Live Review

British Sea Power, Institute, Birmingham

The lack of banter with the audience is definitely not a bad thing for British Sea Power.

Tonight, the usually dull Birmingham Institute is made much prettier from fairy lights on microphone stands, foliage on stage and antlers on amps; it’s a bit like a primary school play. Only British Sea Power could pull this off without scoring high on the cheese scale. The venue is a surprisingly normal one for this band, who have in the past played in unusual spaces ranging from Kidderminster train station to the Great Wall of China.

They get straight into playing, and continue to do so for twenty minutes or so. The first time any members of the group speak to the audience is just before their seventh song when Yan quickly pauses to introduce ‘Radio Goddard’, a lovely ballad from their new album. The lack of banter with the audience is definitely not a bad thing for British Sea Power. On the contrary, it is one of the refreshing touches of their gigs; the focus is always on the music, whilst maintaining the spectacle of a live performance through high levels of energy and enthusiasm.

Although the tour is in support of their latest album, the six-piece play songs from every nook and cranny of their back catalogue. Their diverse set ranges from fan favourites from their debut record to obscure B-sides. During the post-rock-esque crescendos of ‘Waving Flags’, it becomes evident that they have hit their stride. British Sea Power’s talent as arrangers is often understated, and it’s hard to see why when they play ‘The Great Skua’, a beautifully epic instrumental track from 2008’s ‘Do You Like Rock Music?’.

When they leave the stage, the usual “We want more!” is replaced with “Sea Pow-Er!”, and the band return in notoriously surreal form. As they play ‘Remember Me’ Hamilton (Neil Wilkinson) is wearing a costume making him appear to be riding a cartoon horse (a salute to the Grand National, perhaps?), Yan is on his knees throwing a his guitar high into the air (genuinely impressive), Phil Sumner is passing the audience pint after pint of free lager (which inevitably gets chucked over everyone), and the notorious ‘Bipolarbear’ (someone in a giant polar bear suit) wanders around the pit in front of the stage. It’s scenes like this which have earned British Sea Power their reputation as one of the most extraordinary live bands around, and tonight they prove that they deserve it.

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