their roots and perform in a small upstairs room of a pub.

The live video of the concert being played back in black and white to the left hand side of the stage did nothing to diminish the "back to basics" quality of what was the best BSP gig I have witnessed since Cargo. The energy with which The Official Fleet Reserve thumped away at his tambourine during Remember Me caused sweat to literally pour from the peak of his cap onto the keyboard below before – without pausing for breath – he was up on his feet manically strumming away at the guitar strings during the hit single It Ended On An Oily Stage.

If Eamon donning his yellow hard hat and marching around the stage like a fully wound toy soldier pounding his battered old drum and Yan climbing on the speakers marked the beginning of the madness that is the finale of a BSP concert, Oh Larsen B provided a few minutes of more conventional live performance – if a love song to a collapsed 12,000-year-old ice shelf in the Antarctic Peninsula can be considered in any way conventional that is.

A moment of bliss occurred during the opening bars of Lately when an affable 60something-year-old silver-haired local on the front row engaged Yan in some conversation, causing Yan to remark "Jack here wants us to play My Generation" to which Hamilton quickly responded "we're not that good." As the evening drew to a close with Rock In A, Yan did ad-lib a few words of My Generation as well as one of his favourite Pixies' songs, U-Mass. The band's stage exit was nothing short of a work of performing art: as Wood and Eamon sauntered off, the brothers Wilkinson and Martin Noble simply vanished like Flight 19, having invaded the audience, not to be seen again until the following night in Dublin.

Sarah Nicholls

Read more about the Cork and Dublin dates here
Footnotes: Irish Jack



Electrowerks, London 27/06/05

Arriving in balmy London Village from the slightly-less-balmy surroundings of rural North Yorkshire (it would rain on the hottest day of the year, wouldn't it?), I spent some hours wandering around this massive metropolis trying to cope with the fact that this is a big city with lots of people and weird novelties such as the tube and red double yellow lines. The place still terrifies me. After wandering along a smoke filled road off the monopoly board I was eventually hailed by a certain James Sui of Birmingham outside the local Monopoly board pub.

And how were we to spend this beautiful early summer's eve? In an old factory/paintball centre/one of the weirdest gig venues I've ever been to. Having said that they were quick at the bar, cloaks were good and security really didn't give a shit. Having a bloke sweeping up bottles in the middle of the dancefloor was a tad different to the normal, but can be attributed to 'character' of the place.

Morton Valence, I must admit, weren't what I'd expected from You are sea / I am river MP3 I downloaded. I'm not sure what they were, and it certainly wasn't bad. It just wasn't what I'd been expecting. And what was that frontman on? I wanted some. Instead I made do with another trip to the bar...

Brakes were great, finally getting my first chance to see them live after everything possible conspired against me on previous dates. They didn't disappoint, although everything beyond a wonderful All Night Disco Party blurred into one chaotic mess, each moment of which was lovely in some primal but actually-rather-clever way. Didn't play Dot Dot Comma Dash, much to my disapointment and NY Pie made the crossover from record to live with ease, proving that it should be more than a B-side.

BSP were – oh hang on, a few more drinks had been downed by this stage and it's getting a bit blurry – absolutely brilliant. After the permanant scar left by watching the band from a 10 foot barrier on the last tour, it was refreshing to be left in a position where I was holding up the mic stand and making a spirited attempt with Joe to move the monitors that were crushing Yan's pedals. The band looked exhausted and it wouldn't rank as one of my favourite performances – there wasn't that special something in the songs even though they were giving it their all. However it was easily made up by the atmosphere. A thin rectangular room with a low ceiling and a stage at waist height is my favourite sort of venue and I think I'd sweated off about 5lbs by the end.

Lately / Rock in A were defined by the ambitious climbing movements of a certain forumite. They say you have made your mind up about a person within five seconds of meeting them. Making your introduction by being completely pissed and hanging off a lighting rig during a BSP gig certainly is a bold statement of intent. Worked for me – lovely to meet you bearsinie. Sadly my own attempts at similar acrobatics were pathetic due to a wish to be at the front for the curiously named 'Bonus Track' after Lately on the setlist. A pity nothing came of this. If the gig was a special moment, then it was even better to finally meet up with some of the regulars and once again be amazed at your friendliness, acceptance and utter insane qualities. Ticked off my forumite spotting list last night were: Snoopy, Joe, Kevo (properly this time), Doll, Mane, Bearsinie, Northern Pete, RedC and all the others I've forgotten. Sorry. Oh c'mon, £35 at the bar, 6 hours of loud music, 300+ miles and 36 hours awake would leave your average human a gibbering wreck for the rest of the week (unless your name is Cath Aubergine, in which case you're probably doing it all again tomorrow).

Random moments: Speaking to Nobby at peak of drunkeness and having him ask my name, before he said (according to what I tapped out on my phone) "You're the guy who's always questioning us on the forum". Given that I couldn't really hear and wouldn't have understood anyway, he was most likely saying "Why are you dancing like a loon to Queen" or "Can you stop doing those twirls in the middle of the dancefloor. You're really scaring me." Smoking a broken cigarette and not remembering that half a fag doesn't have a filter in the end and will burn your lips. Going to the back, only to find the bar closed. A quick chat with Eamon and the true gent gives me the rest of his whisky. Having a strange fixation with trying to the walk in a straight line along those steps randomly positioned in the middle of the floor. After ten minutes of failing, giving up and returning to practising my Noble copycat moves. Collapsing in the entrance to Kings Cross at 4am and overhearing a conversation between four gay blokes where the topics included: first gay experiences, seediest clubs they'd ever been to, some other stuff not suitable for a family forum (Hell, I'm still trying to work out how those things, um... work out) and how much they loved this British Sea Power band. Very surreal.

These have mainly been self centred snippets of what I remember. Far more important were all you other people who made it such a memorable night. Even if the DJ set was a bit rubbish. Total cost? About £60. Can I afford it? No. Would I do it all again next week? Why wait that long.

Watersonj



Virgin Megastore, London 26/05/05

Set List: It Ended on an Oily Stage/ Remember Me/ Please Stand Up/ How Will I Ever Find My Way Home/ Carrion/ Oh Larsen B

This afternoon's highly enjoyable brief recital-come-signing session was delivered to a mainly casual crowd of office workers who had dropped by after spending the day turning the wheels of industry. The basement of Virgin Megastore provides high-quality sound, much enhanced by Wood's increasingly skilled drumming. Yan sported a well cut casual open-necked shirt, Hamilton a tight fitting red V-neck pullover, Noble one brown Doctor Marten shoe, whilst Eamon conjured up images of Mr Stiggins, the itinerant alcoholic preacher in Dickens' masterpiece The Pickwick Papers.

Before signing copies of the single and anything else people had brought along as obligingly as always, the band gave a short performance including a full pelt rendition of Remember Me and – rather predictably – the anthemic Please Stand Up, the popular choice for the second single to spawn from the highly acclaimed Open Season. The afternoon passed without much of the usual eccentricity, although Martin Noble did gnash away at his guitar strings during a blistering Carrion.

However, it was the white-haired old man – suited and booted, wearing trendy shades and taking pictures with his mobile phone from the staircase – who stole the show. Perhaps as BSP perform at cultural events such as the Chelsea Flower Show, as they did earlier this week, this new breed of fan is the shape of things to come. All good things must come to an end and, as requests for the return of Noble's missing boot went unheeded, Yan signalled the closure of the musical element to this appearance at the conclusion of Oh Larsen B by nonchalantly tossing his guitar onto Wood's drum kit while the band sauntered off stage.

Sarah Nicholls



Newcastle University, 24/05/05

Set List: It Ended on an Oily Stage/ Remember Me/ The Scottish Wildlife Experience/ Apologies to Insect Life/ Spirit of St Louis/ How Will I Ever Find My Way Home/ Blackout/ Please Stand Up/ North Hanging Rock/ Fear of Drowning/ Oh Larsen B/ Carrion/ Lately/ Rock in A

The route to this evening's BSP concert took me along the most northerly frontier of the Roman Empire, Hadrian's Wall. The wall provides the most spectacular Roman remains in Britain today, despite the destruction of several sections of the wall following the Jacobite uprising in 1745. Stone from the wall was required to construct a military road to enable the troops of "mad" King George III to move quickly from east to west in the event of an invasion. The wall continues into Newcastle, where a defensive ditch near the ruins of a Roman temple dedicated to a local God called Atencociticus marks the city's Roman origins.

The much stripped-down stage set in the Bassment [sic] of Newcastle University facilitated good visibility of the unusual backdrop: an Orange mobile phone advert -for this show was part of the Orange Evolution 05 Music Festival, the major music festival for Newcastle and Gateshead. The performance in front of 700 people was – in fairness – not BSP at their peak. Hardly surprising as the band had only returned to the UK two days previous to immediately perform for five consecutive days after a gruelling tour of Canada and the United States where they played 18 concerts in 23 days (Read Cath Aubergine's tour review). There is, it appears, little respite for the talented. Tonight's concert was richer for being contained to 75 minutes but poorer for the absence of Childhood Memories and Favours in the Beetroot Fields: something of a dilemma for a band with a growing back catalogue of quality songs and an increasing army of fans with diverse preferences.

The opener, It Ended On An Oily Stage was marred by much feedback and a dreadful, unpleasant, bassy sound, which was fortunately remedied in time for the second song, Remember Me. The Official Fleet Reserve's first foray into the audience came during Apologies To Insect Life, while some novel sound effects marked the opening chords to The Spirit of St Louis. As Hamilton took over the vocals, Blackout sounded slightly off key, although full marks for a wonderfully sung Please Stand Up. As expected, the most potent weapon in Open Season's armoury – Oh Larsen B – was reserved until that album's last song of the evening before the traditional Carrion/ Lately/ Rock in A finale to which BSP watchers are so well adjusted.

The four audience members holding up lighters at the beginning of Lately could hardly have been less appropriate, although Yan indulging in a graceful, statuesque pose as the music paused uncharacteristically between Lately and Rock In A more than compensated. The evening concluded with The Official Fleet Reserve tramping around the audience sporting a yellow protective helmet and hoisting Martin Noble – still playing his guitar – high on his shoulders. Finally, as the rest of the band exited the stage, Noble plunged head first into the crowd, before swinging from the light rigging, staring manically into the audience like a crazed Gibraltar Rock ape.

Mad King George would have been proud.

Sarah Nicholls



Waterfront, Norwich 11/04/05

Set List: It Ended on an Oily Stage/ Remember Me/ The Scottish Wildlife Experience/ Oh Larsen B/ Like a Honeycomb/ Please Stand Up/ North Hanging Rock/ Childhood Memories/ How Will I Ever Find My Way Home/ Fear of Drowning/ Apologies to Insect Life/ Spirit of St Louis/ Blackout/ To Get to Sleep/ Carrion/ Lately/ Rock in A

It's been called both the highlight and the lowlight of the tour. If the Norwich Waterfront gig was the highlight, then I'm not bloody surprised. If it was the lowlight, it only goes to show how amazing the rest of the tour must have been.

Two support bands is usually a 'Good Thing', as it makes the boring wait in between each band shorter. I'd only just entrenched myself at the front of the hall and swallowed 2 bags of Revels by the time the first band, Termite, came on. Like some sort of Blur-on-speed tribute act, it was quite fitting that the guitarist/keyboardist looked remarkably similar to Graham Coxon. They were pretty good, I was a bit annoyed that their set had to be cut short because of time. The next band, Killing Pablo, were probably the worst live band I've ever seen. Not even two guitarists looking like Harry Hill and Will Self, and a singer who danced like the lovechild of Morrissey and David Brent, could distract from the fact that they were so mind-numbingly dull...

There had been rumours spreading that Sea Power had done away with the traditional on-stage foliage. However, these rumours were shattered when we saw Noble, Woody and Stan the Guitar Man walking past the venue ten minutes before opening time with arms full of branches pilfered from nearby trees. Noble himself came on-stage to adorn everything he could find with foliage – shouldn't they have had roadies to do that for them? Still, we took the opportunity to hand Noble our British Sea Power Banana, which was proudly on display on top of Yan's amp.

The band walked on-stage to the haunting tones of How Will I Ever Find My Organ? (!), Yan uttered "This is a song off our new album" and they kicked straight into an anthemic rendition of It Ended On An Oily Stage. The band seemed a bit un-animated to begin with, but five minutes later Yan was bobbing around and Noble was doing what could have been seen as a very poor Slash impression, as the rhythm section powered their way through the double-whammy of Remember Me and The Scottish Wildlife Experience, the former provoking a mosh-pit and crowd singalong.

This was when the technical problems started to kick in. A few seconds into Like A Honeycomb, Noble motioned everyone to stop and said that there were no keyboards. Stan rushed on to amend the problem, Yan announced that they'd play another song instead, and they launched into Larsen B. Played live, it sounds exactly as it's meant to – a guitar-dominated anthem.

A trio of Open Season tracks followed – the rest of Like A Honeycomb (Yan replaced one of the lines with something along the lines of "Our keyboard won't work", then at the end shouted "Check out our fucking keyboards, man!" followed by Eamon standing up and taking a bow); Please Stand Up (The new Carrion, definitely) and North Hanging Rock (simply beautiful).

A beautifully emotional Childhood Memories came next, followed by Hamilton taking over vocals and guitar for Leaving Here. Fear of Drowning (or F. O. D. as the band call it, according to Hamilton) saw what I did initially think were more technical difficulties – Noble's guitar sounded all quiet and tinny. However, his resulting Riverdance routine on his pedal board led me to believe he'd made the classic schoolboy error of turning the wrong effects on. This led into Apologies to Insect Life, which may have featured it's longest ever intro to date due to Yan running backstage at the start and appearing again about a minute later. This track saw the start of the best part of the gig, in my opinion. Yan was full of energy during this and The Spirit Of St. Louis, jumping around the stage, spending the majority of the second verse of Apologies holding onto the roofing support and leaning into the crowd. Next came Blackout, as stunningly beautiful as always. Something special happens when Hamilton leaps into falsetto on the final "And again, my love".

Perhaps the only flaw of the set was throwing the comparitively uninteresting To Get To Sleep in this late in the set. However, Carrion blew it out the water, and reminded me how much I love that song. My sister was particularly impressed by Noble's screaming-into-pickups guitar solo.

The ambient sound intro to Lately went on for ages – three minutes at least, before that memorable first guitar riffs kick in. Yan put on quite a good performance in this song – during the second verse, he gradually slowed down, and sang the line "And all the other stuff round here" completely unnaccompanied, before the rest of the band came back in at full volume and he practically yelled the next line. It was supremely effective.

Rock In A went on for about five minutes without anything particularly interesting happening. Then, Yan ran over to Stan, who put a spliff in his mouth and lit it. Noble took his guitar off, pushed Eamon's keyboards out the way (prompting the great man to resort to playing guitar using a beer bottle as a slide – well, why not?) and executed a colossal stage dive into a surprised crowd. When he got back on-stage, he began pouring water into his ear whilst simultaneously squirting it out into the crowd from his mouth, and eventually left the stage. Next, Hamilton and Eamon indulged in some highly skilled acrobatics, then it all went a bit Pete Tong. Yan started to climb along one of the roofing supports running perpendicular to the stage, but slipped and fell about 15 feet, colliding painfully with the ground between the stage and the guardrail. Stan and Hamilton ran over to check he was OK, but as we know it will take a tank to stop that man and he was soon back leaning into the crowd shouting into his mic. The noise eventually subsided and the band left the stage.

I spoke to Eamon afterwards, and he said they're hoping to play the Waterfront again before the end of the year. I can't wait. Neither, you suspect, can they.

Tombe

Photo by Nigel Nudds



Anson Rooms, Bristol 6/04/05

Set List: Lately/ It Ended on an Oily Stage/ Remember Me / How Will I Ever Find My Way Home/ Like a Honeycomb/ Please Stand Up/ North Hanging Rock/ Childhood Memories/ To Get to Sleep/ Spirit of St Louis/ Apologies to Insect Life/ Oh Larsen B. Encore: Carrion/ Rock in C

All day the buzz is growing inside me. It looks like quite a challenge but how could I miss this, the first date proper of the biggest tour to date by the greatest band in the world? A mixed up set list and no more trees, according to various manifesto statements issued by Yan over the past few days... but can you ever be sure when he's just making stuff up? I am in Chadderton, North Manchester; British Sea Power are in Bristol; thats seven motorways and several hours away – but not be there to see this first hand? Don't be silly. So as the clock hits 4.30 I'm first out the door and on the road. 5pm and I'm 20 miles down at the M56-M6 link road. 5.30pm I receive a text saying onstage at 9pm; junction 16, 44 miles. There 's a fraught half hour round Birmingham as ever, but as I round the corner by the RAC control centre a full double rainbow crosses the industrial skyline and the traffic just clears and I know I'm going to make it. 7pm, M5, a sight more beautiful than the rainbow is a sign saying "Bristol 45". The last stint's a breeze and I'm in town by 8, it's cold and pissing down and when I finally find a passer-by who knows where the venue is there's an enormous great big hill between me and it, but the buzz is strong by now and I'm running up even though I don't have to and I'm inside and it's on again...

At the back of the stage above the drum riser sits an animal made from twigs. A small stag or possibly a reindeer – Clare and I are city girls and know little of such things. Elaborate heraldic banners hang either side like some medieval Great Hall. There is not a branch in sight, unless you count the deer's antlers. This surprises the general crowd, some of whom are already disappointed, but quite why anyone would wish a band so bursting with ideas to stand still is beyond me. It is however those of us with a more extensive service record who are next for a surprise – the unmistakeable introduction of Lately – first!? Another masterstroke, and as the slow drum ending segues brilliantly not into Rock In anything but into Oily Stage, I'm grinning from ear to ear because they've just done it again, whatever it is. The crowd are less certain. Third only to two Midland pits (one of which is, unfortunately, our next stop) in my Venues From Hell chart, the universally brown and unspoilt-by-progress Anson Rooms discourages any real level of interaction by putting a gulf of at least six feet between the barrier and the stagefront. And songs which are already much loved friends to regular BSP gig goers are still largely unknown to a crowd who would have heard them for the first time just two days ago, if at all. Thus Remember Me is warmly received, whereas the clutch of new tracks following it are less so. But they're fucking amazing, I just want to say.

The nadir comes when someone in front of me starts simultaneously texting and chatting during North Hanging Rock, but has the good sense to finally fuck off whilst I'm still deciding how to best tell her to. I've been savouring the moment when I would finally hear this amazing song live and it didn't disappoint, the slight tremble in Yan's voice, the whooshes of cymbals, the fluid guitars, it's anthemic but fragile, and if Bristol doesn't want it I'll keep it for me. The crowd finally wake up properly during Spirit Of St Louis – although whether this is because they know it or because Yan is flailing about on top of them like a fish in a bucket is hard to tell; but security aren't happy and the little writhing bundle is soon gruffly deposited back onstage without missing a note.

Most of the new songs are already sounding far bigger than they do on the album – even after all this time, British Sea Power are still first and foremost a live band – and Larsen B, with ending stretched out and fuilled with crashing waves of guitar, is thrilling – and then they're off. The stage is intact, and as returning hero guitar tech Stan checks the tuning on the bass it becomes scarily apparent that an encore is imminent. I'm not completely sure, but I think the last time I saw British Sea Power do an encore was 19 months and over 50 gigs ago (for me) during Germany's hottest September in recorded history... but back they come. Carrion aborts itself after three seconds but restarts just as soon as Hamilton's stopped giggling, and finally the crowd look like they're having fun – and then a familiar riff signals Rock In A, back to bookend the set wonderfully. Of course it may well be Rock In D or C or any other key (F sharp by the end of the tour lads? I dare you!) but the first five minutes are much as we know and love them... then all manner of weird shit takes over...

The demented soup of ad-libs and things that sound like snippets of other peoples' songs but never last long enough to formally identify variously contained: something half familiar to me from some entirely different context involving the word "Psycho"; Yan dragging the twig deer down and riding it around the stage (I can't see it lasting as far as Edinburgh never mind the whole tour!), shrieking and hopping (of course), and Yan and Hamilton crouched behind a monitor, just visible affectionately mouthing insane nonsense into each others' faces down a shared microphone, whilst Noble stands regally centre stage flapping his arms like wings.

What with the Top 20 hit, encoring and talking to the audience there's a vague slide towards a more conventional band here and there, but you still wouldn't get anything like this from any other band. And this is the important bit – change is good, change is necessary, and to adapt like this without losing any of the things that made them special is the reason why British Sea Power are still on a level all of their own. It's almost three hours' drive back through the night, but the can of Red Bull remains untouched and I'm still on a natural high when I get home.

Cath Aubergine

Photo by Alan Lonsdale
Tour review: Springtime at Sea



High Rocks, Tunbridge Wells 11/02/05

Set List: Apologies to Insect Life/ Spirit of St Louis/ It Ended on an Oily Stage/ Remember Me/ The Scottish Wildlife Experience/ Leaving Here/ Like a Honeycomb/ Carrion/ Blackout/ Bird/ Please Stand Up/ Oh Larson B/ Lately/ Rock in A

Fresh from the holiday season, the irresistably immersive British Sea Power returned to occupy the High Rocks Hotel just outside Royal Tunbridge Wells. As every essential gig should be, it was a logistical nightmare to arrive at, weeding out the hardy few (hundred) who were prepared to leave their urban confines for a couple of hours of music. The venue was rather incongrously shared with a party of besuited males and females with assorted 'party dresses' who seemed to occupy the other half of the sprawling hotel complex quite comfortably in their own style. Past the swarm of unusually smart (tuxedo-ed to a man) minders, the venue was packed with mid-length floppy hair, ostentatious scarves and the spiky elbows to accompany them. However, this crowd was not all trendy young boys, a stalwart minority of elders was to be picked out managing not to pose with their plastic pints but just as eagerly awaiting the gregorian chant that preceeds British Sea Power's arrival on stage.

The aural assaults of Apologies To Insect Life and Spirit of St Louis were played straight, no embellishments but a musical intensity that seemed to emanate from somewhere in the metronomic drummers chest and focus on the audience through the piercing stares of the rest of the band. This challenge to sit up and take notice is non-negotiable, just as Lord Kitchener's eyes follow the potential recruit from that famous poster, so BSP stare at their audience, challenging them to engage with the music. With the punters suitably laid open by this opening bolt of sound, the band test their new material, from the beguiling epic Oh Larsen B via the heart-grasping Please Stand Up to the comic vignette of charismatic bassist Hamilton's wish to be a bird. This was a band buoyed up on the success of a genuinely groundbreaking first album without being held back by its legacy, visibly enjoying new songs and, considering how long they have been playing them, performing the old ones with a commendable lack of sterility.

The first notes of British Sea Power's reinvention of prog wig-outs Lately signify the beginning of the chaotic end. Guitarist Noble scrambles astride woodworm ridden old oak roof beams before crashing down towards the shiny modern floor. Official Fleet Reserve Eamon takes his drum for a morale boosting walk through the crowd before the brothers Yan and Hamilton are held aloft by countless hands still staring, daring you to participate in their singular world. Hamilton ends up on my shoulders before grabbing the chandelier and swinging, trousers astray somewhere south of his knees, mouth agape like some modern seer propelled by his visions to end hanging from the ceiling clutching the chandelier as if it was his last hope. The yelps continue while on stage drummer Woody's sticks begin to beat slow, his snare drum sounding out through the cheers until it finally stops. We are sated, no need for an encore by a band that has taken this audience by their heartstrings and tugged, snapped and finally massaged them. I turned to a certain woman with purple hair and a tattoo – five leaves for the five members of British Sea Power. She said "You need a fag." She was right, I did.

Symbeline

Photo by Cath Aubergine

Postscript: This gig was the first of the High Rocks / Shining Levels double-header (as commemorated on a band t-shirt). The morning after the show, BSP and a handful of hardy fans embarked on a near-350 mile journey north from Kent to Grasmere Village Hall in the Lake District where – to the delight of the Third Battalion away crew and locals alike – the band delivered yet another incendiary performance.

Read Cath Aubergine's reviews of High Rocks and Grasmere at manchestermusic.co.uk



Academy 3, Manchester 3/11/04

Set List: Apologies to Insect Life/ Spirit of St Louis/ Remember Me/ The Scottish Wildlife Experience/ Mother/ Elegiac Stanzas/ Blackout/ Strange Communication/ Fear of Drowning/ Favours in the Beetroot Fields/ Carrion/ Lately/ Rock in A

It's been quite a ride. Most weeks you'll still find me in my beloved Night & Day looking for the next thrill, down by the pillar, front side, where those eyes first burnt a hole in my mind. That bass player's not all there, I thought. It's a ride that's taken me places I'd never experienced: Munich on match night, a lunar eclipse over Hoboken New Jersey, Los Angeles on Oscars weekend, Prague in the run-up to Easter, and... Norwich. So there's something almost wrong about a British Sea Power gig where I don't have to involve three different methods of transport to get there... And God, haven't they grown up? Wood, a fresh-faced teenager well into his twenties now has the assured demeanour (and hair) of the great rock drummer he's become. Yan and Hamilton no longer look like slightly scared kids up past their bedtime. Competent, confident and engaging the audience they have shed a little of that distant other-worldliness, but that was always going to happen. The question for me is, can a band still move me when I've seen them 50 times?

It's not the most pleasant crowd I've been in. As yet another leery student-rugby-club type lurches into my side and some bizarre menage-a-trois plants itself immovably between me, my friends and the prime spot we've endured some frankly bizarre support acts for they are going to have to be good tonight... I look around for the usual Manchester scene suspects. Ah, Beardy Man's here. Is he stalking me? Or is it the other way round? Within seconds of the opening Apologies To Insect Life starting some idiot's grabbed a bird from the stage and smashed it into my forehead, but within a few more seconds I've switched in and don't care any more. As ever, Remember Me sends the crowd into overdrive.

There aren't as many new songs as we'd been expecting, but both were undoubted highlights. Elegiac Stanzas, which has been wandering in and out of the live set for most of the year, is probably the most universally accessible – another Remember Me with high indie club night and chart potential. But it's the other new song Mother which has that beauty, that stop-you-in-your-tracks factor they achieved with Carrion and Blackout. The slight crack in Yan's voice and the distant star systems in those deep brown eyes. The leery drunks aren't sure, but I am. One of the finest things they've written yet.

Strange Communication brings the evening's other "fuck me" moment. Noble's on bass and the trailing guitar coda's nowhere to be seen, replaced rather wonderfully with a good five minutes of borderline-post-rock static and space noises, Yan and Hamilton seem to be silently daring each other to unleash a weirder noise from effects boards which have grown considerably over the last year. Nothing is carved in stone with this band, songs are fluid and evolving, occasionally growing a new verse or ending which can disappear just as quickly. "Why do you go to every gig?" ask my friends sometimes. Because I don't want to miss anything.

Lately comes around too soon, as ever. By rights I should be bored with this by now, but it hasn't happened. Sometimes I just take a step back and look at the slender little figures onstage, tonight silhouetted perfectly in the Academy 3's almost iridescent magenta and blue, and think – where the fuck did this come from? And as Rock In A shambles towards another gleefully messy ending, the crowdsurfing Yan is flipped back vaguely stagewards and Noble has one last stare, the outro tape says it all: "this is not goodbye, it's just goodnight..." Here's to the next 50.

Cath Aubergine

Photos by Bearsinie



Rescue Rooms, Nottingham 2/11/04

Set List: The Scottish Wildlife Experience/Apologies To Insect Life/The Spirit of St Louis/Remember Me/Elegiac Stanzas/Mother/Blackout/Tugboat/Fear Of Drowning/Favours In The Beetroot Fields/Carrion/Lately/Rock In A

On entering the Rescue Rooms on this mild November evening for my tenth British Sea Power experience, exactly 13 months after my first, I was filled with not-a-little apprehension. There had been mixed reports from the Brighton performance a week earlier and naturally I wanted my tenth attendance to be a special one. However, on looking toward the stage and seeing a Robert Smith look-alike bouncing around behind some keyboards, my fears were all but assuaged. A typically crazy support for British Sea Power, The Mystery Jets were chaotic in most senses of the word and seeing them couldn't help me feel a little excited for the rest of the evening.

Chris TT was next to take the stage and although pretty inoffensive his questionable lyrics and speaking-style singing voice didn't work for me. He was on stage long enough to express his distaste for George Bush (who would go on to win the American Presidential Election that day) and played a couple of political numbers that just weren't, by his own admission, Billy Bragg. Chris was generally well received, but as he left the stage the anticipation in the venue definitely rose somewhat.

Sure enough, a few minutes later, the dulcet tones of Men Together Today flowed from the speakers and a roar (greater than ever these days) filled the venue. Just as he had the last time I saw BSP, Noble strode across the stage, raising his beer to salute the crowd. It was good to be back. The always sublime Scottish Wildlife Experience and Apologies to Insect Life opened the set in energetic style with The Spirit of St Louis – orchestrated as always to seem as if Lindbergh's Ryan NYP were colliding with the venue – following in quick succession. These up-tempo songs at the start of the set were certainly a positive move as they allowed British Sea Power to initiate and sustain their unique wave of swirling chaos throughout the early part of their performance. Today an exhilarating crescendo to this early build-up was reached with the most urgent Remember Me I can recall.

The fervour amongst the crowd inspired by the furious opening was spectacular, and as if to calm things a little Elegiac Stanzas and the beautiful Mother emerge next. Although virtually unknown to most of the crowd these songs are received well and by the end of the later people all around were already joining in with the catchy chorus. It is then Hamilton's turn to take the crowd on a journey with him. Having been dropped for the April tour the atmospheric crowd favourite Blackout was due an outing and it seems time has improved its magic still further. Delivered superbly as always, it brings the outside world indoors and for a moment everyone in the room is wandering through the misty, damp countryside. Transported quickly back to Nottingham City Centre, Hamilton stays at the centre mic to deliver Tugboat, perhaps included tonight for its 'I don't want to vote for your President' line, perhaps because the tour was labelled as one that would include some rarities. Whatever the reason, everyone is glad to hear it and it proves a set highlight for me personally.

It is business as usual from then on, with the 'classics' Fear of Drowning and Carrion sandwiching the frenetic Favours in the Beetroot Fields. Perhaps I was a little disappointed to hear the opening bars of Lately, and realise that the set would end in its traditional manner, but this feeling quickly disappeared as it re-occurred to me how excellent a way to round off an evening the combination with Rock in A is. BSP seem in high spirits this evening, Yan joking with the audience that Ursine Ultra had been buried, and then with Hamilton about whether or not moles come out at night. All things united to make this a truly unique experience, and for me the disappointment of missing out on the London Cargo gig in April was at least a little mollified by the reassuring evidence that this band have the desire and the ability to get even better.

Comrade Craig

Photo by Bearsinie



Fujirock Festival, Japan 30/07/04

British Sea Power was the first band that played Fujirock this year. They were allocated a 40 minute slot at 11am on the main stage on the first day of the festival. The gates opened at 9am, and when I got there around 9.30, the front row was already occupied by fans with foliage tied to the barrier, waiting eagerly. The band were soundchecking on stage and fine-tuning the strategically placed foliage picked from the lush forest of Mount Naeba.

At 11 o'clock sharp, the organisers announced the start of this year's Fujirock. The chorus of Fakir cued BSP on stage. They opened with Apologies which set the highly energised and rapid pace for their performance. St Louis followed so tightly that no one had enough time to catch their breath. Remember Me was definitely the favourite amongst the Japanese audience. Eamon matched into the crowd to the distress of the security. He reached so far into an enthusiastic audience that he wasn't able to get back on stage in time before the song finished, which prompted Yan to point at him and altered the last line to "I will remember – him."

During Childhood Memories, everyone was able to catch their breath a bit, but when Favours followed, then Yan decided simply to 'carry on'. When the first few chords to Lately started, I knew that it was possibly the best gig I had been too, perhaps better than Roxy/Prague, or even Cargo... They played a brief but brilliant Rock in A, and 2 minutes to 11.40am, Yan, Noble and Eamon dived into the audience. The bouncers certainly didn't have an easy time!

After the set on the main stage, the boys spent the afternoon performing various publicity duties. Right after the gig, they were interviewed by the festival organisers who presented them with scarves (or tea towels!) which they wore at the radio interview later in the day. The interview started with a live recording of Carrion (or possibly Remember Me) from that morning's performance. It completely reaffirmed the fact that it was near-perfect, even the band thought so! They were being asked the usual questions about the stage decoration, and playing Japan and festivals. The live track was played again at the end of the interview. They stayed in the tent for a while to sign autographs and took pictures with fans.

Then, they retired to the back of the tent and got invited to play a short acoustic set at the British Pavillion adjacent. It proved to be a long wait as they were scheduled to play after Snow Patrol, who were seriously delayed! Whilst we waited and waited for Gary Lightbody and co to grace the tent, the concept of Super Eamon materialised after locating a grey t-shirt and many a can of beer. Working on the suggestions of Old Sarge and the help of Woody, Super Eamon made his debut to Just Like Eddie, Leaving Here and Out of My Mind on Dope and Speed. The tent was so small that it couldn't physically even fit the five of them! The audience couldn't help but giggle, cheer and whistle throughout the short set, and the rest of them were being very professional and played a stellar set completely straight-faced, which must have been much aided by the fact that Super Eamon was performing behind them!

After this excellent performance, they were ushered to another tent for yet another interview. It was a rather standard interview, though there were some notable moments. When the interviewer asked about the progress of the second album, Yan answered along the lines of "Oh, we have got a song called *gibberish*, another one called *gibber-gibberish*," then he looked over to Hamilton, who went on and made up a few more completely nonsense song titles, to the utter distress of the interviewer who had to translate it into Japanese! They also asked Yan about his plan to move over to France!

When the questions ran dry, they opened it up to the floor, which caught everyone by surprise... Eamon was then offered up to give the audience three kisses! (I've no idea how it actually came about – I must have drifted off for a while). In the end, they played two songs – Salty Water and Fakir, Woody improvised with Eamon's bamboo bangles to keep everyone in tempo.

The last publicity duty they had to perform that day was an autograph session. I have no idea how 'early' people started queuing as I went off to see The Zutons(!) after the second interview, and by the time I got to the autograph tent, they were already signing, with quite a queue formed! There was an air of great excitement. They took time to talk to everyone, sign everything, take pictures, etc., which kept everyone very happy, and I moved on to catch PJ Harvey on the main stage.

Efeelola



T in the Park Festival, Kinross 10/07/04

Set List: The Scottish Wildlife Experience/ Remember Me/ Spirit of St Louis/ How Animals Work/ Leaving Here/ Childhood Memories/ Favours in the Beetroot Fields/ Carrion/ Rock in C

This was the first time I'd been to T in the Park and, despite being a nightmare to get there (and to get in), it turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable day, mainly because of the great vibe from the (very drunken) crowd.

BSP were on the second (NME) stage on the Saturday. They came on mid-afternoon, with dark clouds overhead and seagulls circling over the stage (I took this to be a good omen!). The waiting audience was the usual disperate mix of age groups and social types, and included a group of 40something men who were standing near me and Blunt, wearing Hamilton-esque crowns of leaves.

When the band walked onto the stage, they certainly made a fine spectacle. Not only was there a liberal sprinkling of foliage and birds (long-eared owl, peregrine falcon and great heron all in their usual places), the boys have obviously been down the charity shop recently – Yan wore a fetching bright orange jumper with a huge hole in the middle.

Bass Rock kicked things off but, although the sound was excellent (from where we were anyway), it was just way too quiet. This led to shouts "turn it up!"... Not sure if they did, or whether we just got used to it, but a rocking Remember Me soon got the crowd going, as did St Louis, which gave Eamon his opportunity to clamber down off the stage carrying his drum into the audience. The live version of this song has had several reworkings. Not only does it now have a new intro, the centre part has also changed. Yan also started chanting in vaguely-threatening German...

Next up were the two new tracks. An excellent How Animals Work was followed by Hamilton taking over the vocals and formally introducing the band to the audience, just as he had at IoW and Glasto, before launching into Leaving Here. The "watching the storm clouds come over the hills" line seemed to fit particularly well.

Childhood Memories followed (with Yan singing "Jesus, the weather was OK today") and then Favours, which got the crowd moving again. By now, the band were beginning to run out of time (they were only allocated 35 mins) and I wondered how they were going to fit in Lately and Rock in A... First, however, Isaac Rosenburg's Returning, We Hear the Larks announced that Carrion would be next up...

Then Hamilton made a sad announcement: "The bear is dead... we buried him yesterday." I'd like to say this brought gasps from the audience and public displays of anguish but actually everyone just laughed. To be fair, the poor thing looked on its last legs at Glastonbury... So farewell, then, Ursine Ultra, rest in peace. Anyone need any extra foam for an old sofa?

A superb Carrion, which featured a particularly impassioned ending from Yan, proved a brilliant epitaph. But how would they end the set? Obviously no time for Lately, so the band appeared to go straight into Rock in A – this time, only the second half of it when they really crank it up. A few moments in, however, and it really didn't sound like Rock in A at all... I was later told that it was in fact an improv version (isn't it always?!), but played in a different key – so Rock in C then!

There have been some comments about whether the band should ditch the mid-tempo songs and play to the audience at these festival gigs. Would Elegiac Stanzas be a better new one to play? I actually think it's brave of them to try the new stuff out in front of such large crowds (although possibly not that brave, I suppose, as it is obvious that both HAW and Leaving Here are quality songs). Amazing to think they only played three tracks from The Decline... so a lot of the audience (or at least those who have only bought the album) probably hadn't heard two-thirds of the tracks before. Still didn't stop the band going down a storm.

Comrade Kevo

Photos by donkey jacket



Cargo, London 30/04/04

Set List: The Scottish Wildlife Experience/ Apologies to Insect Life/ Spirit of St Louis/ Fear of Drowning/ A Wooden Horse/ Childhood Memories/ Favours in the Beetroot Fields/ Remember Me/ Carrion/ Lately/ Rock in A/ Fakir/ A Lovely Day Tomorrow

This was not only the best BSP gig I have seen, it was probably the best gig I have ever been to by any band. It is no exaggeration to call it a completely awe-inspiring experience. British Sea Power were quite simply out of this world.

Northern Pete said to me afterwards that he knew it was going to be fantastic as soon as the band came on stage and Hamilton screamed into the mic! The opener which followed, Bass Rock, set the tempo for the rest of the gig. Gone for one night were the slower songs (apart from a magnificent Wooden Horse). Instead we were treated to stunning, anthemic versions of Carrion and Remember Me, ear-blistering renditions of Apologies and St Louis and a Childhood Memories which has already been described in more than one place as 'orgasmic'. The whole gig was performed at full throttle with the crispest sound I can recall. Noble's guitar rang out over Woody's fantastic drumming, yet the acoustics were superbly balanced. As JCT later commented, the band seemed to thrive on this, like they knew the power was there – as if they were riding the perfect wave.

And the audience were fantastic too – no dickheads flailing elbows in people's faces or trying to get on stage, just everyone getting off on the whole vibe. I couldn't help thinking it seemed like a private party for the hardcore fans – but of course it wasn't about us. It was about the band and their wonderful, wonderful music. No bear – but who cares? I was glad in a way. Too many theatrics get in the way sometimes. Nothing in the world, however, could stop the band giving in to the energy of the music – Noble's spectacular double twist and somersault into the audience and Eamon's horizontal crowd surfing – while still clouting his marching drum – were natural expressions of what all of us were feeling.

After surely the most glorious Lately and Rock in A ever (did Yan really have tears in his eyes?), there was a brief respite before they came back on with the Ecstasy of St Theresa and marked the Czech Republic joining the EU at midnight with the first live performance of Fakir and a half-English, half-Czech version of A Lovely Day Tomorrow. A sublime moment. The smiles on the faces of both the band and the audience said it all – and for a while time seemed to stand still.

Then the Sea Power DJs took over. The first track was Transmission, which propelled a group of us by the stage to dance with complete and utter abandon. It seemed like an epiphany – an affirmation of what we were all there for. I briefly thought perhaps I should never go and see them again. It simply can't get any better than this.

If I have any regrets it was that I ended up with a couple of spare tickets, and tried to get some non-BSP fans along to the gig but without success. I just wish they'd been there – perhaps then they'd be able to understand why I love this band so much.

I'm sure many of the people who were there will cherish this night for a long time to come. As AJC said on the BSP forum: "I can't remember any other gig I have been to that has caused me to burst into floods of tears when it was time to go home." Maybe it was because it felt like the end of something, and not just the tour – no more dates for while, except for the odd festival, and possibly the last time we'll see the birds and foliage and hear the regular songs we have come to know and love. Is this really the end of part one? I don't know. Maybe it should be. Cut it clean and cut it deep. And start all over – another adventure for us all...

I'll leave the final word to Julie: "Cargo was magnificant on every level. It transcended the definition of a gig. It was a celebration of the band, the songs, the fans, the Czech Republic, the sadness of recognising the end of an era but also the excitement of things to come. Who knows where this band are gonna take us?" Who knows, indeed.

Comrade Kevo

Photos by Cath Aubergine
For more reviews and pictures from this show, go to the Cargo page



Waterfront, Norwich 26/04/04

Set List: Something Wicked/ Remember Me/ The Scottish Wildlife Experience/ A Wooden Horse/ Fear of Drowning/ Apologies to Insect Life/ Spirit of St Louis/ Chicken Pig/ Blackout/ Childhood Memories/ Favours in the Beetroot Fields/ Carrion/ Lately/ Rock in A

Well, the 26th of April, 2004 was an evening that will remain in my memory for a very very long time.

We got to the Waterfront a good half-hour before the doors opened, thanks to our pessimism about the amount of traffic. Thankfully, unlike the rest of the year so far, the sun was still out and it wasn't raining. I got talking to three guys who ran a music TV show at the University of East Anglia who had just interviewed the band, as well as challenging them to a game of Tiddlywinks (apparently, Hamilton cheated).

Eventually we were let in, and after a quick gander over to the merchandise store to buy as much BSP gear as I could fit into my pockets, I entrenched myself at the front of the hall, right in front of where Hamilton would be standing. The next 45 minutes were so boring I was reduced to trying to work out what each guitar that I could see on the racks was. Eventually, The Duke Spirit came onto the stage. One of the few support acts I've seen who didn't bore me rigid, they used a combination of loudness, distortion, a natural blonde on lead vocals and a lead guitarist obsessed with feedback to give us 30 minutes of classic 3-minute guitar anthems.

The second wait wasn't so boring, mainly because it was a lot shorter and I was pre-occupied watching the roadies cover the stage in foliage. At long last, British Sea Power appeared at the stage door, and walked onto the stage to the sound of Men Together Today to launch into a surprisingly wired rendition of Something Wicked. My only niggle is that Eamon's keybaord could have been louder – I love that organ riff! Up next was Remember Me, as energetic as you'd expect it to be, followed by The Scottish Wildlife Experience. After long deliberation, this was the highlight of my evening – the spectacle of Wood assualting his drumkit as if waging a one-man war against percussion instruments, Eamon beating his keyboard to death, Noble slashing the air with the neck of his guitar and the Wilkinson brothers yodelling and yelling nonsense, all lit up by strobe lights is quite fantastic.

The good stuff just kept coming. A beautifully calm A Wooden Horse led into some considerably more upbeat tracks, like Apologies to Insect Life, during which Eamon paraded round the stage, standing back-to-back with Noble, bashing his marching drum with his face twisted into some sort of evil grimace. And at the end, Hamilton leaned into the microphone and screamed. Why? I don't know.

After the usual Yan-madness of The Spirit Of St. Louis came Hamilton's big break. Eamon was handed a guitar, Yan and Hamilton swapped places and they launched into new song Chicken Pig. After a heavy, drum-laden intro, it's basically 5 minutes of 3 repeating chords with Hamilton singing over the top. I couldn't actually hear what he was saying (let's say the Waterfront's acoustics 'could be better') but I still liked the song. Up next came Blackout, with Hamilton's voice just soaring around the hall. And the moment at the end where he leapt into falsetto on the final repeat of 'And again, my love' really was something else.

The end of the set was approaching now (I could see Yan's setlist from where I was standing). After they rattled through Childhood Memories, Favours and Carrion (sadly without Noble screaming into the pickups on his guitar) Lately began. Starting with a glorious display of feedback from Noble and Yan, and some wave-noises on the cymbals by Woody, it slowly built up, collapsed, then built up again, just as it does on the album. A nice opportunity to get my breath back after jumping and singing to Carrion.

But then came Rock in A – if the music isn't impressive enough, with thundering guitars and Woody's ever-more-crashing drums, it's the on-stage performance that really made this song. Yan shouting nonsense into the microphone and Hamilton running on the spot was lively enough until Eamon embarked on a stroll through the crowd with his marching drum. At this point, I was looking round the hall for him before I turned round and saw him standing right next to me, walloping his drum and looking like he'd just eaten a rotten lemon. At this point he hurled his drum back onto the stage (Hamilton actually had to dodge it) and tried to climb over the bar in front of the stage but ended up collapsing in front of Hamilton's monitors. What to do next? A bit of crowd-surfing, perhaps? He climbed onto Noble's shoulders while playing feedback guitar, and ended up being thrown into a waiting crowd. At this point, the music fell away, and 3/5 of the band left the stage, leaving Eamon completely rigid being passed around the hall, and a laughing Noble at the microphone trying to direct him back to the stage.

After the gig, it was time for 40 minutes to appreciate the wonders of British Sea Power's backstage hospitality. Well, how else are they going to get rid of all that food and beer given to them by the tour company? It was a fantastic gig, and never before have I left an event with so much merchandise – a T-shirt, a sew-on patch, a mug, a CD signed by Eamon, Hamilton and Woody, a bit of foliage from the stage and a damp patch on my trousers as a result of Eamon's beer exploding.

Tombe

Photos by Bearsinie



Academy, Birmingham 23/04/04

Set List: Something Wicked/ Remember Me/ The Scottish Wildlife Experience/ A Wooden Horse/ Fear of Drowning/ Apologies to Insect Life/ Spirit of St Louis/ Chicken Pig/ Blackout/ Childhood Memories/ Favours in the Beetroot Fields/ Carrion/ Lately/ Rock in A

My first BSP gig after Prague. Anticipation has been building up since the moment I stepped out of the Roxy. Being stuck in London for twoweeks, and the fantastic reviews from everyone contributed much to my expectations, and they did live up to it, in an unexpected way. Smoke machines On. Lights Out. Birds flew. Band on stage.

The set started out slow, which was the last thing I expect (I probably got too used to the tracking on the album: Apologies following Men. Cue: Mayhem.) Anyway... the audience was a mixture of fans, people who know the music and girlfriends. Quite a number of people around me were quite shocked by the moshing, and think that they were 'mad', constantly expressing their distaste to their friends. (what do you expect when you're down in the centre front?!) Though it was a 'slow' start, there was no lack of energy. The pace picked up quickly, and it was a rather good warm up to fine tune my senses for the rest of the evening.

Something Wicked set the mood. Intense and powerful. Followed by Remember Me, which I can't quite remember much what happened, but I was certain the crowd went mad to the horror of a number of people closeby. Scottish Wildlife Experience really messed up my head, as for a moment I thought I was in London seeing another band. It was disorientating. Energy and crowd-movement kept on surging to unprecedented levels in the next few songs. And then it was Chicken Pig. It was probably my first time consciously registering the song. It definitely sounds different from the main corpus of BSP songs. It doesn't scream BSP-ness like A Lovely Day Tomorrow. Blackout followed. Then a few more songs and Carrion. When that started, even the skeptics were well into it. Lately was poignantly delivered and so captivating that almost everyone was in rapt silence. Rock in A felt different. It was a checked riot. It probably had everything to do with the gap between the stage and the audience. But then, it allowed me to appreciate it on a more musical level, rather than just an impression of the disjointed sound of riffs and electric guitars, people jumping about and into each other and making sure one doesn't die from being trampled.

The thing that impressed me most deeply was the black and white projection of a bare tree with birds nesting on it. The projection flooded the whole stage. Birds take off from branches into the audience. It went so well with the clips of poetry and other little audio bits between songs that I almost didn't want them to start the next song. A true phenomenological experience. Well worth getting back home at 7am and heading out to work in 2 hours physically completely shattered. I did survive the day, though almost got killed by cars more times that I could remember and dosing off during one of my favourite parts of Der Rosenkavalier. I cannot wait until Bristol. I know it will be good.

Efeelola

Read more about the Spring 2004 tour



Club Zero, Sheffield 21/04/04

A band that are often described as 'like no other', to the point that it becomes onerous to read reviews about them, British Sea Power are indeed without contemporary comparison. Defying any 'rock n roll' stereotypes of sexed up, drugged up, publicity stunt merchants they instead fiercely maintain their privacy and list ornithology and hiking as favourite pastimes.

On tour in April to support their new – supremely limited edition – single, A Lovely Day Tomorrow, this evening sees British Sea Power flex their muscles in a venue that you could be forgiven for thinking was an executive gym; such is the smart, polished exterior and clean, angular interior of Club Zero.

This is now British Sea Power's fourth UK tour following their debut album, and an absence of new material – other than the inchoate assortment of noises that is Chicken Pig – does not seem to deter the crowd, who are in high spirits. And who can blam' them? Yan's gasping, McCulloch-esque vocals and the lilting guitar riff on Carrion, which reminisces of Joy Division's Disorder, work perfectly to create Sea Power's ethereal sound. Set highlights this evening include last October's single Remember Me, which the band deliver early on like a warm slice of riff-filled apple pie and the chaotic sonic blast that is Favours In The Beetroot Fields.

The greatest marvel about this evening was the proficiency with which British Sea Power now perform their songs for an audience. OK, so they've played these songs to death in the live arena, but they are delivering them up better now than ever before to produce a live show that sounds technically as good as any band in the world. If bird-watching and hill walks inspire such beauty as is on display here this evening then let's hope British Sea Power get back to the Lake District soon and craft a new album.

Comrade Craig

Photo by Cath Aubergine



The Venue, Edinburgh 17/04/04

Holy shit, where does one begin? Maybe at the shimmer in my torso as I hear the Power soundcheck to the opening strains of Remember Me? Or at the debris strewn chaos that brings events to a punching, belting close during the dying noise of Lately? Or at the delight on everybody's faces as they saunter out, ears-dinging, post gig? Naw, it has to be in the Black Bull/Pivo pub opposite the Venue, where approximately an hour after BSP come offstage, they dander across the road and sit down at the same table as excitable me and my mate.

As the beer flowed they happily signed our tickets, chatted about football (Martin Noble supports Man United, like me – apologise to no-one), exchange (crap) jokes, Eamon rolled me a cig even though I don't smoke, and they claimed to remember me as the raucous shouter from the audience at the Belfast gig in October 03, behaviour repeated at this show. I mean, you travel across the sea for a show and the lads with the biggest talent since Norman Whiteside defeated Pele at 17 years and 42 days turn out to be as modest, pleasant and friendly as you hope they might be but probably are'nt? They even didn't mind that I had nicked Yan's cricket sock during stage dive, basically assaulting him in the process. Sometimes life can be so colourful and wonderful – and unexpected (a footnote to our experience is that some ten minutes after the band depart said hostelry bound for North East England, actor and fellow countryman James Nesbitt – him of Cold Feet stardom and supporter of Coleraine FC – appeared at our side, sans introduction but avec a free pint and advice about what's going to now go right with Northern Irish football... it's only now that I know what surrealism really is).

Anyways, back to the gig. I feel I can't do the music, dance and sheer energy justice in words. It started relatively gently, with a Wooden Horse, and I believed Hamilton when he informed us wide-eyed onlookers that it really is gonna be a lovely day tomorrow. The glory of Remember Me was there for all to see, and just as you thought Lately had crashed to a close, the lads in white delighted us all by using that last wee bit of gas left in the cylinder to start up again. We love Eamon and his drum and his crowd-mingling. And I've got a roll-up even though I don't smoke...

G from the North Channel

Photo by Cath Aubergine



Roxy, Prague 8/04/04

I can't remember when I first heard that BSP intended to play Prague. It had been rumoured for a while – especially following their studio collaboration with Czech band the Ecstasy of St Theresa. BSP's fascination with Czech history and literature – from the life of 'Bad Bohemian' Jarov Haslek to the assasination of Reinhard Heydrich (which inspired A Lovely Day Tomorrow) – meant that it was certain to be a special occasion. Those of us who made the trip over weren't to be disappointed.

On boarding the plane at Stansted, I experienced one of those not-so-rare moments of BSP synchronicity. The group of girls sitting behind me – apparently on some kind of hen party outing – were discussing how they intended the visit the church to see where the Czech agents had died. (Some of us did visit the church over the weekend. You can still see the bullet marks in the walls).

Walking into Prague soon after my arrival, I was surprised by how many posters there were for the gig. The design featured WWII RAF symbols, Lancaster bombers, anti-aircraft guns, the London skyline, the Jodrell Bank telescope, the Grim Reaper and the Virgin Mary... definitely a collector's item!

One of the reasons there was a delay getting the gig off the ground was apparently the search for a decent venue. What they found in the end was perfect. The Roxy, an old 1930s theatre just north of Staromestske Nemesti, was intimate enough to provide the right atmosphere but big enough to comfortably house the large, enthusiastic audience, a mixture of Czech nationals, UK and US ex-pats, tourists and, of course, a sizeable contingent of travelling BSP fans (some of us still hungover from mixing Budvar and Becherovka the previous night in the aptly-named Battalion Cafe).

EoST were on early, at 7.30. Singer Katerina Winterova has a striking Bjork-esque voice, and their ambient electronica – enhanced by some striking visuals – glided over the audience. It was to prove a gentle precursor for what was to come...

BSP's imminent arrival was marked not by the familiar Men Together Today but by Fakir, the rousing Czech folk song the band recorded for the Lovely Day Tomorrow single. It reminded us that tonight was going to be a little different to the usual BSP experience.

As Yan launched into Fear of Drowning, I remember thinking the vocals and sound were amazingly clear. Punchy staccato versions of Apologies and St Louis followed, setting the momentum for the rest of the gig. The ending of Childhood Memories seemed even more manic than usual – and as soon as the song had wound down (up?!), the roof of the venue was almost blown off by a truly explosive Favours in the Beetroot Fields. Something Wicked kicked in with the bass turned up to max, booming across the venue with a sinister impetus. By far the best live version of this song I have heard. Remember Me was followed without pause for breath by an ecstatic Bass Rock.

By now, BSP seemed to have won over the entire audience (including a couple of girls down the front who accompanied each song with ecstatic yelps of joy) – and this was confirmed by the frenzied reaction to a triumphant Carrion. The highlight, however, was still to come. EoST joined the band on stage for A Lovely Day Tomorrow, with Katerina on vocals accompanied by a viola player. Apparently there had been some problems rehearsing this at the soundcheck, but the end result was quite simply superb.

The opening chords of Lately were greeted by a young Czech down the front screaming his approval and soon the audience were clapping along to the opening verses... EoST then returned to join the band for Rock in A, when Woody's drumming – incredible throughout – seemed to reach new heights.

Not many on-stage theatrics, except for Noble getting a piggyback courtesy of Muchow, the EoST guitarist, and Eamon doing his usual wind-up clockwork toy drummer thing into the audience. But who needs them when you have a band that can produce music like this? By the time the sonic fall out of Rock in A reached its climax, it seemed like everyone around me had been caught up in the rush and when the band finally left the stage (with Eamon giving a farewell salute to the audience), it was to joyous and deafening applause.

Someone on the BSP forum suggested they make Prague an annual event. Great idea – and what a perfect excuse to visit the most beautiful city in the world. Next time, you'll all have to be there.

Comrade Kevo

Read more about the Czech Sea Power dates here



TT the Bears, Cambridge, MA 10/03/04

Though at the time of writing it has been almost three months since that glorious March night, a peculiar feeling swells inside of me as I reminisce. A warm, fluttering buzz that lingers and that was best described on the official forum by Pale Fox as a feeling like being in love. Which is almost exactly it. That memories of this show can inspire such feelings in me 90 days after that late winter night is proof that British Sea Power is a very, very special band and that I shared in an unforgettable experience. And though I've been a fan since the 2001 Remember Me single, it wasn't until that night that I pledged my eternal allegiance to the band.

Some who were present might say that the show was shambolic and that Yan behaved most unpleasantly, to put it mildly. I thought that the entire chaotic experience was exactly what a rock show should be.

The first time I saw the band, which was at the same venue in August 2003, they played with an intense yet almost polite determination. It seemed they were intent upon making the best impression possible, eager to prove that they were worthy of our attention. They played again in November, but I was unable to attend and have no idea how that gig went down. On this third night, however, the band was energetic, silly, talkative and destructive. They knew that they owned us, and we, the crowd, loved them. We too were in a feisty mood and audience members lovingly took the piss and heckled back. (Only fair since Yan kept calling us morons). Especially memorable were the comments yelled by a couple behind me, delivered in exaggerated Boston accents: "Swamp rock dood!", "Wetlands rock!", "Welcome to Boston!", "Wikkid pissah!", "More dude love!" (in response to Yan and Hamilton's displays of brotherly love), "British Sea Cuties!" (Yan takes off his thrift shop sweater and tosses it into the crowd, revealing a slim little t-shirted torso), "I want the owl! Give us the owl!", "We're stupid!" (not-so-devastating rejoinder to Yan's moron accusations).

The stage was elaborately decorated with shrubbery and the usual stuffed animals. Overheard behind me shortly before the band came onstage: "See all this forest shit?" "Yeah?" "This band, they're fucking crazy."

Yan was, it should be noted, absolutely insane. And dangerous. He repeatedly threw around his guitar, even throwing it at the roadie towards the end of the set. Not very nice. He swung the mike stand and almost knocked over the monitor onto some people in the front. He made a couple attempts at crowdsurfing, but the crowd wasn't having it and repulsed him back onstage. He complained about the sound (the band aborted Lately because of these supposed problems), but stated that the people who worked at TT's were 'great'. Though clearly in an irritable mood, he was still entertaining, making great whooping sounds and yelling "KICK OUT THE MOTHERFUCKING JAAAMMMZ!" repeatedly.

Despite the chaos and craziness, generally the vibe in that room was intimate and warm. Most of the audience members were fans, singing and moving along to the songs that sounded so great live. I personally wished I could have taken the entire room back to my place for tea, band and all. We loved the band, and I think they loved us back.

The songs sounded amazing. Yan is clearly a born frontman and Hamilton is a fantastic foil. I seem to recall Yan making a joke about Blackout, but I love that song and so watching Hamilton sing that was a personal highlight. Noble's guitar playing is sexy as hell, and he and Woody provided a solid counterbalance to the Brothers' madness. Strangely, sadly, I recall very little of Eamon. During the final song, Rock in A, the band completely trashed the stage. Yan and Hamilton had taken off their t-shirts and were wrestling each other, to my great delight and that of others (see below). The roadie was left to play the guitar and finish out the song. It was all very rocknroll.

Overheard on the walk back to the subway station: "Well, that was a perfect ending for me. Two skinny pale British guys with their shirts off onstage? That's enough for dreams for weeks." In the station, a boy was humming one of the guitar licks from Carrion. During the train ride back home I revelled in my feelings of excitement and e-mailed a friend with my impressions as soon as I got into my apartment. The high filled me for days, and in many ways it seems to have never really left. Oh, BSP, won't you come back soon?

La Vanessa



Echo Club, Los Angeles 29/02/04

I think this is a first for me: I don't recall ever having been to a gig on 29th February before. Echo Club, advised my local contact, is in a "baaad" neighbourhood. He spelt it with the 4 A's just to make sure I understood the gravity of this statement. "My friends live a couple of blocks away and I've frequently heard gunshots while visiting..." So I was kind of relieved to see little in the way of foliage... wouldn't want the lads risking their safety for it. It was also, for reasons I couldn't work out, one of the coldest venues I've ever been in.

Kaito were a great support band, got us well in the mood again. Slightly Sonic Youth, a bit Pavement if they were girls. They weren't all girls; the guitarist actually looked like he's been cloned from a cutting of Thurston Moore circa 1988, and was a joy to watch. I'll go and see them again, definitely. It was a slightly less fervent Carrion which started things off again but before long things were warming up excitement wise if not temperature wise. During Apologies To Insect Life Yan grabbed hold of Eamon and threw him on the floor whilst smiling in a slightly disturbing way; as Eamon lay there still thrashing his drum some of the crowd, not for the last time, looked slightly confused.

A time restriction due to a later club night at the venue (so they do that over there too...) meant that the new songs were sadly left out, as was Blackout which seemed very unusual – possibly the first time I've ever seen them not play it. The Lonely was also absent from the set list, heralding an unusual level of audience interaction from the lads: Girl: "The Lonely! Please!" Yan: "It's not on the set list..." Girl (to me) "Is he joking?" Me: "Er, no... it's not there..." Girl: (to band) "Please tell me you're joking!" Hamilton: "I could do, but he's not..." The set progressed and Lovely Day Tomorrow was next up, but when Yan went over to give Hamilton the guitar they had a little whisper, then with the others, and The Lonely it was. I don't even know if they knew just how happy this made one unknown fan; it was a beautiful moment.

Yan's all over Hamilton tonight and you'd have to be uncompromisingly macho or dead not to get a lovely warm feeling as he clings onto his brother from behind, singing over his shoulder, kissing him gently on the cheek; or they stalk the stage back to back and grinning. Having said that Yan's also struggling with something apparently stuck to the bottom of his sock which is clearly invisible to the rest of the world. Then he's up on the monitors; if there's ever been such a compelling frontman in my lifetime I can't think of one. Noble just stands, statue still except for his hands, but his time centre stage will come...

The time restriction looming, it felt it could be over far too quickly, but then as Lately/Rock In A came to a close there was one of those moments of genius bordering insanity that makes this band truly beyond remarkable. As Yan, Eamon and Woody left the stage, Hamilton sat grinning at the drumkit, crashing one cymbal with all his might every so often whilst Noble stood staring at him. Before long Noble was playing two guitars by rubbing them against his head to make weird noises, whilst playing a third with his foot. The neck started to bend and Stan the long-suffering guitar tech got that familiar "Oh no" look about him, at which point Yan reappeared and did a little headstand, falling over quite soon so the hapless Stan now found himself with a face full of socks... who'd be a stage crewman?

And as Yan scooped Hamilton up in his arms and carried him offstage, which I have to say was the cutest thing I have ever seen at a gig, Noble, straight-faced, dropped his trousers to reveal a large pair of blue boxers with a picture of Scooby Doo on. Which was one of the most disturbing things I've seen at a gig. I'm not sure why, maybe because he seems like such a polite young man. Afterwards the club became even colder and started playing some very dodgy 80s electronica heralding some of the most foolhardy dancing I have seen in a long time....

I suddenly came to my senses to find myself trying to convince Yan that what they really need to do is play a gig inside the Arctic Circle (he was humouring me most kindly) at which point I realised I hadn't actually slept since we arrived... February 29th was over for another four years, Lord of The Rings won about three million Oscars, and despite the best efforts of United Airlines to keep us flying in circles over Chicago for ever we just about made our connecting flight and arrived home unusually free from any jet lag.

Why do I do it? I have to keep asking myself, just to make sure I'm not going mad. Because when Hamilton hits that note near the end of Carrion that heralds it all starting up again and Yan stands up on the monitors shrieking with the mic pressed right up against his mouth and Noble bends his guitar strings with his teeth and Woody hammers those drums like he's breaking up a lathe and Eamon stares out from under his helmet with that distant half-smile and the crowd go wild I feel alive, more than any other time. I've said it a million times but I never thought there could be a band this good. We're so privileged to have them; don't forget that...

Cath Aubergine



Spaceland, Los Angeles 28/02/04

If I'd been paying attention I might have realised it was Oscars weekend some time before we got off the plane... by another of BSP's bizarre twists of timing (and I thought Munich on Bayern v Celtic night was insane!) I stumbled blinking into the blazing sunshine of Hollywood, as they rolled out the red carpets to honour people I probably wouldn't recognise if I fell over them.

Visited the Ripleys Believe It Or Not museum which had a two headed baby goat and some intriguing torture instruments. Walked miles. They don't seem to walk in LA, but I do – you miss so much if you don't. A van garishly advertising bail bonds "whatever the crime", or a high class furniture shop near the venue called Rubbish Interiors. Then after a fruitless search for William Shatner's star on the Walk of Fame, and a particularly bizarre Mexican bar (or possibly someone's front room) where we were quite probably the only non-Mexicans they had ever seen, on to the relative normality of a nightclub full of semi-tropical ferns, palms and things that looked like fluffy lollipops.

Sometimes you can just tell it's going to be a good one. Maybe it's the aforementioned fine collection of plant matter lining the stagefront; maybe it's the fact that I'm 8 hours out of my timezone; maybe it's Hamilton's strange-even-by-Hamilton-standards peasant smock; or just the deliciously wild look in Yan's eyes, but whatever it is it's there by the shedload...

They opened with Carrion which was a bit of a surprise, and they were so tight, so completely on top form, just a rush of the most intense pleasure from start to end. Even with 20-something gigs under my belt they can still surprise me. Still thrill me. I have long since given up trying to work out what it is about them but there's something else there too that's greater than the sum of its parts, and the parts are all incredible anyway.

Remember Me gets the biggest reception, with those at the front thrashing fronds of palm around, and Blackout gorgeous as ever. There are two new songs among the familiar ones tonight: the beautifully titled Elegiac Stanzas, and something called Chicken Pig which is a complete treat... Hamilton on vocals; Noble, Eamon and Yan standing in a triangle stirring up a crushing three guitar assault; Woody taking the pace up to 200 mph and right back down time after time, those of you who were wondering just what they had up their sleeves next are going to be thrilled. I'm now extremely excited about the spring tour and my fellow Europeans you should all be too.

Cath Aubergine



Richards on Richards, Vancouver 23/02/04

Set list: Fear of Drowning/ Apologies to Insect Life/ Spirit of St. Louis/ Childhood Memories/ Favours in the Beetroot Fields/ Something Wicked/ Remember Me/ Scottish Wildlife Experience/ The Lonely/ Blackout/ Elegiac Stanzas/ Carrion/ Lately/ Rock in A

On Monday, 23rd of February 2004, my husband and I set out on our two-day British Sea Power adventure to see them play in Vancouver, BC and Seattle, where we live. This is the report of our trip to Vancouver.

We packed all the necessary band-seeing and road trip gear: earplugs, band buttons, I-Pod, digital camera, makeup, binoculars, field guide, map book and gazeteer of every dirt track and topographical detail in Washington State, rubber boots... We stopped for lunch at a wildlife reserve in Skagit County where we sat in the car and watched an ongoing multi-species, inter-species raptor soap opera involving several dozen overwintering birds. A gazillion huge white trumpeter swans were feeding in fields nearby.

The border was FAST! We are used to weekend lines. They asked why are you visiting Canada? To attend a concert. Who's playing? British Sea Power. Ok, have a nice time. My husband is on crutches from an accident and we nearly exhausted him with about a mile of shopping on Robson Street in downtown Vancouver, but he managed.

Richard's on Richards' web site has this plastic-y techno tacky 80s feel so the venue itself came as a pleasant surprise: dark, carved wood everywhere, heavy chandeliers over the bar, an oval-shaped show room with balcony overhead; a cozy, classy place. My only complaint was the condition of the main floor women's bathroom, a humid swamp reeking of stale urine, its lower surfaces wet with condensation.

Eamon, originally from British Columbia, had set up camp in a corner of the lounge area with numerous family members who he hadn't seen in years.

BSP have been making noises about quitting with the foliage and birds and with the dead period between KaitO leaving the stage and BSP's stuff showing up we were starting to worry that that might start now. Nope. Out came a roadie with an armful of plastic birds, including one big owl (eagle owl?) two cute little owls that I don't remember seeing in pictures, one bird of some kind with its wings spread, and the good old tall plastic heron. They were placed in a few spots only for some to be rearranged into different spots. Then duct tape appeared, and band members with sticks and leaves in hand. I recognized English ivy, considered an invasive weed here, and various other stuff.

After arriving onstage to the strains of Men Together Today, they launched into the oceanic Fear of Drowning, and one could hardly ask for a more well-crafted guitar song. It showcases their knack for timing and loud/soft dynamics and their ability to express and provoke emotion and aurally evoke landscape and seascape. Being draped over Hamilton's bass monitor, my perspective was bass-dominated all evening. His playing was liquid and warm, usually high up on the fretboard, and more prominant than on most of their recordings.

Woody wore the same kookaburras (?) shirt he wore last time I saw them. Yan wore a similar white pajamas-looking outfit to what he wore that time, though it wasn't the same one. Twigs stuck out of socks. Hamilton wore slippers.

Drowning was followed by some of the most riveting eight minutes of my show-going life. Apologies to Insect Life starts with jittery, creepy drums, Woody rapping on the edge of the snare, followed by ripping guitar and Yan grabbing at his own face as he screams. A section near the end is extended into a staccato, Gang of Four-like workout, but Yan's lurid, manic moans and the peculiarity of the bass and drums provide a much more sinister flavor than most punk-funk revivalists could hope to muster. This is followed immediately by the magnificent yet faintly ludicrous Spirit of St Louis, ramping things up even further with its melodramatic percussion intro, tiny Yan looking as tall as possible with a tambourine aloft and one arm beating it in huge violent circles (standing on a monitor? I can't remember). The bass becomes bludgeoning, the drums are huge, the guitar is cutting, spooky pulsating electronic airplane noises shoot across the room, and Yan is doing his best portentous croon-yowl-scream until it all collapses in a ridiculous hail of "louie louie louie!" British Sea Power want to be a fun band. This is precisely my idea of fun music.

Things toned down a bit for the quite lovely Childhood Memories, about a leaky nuclear plant. I'd heard a live ecording of this before where Yan had struggled to hit the low notes, but no problem here. They ripped through Favours in the Beetroot Fields which I wish was two or three times as long as it is because it's terribly catchy and thrilling in that manic BSP way and worth more than 80 seconds or whatever it is. Something Wicked, oh, yes, I've been anxiously waiting to hear this one live; Hamilton said in an interview that it's about symbols of nature put to unnatural uses, but it sounds like it's at least as much about completely unrelated subjects like screwing around naughtily in the woods or something.

Remember Me just roared in, Noble's big guitar and Woody's frantic drumming following on the heels of Hamilton's high-pitched bass riff. Time for big over-the-top glammy vocals from Yan, and Eamon took to his drum and marched around the stage and off into the crowd. He regained the stage via somersault! Without fail, this infectious, loveable, thoughtful, and rather unhinged song makes me smile. It segued right into the propulsive The Scottish Wildlife Experience, which is certainly the only postpunk birding instrumental I know.

I took out my camera during The Lonely, which isn't one of my favorites, and some instrument swapping happened for Blackout, sung sweetly by Hamilton. Woody continued to hit hard even on these mellow songs. The new song Elegiac Stanzas is a beauty with instrumental and vocal melodies that reminded me of Sonic Youth.

Somewhere along the way was some friendly flagrant joint-passing in my area. In Seattle it's kept pretty hidden but I guess not in Vancouver.

Then came Carrion, a highlight. Carrion was the first BSP song I got to know, around the time of their first Seattle appearance in October 2003. Only a week or two before, I had spent an idyllic weekend on a beautiful island in northwest Washington State, staying in the remote cabin of a reknowned artist and sculptor of wildlife, and afterwards couldn't get the images and impressions of the place out of my head. Stormy skies, the flash of a lighthouse 50 miles away, deep-green seas, seals swimming through clear, kelp-draped water, swift currents over hidden reefs, disorienting soaring vultures, harlequin ducks, the interior of the island looking like English countryside, and... smoking a lot of weed. Then I discovered Carrion, an amazingly good song which evoked and maintained those memories so vividly from the lyrics to the guitar, and despite the tragedy in the subject matter it comes off as ecstatic, just brimming. Back at Richard's on Richards, the band was obviously exhausted from travel, but Carrion was beautiful and Yan cut loose near the blinding climax and end, Noble played guitar with his teeth, everyone a joy to watch.

And of course, the grand finale was Lately and Rock in A, when BSP apparently traditionally go the deepest into their on-stage highjinks. Eamon's BC family, parked near me and in front of him and his keyboard, grabbed the heron and played with it for a long time, dancing with it, holding it up, poking it everywhere. They were having a grand time watching BSP. I wonder what they think of this band their nephew/grandson/etc has joined! I thought for sure Noble would climb up to the balcony but he only made it onto a Marshall stack. During Rock in A Eamon took another drumming ramble after which his drum rolled up in front of me at the edge of the stage, along with his mallet. Yeah! I grabbed them and pounded along, as the song got faster and slower, then I quit and someone else took up the drum. I can't remember everything, but there was a lot of hopping from Hamilton, more delightful yowling from Yan, a plastic bird on the floor, some shoulder-riding, foliage scattered everywhere, and one by one the guys quit playing until only Woody was left. There was no encore. I must admit I was expecting a bit more in the shoving each other around, microphone-swallowing, crazy-making, mad-staring department but this was their first show off the plane from England and the jet-lag showed.

But we have struck gold. What might impress me the most about British Sea Power is that they are truly versatile. They have a zillion different things going on and have the talent to pull off most of it.

Whoosh! And this is only the first night! Tomorrow would be the Sonic Boom in-store and the show at the Crocodile. What a satisfied feeling knowing we would do it all again the next day.

We got a good night's sleep in our musty, modest hotel only two blocks from Richard's on Richards. After buying a load of sweets on empty stomachs, we took off for home. We must have seen 30 or 40 Bald Eagles between Vancouver and the border, just along the road. The border was FAST, again. Even though it was the US border. They asked us what we were bringing in: "Sandwiches." "What kind of Sandwiches?" "Chicken." "OK, have a nice day."

Poorwill



White Room, BCSU, High Wycombe 16/02/04

Set list: Apologies to Insect Life/ Spirit of St Louis/ Elegiac Stanzas/ Fear of Drowning/ Childhood Memories/ Favours in the Beetroot Fields/ Remember Me/ The Scottish Wildlife Experience/ Blackout/ Carrion/ Lately/ Rock in A

Here I sit then, in a house on a hill with the north wind battering the rosemary bushes into huddling humps of foliage, just the kind of weather, it seems to write a review of the kind of swirling, humbling aural experience that is British Sea Power. Having been forced to cancel their original gig at the White Room in High Wycombe due to an incident with a tree and a bassist, British Sea Power return to fulfil old commitments and light up the dark months with their peculiar brand of pop music.

The curious venue deep in suburban Buckinghamshire has been described by one fan of the band as looking like it was "built by students out of polysterene blocks on a small budget". Nevertheless the sparse white expanse created a perfect canvas for the Power's customary foliage (revenge was wreaked quite horribly on a certain tree). The haunting symphony that is Men Together Today ushered in five olive green coloured boys whose wide eyed stares were mirrored by many in the audience who – through chemical or other means – were waiting, jaws tensed, for the first song.

Apologies to Insect Life (performed like the Russian Rock Demo version) did not disappoint. Singer Yan uttered his trademark yelps and screams while the engine room of Woody on drums and Hamilton on bass sent out a beat that shook the assembled throng into movement without mercy. Followed by Spirit of St Louis, this built an opening ten minutes that left me gasping for breath and thoroughly without defence from anything British Sea Power might throw at me.

The pace slowed a little for the next few songs – which included a first live outing for Elegiac Stanzas and an excellent rendition of Childhood Memories – before the crowd were once again compelled to insane stunts by the tight thrash of Favours in the Beetroot Fields. This signalled the start of the bands 'anthemic' section. The stomping Remember Me and Scottish Wildlife Experience, which would not sound out of place in a much larger arena, led into the glorious, chest-swelling sing-alongs Blackout and Carrion.

British Sea Power's heart-grasping expansiveness have, by this time, left many hopelessly in love. As the first notes of their masterpiece Lately are teased out of tired guitars, my cup overflows along with my eyes and I am transported, along with large sections of the glassy-eyed audience, to somewhere only experienced in snatches of drug- or sex-induced ecstasy.

This, however cannot last and as all trippers must come back, so do British Sea Power; A ten foot bear crashes through the audience to land on the stage as audience members scream and dance, the amps start to give in, Yan scuttles through the audience at knee height like some crazed beetle while Noble and the bear set about destroying the stage. Plastic decoys fly, the drum kit is ceremonially smashed while audience and band members crash about randomly until only Woody and Yan are left, one drumming on a single upright snare, the other periodically screaming into an almost visibly exhausted mike. The beat begins to slow and while the rest of the band come to a halt, Yan screams maniacally once more and the rest, as they say, is silence.

Symbeline

Band photo by Dominic Redfearn. Tickets / set-list, Mick Wright



The Garage, London 31/12/03

It’s New Year’s Eve – and what better way to celebrate for BSP fans than the return for one night only of Club Sea Power, this time transported to the sweaty confines of the Garage in North London. This same venue had seen a triumphant performance by the band in May, during the spring tour. That evening was the first time a group of the band’s followers had arranged a pre-gig meet-up via the BSP forum and it proved to be the start of many friendships. Tonight, many of those friends met again at De Lacey’s flat, just a few hundred yards from the venue, where the generous host plied us all with Champagne (or was it Cava?) to toast a year of following this incredible band up and down the country – and for some – across the seas.

Fair to say then, that one or two of us were maybe slightly the worse for wear even before the gig had got underway, so the evening is slightly blurry in the memory (there was apparently a ‘raffle’ half way through proceedings – what happened with that?). Eamon’s band The Brakes, who had made their first public performance supporting BSP at the memorable ‘On the Rocks’ gig in June, kicked off the evening in fine style with their spikey country-punk. Then on came BSP for their first set of the night. We were promised a short b-sides set – but hang on, what’s this? We are treated to a beautiful, Hamilton-led rendition of In the Bleak Midwinter, with Eamon and Yan dressed in fetching seasonal attire (watch the video). The four songs that follow include two firm fan favourites, Moley & Me and Salty Water. Just perfect.

After the raffle (apparently there was a raffle), BSP returned with their usual barnstorming set. Maybe it was the NYE booze kicking in, but tonight the songs sounded more powerful than ever. Carrion, St Louis, Remember Me – anthems in excelsis. The set ended with a particularly messy Rock in A and we were all afforded a much-needed breather before retro 60s act the Pipettes, wearing identikit polka-dot dresses, took to the stage to stoke up the party atmosphere. But by then we were an hour or two into 2004 – and already looking forward to another year of watching our amazing favourite band take on the world...

Comrade Kevo

(P.S. Does anyone know if I won the raffle?)

Photo by Cath Aubergine



Club Quattro, Osaka 16/12/03

Set list: Fear of Drowning/ Apologies to Insect Life/ Spirit of St Louis/ Childhood Memories/ Favours in the Beetroot Fields/ Something Wicked/ Remember Me/ The Scottish Wildlife Experience/ Blackout/ Lovely Day Tomorrow/ The Lonely/ Carrion/ Lately/ Rock in A

The venue was three-quarters full, and although this Japanese tour was a collaboration with The Delays, most people came to see British Sea Power. When the red and yellow leaves, branches and the plastic birds – which BSP had brought from England (welcome to Japan!) – were placed as decoration on the stage, the audience seemed to be dying to see this band.

They opened with Fear of Drowning and then Apologies to Insect Life, during which Yan shouted incomprehensible words and showed us more gymnastics than usual. Even though they mentioned they had jet lag, there were no signs of it. The climax for me was Rock in A. The audience were overwhelmed at first and became more and more enthusiastic as they saw Noble holding Eamon on his shoulders, Hamilton screaming and a boisterous Yan diving into the crowd.

After they left the stage, with Yan holding a drum kit followed by Woody thumping it, there was big applause and the audience shouted "we want more!"

We want more, indeed.

Optimista One



Pavello De La Vall D'Hebron, Barcelona 8/12/03

Set list: Spirit of St Louis/ Childhood Memories/ Favours in the Beetroot Fields/ Remember Me/ The Scottish Wildlife Experience/ Carrion/ Lately/ Rock in A

British Sea Power on a Monday night capped off a perfect weekend in the Catalan capital. Sunday and Monday daytime were spent sight seeing, the main attraction being the majestic Sagrada Familia. Sunday night was spent around the bars on and around Las Ramblas, where joining the locals Flamenco dancing made for a highly enjoyable evening. On to the concert. BSP simply blew the Strokes out of the water.

The stage set had a local, Mediterranean feel to it with palm tree cuttings adorning the speakers, microphone stand and drum kit. Despite the half full arena at the time they arrived on stage, British Sea Power performed more than capably. The crowd responded positively to the usual quirks: roaring aeroplane engines from a bygone age, Eamon's walkabout and the usual carnage that is Rock in A. Having said this, it leaves something to the imagination which direction British Sea Power's live performances will take from here.

Sleeping on the return flight home I was awaken by an unpleasant dream about one day us all living in a world where British Sea power no longer exist: a very sobering thought indeed.

Sarah Nicholls



International Arena, Cardiff 3/12/03

Set list: Fear of Drowning/ Spirit of St Louis/ Childhood Memories/ Remember Me/ The Scottish Wildlife Experience/ Carrion/ Lately/ Rock in A

Showing no signs of nerves, British Sea Power's heroic 45 minute performance as support to The Strokes was simply amazing. Aided by the excellent sound in what is the best arena concert venue in the UK, the band performed with complete confidence.

Wood was perfectly at ease thumping away at his drum kit and Martin Noble looked regal in a well cut jacket with neatly cropped hair. Yan's "it's four minutes past eight: we're British Sea Power" provided an unusual introduction while the audience looked quizical as the sound of roaring planes heralded the beginnings of the classic Spirit of St Louis. British Sea Power had gained the crowd's interest from the start, yet it was The Scottish Wildlife Experience that really began to win them over. Carrion kept the tempo going, but it was Lately that provoked the best response with considerable applause as Yan paused after the introduction. Hardly surprising, given that his vocals tonight were simply perfect.

With no trees and only a few plastic decoys adorning the stage, the gimmickery was minimal, meaning the audience were totally in the dark as to what was about to happen. No crowd surfing, no walkabout in the audience, but as Lately turned into Rock in A, Noble climbed the speakers, then returned to the stage and wrestled the Official Fleet Reserve to the floor. This bizarre spectacle was completed by a seven foot dancing grizzly bear appearing from nowhere and joining Yan on handclaps before being charged by Noble, running around the stage like a bull in a china shop. The final, familiar sight of Eamon playing guitar while held high on Noble's shoulders provided a fitting moment of triumph.

The band left the stage to a fully deserved rousing reception from this non-partizan crowd that, by now, had been well and truly won over

Sarah Nicholls



Arts Centre, Colchester 27/11/03

Set list: Fear of Drowning/ Apologies to Insect Life/ Spirit of St Louis/ Childhood Memories/ Something Wicked/ Remember Me/ The Scottish Wildlife Experience/ A Lovely Tomorrow/ Blackout/ Salty Water/ The Lonely/ Carrion/ Lately/ Rock in A

It is 7pm and I am just about to leave work to travel to High Wycombe – a good out-of-town destination in which to see British Sea Power. My fellow attendee arrives, not to get going though, but to break the news he had just received – the gig is off, as there's been some kind of accident involving Hamilton. Fuck.

Three days later, and I am driving up the A12 en route to Colchester – another good out-of-town destination in which to see British Sea Power. Having found the small dimly lit church (now as is so common, housing an Arts Centre), all my frustration was extinguished as I was treated to a quite astonishing BSP performance. The venue was pretty full (but not too packed) with a young and eager crowd, and there was literally tons of foliage. It was over the speaker cabinets, on the mike stands and even draped over the front of house PA.

A late start (caused, we were later to learn, by the band waiting for some of their hardcore followers to arrive – how many other groups would do that?) just added to the anticipation. And when the band finally arrived on stage, they proceeded to deliver the familiar set but markedly with a passion that I don't think I have seen before.

Looking a little world weary (is this their 10,000th gig of the year ?) they played with a beautiful vulnerability. Obviously they know their songs so well they can play them upside down, but forget rock star arrogance, their's was a cheeky grin and a touching distance/closeness. Whilst the sound was a little muffled at times, it was very in your face, but just so wonderfully controlled. Songs were dynamic and tuneful, with both the cleanest and heaviest drum sound for years. I had 'On The Rocks' and 'ULU' up as my best BSP gigs, but this one was choice. Whilst a fan of the records, my wife Lisa had not seen the band live for over a year – she was completely blown away.

High points

Rock In A – Fantasticly disciplined and overdriven – guitars cranked up very high. Speaking of which...
Amid all the dry ice and strobes, and in front of an ornate and beautifully-lit 40ft high stained glass window, Noble in crucifixion pose aloft on Eamon's shoulders – fucking amazing. If anyone needs a new Captain Willard to hunt down Colonel Kurtz – he is currently in British Sea Power awaiting the mission.
Spirit Of St Louis
– Best version I've heard yet. Don't want to get too technical, but that intro.... Hamilton slid and then cut his bass in perfect time with Wood's kick drum/snare creating massive punches. Pure bliss.
Bass Rock
Special mention for Wood's drumming. Surely he is becoming one of the most creative yet minimal drummers in the business?
All of the band.
Dreadlocked staffer from the Arts Centre with, by the end of the show, a constant grin on her face.

Low points

The gig finishing.

This may sound like a partizan review, but British Sea Power just keep getting better and better...

JCT



Fez, Reading 26/11/03

Set list: Fear of Drowning/ Apologies to Insect Life/ Spirit of St Louis/ Childhood Memories/ Favours in the Beetroot Fields/ Something Wicked/ Remember Me/ The Scottish Wildlife Experience/ Salty Water/ The Lonely/ Carrion/ Lately/ Rock in A

And so to the Royal County of Berkshire. Around 250 fans turned out to Reading's Fez, a gem of a venue with the feel of a traditional Moroccan bazaar and twenty-twenty sound.

Normal service is resumed with Hamilton making a quicker than expected return to fitness following his much publicised hand injury, although the exclusion of any songs featuring vocals by Hamilton remains something of a mystery. Yan is unshaven, and wearing a striking emerald green neckerchief.

Keen to announce his return, Hamilton is straight up on an elevated platform to the stage front as the band find their usual good form. During Apologies to Insect Life, Yan noncholantly tosses a branch into the audience, gratefully received by a couple of fans. Favours in the Beetroot Fields made a fantastic spectacle with Wood thrashing away at his drum kit and the Official Fleet Reserve appearing to suffer from the mother of all seizures.

The B-side Scottish Wildlife Experience seems to be gaining momentum as a fans' favourite, made all the more special tonight by the wonderful use of highly effective illumination. Dim lighting against autumn tree branches and smoke sweeping slowly across the stage made for a particularly chilling, yet beautifully sung Lately.

The cue to Rock in A came from Noble taking a bow and the screaming brothers Wilkinson glaring at the audience waving their branch around. Eamon embarks on his customary walkabout, returning to the stage to take over on guitar stradding Noble's shoulders, while Yan takes the unusual step of playing keyboard. As the band leave the stage, perspiration dropping from their foreheads, the audience disperse into the cold night, happy in the knowledge they have been thoroughly entertained.

Sarah Nicholls

Photo by Alan Lonsdale



Soundhaus, Northampton 25/11/03

Set list: Fear of Drowning/ Apologies to Insect Life/ Spirit of St Louis/ Childhood Memories/ Something Wicked/ Remember Me/ The Scottish Wildlife Experience/ Blackout/ A Lovely Day Tomorrow/ Carrion/ Rock in A

"British Sea Power out of their Trees." So ran today's New Musical Express website headline after Hamilton's fall from a tree, causing the cancellation of yesterday's High Wycombe concert. If the press release describing the fall as "crazy man Keystone Cops style" placed a positive spin on the occurrence, the costs of British Sea Power's antics might be beginning to outweigh the benefits.

Fans facing the disappointment of cancelled gigs does not bode well. Some spectators feel it is now time for British Sea Power to tone down some of their higher risk activities and allow their fine music to do the talking. Fully embracing the maxim "the show must go on" sound engineer Joe Harling stands in for bassist Hamilton, minimising the disruption to last night alone. Hamilton joins the band on vocals as well as playing drums and keyboard during the set, temporarily transforming British Sea Power into a musically performing sextet for the time being.

After a nervous opening with Fear of Drowning, Yan encourages the 200 strong audience to applaud Joe, looking every inch the atypical British Sea Power member in neatly cut shirt, having learnt ten songs in three hours. Considering this mean feat, Joe performs stoically throughout. A perfectly executed Childhood Memories provided the highlight and The Scottish Wildlife Experience seemed as true to form as usual. The audience were much calmer than what British Sea Power have become accustomed to recently, although half a dozen people sang along and danced away to Remember Me, nodding their heads and waving their arms.

Carrion was skillfully segued into a much shorter than usual Rock in A with Martin Noble peeling off his Arctic camoflage jacket to reveal a neat black and white hooped top, covering his elegant slender frame. By now, Joe was fitting in comfortably, he and Noble squaring up to one another, joined by the Official Fleet Reserve, manically thrashing their guitars, while Hamilton takes over on keyboards. No walkabouts in the audience from Eamon tonight and no crowd surfing from Yan, but as the band leave the stage, Joe holding guitar above his head in deserved triumph, British Sea Power are applauded for smiling in the face of adversity once again.

Sarah Nicholls

Photos by Cath Aubergine
Cath's 2003 tour review



Astoria, London 12/11/03

Set list: Fear of Drowning/ Apologies to Insect Life/ Spirit of St Louis/ Childhood Memories/ Remember Me/ The Scottish Wildlife Experience/ Blackout/ The Lonely/ Carrion/ Rock in A

Performing as a support act to a crowd of casual observers waiting for the "main" event is an unenviable task. British Sea Power, though, showed no signs of fatigue following their recent transatalantic crossing and provided more than adequate support for the Electric Soft Parade during this excellent 45 minute slot. A much stripped down set boasts two owls, a heron and a falcon. Plant life stage effects are strictly minimalist tonight and limited to that worn by the band members. A perfunctory "hi" from Yan introduces Fear of Drowning before Eamon's toy soldier-esque walkabout grasps the attention of this until now passive audience, whilst delighting the small number of assembled regulars with the inaugural European appearance of his new drum. British Sea Power's growing confidence and maturity was evidenced by Yan comfortably posing for the three photographers during Childhood Memories, then winding up to deliver a full-pelt version of Remember Me.

If this recent hit parade classic had the curiously attired twenty or so BSP spectators dancing it was Carrion that stole the show, with more people moshing than the entire number of people that attended the Springtime Northampton Soundhaus gig. A stand-alone Rock in A provided something of a rare treat, culminating with Hamilton being carried around on Noble's shoulders before Noble's finale of performing handstands amidst Wood's drumkit. Judging from the comments overheard in the Keith Moon Bar between bands coupled with a fairly lack lustre performance by the "main event" British Sea Power won over a few more converts this evening.

Sarah Nicholls



Maxwell's, Hoboken, NJ. 8/11/03

Set list: Fear of Drowning/ Apologies to Insect life/ Spirit of St. Louis/ Childhood Memories/ Favours in the Beetroot Fields/ Remember Me/ The Scottish Wildlife Experience/ A Lovely Day Tomorrow/ The Lonely/ Carrion/ Lately/ Rock in A

The last night of the band's American tour. Although the previous evening's gig at the Black Cat in Washington DC was subsequently hailed as the best of the tour, there was definitely something in the air at Maxwell's – and not just the lunar eclipse.

Whether it was the place itself (a fantastic bar-come-restaurant-come-intimate venue, complete with a great jukebox and killer cocktails), the presence of the four Battalion members who'd made the journey over from England, or the overall enthusiasm of the audience – many of whom began the evening as British Sea Power virgins and ended it as full-on converts to the cause – it all culminated in what for me was one of my most enjoyable BSP experiences...

Strokes-esque support band, The Natural History, are well worth a mention and made a refreshing change from some of the BSP support acts we've had to endure in the past. As we waited for the main event, and watched the foliage being attached and the birds put into position, there was a definite buzz going around the audience ("Just what is it with the leaves and twigs and the owl?", one rather bemused onlooker asked me). And when Yan launched into a spine-tingling Fear of Drowning we knew that we were in for a very special night...

Being the last gig of the tour, we were expecting something special from Eamon. He usually lights a sparkler attached to his tin helmet, but tonight he had abandoned his hard hat for a furry, Rusky-type affair obviously not suited to pyrotechnics. Instead, we had a repeat of Chilly Willy – in other words, he forgot to wear his trousers. Eamon had a new, smaller drum too – the old Czech one seems to have gone into retirement (not too surprising as it had been looking rather battle-scarred for a while).

For reasons best known to themselves, the band decided to overlook the official set list (which had seemed to us a little on the short side and had initially omitted live favourite Spirit of St Louis). They even responded to a request for The Lonely (although Yan curiously missed out the words 'I believe bravery exists').

A thumping Remember Me had the whole room rocking, especially the two young guys at the front who had turned up because they'd loved the album and immediately recognised the opening rifts. As the set reached it's climax with the magnificent Carrion and the infectious, haunting cacophony of Lately, the rest of the audience became increasingly swept up in the grandeur of the music and especially the passionate dancing at the front by certain members of "the 3rd" (suffice to say that before the end of the night, tears had been shed...).

I'd spent most of the time prior to the gig telling random people that they were about to see "the best live band in the world". I doubt if many took me seriously... but few disagreed afterwards. In fact the response of the audience could best be summed up by Cath Aubergine's American friend, Dee. I asked her what she thought, and she gave me a one-word answer: "Orgasm!" Couldn't have put it better myself.

Comrade Kevo

Photos by Cath Aubergine
Read more about the Washington and Hoboken dates here



University of London Union 20/10/2003

Set list: Fear of Drowning/ Apologies to Insect life/ Spirit of St. Louis/ Childhood Memories/ Favours in the Beetroot Fields/ Something Wicked/ Remember Me/ The Scottish Wildlife Experience/ Blackout/ A Lovely Day Tomorrow/ Salty Water/ The Lonely/ Carrion/ Lately/ Rock in A

It's 9am on a Monday. BSP are playing in London tonight and I've booked the day off work. Bit extreme you might think to take a day off for a gig in the city where I live that isn't taking place until the evening. But there are important things to attend to! As well as the gig itself later, there is the small issue of the new Remember Me single being released this very day.

Having contributed a short list of names 'to be remembered' on one of the 2,005 vinyl copies I was determined to pick up at least some of them. So I headed to the main record megastores on Oxford Street. At Virgin, I ask one of the store assistants if they have any copies of the new British Sea Power single. He points to a pile of them in the corner – "If you want to pick a name you can look through them if you like". I turn over the one on the top of the pile. Unbelievably, it is dedicated to my old BSP sparring partner De Lacey! As I leave Virgin to head down Oxford Street to HMV, I bump into fellow BSP fan Pete Quinn who is heading in the opposite direction. The hunt continues. At Tower Records, every copy seems to be dedicated to a 'Captain' of some description – from Captain Webb to Captain Birdseye, but agonisingly no Captain Riot...

Scroll forward a few hours and the BSP massif are meeting in an upstairs room at the Blue Posts in Newman Street. Everyone has a copy of the single and people are organising swaps. Pete Quinn is there and tells me he has found 'Kevo'. Apart from 'De Lacey', my best find is 'Moley', as featured in the title of a Remember Me b-side. We are not just here to do swaps, though. It's Northern Pete's 50th (well, 52nd) BSP gig. Someone has baked him a cake with spitfires on. The BSP forum poster known as 'Kingfisherscatchfire' has brought along a large plastic owl... What possible better preparation could there be for the last night of the band's October tour?

As we finally saunter over to ULU, everyone is in extremely good spirits. I'm not sure if any of this vibe rubbed off on the band – or whether they were still revelling in their triumphant performance on Later the previous week – but what we got on the night was an absolute blinder of a performance. A superb opening salvo of Fear of Drowning, Apologies and St Louis, with Yan in fine yelping form, leaves us breathless. Remember Me is an obvious standout – although Yan interjects some odd changes to the lyrics at one point. This segues inevitably into Bass Rock (now retitled The Scottish Wildlife Experience) which keeps the mosh at boiling point. But it was the sequence of tracks that follow after Blackout that were the real highlights. First, a stunning A Lovely Day Tomorrow and then the haunting Remember Me b-side Salty Water. After this it's time for The Lonely. Occasionally in the past I've not been convinced they can quite do the song justice live, but tonight it's almost perfect.

After an immense Carrion, Thomas Moore's Oft in the Stilly Night prepares us for Lately. Nothing, though, can prepare us for what happens during Rock in A. By now we are used to the regular antics – Noble is off climbing, Yan ends up in the crowd, Eamon is doing his out-of-control deranged drummer-boy thing. But tonight we are in for a big surprise. Down in the woods (OK, down in the foliage), out from the smoke at the rear of the stage, in the midst of the pulsating chaos, there emerges what at first sight seems to be some kind of monster. On closer viewing it is a huge black, grizzly bear that moves menacingly about the stage and then appears to attack various members of the band. All the folk around me are clearly captivated by this unexpected turn in the evening's entertainment. What other band delivers this kind of drama? A certain well-known BSP fan (mentioning no names) is lterally in tears at the sheer, brilliant theatre of it all. As Rock in A finally collapses in on itself and the bear exits, someone remarks: "That was a f**king rock show". You can say that again.

Still high from the gig, and by now well the worse for wear, a group of about a dozen of us hang around outside the venue and eventually find ourselves heading back towards Centrepoint. Just round the back of Virgin Megastore – where my long 'BSP day' had started – we discover a tiny basement bar with a DJ. It is deserted – or at least it was until we turned up. The music isn't great, however, until one of our party has an idea and hands the DJ a copy of a seven-inch single we are all carrying multiple copies of. He duly obliges and for the second time in the night we find ourselves bouncing around to Remember Me. 'Do you worry about your health?' Maybe I should after days like this.

Comrade Kevo

For more on this show, go to the ULU page



Academy2, Liverpool University 17/10/03

Set list: Fear of Drowning/ Apologies to Insect life/ Spirit of St. Louis/ Childhood Memories/ Favours in the Beetroot Fields/ Something Wicked/ Remember Me/ The Scottish Wildlife Experience/ Blackout/ A Lovely Day Tomorrow/ Salty Water/ The Lonely/ Carrion/ Lately/ Rock in A

What better way to utilise a day off from the office than to facilitate a long weekend exploring the future European City of Culture whilst taking in a British Sea Power concert? With such thoughts Emma and myself took the train across the Pennines to Merseyside.

Advance ticket sales of 350 by this afternoon and the 'upgrading' from Liverpool University's Academy 3 when BSP last played here in May in front of a mere 70 people to the Academy 2 for tonight's performance shoes what progress has been made in less than six months.

The band take the stage to the strains of Men Together Today unveiling their autumnal stage set, comprising plenty of branches but very little greenery, the campus grounds evidently being dominated by trees of a deciduous kind. Sporting a rather long red scarf worn in the style of Tom Baker, Hamilton complements the autumn look.

Never let it be said that a BSP concert is without its quirks and moments of delight, for tonight there were plenty. Fear of Drowning provided an excellent opener and was well received by this highly-charged audience. The bizarre spectacle of Apologies to Insect Life, with the Official Fleet Reserve pirouetting around the stage, feather protruding from top of helemt, beating seven bells out of his battle-scarred bass drum, has the audience well and truly on their feet. This little peculiarity was nothing compared to what happened next. Yan's self-abuse with the tambourine that heralds the start of Spirit of St Louis provides the cue for a not insifnificant amount of people at the front to start waving glowing balls and model aeroplanes sellotaped to school rulers in the air, much to the band's delight.

Favours in the Beetroot Fields provides 100 mph of raw power of the like not seen since the Ramones gave up live performance back in the mid-1990s. Something Wicked allows the mosh-pitting masses some momentary respitebefore the excellent Remember Me has them back on their feet. The collar-length-haired guy with well-trimmed beard in the French Breton shirt pogoing with the middle-aged man sporting a Harris Tweed jacket, matching trilby and shirt and tie, fists punching in the air, made highly enjoyable people-watching.

A Lovely Day Tomorrow provided the highlight of the evening. It seems unbelievable that this song took so long to make it into BSP's set list because the band questioned their ability to perform it effectively live. The droplets of perspiration that begin to appear on Martin Noble's well-formed brow made this delightful song all the more beautiful this evening. Salty Water brought some welcome up-to-date material into the set, although I cannot wait to see how Moley and Me works live. Hopefully the wait will not be too long. Carrion concludes the main set, complete with Noble's now familiar technique of playing the guitar with his teeth.

The band return on stage, Hamilton now wearing his scarf wrapped over his head and Noble sporting Will Seargeant's 'Glide' helmet, suiting his semi-military look perfectly. It's blissful how a song that begins as melodically as Lately can end in such rampant chaos that has become the ritual ending of a BSP concert. Tonight's grand finale includes Yan crowd-surfing, returning to the stage and performing handstands and giving the wildy enthusiastic audience a most glaring 'Dam Buster'-style glare before the band exit the stage to thunderous applause.

A good proportion of the growing number of regulars at BSP's northern shows are heading off to Glasgow early tomorrow morning for the penultimate October UK show. For Emma and myself, it's a quick freshen up and change of clothes at the hotel before heading off to Cream, where we danced away until nearly 4am, concluding a perfect evening.

Sarah Nicholls

Photo by Alex Stasko



Empire Music Hall, Belfast 8/10/03

Set list: Fear of Drowning/ Apologies to Insect life/ Spirit of St. Louis/ Childhood Memories/ Something Wicked/ Remember Me/ Bass Rock/ Lovely Day Tomorrow/ Carrion/ Lately/ Rock in A

The Empire looks fantastic, both inside and out. It is a church that has been converted into a venue, based on a real old-fashioned music hall. If anyone knows the City Varieties in Leeds (they used to film The Good Old Days there), you'll get the picture. I was disappointed that we didn't get a comic to warm up the audience (I like a bit of blue). There's no foliage tonight, and I personally believe this is no bad thing, as the band and the audience can concentrate on the music, and ultimately, that's why we, and they, do this.

The set contains the usual highlights, mine being the violence that Yan inflicts upon himself with that tambourine during Spirit of St Louis, a fantastic Bass Rock, incorporating Eamon screaming like a madman at it's climax, and the usual carnage of Rock in A, complete with stage climbing, the ancient sport of "playing the bass drum with the head", and gymnastics. BSP leave the stage to one of the most ecstatic receptions I've ever heard them get. Says it all really! Some people, myself included, have recently ventured the opinion that our boys were losing their edge through tiredness and over-touring. If this evening is anything to go by, I am more than pleased to stand corrected.

Northern Pete



University of Staffordshire, Stoke-on-Trent 6/10/03

Set list: Fear of Drowning/ Apologies to Insect Life/ Spirit of St Louis/ Childhood Memories/ Something Wicked/ Remember Me/ Bass Rock/ Lovely Day Tomorrow/ The Lonely/ Carrion/ Lately/ Rock in A

If questions were raised about BSP's performances at the opening two nights of the October United Kingdom tour, some excellent showmanship at the much lauded Leicester and Oxford concerts over the weekend had removed any slight doubts about BSP's position as the form band of the moment. So, it was on to Stoke University's Leek Road campus on this wet Monday night in the grim Potteries.

Tickets had sold poorly, as evidenced by a venue filled to approximately one eighth of its capacity. Would BSP rise to the challenge of performing in front of some 150 people on the back of playing to packed houses for the last four concerts? The band were not put off by the sparsity of the audience. In fact, the sound throughout this highly polished performance remained tight throughout the 60 minute set.

All of the usual theatrics were present, including Hamilton climbing on top of the speakers, Noble swinging like a rock ape from light fittings barely able to support him and Eamon going on the mother of all walkabouts with drum out of the music hall and into the students' refectory. The highlight of the show for me was the excellent delivery of Bass Rock – quite the best version I have seen in some eight visits to BSP concerts.

To their credit, BSP retain a professionalism and determination to succeed that is second to none whether they are playing in front of a sold out audience at London's Garage or to crowds numbering approximately 30 in Aberdeen. True performing artists, deserving of every success that comes their way.

Sarah Nicholls

Photos by Cath Aubdergine
Cath's 2003 tour review



Old Market Theatre, Brighton 1/10/03

Set list: Fear of Drowning/ Apologies to Insect Life/ Spirit of St Louis/ Childhood Memories/ Something Wicked/ Remember Me/ Bass Rock/ Blackout/ The Lonely/ Carrion/ Lately/ Rock in A. Encore: ? (instrumental)/ Lovely Day Tomorrow/ Dance Party

On a cold, windy and rather wet night four British Sea Power virgins and I nonetheless had a spring in our steps as we approached the Old Market in Hove. I first saw BSP here in June, when I was so blown away by their set I couldn't speak for ages afterwards. Tonight also had the added anticipation of being the first date of the band's autumn tour.

We arrived to find a packed bar with the Harveys already out and a rather accomplished Strokes-esque support band (Eastern Lane). I have been struck by the diversity of British Sea Power's fanbase and tonight was no exception as I entered past some spiky Goths, squeezed past some portly middle-aged men in the bar and found myself face-to-face with my old maths teacher (Woody's brother although we also used to call our teacher Woody...). It's heartening to see how wide the age range was. I'd say sixteen to sixty year olds were all in attendance.

As the Tenderfoot were doing their (distinctly unimpressive) set I found myself at the merchandise stall where some rather alluring ladies persuaded me to buy a tight 'Bravery Already Exists' t-shirt and loaded me with Mint Cake and posters. It was like being looked after by a set of angels compared to having a badly-made grubby piece of clothing shoved at you by a burly, aggressive hawker as is normal at gigs. The tension in the hall was palpable as the lights went down and smoke started to leak from behind the curtains as if there was a smouldering fire on stage that was just about to leap into flame.

The distinctly eerie projection from the start of the 1946 film of Great Expectations produced a ripple of excitement. Men Together Today faded in over the end of the clip, but instead of a breathless lead into a frenetic Apologies to Insect Life, here it seemed to reinforce the bleak, smoky stage that mirrored the projection. An unusually emotional Fear of Drowning postponed the madness as British Sea Power seemed to visibly come of age right before us. The heady heights of a critically acclaimed album and their first big tour seem to have given them the accomplishment that was slightly lacking in the total madness of previous gigs I have seen without turning them into aloof stars. The two recent singles (Remember Me and Carrion) had a great reception, Carrion getting most of the crowd singing along at the top of their voices. Lately, which I am willing to quite unequivocally say is the greatest live song I have ever been lucky to experience did its thing and grew into a raging torrent that swirled you along and up and down, round and about.

When at their best British Sea Power have such a raw power that you can't resist being involved with the swirling, eddying currents of sound that seem to caress rather than assault your ears. This performance persuaded the crowd to shout long and hard for an encore that I have never seen British Sea Power do before. Alas I had to leave to catch a train during Dance Party and so missed the end but what I saw merely confirmed my knowledge that British Sea Power are quite simply the best band in the world. Anything else is just not British Sea Power.

Simbelyne

Photo by Sam Milford. More photos from the show can be seen here



Paradiso, Amsterdam 28/9/03

Set list: Fear of Drowning/ Apologies to Insect Life/ Spirit of St Louis/ Childhood Memories/ Remember Me/ Lovely Day Tommorow/ Carrion/ Lately/ Rock in A

This night at the Paradiso was originally pencilled in for a Rough Trade 25th party. Instead we had the unusual experience of seeing BSP in a support slot to another RT act – Eastern Lane. Presumably this was something to do with compensation for Eastern Lane missing BSP's German tour... but one thing was for sure, the eight of us who'd made the journey over from England weren't there to see them!

It was a mightily impressive turnout to watch a 50-minute support slot. We rendezvoused in Dam Square at 5pm and headed for someone's favourite sherry joint (!) where Doll presented us all with a bottle of the favourite local poison – that gloopy Advocat stuff (don't do it, kids). By the time 7.30 had arrived we were already banging on the door of the famous old venue (a beautiful converted church where Joy Division once played a legendary set). BSP had actually played here before – back in May 2002, a gig which was broadcast on Dutch radio.

The set began with Fear of Drowning which, it seems to me, just keeps getting better and better live. And the same can surely be said of Spirit of St Louis. Someone said on the forum that listening to it live is like being plugged into the mains. Dead right. The evening's highlight, though, had to be A Lovely Day Tomorrow – the first time I'd heard it live, and it sounded so different to the studio version. Slightly faster – with Woody's brilliant drumming adding an infectious punch reminiscent of Love Will Tear Us Apart.

As Lately reached its climax, at last the locals were getting in on the act – encouraged, I'm sure, by the motley crew of strange English folk dancing madly by the front of the stage...

A great appetizer for the UK tour ahead – where will they take us next?

Comrade Kevo



So What, Gouda 26/9/03

After having seen a gig which was described as "possibly the worst one we ever did" by Eamon and Woody the night before, my expectations for this concert weren't too high. But British Sea Power would set me right. The venue was called 'So What' and reminded me of a windmill. Located next to a small channel (which certainly excited Noble since there were lots of ducks) the building was tiny and had a lovely backyard (I'm sure that's where they got their foliage from). The room where the concert took place was so small that it could have been filled by about 150 people. Excellent. Don't we all love small gigs? The'stage' was about 12 inches high.

Since Volker and myself had seen the band in Germany and Holland before they put us on the guestlist and kindly let us witness the soundcheck as well, during which they played Childhood Memories, Remember Me and half of A Lovely Day Tomorrow (have you ever seen British Sea Power playing live without the stares? It's weird! Bloody brilliant soundcheck, though). Eamon's drum was broken and had to be fixed in a hurry.

About an hour and a half later, the lovely sound of Men Together Today filled the air and British Sea Power finally entered the stage for the gig itself. Yan, lo and behold, wasn't wearing his trousers in his socks! They started off with Fear of Drowning, which was brilliant as ever. It was in Gouda that I realised how passionate Woody actually plays his drums. The fill at the beginning of the song... he looks as if he's playing to save his life. The second song was Remember Me, which was – of course – very beautiful as well. After that came Childhood Memories, Apologies to Insect life, Spirit of St. Louis, A Lovely Day Tomorrow and Carrion.

Then we reached the peak of the night - Lately. I don't understand how some of the people standing next to me could dare to actually talk when Yan sang those beautiful first words. Whatever. The small stage enabled Yan and Hamilton to jump offstage and Yan did his gymnastics right in front of the crowd. Towards the end of Rock in A he just kept lying on the floor pretending to be sleeping (that's what it seemed like anyway). Seemingly fascinated, some guy in the crowd couldn't stop taking pictures of him. After a little while Yan got up again and the band closed their set...

Vera Langer



Atomic Cafe, Munich 17/9/03

...where, for no reason I can begin to get my head round, all gigs start at one minute to the hour... We turn a corner out of the U-Bahn and stagger to a halt. The square ahead is awash with green and white. I had completely forgotten Bayern Munich were entertaining Glasgow Celtic tonight. The venue is the other side of a large square containing approximately three thousand people singing vociferously about how the English are disciples of Satan. We escape down a side street containing a restaurant whose menu is based entirely on potato matter and – phew, it's gone 20.59, and we're in.

A collection of retro-futurist sci-fi memorabilia blinks at us from every corner and there is a booth selling sandwiches, a useful feature which I feel not enough gig venues have latched on to. Fear of Drowning kicks the whole thing off and the mostly student-age crowd stand either perplexed or awestruck so it's straight into Apologies... which gets two people dancing. OK, so one of them's me. The best thing about going to far-flung gigs is you can dance like a twat and nobody knows you. Hamilton flings his ivy headgear into the front row, and they're not really sure about it. Childhood Memories goes down well though, most people seem to know it and the band look a little more relaxed, piling into Beetroot Fields at about 500mph, it's been getting shorter and faster every night and I'm sure Yan does the whole thing without actually drawing breath. Big strong lungs these Cumbrian types you know.

They play it fairly straight through Something Wicked, Remember Me, Bass Rock (retitled Bass Cock on the set-lists which amused me anyway) then Salty Water, Blackout, Lovely Day Tomorrow and Carrion which has to rate as one of the most gorgeous runs of tunes imaginable. Hamilton got a minor and inexplicable attack of the giggles during Blackout but pulled it back.

Then into Lately... The performance has been slightly subdued by BSP standards until this point, but all is about to change, heralded by Noble doing a few preparatory star-jumps. Before long he's dragging Yan by the feet round the rather small stage, crashing into just about everything and you know the rest... rather a lot of falling over, some of it not entirely necessary; all the band plus enthusiastic audience members now up to about 10 flailing about wildly until Hamilton, Noble, Eamon, his keyboard, some branches and several of the ornithological specimens end up in a random pile. When the lads are extracted by roadies, what's left resembles the after-effects of a small hurricane. Things are tidied up slightly for a brief encore, a very loud Spirit of St Louis. On the way back to the hotel the pavements are strewn with comatose Scots. Celtic lost by the way...

Cath Aubergine

Read more about the German tour here



Kampnagel Music Hall, Hamburg 16/9/03

Strictly speaking, this is not a fan review. It's from the website of die tageszeitung. Cath Aubergine came across it on the web, and translated it into English. It is undoubtedly one of the strangest reviews of a BSP gig I have ever read! So here it is – together with Cath's footnotes.

Translator's forward/Disclaimer
I cannot guarantee 100 per cent accuracy (though it's not bad) and have occasionally had to go with what I think the guy meant... and as will rapidly become clear, this article is much less about the band than it is a reflection of Mr. Merkel's perception of the English in general... An interesting approach; remind me to mention 1966 (and the rest) for no good reason whatsoever next time I'm reviewing a German band... Where I have used the uncapitalised 'British sea power' this is where he has used a direct translation of the band's name himself, with certain sarcastic overtones. Please see also Footnotes.


Das Empire ward gerettet

Grand pop heroics with the spirit of a school drama society: British Sea Power from Brighton had done their homework well in the Roter Salon (Berlin gig, previous night), were deadly serious as they showed their greatness through failure, and vociferously dissected the sexual insect life of Dostoevsky.

Just before eleven local time (doors had opened at 9) the final remnants of british sea power, having on Sunday night decorated the Roter Salon stage with plenty of foliage, are mobilised again to rescue popular music. The band's image reflects elements of Britain's cultural heritage (Shakespeare? Miss Marple? Noel Coward? Fawlty Towers? – no idea!)... Someone with a crown of green leaves around his head steps out of the wings and rings a little bell, and four boys, er, men make their way through the reasonably-sized crowd to the stage.

The band British Sea Power (no 'the') are reminiscent of a public school drama group, sort of Dead Poets Society with scarves, neckerchiefs and side partings. The performance begins with a sort of butler/roadie in a tin helmet banging a big drum*. No-one is amused. Then they start, with more than a little Fear of Drowning... Little is known about the band: the members are known by single names Yan, Hamilton, Noble and Wood (the drummer). A couple of them allegedly ran a club in Brighton, Club Sea Power. Their debut album celebrates the rebirth of English guitar music; coquettishly yet presciently titled The Decline Of British Sea Power, despite favourable reviews it's sold rather pathetically to date. Singer/songwriter Yan bears a slight resemblance to 'Tiny Tim' Henman, that oh-so-brave English tennis player who so desperately wants to win Wimbledon every year then always gets knocked out in the semi-final, after which the British tabloids knock the final nail in with ten reasons why he'll never win.

However, none of this really matters when he can sing like a cross between Bowie and Ferry and in his young dreams might one day play guitar like Johnny Marr. The band have done their homework and live, and show greatness through, failure (Bruce Springsteen, Daniel Kublbock). Dostoevsky's sexual interest in insects is noisily dissected, meanwhile lush songs like Carrion display a definite hit quality, ending in a characteristically emotional mass of echoing feedback... With deadly-serious-going-on-insane expressions they whirl around the stage like little hobbits, no irony, all image. No banter with the audience, requests go unfulfilled...

"Remember Me!" The Brit near me with accountant's glasses and a drink in each hand yells out another song title, like the name of his favourite team, enthusiastically holding his wheatbeer and whisky-coke in the air. In vain. British Sea Power know that the greatest songs must remain unplayed; see also the grandiose The Lonely with the best lyric of the summer ("I drink all day/ And play by night/ Upon my Casio electric piano...").

For the furious finale, a momentous orgy of guitar feedback, the drummer with the tin hat heads off into the crowd, cheered on frenetically by the British beer-drinker. The foliage and stuffed birds are flung around the stage and the guitarist (Noble?) sticks his head in a drum and beats furiously at it with both hands. After precisely 50 minutes they depart, exhausted, but with measured steps. No encore, like the Strokes we ask "Is this it?" (Yes!). The Empire saved, but Wimbledon remains unconquered.

Andreas Merkel

Footnotes
1. *Untranslatable dodgy pun: "auf die Pauke hauen" (literally "to bang a big drum") is an idiom which probably best translates as "to give it loads".
2. Actually they did play Remember Me. Had Mr. Merkel been paying more attention to the band and less to what my friends and I were drinking, he might have noticed it.
3. Anyway it was vodka and coke. Probably. I sincerely doubt it was whisky and coke.
4. And much as it may fit the image of the travelling Brit to have a drink in each hand, actually Nick was only holding my drink for a short time whilst I took some photos...
5. Tim Henman my arse. This paragraph was also dripping with untranslatably sarcastic superiority...
6. Having never heard of Daniel Kublbock I did a Google search and found this: www.danielsuperstar.de. I am now more than slightly disturbed, and have no idea what possible connection to either British Sea Power or Bruce Springsteen is going on in Mr. Merkel's quite obviously fevered mind.
7. Accountant's glasses, my arse.
8. Andreas, we know where you live. Well we don't actually, but I reckon it would take me one phone call to find out...

Translation by Cath Aubergine with a little help from Sonja N



Khyber Pass, Philadelphia 14/8/03

"You must think American's are right f**king w**kers", I said to one of the merch guys in a classic case of projectionism. I actually believed them when the note said that a Sussex County magazine was going for $85. "It might be worth something one day", he said to which I guffawed wildly because I didn't notice that it was an 1933 edition and that it was signed by the British Sea Power mannies. In retrospect, I probably hurt his feelings because how the hell did I not notice the sharpie marks all over the magazine and how the hell are BSP NOT going to be famous..? So I've got this magazine now. I received it not in exchange for money, but for either my overwhelming wit or for me leaving him alone. Doesn't really matter which, because I looked at it when I got home and I realised that it was full of places I went to as a child / teenager and that is exactly how I feel about BSP...

To look at, they reminded me of the public school boys I was preprogrammed to hate when I was younger. Charterhouse boys that I always wanted to fight but never did because I could smell their vicious streaks a mile away. Luckily I am many, many moons past those feelings and actually found them endearing for all that. "Look at the twigs!", I said to Emily who replied that all rock stars are skinny. "No, I mean the actual twigs," I said, "the foliage!" We laughed and I cheered her slight deafness... Anyone that goes to shows in Philadelphia knows the sound is always and in all ways, awful. It seems that this city is populated by deaf sound-men who use the same levels for every single act, however, they seemed to actually have tried on Thursday because the sound was the best I have ever heard at the Kyber. Rightly so too...

I don't know how long these guys have been playing together, but they definitely do a good job of it. The set was interspersed with recordings of a poet. I want to say T.S. Elliot, but I am not sure, since I haven't read any of his work save The Wasteland and that was years ago, but it sure sounded like his voice...

Here's something that aggravates me – American's and they obsessiveness over the English and their "quaintness". Why do you have to be such pricks, oh Americanos? Every time they said anything, these two guys behind Emily and I would feign a British accent and say things like, "bravo!" or mimic whatever had been said. Eventually this drove me to such fury that I very loudly told Emily that I f**king hated American's and their fawning over British accents so much that I wanted to nut them. I said this whilst keeping an eye very firmly on the culprits. American's don't say nut, so I had to demonstrate on my invisible friend and then yell, "How f**king quaint is that, b*****d???"

They were great though. Really solid and cohesive as a unit. Emily really liked their vacant stares but that wasn't so unusual for me. They played several songs that weren't on the album which is always a pleasant surprise and prompted me to buy a CD off the merch guy later on. The last song though, was what I had been waiting for in terms of performance. Bass amps were lept upon, plastic heron's appeared along side tin helmets, drummers in crowds and Yan kept eating the microphone. It was electrifying and impulsive and awakened a sense of anarchy in the soul. It was a wonderful note of exhilaration to end upon... All in all, Emily and I left the venue in a state of euphoria and as as reconfirmed fans of these young laddies from my neck of the woods. They don't seem young and they don't seem new and whilst they do appear full of angst and bitterness it also seems apparent that it hasn't permeated their souls...

Cuntess Tankula



Truck 2003, Steventon 19/7/03

At 8.30 pm, the gloriously loud PA intro of Galvaston by Glen Campbell was still ringing in our ears as BSP sauntered onstage, and set about reminding us of what cricket whites might be for. This followed a relaxed afternoon of pleasantly substandard bands performing in a variety of tents and farm buildings. The whole event had a great chilled out "non London" feel to it – I think most of the bands were of local extraction – but this remains unconfirmed, and at least half of the 3,000 attendees seemed to local boys and girls who despite probably living round the corner in local village Steventon, were camping out to enjoy the illicit pleasures of youth, beyond the shadows of their parents. And they don't come much more illicit than BSP.

The 3rd Battalion was well represented with a phalanx spearheaded by (a largely supine) Kevo, Clark, Ali, Pete & Serene, Den and all their trusty aides. We sat on the grass in a big circle, fifty yards form the main open air stage, drinking lager and reminiscing about Bowie's Memory of a Free Festival . Further back in the field the band whiled away part of the afternoon by kicking a small football around as temperatures nudged the high twenties, and curious heavy metal banging sounds sound emanated from inside the barn.

Cometh the hour, cometh the hobby horse, as AJP Taylor used to say. The first surprise for many was Noble's curious new haircut, which I will leave to others to deconstruct. (my gut instinct tells me it is a glorious and vengeful diatribe against a world obsessed with glamour, but this may not have been the intended effect). What was scheduled to be a 40 minute slot turned in 55 minutes of rigorous pulsating mayhem, opening with Hamilton's heartfelt reading of Galaxie 500's Tugboat .

Almost all your favourites were there (except Wooden Horse – you can't have everything), ripped up and put back together again in time-honoured fashion. During Rock in A, I felt a sudden pang of nostalgia for Captain Riot (last seem missing in action in Anaheim, CA), and in homage grabbed some verdant branches planted at the front of the stage, and starting waving them in great sweeping arcs towards Yan and Hamilton who were 3 feet in front of us . Soon there were 4 or 5 of us across the front of the stage sympathetically fanning their musical flames.

The climax was a suitably lusty but understated swing by Noble from the underside of the scaffolding holding up the awning over the front of the stage. As he gently swung over our heads, I couldn't help thinking how inspiring it is to be so free and unselfconscious...

De Lacey

Photo @ brilliantine mortality



St John Boste Social Club, Kendal 4/7/03

Set list: Apologies to Insect Life/ Spirit of St Louis/ Childhood Memories/ The Ballad of John Boste*/ Remember Me/ Bass Rock/ /Blackout/ Carrion/ Fear of Drowning/ Lately/ Rock in A/ Encore: Out of My Mind on Dope and Speed

It was a fair wind that blew us to Kendal on the afternoon of 4th July. The planets were aligned and fate was at work. Despite being barely sea-worthy, the old jalopy cruised like a submarine up the M6; there was neither traffic congestion nor Ordnance Survey confusion. We docked by chance at a car-park but a stone's throw from the venue, where some kind sprite had left a fully-paid ticket for our use.

In resplendent battle dress the Ormskirk Division of the 3rd Battalion disembarked to perform reconnaissance manoeuvres. Provisions in the form of a magnificent afternoon tea were obtained at Farrer's, with several packets of Lakeland Blend being stowed in the hold for future use.

Momentary panic was brought on by the erroneous cartography of Kendal's Tourist Information Office, but the St John Boste Social Club was duly located and scouts deployed. Ivy-leaved toadflax grew in the old stone walls. The acid green flowers of lady's mantle frothed and fizzed as though they led the way to Titania's bower. A jackdaw watched us from the roof. With pounding hearts, the advance scouts proceeded to circle the premises. A pile of wilting foliage under the 'parking for artistes only' notice was the single indication of what was to come.

As the sun broke through the clouds, Captain Taylor and Commander Hurley were the only troops on the street outside the St John Boste Social Club, and thus the only two who were privileged to hear the enchanting strains of Carrion drift on the breeze as the sound-check progressed inside. Fighting the urge to storm the building and get the band to sign beer mats, the order was given to withdraw and we regrouped by the river.

After some time spent musing by limpid trout-filled pools, the appointed hour arrived. Returning to the John Boste, our contact appears. Monies and names exchanged, the Ormskirk Squadron refuels in The Shakespeare, The Old Ram and The Ring O' Bells. Fine Kendalian chips and Pea Fritter are obtained in the Lobster Pot. We pass Yan and Noble on the street. Captain Taylor says 'Alright'. Commander Hurley loses the power of speech.

After the support bands and foliage placing, BSP mount the stage. From our pole position we are whisked through a fantastic set. We can only describe the occasion as truly monumental. 'Twas not so much a gig as a seismic shift in consciousness. British Sea Power rule our world. Garde Bien! As the siren song bewitched us, we knew then that there was no escape from the magic that is British Sea Power.

Ursula Hurley and Andrew Taylor

* Title obtained from the BSP forum, thanks to Clark. The set was altered after Yan's amp blew. The Ballad of John Boste replaced Favours in the Beetroot Fields (much to Taylor's upset!).

Set list photo by Mark Elliott; Ticket @ brilliantine mortality. Gig pictures by Andrew Taylor - more of his photos from the show can be seen here



Le Pub, Newport 21/6/03

Imagine a 140 mph smash-up involving Ride, The Stone Roses, and The Smiths. Miraculously, four survivors crawl from the wreckage, microphones still intact: namely, British Sea Power. At the same time, however, one still can't pin them down.Their first album, The Decline of British Sea Power has the combined familiarity and strangeness of all great art. Indeed, the entire band is very hard to define in any recognisable way.

There is clearly some quite well thought out concept of Englishness here (hence The Smiths), evident in the references to 'Rotherhithe', 'narrow moor' and 'this Corpus Christi Isle'; and, most glaringly, in the World War II hard hat and Just William scarf worn by the keyboardist, and the guitarist's 21st century version of camouflage. But then: what about all the branches and leaves on the stage and garlanding the head of Yan, the lead singer; the large owl against the back wall; the drummer with a little handkerchief knotted round his throat, and a fringe surely cut by his mother, who he must have left just hours ago in Germany as part of some student exchange programme? Well, somehow (I know not how) all this works: another sign, perhaps of great art.

About a month ago I was thinking, 'British Sea Power', what a stupid name... Last Tuesday, having learned that they were due to support Roxy Music, I changed my mind and got down to Spillers; on Wednesday (when the new stock finally came in) I sat and listened to an entire album straight through for the first time in.... – well, embarassingly, I can't quite remember. And so, on Saturday I found myself in the attic of a small Newport pub, heated to the point of spontaneous combustion until some mastermind had the wheeze of opening both windows and skylights; and wondering a little nervously if BSP were going to try the same kind of dangerous stunts reported to me by Cardiff's own resident music star, Jason Draper, when he saw them in the Barfly some weeks back. And indeed they did.

Though it started harmlessly enough: suddenly five unlikely looking characters are ushered through the clutch of 40-odd bodies before the stage, the keyboardist in particular crouching low, as if expecting the hard hat to deflect bullets any moment. Without preliminaries, they're straight into the staccato rush of Apologies to Insect Life, Yan and Hamilton watching one another with eerily telepathic gazes to keep the thing together to the split-second. And, although Something Wicked this Way Comes and Wooden Horse are sadly lacking, there follows a gloriously tight and kinetically furious 70 minutes, interspersed with some impressive melody, vocal that sounds remarkably like the album, and a controlled rush of drumming that no ordinary fifteen year old (if he's a day) could manage.

About 40 seconds into Carrion, perhaps the stand-out single of the album, something goes suddenly wrong on the technical front. Yan, after a surprisingly down-to-earth 'What the fuck!?' misses not a beat and finds this a good moment to thank Keith at 'Le Pub' – followed by two minutes of jamming while some adroit technician fixes a mike. After this anticipation the glorious momentum of the song is all the more exhilarating when it finally comes: as are Fear of Drowning and the epic Lately (running, even here, to about 14 minutes, despite the audience's applause after the vocal ends and feedback begins.)

And the stunts? Well, what else are roof beams for? Hamilton, the guitarist, heaves his considerable bulk over one first; presently Yan, with fixed insane stare looking out over gaunt cheekbones, is straddling it slothwise, with clenched arms and legs, before being passed hand to hand over the audience; gaping wildly into the cameras of mobile phones; and finally, at the climax of an instrumental which may not have a name, lifting a very large drum over his head while the others co-operate in trashing the stage; bang their shoes together; or eat their guitar strings to impressive effect.

Sadly, imagining this could go on some time (and may indeed get more dangerous) I'm down in the loo when it ends, listening to someone from Manchester complain about the crack on the head he just got. But it was really all over, then, bar the crunching of broken glasses and buying of CDs. And it would indeed have been worth the heat, the difficulties of negotiating First Great Western, and the tropical humidity, just for Carrion: when an audience of students, overweight veterans of the 60s, and middle-aged ladies twisting on stilettos all suddenly realised, for two or three minutes, that this was what it meant to have a soul. But enough: I have a rather nasty glass splinter to pick out of my thumb...

Richard Sugg

Photos by Mandy Coulston



Zodiac, Oxford 23/5/03

Set list: Fear of Drowning/ Apologies to Insect Life/ Spirit of St Louis/ Something Wicked/ Childhood Memories/ Favours in the Beetroot Fields/ Remember Me/ Bass Rock/ Carrion/ Blackout/ Lately/ Rock In A

We set out for Oxford on this sunny spring afternoon heartened at the news that £285,000 was being pumped into developing a wildlife site in Somerset to help threatened bitterns in the south-west of England. Two hours later, we joined a few regular followers in the Hobgoblin public house on Oxford's vibrant Cowley Road for what is rapidly becoming something of a ritual – pre-BSP concert drinks. The conversation Ð over a fine array of real ales and Fosters lager – turned to the wisdom of BSP deciding to play again at Oxford's Zodiac, where they had apparently received nothing better than a lukewarm audience reaction previously. Was the band setting itself up for failure?

After an unusual opening with Fear of Drowning, the King of the Stares, Yan, launched into a perfectly executed Apologies to Insect Life, gripping the audience firmly in the palm of his hand. Spurred on by an ecstatic reception, the Official Fleet Reserve embarked on a walkabout in the audience during Spirit of St Louis, not before hurtling from a high speaker, landing awkwardly on the dance floor. The wailing guitar sound that signalled the introduction to Remember Me, the jewel in the crown of BSP's repertoire, before Wood relentlessly attacked his drum kit throughout a blinding version of Bass Rock. Slowing the tempo a little before the grand finale, the true depth and diversity of BSP's talent is witnessed during Carrion and Blackout, the beautifully sung line 'watch the birds hovering over Narrow Moor'; referring to Hamilton seeing a vision of a Spacewoman in the future.

During the customary chaos of Lately, Martin Noble appears beneath the spotlight swooping and gazing at the crowd like a psychotic chimpanzee, before assaulting the audience by leaping off the stage with his head planted firmly inside Eamon's drum, prompting some members of the wild crowd to join BSP's growing list of 'guest' percussionists. Hamilton, meanwhile, expertly segues extracts of his hero Julian Cope's Out of My Mind on Dope and Speed into the screeching guitar sounds and thunderous drumming. The crowd's reaction was anything but lukewarm, suggesting that BSP have at last made their mark on this historic university city.

Sarah Nicholls

Flyer photo by Mick Wright; Noble photo by Andrew Fenwick
Read a review of the Spring 2003 tour



La Nef, Angouleme 25/4/03

Set list: Apologies to Insect life/ Spirit of St Louis/ Fear of Drowning/ Childhood Memories/ Remember Me/ Carrion/ Lately/ Rock in A

What the hell am I doing here? It's a Friday evening in April and I am walking down the service road to an industrial estate on the outskirts of a forgotten town in south-west France. I fail to pass a single soul – on one side of me a glimpse of rolling French countryside, on the other, eerie, deserted warehouses... Eventually, after ten minutes on the road to nowhere, I find it. Welcome to La Nef, converted gunpowder factory, and tonight host to the best f**king band in the universe playing the last date of their European support tour.

The place probably only contains room for a few hundred people, and tonight it is sadly less than full. Still, the audience that are there seem quite up for it and in the end are completely blown away by their first encounter with the BSP experience – a response both myself and De Lacey had got used to at the earlier German dates (where are you, Tomas from Bremen?).

Tonight, the sound effects are in full force – in addition to the usual TS Eliot intro and the bi-planes before St Louis, each song is interlinked by Kurt Schwitters' bizarre phonetic alphabet.

The audience clap along to the opener Apologies and are already hooked by the time St Louis kicks-in... Carrion is magnificent, but only sets the band up for an epic ending, around 20 glorious minutes of Lately/Rock in A – the best I've witnessed. With the music propelled by driving guitars and drums, ducks swoop overhead (someone is suspending them on wires from the balcony), Eamon – to cheers from the crowd – successfully manages to light a sparkler on the top of his helmet, and various bemused members of the audience are dragged on stage. A boy holds the owl aloft; a girl is given Eamon's drum to play.

It ends, as all good nights should, with a lovely brotherly duet. Hamilton has the mic, and Yan perches below him, sticking his head under his bother's arm as they recite a few lines of surreal, lewd poetry. It looks like we are being aurally assaulted by a two-headed, bug-eyed monster. Even mic-less, Yan's shrieks can probably be heard at the back of the hall. "Il est fou!", says the girl standing next to me.

Then it was all over, and I waited for a very tired-looking Interpol to go through the motions. But by then my mind was buzzing from too much biere and the feeling I always get when I see BSP in a support slot – how can anyone possibly follow that? The next day I arrived back to one of England's favourite shores, somehow managing to get down to a sunny Brighton in time to see the Seagulls stroll to their biggest win of the season. Sometimes, you know, life can be so sweet...

Comrade Kevo

Read more about the European tour with Interpol here



South by South West, Austin, Texas 14/3/03

There were about 30 people at the show. These guys flew from Europe to play ONE show... ONE... in Austin, Texas for 30 people. We met the guys, and they had an intensity in their eyes, much like a young boy trying ferociously to learn to ride a bicycle. It was the kind of determination that foreshadowed their performance, and ultimately their philosophy... No matter how many people are watching, 30 or 3000, we will put on a show that they will remember.

And yes, I remember quite well just how much these gentlemen (if I can use that term) literally lit up the 8 foot stage they played on. Dressed entirely in camouflage and war coats, they decorated the stage with foliage. Perhaps you have heard this about them. Pretty funny. My friends and I brushed them off immediately, taking this setup as a gimic. We were mistaken, and fortunately, we stuck around to see them play. INCREDIBLE. And I have pictures to prove it. I don't even know these guys' names... but for 45 minutes, they tore us apart.

Carrion was what they played first, if I'm not mistaken... a beautifully tragic tune that carries a fast rhythm, yet doesn't go overboard... you're caught in between the intensity and the innocence of their approach. Pretty great, in other words. Each song built up gradually until their last opus, Lately. How would I describe this song, other than a tour-de-force of sound approach and technique. The beginning guitar riffs show the harmonics of mainstream acts such as Coldplay, and early U2, their Unforgettable Fire era. However, the bass kicks in, and descends the scales much like Bowie's Spiders From Mars would in the early 70s. The song reached its apocalypse, however, when every instrument explodes into a fury that could only be proven by their live show... and they delivered that completely.

The "explosion" I mentioned is a blend of the surreal shoegazer noise of My Bloody Valentine's Loveless and The Stooges L. A. Blues... a complete disregard for everything you would expect in a pop song, rock song, any song. The guitarist whirled his guitar around and actually threw it into the crowd, careening into a young guy's shoulder. And everyone looked up to the stage in unison, jaws dropped. The guy was actually hurt. THEN, the guitarist climbed the rafters of the stage and found the club's storage closet. He then proceeded to launch 10 pound chairs down at the crowd below, sending them running every which way for cover and safety.

Meanwhile, the singer flies off the stage and lands head first onto the floor we're frantically running around on, and flops around like a fish out of water. Chairs are still flying down like snow. Bouncers and bartenders are trying to get him down, shouting and screaming. I look around... everyone else is doing the same. Yet there's this beautiful feedback, harmonizing from the amps. Everything was moving in slow motion. I just smiled. These are the kind of concerts that change the world.

British Sea Power is taking their music to the streets, to whoever will listen. Now, they're opening for Interpol. Soon, they will be be headlining, and some Lester Bangs-esque journalist will write about how he once saw a band that wore foliage, blew his mind with their beautiful noise, and made him believe again that music is still out there to be heard. Get the album. See them perform. Believe it.

David Hampton



Les Inrocks Festival, Divan du Monde, Paris 7/11/02

Set list: Apologies to Insect life/ Fear of Drowning/ Childhood Memories/ Remember Me/ Spirit of St Louis/ Favours in the Beetroot Fields/ Lately/ Rock in A

Paris in the fall, seeing BSP conquer Europe. What could be more exciting? We arrive at the venue to find that it's been sold out for ages. What could be more of a pisser? The kindest doorman ever takes pity on us and gets us in. I love him! Very large vodkas & orange that are cheaper than half-a-lager and a buzzing french crowd. I know it's going to be a good night!

BSP take the stage distributing baked potatoes and sheafs of wheat to the audience. Apologies to Insect Life kicks in, and the front four rows are soon bouncing. What can stop our heroes? Yan's sulking guitar? No way! It decides that it doesn't want to play anymore halfway through the set, but our boys are unstoppable. The songs played without rhythm guitar (Remember Me and Favours) sound so raw.

Noble plays like a demon. Guitar power is restored for Lately and the usual chaos ensues. Hamilton misses his leap onto Yan's back, and crashes to the floor, equipment is sent flying, and stagehands are looking increasingly a) concerned b) bemused c) fucking pissed off. Eammon bangs his drum whilst marching through the audience, and BSP exit to rapturous applause. We came, we saw, they conquered!

P.S. I didn't stay for The Libertines. I've seen BSP blow them off the stage before. I'll leave them to their arselicking sycophants at the NME.

Northern Pete



Pop Komm, Stadtgarten, Cologne 14/8/02

No herons, no owls! Have they been quarantined at Koln airport? BSP arrive on stage in a dry ice pea-souper, carrying copious amounts of foliage, and launch into Fear of Drowning. They sound intense and important. As is often the case when BSP play to a new audience, there are those looks between audience members that this band are f**kin' exciting. "Don't know if I like them, but you can't say that they aren't interesting!"

Remember Me gets a cheer of recognition, and Spirit of St Louis still does it for me, no matter how often I've heard it. Lately closes the set, and is challenging as ever, but the majority of the audience are on board by then, and even seem to enjoy the three minutes of gut-churning, ear-piercing feedback provided by abandoned guitars at the end of the song. I am aware that reviews for fansites are preaching to the converted, but if you couldn't make it this time, come and join me in October, when the rest of Germany discover what we, and Cologne, already know.

Northern Pete


Home   Profile  Discography  Lyrics  Downloads  Press   Fan reviews   Photos   Links   Third Battalion   Contact