British Sea Power – Moho Live, Manchester – 26th April 2010

Posted on April 30, 2010


written for High Voltage

British Sea Power’s performance here in Manchester tonight was notable for numerous reasons. Firstly, the band offered a great display of musicianship, with each member worthy of high praise. An expert display of intricate songs demonstrated their undoubted ability and professionalism. They are also a band who possess great presence, with their distinct brand of on-stage antics and audience interaction making them extremely likeable. It is this that makes them so different to other high profile bands, they act as a constant, grounded source of decent music and passionate performance that you can rely on. However, the evening was also noteworthy because of the strange choice of venue for a gig of this standing. The poor sound quality was a hindrance to the enjoyment of the music and MoHo Live must surely rank as one of the worst venues in the area. The band’s management may argue that it served its purpose as a low-key location suitable for trying out new material but, in truth, it was a disappointment that MoHo’s sound system could not deliver the same level of competency that the band showed.

British Sea Power are one of the finest bands to rise from these shores in the last decade and tonight’s show demonstrated why. They write songs that are impressive and detailed, bettered by their unfailing ability to perform them wonderfully well. Their two main singers, Yan and Hamilton, share vocal, bass and guitar duties with effortless ease, and there is something instantly likeable about them. They are charismatic and entrancing, though without pretentions, just decent people with great musical nous. The arrangements that the band exhibit are intricate, with lots of dynamic, whilst the level of proficiency among each musician means that this ambitious approach is pulled off with precision. Critics have likened them to all sorts of bands, from Joy Division to the Pixies, but they have created a musical DNA which they can call their own. They played 5 new tracks tonight, including ‘Zeus’ which contained a great bass line, as well as classics like ‘Waving Flags’ and ‘No Lucifer’, and they left their zealous followers baying for more. The band obliged and finished the set with an incredible jam (named ‘Fuck It Up) that showed that, not only can they write songs which are wonderfully catchy and layered with pop sensibilities, but they also have the vision and ability to play seemingly unstructured and improvised rock music. Indeed, with a drummer as good as Wood, forceful jams such as this are perfectly possible, and his performance tonight was exceptional. His energy is outstanding, offering an exciting platform on which the others can build. ‘Waving Flags’ was a highlight, containing a beautifully effective chorus that roused the audience.

The band are now set for a busy month of gigging and, on tonight’s evidence, they will leave their audiences impressed. Their brand of creative song-writing performed extremely adeptly is a winning formula and they deserve all the success they get. If only the sound was up to standard, we could have been talking about a very memorable night indeed.

Support tonight came from Strange Ways, a relatively new band, but one which has so far received high praise from some established and influential people in music. Indeed, they recently opened for Echo and the Bunneymen, a personal request of the Liverpool band, and Steve Lamacq has played them on 6music. Tonight, they had another great opportunity, opening for British Sea Power in front of a full house of discerning music lovers. Unfortunately, despite this stirring start to their career, they didn’t make an impact here tonight. Obviously, the shocking sound system let them down, and therefore judgement should really be saved for a time when they play a decent venue, but there was little to be excited about. The vocals were very strange in the sense that not much singing was taking place. Instead, there appeared to be lots of shouting with no real melody to speak of. In fairness, they played with an aptitude that suggests that high profile support slots such as this are quite within their capabilities, and they possess some very decent compositions that are catchy and dynamic. They are all very comfortable musicians who know what they are doing, but when a band lines up with 2 people on vocals one would expect some emphasis on vocal melody; however, tonight’s performance suggested Strange Ways aren’t really concerned with pleasurable singing and this will surely hold them back. Based on this performance it is difficult to see a glittering career lying in wait but there is some promise that may be harnessed in better circumstances.

British Sea Power Set List

Lights Out For Darker Skies
Scottish Wildlife Experience
Apologies To Insect Life
Down on the Ground
Remember Me
Waving Flags
The Great Skua
The Spirit of St Louis
Canvey Island
No Lucifer
Fuck It Up

Posted in: Music