Friday, 7 April 2017

1,032 BRITISH SEA POWER, Menace Beach, Bristol Trinity, Thursday 6th April 2017

The return of British Sea Power…always happy for this lot to be part of my gig “Dance Card”, especially when they’re promoting a new album! Virtually 3 years since they last inveigled their way onto my schedule, with a storming set at Sub 89 (gig 911), they announced a tour in support of new album “Let The Dancers Inherit The Party”, which on early listens is a fine addition to their body of work, a very consistent and tuneful listen which almost harks back to their initial, early 80’s New Order/ Bunnymen influenced work, whilst retaining their offbeat and unorthodox, quintessentially English sounding indie rock, and love of sweeping, soaring and anthemic pseudo choral hooks. So, despite Bristol being such a pain to get out of these days, another trip West down the M4 beckoned…

BSP devotees Stuart (for whom tonight would be his 30th BSP gig!) and Andy, plus crew, unfortunately already had a (very) full carload, so this was a solo jaunt down for me, rather annoyingly being held up by 2 inexplicable delays (particularly annoying being the one which advised the M4 was closing down to 1 lane… then didn’t!) but parking in Cabot at 7.45 for the short walk around to this evocative old church venue. A sell-out, this, but plenty of space early doors for support Menace Beach, on at 8 and playing their set line astern, perched precariously on the edge of the stage. The scuzzy, sleazoid riffery and nasally, echoey vocals set the tone for a discordant set of riff-heavy early 90’s US alt-rock influenced noise, mainly slow to mid-paced numbers which, at their best, recalled the likes of Tripping Daisy. I liked newie “Suck It Out”, a creepy bassline-led mutant beast with a big chorus, but the subsequent “Tennis Court” was a poor off-key Nirvana cast-off, and very little else made an impression. I’d bought and enjoyed their 2015 album “Rat World” (especially the racy track “Tastes Like Medicine” – omitted tonight), but blanked so far on the new CD. On tonight’s disappointing evidence, that’s probably the right shout…

I ran into Stuart afterwards, then we retreated back to join the crew just in front of the mixing desk for pre-gig chat. A quick loo run (my tummy’s playing up a little tonight) before British Sea Power took the dry-ice strewn stage shortly after 9 pm, as usual liberally decorated with foliage, and with the omnipresent wooden owl on the speaker stack, overlooking proceedings. A triple salvo off the new CD ensued, with opener “Bad Bohemian” recalling “Ocean Rain” era Bunnymen, and “International Space Station” featuring a typically widescreen, soaring chorus. However, maybe distracted by the lights (remarking to the mixing desk, “I know it’s an essential part of your artistic vision, but it’s fucking blinding me!”), vocalist Yan seemed to take time to settle, and much of the early set seemed an easing-in process, perhaps to be expected on the tour’s opening night. The off-kilter riff and heady rush of oldie “Remember Me” was a dynamic early highlight, showing Menace Beach how to do “discordant” properly, newie “Ivy Lee” was a tuneful melancholy wallow, and an unexpected cover of Galaxie 500’s “Tug Boat” was a moody, brooding delight with a stretched, jagged finale. However, in comparison with the overt dynamism of their last viewing, much of the mid set seemed more low-key than usual, and the set felt a little uneven. More evidence of this was in how the set concluded; a playful “Keep On Trying” with its’ cheeky “Sex Freunde!” chant ceded to the angelic choral opening of an imperious, best-of-set “Waving Flags” with a joyous, raise the roof, terrace chant hook, and the haunting film-score instrumental “The Great Skua”, which would have closed out the set on an epic, triumphal note. However a couple of subsequent low-key newies saw the set out on a more morose, sombre note, ending an overall curate’s egg of a set.

The encores, however, were terrific; the band took the stage again wearing shiny silver tinfoil suits (“we were going to wear them from the start but we weren’t sure…” advised Yan), launching into a stomping “No Lucifer” with its’ “easy, easy” chant echoing around the venue. A frantic, breathless “Spirit Of St. Louis” was great, and by chanted closer “All In It” I was down the front – all in it, indeed! A couple of “bears” wandering through the crowd, guitarist Martin Noble crowd-surfing, and some riff tomfoolery from Yan provided a splendid ending to a 2 hour performance, variable at times but ultimately entertaining and entirely worthwhile.

Missed out on the stage lists but grabbed the one on the mixing desk, then had cause to thank my misbehaving tummy, as I nipped to the loo, then emerged to spot BSP violinist/ keyboardist Abi onstage. She graciously signed my list, then very kindly took it backstage to get the boys to sign it too. Result! A better result than the journey home, which was horrendous – the M32 Northbound was closed right up to Junction 1, so I slowly picked my way through Easton and Fishponds, taking over ½ hour to get to the M32/ M4 Junction, which was longer than it took to get home from there! Yikes!

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