British Sea Power @ The Institute, Digbeth – Friday 5th April, 2013


British Sea Power is a band I have always found inaccessible, described as sounding similar to The Cure, Arcade Fire & The Pixies, I knew I should love them but with a humungous back catalogue of 6 albums to wade through they’d never quite managed to hit the spot for me. However a friend from home has always said they were Britain’s best live band so I couldn’t turn down an opportunity to go and see them live.

I’ve always been a sucker for a band which uses exotic instruments (i.e. something beyond a drum guitar and bass) so watching violins and trumpets being tuned up I was already excited and as the room began to fill for the sold out gig anticipation grew. For sure British Sea Power know more than a few things about putting on a good show. The stage setup was brilliant, although the use of fairy lights for gigs is becoming a cliché, it suits them perfectly, plus combined with the strange shrubs dotted about and horns on top of the speakers it worked spectacularly well. For the big entrance everything went quiet and the fairy lights began to flash as ominous music played. The brighton sextet trooped onto stage to massive cheers from the crowd and opened with their new single “Machineries of Joy” before continuing with a stream of songs so well crafted even sigur ros would have to take notice.

Clever melodies fusing with Yan’s whispering into the microphone sent more than a few shivers down my spine, however at this point the crowd was absolutely dead. It’s no secret that British Sea Power’s main fan base is the “middle class music dads” who will nod along to any track with the same blank expression & I was worried that was going to set the tone for the entire set. However crowd favourite “waving flags” finally broke the music dads into song. Then the atmosphere completely changed as the band moved onto play through their anthems and by this point the beers the music dads had been drinking had finally started to kick-in and the room came alive.

My highlight of the night had to be the banter between the band and the audience when Yan explained they were playing the first song Phil Sumner had written for the band, “Phil” immediately became the crowds hero constantly chanting his name, to which Yan replied “here’s the 290th song I’ve written for the band” as they began the next song. For the big finale after the encore the band played their most famous song “remember me”. Hamilton returned to stage wearing a horse outfit, then a man appeared on stage in a giant polar bear outfit and Yan began launching his guitar in the air and seeing how many times he could clap before catching it all things which I’ve never seen at a gig before. For me I lost out on part of the experience because I didn’t know the words to many of British Sea Powers songs but rest assured I will be seeing them again and this time I will know every lyric.

Review by Gareth Whatley

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