No strangers to Derby British Sea Power return once again to The Venue, supported by Manchester punks ILL. Storge’s Richard McKerron and Ian Cudmore were there to witness.
The stage has been transformed for tonight; Trace Elliot and Marshall are all assembled passively like ancient stonework, decorated abundantly in various verdant arbours, complete with a wary bird of prey atop the tallest tower. Somewhat still. I suspect resin. We all do. Our Kes.
ILL take the stage and launch into a steady tom filled beat of bright pop punk and dark harmony, piano cutting through aggressively as the mix pulls itself into place. There’s a DIY element to their sound, the keys and synth tones have a consistently sudden decay instead of sustained slow fades, which in turn leaves edgy gaps to punctuate the air. The whole ensemble isn’t entirely polished, but why should it be. At what point does electro punk become pop? Probably about the same time someone breaks out the autotune.
Piercing unity in shouted vocals thrown into steep reverb and songs supporting freedom of speech in Mother Russia, they’re an eclectic visual mix from chewing gum eyeliner and glitter to a style worthy of Marcella Detroit. Vocally there are moments where I find a hankering to throw on Sonic Youth’s Jet Set Trash and No Star. There are lessons in the lyrics. I just hope the right people have heard them.
British Sea Power take to the stage in a calm and well rehearsed manner, arming themselves with the tools of their trade as the drummer awkwardly takes his place having to negotiate a small copse to get there. They launch into a tempo perfect rendition of Bad Bohemian. There’s no stress, urgency or rock star about their delivery and the vocals are calm and understated. This isn’t ‘The Big I Am’ that you get with some bands, this is true to album accuracy.
It Ended On An Oily Stage follows and the order of business for the night becomes well established. No messing around, song after song of indie glory is delivered precisely, with the defining sounds of a couple of decade’s output from The Editors to The Killers. A little difficult to make out the violin, keys and trumpet at times, but overall a well balanced sound with clear drums, cymbals and a solid tight kick that isn’t obtrusive holding everything to account.
There’s a stork. I’ve just seen a stork.
Crisp chords and unforced vocals meander over strong rhythms and riffs ably, which is doubly impressive when it becomes clear through stage banter alone that the monitors are acting hinky. By a third of the way in, the audience at the front are lapping it up; Kodak moments of a half finished pint raised during a chorus almost spilling in drunk karaoke-esque merriment.
Bassist Hamilton takes to the mic to start a wave of calmer more mellow songs and the female backing vocals provided by Abi Fry are reminiscent of Ultrasound’s Vanessa Best.
British Sea Power bring the energy back into the room with some more up tempo songs soon enough, but it’s the addition of eight foot bears that is really responsible for the boost, who engage in either dancing or fisticuffs during No Lucifer in the middle of the crowd. Amiable fellows of solid stature who honestly declare themselves to be “sweating their tits off in ‘ere!” as they make their way back to the green room.
A three song encore finishing with The Spirit of St Louis rounds off the night as Yan teases the audience with the possibility of taking home a bird of prey. All hail Our Kes.
Time well spent.
Read our interview with British Sea Power here or find them on: