Tuesday, 12 November 2013

896 EDITORS, British Sea Power, Bristol O2 Academy, Monday 11 November 2013

To think I nearly didn’t bother with this one… Editors, one of my favourite UK bands of recent times, a consistently excellent act with an impressive body of work firmly rooted sonically in the 80’s dark, pseudo gothic (rather than Goth), brooding rockist style of my youth, but unafraid to push the envelope a bit on said sound, playing in Bristol! However, having a busy time of it in mid-November, gigwise (Frightened Rabbit in Southampton the day before, The National in London this Thursday) plus having seen an inconsistent but fine overall set from them at Reading Festival in support of their slightly more muted new album, “The Weight Of Your Love”, I was prepared to give this one a miss. That is, until they added similarly enduring live faves British Sea Power as support! Two great 80’s-influenced indie rock bands for the price of one? Oh, go on then…

Determined therefore not to miss a minute of this, I hit the road early and parked up at quarter past seven, hitting the rapidly filling and eerily purple UV-bathed venue and heading straight for the front. The usual plethora of foliage and branches covering the onstage frontline set-up greeted me, with interspersed twinkling lights giving a festive feel. British Sea Power took the stage to an eerie instrumental (no Gregorian chanting this time!), powering into the breathless tumbling drumbeat and intricate guitar line of opener “Remember Me”, building increment by increment to the descending choral hook. “Waving Flags” was up next, the female violinist’s soaring harmony lines adding to the anthemic feel, and Yan now a more confident if still idiosyncratic vocalist. They were great, with riffery and dramatic driving drumbeats evoking windswept open beaches and thunder-cracked skies. Oh, and then there was the bear…! Before the sweeping groove of “Spirit Of St. Louis” a bloke in a giant polar bear suit appeared in front of us in the photographer’s pit! Said bear then proceeded to wander into the crowd to dance, while the band, nonplussed, played on, Yan interjecting bits of “Louie Louie” and “The Clapping Song” into this elongated version. Closing track, “Carrion” was another lengthy epic, sealing a splendid set which swooped and soared like a swallow’s flight path, changing rhythm and mood effortlessly in mid-air. Forget the old Bunny comparison, they’ve moved beyond that; nowadays they just sound like British Sea Power.

A great start; hopefully the main act could maintain this quality! I kept my front, stage left spot, as Editors entered at 9 onto a dry-ice choked stage backlit by small icy blue circular lights, to a symphonic version of “The Weight” from their new album, all drama and gravitas. The libidinous bassline of haunting newie “Sugar” opened matters, with vocalist Tom Smith, already all angles, dark dramatic silhouettes and kinetic energy, grabbing the mic and singing, nay, proclaiming, in his imperious dark baritone. “Thanks for choosing to spend your Monday evening with us,” he politely announced before the unexpectedly early but brilliantly soaring wall of noise “Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors”.

Editors tonight were a band in a hurry, ripping through the set with pace and power. Editors tonight were also bloody magnificent, the new 5-piece line-up working perfectly and giving both the new numbers, often a little thin-sounding on the new record, and the more established material extra layers and dimensions. The lights burned red for “Eat Raw Meat = Blood Drool”, with even this slightly throwaway number gaining extra impetus with their performance tonight. “Would you mind if we played a song from our first album?” Smith enquired to introduce a stomping “All Sparks”, before the massively shuddering Middle-Eastern “Cutter”-like intro heralded a soaring, magnificent “A Ton Of Love”, a brilliant set highlight with a strident, powerful chorus.

“Bullets” was brilliant, darkly dramatic, and the stately and hypnotic Gothic synth pulse of “In This Light And On This Evening” built to a visceral and thrilling crescendo of cascading noise. The boys were on fire tonight, and they knew it; “Are you still with us? We’ve only just got started!” Smith announced before the staccato riff of “Munich”, the energetic Smith climbing atop his piano to deliver an impassioned vocal. The lower-key but still yearning closer “Honesty” rounded off a startlingly magnificent set, before the band returned to deliver a smoothly chugging, synth-driven “Bricks And Mortar”.  The intense robotic dance of “Papillon”, which again, as per at Reading Festival, led to a lengthy and riveting crescendo, finished off a quite brilliant 1 ½ hour performance, easily the best I’ve seen this band deliver.

Every one a winner tonight! I needed the day off after to recover and recharge before the National jaunt, but this one was well worth it. Boy, was it ever… Savages might be the most promising new English band to come along in many a moon, but to deserve the epithet of “The Best English Band”, well, they’ll need to prise that title from Editors’ vice-like grip. And on tonight’s splendid evidence, that’ll take some doing…

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