British Sea Power – Concorde 2 – 20th February 2018

Photo by Jamie MacMillan

There are few finer feelings than returning home to celebrate good times with friends, and so it was tonight at a heaving Concorde 2. British Sea Power have earned a huge cult following ever since 2003’s debut The Decline Of British Sea Power marked them out as worthy successors to the likes of Echo & The Bunnymen with their artful take on indie-rock. As the years have gone by, the Brighton band has continued to tread their own path, never doing anything overtly commercial yet finding a strong audience with every new move. Tonight marked a great way to wrap up the end of another national tour in support of last year’s fantastic Let The Dancers Inherit The Party.

With support from fellow locals Yumi And The Weather, the night got off to a great start. There is a startling progress to the development of the band, and Ruby Taylor is strikingly more confident and assured than previously. There was always bags of potential, but it now shows signs of being realised. ‘Long Before’ and ‘Look At The Night’ sound much beefier with drummer Robin Pryor and Charlie Drayton on bass adding a great sound, while recent single ‘Callum’ is also a sign that the promised summer album is going to be something special. ‘Must I Wait’ has been around for a while and will be familiar to Brighton ears, so let it just be said that it still sounds like a lost classic just waiting to be discovered. Exciting times ahead.

The stage at a British Sea Power gig always makes a beautiful sight, and tonight was no different with a woodland scene on display (though most of the foliage was quickly dispersed with into the crowd by frontman Yan Wilkinson). Plenty of wildlife had found its way to the stage, with a (plastic) owl hooting periodically and erratically throughout the show. Of course, it wouldn’t be a B.S.P. show without wildlife in the audience too – and sure enough, the crowd was also graced by the infamous bear-suits (both grizzly and polar) for a dance as well. There was barely even breathing room inside the main hall at Concorde 2, with the bars deserted in a sign of how adored this group are. A rip-roaring start raced through ‘Who’s In Control’ and ‘Lights Out For Darker Skies’, the band much punchier live than on record.

As singers Wilkinson and Neil Hamilton swapped, there was a fluidity to both the band and show – and as Hamilton took the lead with ‘Blackout’ and ‘What You’re Doing’ it was as if a comfort blanket had been laid over the room, as his soothing tones acted like a balm to the soul. The band were fairly low-key between songs, but there was a warmth and appreciation emanating from the stage nonetheless – all met and returned with interest from a crowd that lapped up every moment regardless of whether it was new or old material. Halfway through the show there was a risk of it perhaps all drifting away into the ether, before the runaway train of ‘Saint Jerome’ and the slice of punk spirit that is ‘The Pelican’ injected a second wave of energy that lasted the whole night.

Up close, the sheer talent on stage is breathtaking. Phil Sumner (at times playing both cornet and keyboard simultaneously), Abi Fry on viola and Martin Noble on guitar keep far from the limelight on stage but irreplaceable within the dense layers of sound that the band capture. Meanwhile behind them all, drummer Matthew Wood relentlessly drove the band on – it’s easy to see that this is a real ‘group’ ensemble, all perfectly playing their part. As the night went on, each came to the fore in their own way. ’Remember Me’ did just that with minds being cast back to their thrilling debut album, while ‘All In It’ was simply huge – nearly every set of hands up in the air as a euphoric feeling swept the room.

During a brief encore, the band delivered a truly euphoric rendition of ‘The Great Skua’. It was gorgeously evocative, and beautifully life-affirming – just like British Sea Power themselves. Just like the bird itself, these wandering coastal travellers have found their way home once more.

Jamie MacMillan

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