British Sea Power, Forum, London
Thursday 10 March 2011
The stage is filled with amps, microphones, musical instruments and trees. An old film is rolling in the background, the members of British Sea Power getting off a train, mumbling something indecipherable and walking off screen. Moments later, the Brighton six-piece emerge, utter a brief "hello" and launch straight into their set, their barrier-hugging acolytes' screams of excitement matching the band's first tracks decibel for decibel.
Opening with "Who's in Control" and "We Are Sound", the first two songs from their latest album, Valhalla Dancehall, BSP set the tone for their entire show. The former, a pounding, percussive rocker, gets the crowd riled up, while the latter is slightly more relaxed, led by a guitar riff reminiscent of The Cure. This combination of the intense and the intimate is what defines the show, as the group alternately entice and energise their audience. Yet these same transitions also make the gig somewhat exasperating and uneven.
With the lo-fi charms of "Fear of Drowning" and "Remember Me", the band seem like a Nineties throwback, channeling groups like Pavement, but despite what they would have us believe, British Sea Power really excel at creating alternative pop. The contemplative "Blackout" is wonderful, and the call-and-response chorus of "Living Is So Easy" is brilliantly received.
However, BSP spend a long time exhibiting their edgier wares, and overly frantic renditions of "Apologies to Insect Life" and "Spirit of St. Louis" make it seem like the band are not alternative by accident: their inscrutable image feels contrived, not imbued with the inherent eccentricity of Arcade Fire or The Pixies.
For the large contingent of devotees, the gig is near-perfect, but for the outsiders, the time spent outside the more nuanced, accessible numbers is time wasted, and thus the show is unlikely to turn them from fans into fully-fledged converts.
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