British Sea Power
These New PuritansEdit this event
- Koko, Camden Town »
Tonight should have been the perfect opportunity for These New Puritans to graduate from being darlings of London fancy folk to an open-minded crowd partial to music that's on the stern and intelligent side. Yet despite Jack Barnett's best efforts (clawing at the air sporting a jerkin of metallic feathers) These New Puritans are frustrating indeed. They best suit small venues with dense air and an atmosphere ripe for some alchemy, where Jack's generalised statements - "what’s your favourite number, what does it mean?" - fizz with such power from the brilliant rhythm section that they don't bang around the room for long enough for you to question, er, what it all actually means. These New Puritans are undoubtedly one of the few new bands to display some future potential, but they must beware the dangers of sitting for that PhD before the ink's dry on their A-Level papers.
It's a contrast vividly brought out by British Sea Power. Rather than paint in broad and watery swathes, they find succour and inspiration in hearthside explorations of grand subjects on one hand, or fascination of the minutiae of life and the arcane on the other. Somewhat strange the British Sea Power fanbase might be, but they've arguably been crucial in providing the firmament upon which the band have regrouped over the past couple of years, before the glorious vindication and crashing success of Do You Like Rock Music?.
Tonight, then, is the finest performance I've seen by British Sea Power in a very long time. Woody is returned from a back injury, providing the mettle beneath Martin's muscular guitar and Scott and brother Neil's bass and vocal swapping. While once the latter's songs were often a flimsier part of the British Sea Power live experience, he's now confident and assured (especially evidenced on a vivacious 'Trip Out' and the yelps and oo_s that accentuate 'Down On the Ground'_), adding yet more colour to this already bold and lively palette. Indeed, the viola and brass that are now part of British Sea Power also blend perfectly, giving oomph and texture without feeling tacked-on, as is the danger.
This all makes combines to make those Arcade Fire comparisons look abundantly foolish. British Sea Power have been making anthemic amplified rock music since the time I first saw them in front of two men and a dog in the Bull & Gate back in 2001, way before Arcade Fire's debut was the earth upon the sexton's shovel. And besides, were British Sea Power from the North American continent, no doubt this performance would be laden with weary pomposity and dead-eyed earnestness - as it is, this unique band deliver all with a quiet, understated humour, and no small modesty.
What other group could sing a song that explores particle physics and ends with an air raid siren, as 'Atom' does, and make it sound so joyous, so welcoming? When Scott whips his guitar back on the "oh little England" line on _'Fear of Drowning', it's with a snarling rebuff to those who consider his band parochial - perhaps, too, to some of the more meatheaded members of the crowd that you'll inevitably attract when you get to the Koko level of success._ 'Canvey Island', meanwhile, climaxes with great feeling appropriate to the tragedy of the theme, and instrumental _'The Great Skua' is performed with searing panache, reminiscent of the time that British Sea Power delivered an emotional live soundtracking to green cinematic tome 'Baraka' at the ICA. It's notable that the only Open Season tracks aired are 'Please Stand Up' and 'True Adventures' - where the former saw British Sea Power rumbled as they too obviously aimed for the crowd pleasing belter, such is the strength of the likes of 'Waving Flags' that the holistic approach taken by the band in recording Do You Like Rock Music? has clearly paid off.
For the frenetic denouement to the set British Sea Power's friendly bear Ursine Ultra makes an appearance, along with former member and Brakes man Eamon, half naked and wearing a helmet, and the band's Secretary in a Finnish flag, punching and throwing a guitar into the air. Somewhat predictably, given the balconies afforded at Koko, Martin goes for a clamber as chaos reigns - albeit a gloriously confident, celebratory chaos. As the frantic chords of 'Rock in A' finally die out amidst the paintwork of the packed and sold-out rafters, it's abundantly clear that while British Sea Power's triumphs will always be subtle ones, they're finally ready to claim what has rightfully been theirs for so long.
Photos: David Emery
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