It’s odd how often you find yourself justifying liking British Sea Power. Some will roll their eyes at you and cite that they’re too odd and ‘pretentious’ – with their weird venues, stage set ups and arty side projects. Others will sigh heavily and declare them meat and potatoes indie rockers, or rail at the romantic nostalgia that can infuse their songs. In truth they are both and neither of the things they are accused of.
Yes, in the week before this gig, they have bashed out their single on tedious bants-fest Soccer AM and played a specially commissioned live soundtrack to a programme of Polish animation at the Barbican. But their two sides infuse each other.
Their indie-rock has an odd quality that lifts it up above the mass, seasoned with the sort of scavenged intellectualism familiar to a lot of the crowd -the state-educated sort that you don’t get through a well-rounded classical education, but cobble together by simply keeping on having interest in things and a lack of shame about being late to the party. And it’s this that means they retool their nostalgia into a form that is the diametric opposite of some of what drives the rush to Brexit – using it as a lens to celebrate some of the better things about the present. Latest album, Let The Dancers Inherit the Party showcases that side of BSP better than any album since Open Season. Played live with a bit more oomph a number of the new poppier songs like Bad Bohemian and Keep on Trying take flight and are as welcome as the standards – though it’s Remember Me that generates enough, erm, enthusiasm to break the barriers at the front – much to the consternation of the security. (Of course being BSP the ‘mosh-pit’ was lively but reasonably genteel, god knows how the Church’s barriers – and the very grumpy heavies, would cope with something proper.)
And BSP’s more studied side has a heart and crowd-pleasing euphoria. It’s best showcased in Leeds by perennial favourite the Great Skua and a terrific run through their cover of Galaxie 500’s Tugboat. Both have the audience rapt, but wearing the biggest grins of the night.
But there’s one more element of BSP that trumps the others. It comes out fully in the encore as they traipse onstage in ill-fitting shiny silver outfits (and Hamilton and Abi seem only to have one between them…) and the bears are let loose to dance through the audience. They’re a bit daft and a lot of fun. In the end, that’s really what keeps a lot of us coming back time and again and it needs absolutely no justification.
More photos: https://flic.kr/s/aHskUQ8BqW