On Sunday I had the pleasure of seeing a band who probably rank amongst the top of the ‘bands I’ve been to see live an unhealthy amount’ category. I think this may have been the 7th (or possibly 8th) time I’ve been to see them put on a live show of some form, whether it be their own intimate gig, at a festival or playing the local sweaty student night club.
Previous shows have been nothing short of spectacular, combining onstage theatrics such as members sitting on one another’s shoulders whilst jousting a giant bear named Ursula with their guitars, to some musical accompaniment from the London Bulgarian Choir.
Sunday’s show at The Forum didn’t have any of the above. Aside from a large screen which occasionally had some imagery of wild life (you guessed it - mainly birds) to accompany certain tracks, plus the usual spattering of onstage foliage, there were no gimmicks or cheap thrills. This is by no means a criticism, it’s just after all these years I’ve been to British Sea Power’s shows, I’ve come to expect a unique factor to be present, be it musically related or aesthetically pleasing. I guess that’s my fault for having certain expectations.
The set itself was predominately influenced by tracks from their most recent album Valhalla Dancehall, which encompassed approximately one third of the playlist. This worked just fine and all the new tracks sounded great live, however in all honesty I couldn’t quite get into the live rendition of ‘Living Is So Easy’. It just didn't seem to translate as well live as it does on record which is a great shame yet inevitable, what with it being the least traditional style on the new record, mainly revolving around keyboards rather than the usual guitars.
All the previous albums aside from Man of Aran got a look in at some point throughout the night, with a selection of crowd favourites such as Remember Me, It Ended On An Oily Stage and No Lucifer being well received by an increasingly elevated audience. Sadly the usual climactic epic prog rock closer ‘Lately’ from debut album ‘The Decline of…’ didn’t get a look in, which I have fond memories of deafening me back in 2008.
I guess the natural progression of a band releasing more and more albums will inevitably lead to the exclusion of certain tracks from setlists, especially when promoting a new album. All in all, a solid set from a band proving to be increasingly adept, and apparently, more mature. Some mild disappointment on my behalf from the unusual lack of showmanship. Maybe that ship has sailed.
Words: Neil Phillips
Photo: Hamish Bredin