07 September 2006

British Sea Power - The Zodiac, Oxford - 6 September 2006

33 Lucy - 39 p.r.S.P.

B.S.P. are doing a small club tour to preview new material and give the punters a chance to catch them in a tiny venue. Pixie and I caught them at The Zodiac last night. It was our first time seeing them live, so we were both looking forward to the gig.

iLiKETRAiNS were the support act and they stepped on-stage in their matching cavalry jackets, looking like they had stepped off the set of a U.S. Civil War epic. They started with a nice shoegazer-ish guitar drone, but things quickly deteriorated when the singer took to the mic. His voice was akin to a somnambulent Ian Curtis, or maybe a weak imitation of Peter Murphy. The muddy mix and the stifling heat in the Zodiac's basement didn't help matters. Their tunes seemed like a ghastly cross between Cocteau Twins (without the melodies and Liz Fraser's vocals) and Mogwai (that same quiet/loud dynamic). Either way, they clashed with B.S.P.'s up-tempo style. Thankfully, they dragged their morose backsides off-stage after five or six songs. It's safe to say that iDON'TLiKE iLiKETRAiNS.

B.S.P. walked on following a snippet of classical music (Elgar or Vaughan Williams maybe?), the stage by this time decorated with their customary foliage--even bassist Hamilton got into the act with a garland of leaves round his head. They launched into a new instrumental, which I don't have the name of--as they didn't announce any titles, including the tunes off of the first two records. Another new one followed, with the B.S.P. trademarks: tight melodies, stop/start sections and soaring vocals. They then treated the crowd to a spirited Remember Me, from the Decline Of British Sea Power album. That's how it went for the remainder of the show--a couple of new ones, then an old one. The flow was nice, though, and all the material worked, even though some of the not-yet-recorded ones had just sketches of lyrics. The boys were clearly having fun up there and I was hoping they'd perform their adaptation of the John Betjeman poem that they jammed at the centenary celebration earlier this summer, but it didn't happen. Eventually they wound down the regular set with Carrion and Spirit Of St. Louis, both from the "Decline.." album. They used an old crank air raid siren at the end of "Spirit.." which lent an air of weird authenticity to the song. The encore was a frantic Apologies To Insect Life followed by a really long jam where the boys got up to some wacky hijinks like sitting on each others shoulders, both clutchng a mic and singing "Freight Train!", wrestling and crowd-surfing. At the end, guitarist Noble was teetering at the edge of the stage, guitar in hand, looking like he would fall forward into the front rows of punters. Then it was over and we headed for the cooler air of outside as some of the crowd rushed the T-shirt table.

I would recommend seeing B.S.P. on this tour, if you can. They put on a stadium-sized gig in a small space and the new material is worth hearing before it makes it onto a plastic-n-foil disc. You do have to put up with iLiKETRAiNS's dirges--or you can just show for the Sea Power's set and skip the support slot. Either way, catch this one before it's over.

Here's a possible setlist, cobbled from a late August show, found at the B.S.P. fansite, Salty Water.

Instrumental (new)
Open The Door (?)
Remember Me
Open The Atom (?)
Mary (?)
Fear Of Drowning
Instrumental (new)
How Will I Ever Find My Way Home?
Lights Out For Darker Skies (?)
Plover Pt. 2 (?)
A Trip Out (?)
The Spirit Of St. Louis
Apologies To Insect Life
Pelican/"Freight Train" (?)


Anonymous said...

I'm envious. Wish I could catch them (they may be coming to Cardiff but I'm sick of going to gigs on my own...no one I know has such brilliant taste as me!). Anyway, sounds a great gig. They are a pretty unique live experience.

The Purple Gooroo said...

Damn! I wish you lived closer--w could've all gone together.

They were good live--I'd heard good things about their shows, but it was cool to finally catch them.