British Sea Power are a terrific live act, save for their ill-advised forays into prog rock territory, writes Paul Fennessy.
The Brighton band’s MySpace page breezily details how their ‘lyrical themes include floods on Canvey Island, economic migrants, Slavia Prague FC and the apocalypse’. Therefore, to call BSP slightly eccentric would be akin to suggesting that Pete Doherty dabbles in drugs occasionally.
Perhaps in a bid to accentuate the band’s idiosyncratic image, or perhaps because he merely likes looking silly, lead singer Yan takes to the stage in what appears to be a dress. This air of sexual ambiguity does not extend to the audience though, as a couple of overdue haircuts are about the wildest sights on view among the predominantly male crowd.
Yet for all their pretentious posturing and economic preoccupations, BSP undeniably deliver a compelling live show. For the gig’s first hour, the band effortlessly entreat their fans to a significant portion of their enticing oeuvre. This inspired showing culminates in a wonderful rendition of the band’s latest single, ‘No Lucifer’, prompting chants of ‘easy’ from the appreciative spectators.
After the exhilarating effect which ‘No Lucifer’ expertly evokes, fans anticipate that the band will close the set with two or three more well established numbers. Two of the quartets strongest tracks, the early single ‘Remember Me’ and the beautiful ‘Be Gone’, have yet to be played, but hope remains that neither will be neglected. Instead however, BSP proceed to commit musical suicide.
What had previously been a relatively enjoyable experience deteriorates, in one fell swoop, into an occasion which most onlookers would happily forget. BSP amazingly fail to suffocate from the stench of their own self indulgence, as they launch into ‘A-Rock’, a track which can at best be described as ‘experimental’.
The painfully prolonged noise which follows prompts members of the audience to clap prematurely, in a vain attempt to put the band out of their misery.
The song (and I use the term loosely), which BSP’s PR would no doubt describe as a startlingly original hybrid of The Velvet Underground and Can, but in truth, resembles a pub rock band with ideas above their station. Moreover, it adds a whole new degree of insight to the band’s MySpace page, as this pretentious piece of trifle should now be interpreted as a stark warning of BSP’s erratic and unpredictable nature.
As the hundreds of fans shuffled swiftly out of the arena in the aftermath of this unmitigated disaster, they were not singing the chorus of ‘No Lucifer’ or humming the instantaneous melody of ‘Waving Flags’. They were angrily complaining about the conspicuous absence of ‘Remember Me’ and bemoaning their luck at being privy to such tedious piffle.