For a band whose imagination in choosing their gig venues is second to none, it must have felt a bit odd for British Sea Power to be playing somewhere as mainstream’ as KOKO. They put their own inimitable stamp on it, however, with foliage, flags, plus fours, a large black bear and a couple of wrestling champions.
Third album Do You Like Rock Music? may have brought the band new fans on the wave of a more epic sound, but the band have kept their lyrical intricacies intact. That said, one of the most moving moments of this gig involved no words at all, the instrumental The Great Skua providing a half way interlude complemented by a stunning backdrop of various members of the gull family in action. It spoke more of a love of nature than a thousand words from a new age prog band, and proved both revealing and poignant.
The gig marked a return to the stage for drummer Woody, following an unfortunate muscular reaction to domestic housework, his dustpan and brush causing more damage than sticks and skins. Here he was though, on fine and energetic form, rumbling We’re All In It into action as the band crept on.
From then on it was an intense focus on the new album. Its flagship duo, the rabble-rousing Waving Flags and No Lucifer, were both superb and generated enough energy and adrenalin to start an uprising. More subtle was Canvey Island, though the rush of noise half way through this poured a bit too much hot water on the carefully voiced sentiments of Yan that had gone before.
The new album’s bluster was well complemented by the subtleties of the previous two – and of these, Beetroot Fields and an exultant Carrion stood out, before the improvised extravagance of the finale, A Rock given in the company of both bear and wrestler.
It was disappointing to note a lack of crowd involvement with These New Puritans in the support slot. A crowded dancefloor moved few limbs, and while a head or two was nodding some tracks passed with virtually no applause. Quite why is a mystery, for the band have plenty of original things to say, and even seem to have a heady combination of intelligent punk and dubstep – not something you’d find on many CVs at the moment.
But for all the mock-bluster of Jack Barnett, and his interesting lyrics – “what’s your favourite number” closely followed by the observation that “we’re being watched by experts”, there was the completely uninvolved keyboard player, who might as well have been watching her smalls on a slow spin at the launderette. Perhaps that’s her performing style’, but it did little to catapult a band deserving of a more sympathetic ear.