British Sea Power, Scala, London

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The Independent Culture

A back-to-basics approach for these British eccentrics saw them at their best. This was a gig that encompassed rock's most fundamental virtues alongside originality that makes them one of our most compelling bands.

In recent years, they have collaborated with West Country novelties The Wurzels and paid tribute to John Betjeman, though their forthcoming third album asks Do You Like Rock Music?. It was clear British Sea Power answered yes, obscured by dry ice and simply lit in the manner of the Old Grey Whistle Test's Seventies footage. Finishing a tour where venues have included a boat on the Mersey and England's highest pub, tonight was vaudeville night.

Looking wired after an eventful week, the foursome could only mumble between songs, hardly an issue when their music communicated for them so effectively. These dates previewed new material, and from the off singer/guitarist Scott "Yan" Wilkinson and lead guitarist Martin Noble engineered great slabs of precise sound that combined the intensity of their debut The Decline Of British Sea Power with the expansiveness of its follow-up Open Season.

Along the way, they were helped by a trumpeter who showed he wholeheartedly espoused their cause by operating an air-raid siren as early as the second number and later by crowd surfing.

Previously supporters of lost causes – Sussex churches and Soviet collectivism among them – current environmental concerns made the band's interests all the more insistent. "Lights Out for Darker Skies" was a natural cause for the band to espouse, led by a chiming Buzzcocks-style riff, while "Waving Flags" showed them welcoming in Eastern European immigrants.

Bassist Neil Hamilton Wilkinson frustrated as an occasional vocalist, his tender delivery potentially a useful foil to his brother's more declamatory style, yet here lost in the storm.

At least for "No Lucifer" he had his bandmates chanting "Easy! Easy!" in homage to wrestling star Big Daddy, while three closing numbers showed the band at their best. "Carrion" is rightly one of their most loved numbers, elegiac and muscular in equal measure, and "True Adventures" finally gave Hamilton the space to sing, as the music ebbed and flowed like a surging tide.

Finally, "Spirit of St Louis", ostensibly about Charles Lindbergh, was reduced to its primal, garagey core, with Yan in the audience communing with a fan dressed as a panda. British Sea Power, though, had stolen the show.

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