The Power and the Glory

Remember when you were 15? (By which of course I mean remember when I was 15, and assume it was the same for everybody else) Girls were attractive but unattainable, but music offered a ready substitute. Bands were like crushes: you’d listen obsessively, day in, day out and interact with them emotionally in a way that a teenager can’t do with, like, people. And you had to be near them, pogoing like a loon in the pit at the front, drenched in sweat, but savouring every down-stroke pummelling your chest cavity. We grow up, though. Those relationship things start happening and at gigs we are to be found beside the mixing desk, earplugs in and arms folded. Sometimes, though, it’s nice to feel 15 again, be it the heady rush of a silly crush or the sweat and deafness when ‘going the front.’ And to fully appreciate British Sea Power live, the latter is almost obligatory. Only almost, as the band often combine two traits bordering on the mutually exclusive: an almost faux-naïf approach cribbed from punk; and the depth provided by an almost whimsical penchant for the literary and the historical. Hence, the incongruous sight of people moshing to a song about the Velvet Revolution. That tension is perhaps what makes their gigs so entertaining, as they walk the tightrope between pretension and populism. New album Do You like Rock Music? gets a fair workout, with all tracks bar the crystalline ‘No Need to Cry’ being aired. It takes a few songs for both band and crowd to really get going though, perhaps a consequence of drummer Wood’s injury, Brakes’ Tom White taking over kit duties. Old chestnut ‘Remember Me’ gives an inkling of what is to come and, after the pretty interlude of ‘The Great Skua’, the band launch breathlessly into a succession of fast-paced numbers. ‘Atom’, ‘How Can I Find My Way Home?’, ‘Please Stand Up’ (the only two tracks aired off the seemingly maligned Open Season), ‘A Trip Out’ and ‘No Lucifer’ race by with barely a pause. The latter seems already to have taken the status of ‘crowd favourite’, its terrace chant refrain providing the perfect opportunity for crowd interaction (those less familiar with Do You Like…? given a handy clue by the bizarrely costumed man covered in ‘Easy’ signs). The encore finally sees BSP fall off the tightrope: after a swooning ‘Carrion’, the band stomps through 10 minutes of noise and feedback. Guitarist Noble wisely decides against a long-range stage dive, instead rugby-tackling Bizarrely Costumed Man, who is now on guitar, while Yan mumbles and screams childishly into the microphone. Still, you’ve got to feel young again sometimes. by Robin Whelan