British Sea Power were one of my favourite bands I saw at Kendal Calling last summer. I wondered if they would live up to that wild, passionate, yet ethereal performance, on this sold-out Tuesday night in Fibbers. The stage was decked out similarly, with the adornment of fake leaves and what looked like old Christmas tree lights wrapped around the microphone stands. It bore promise of a similar experience. And it was everything that enrapturing festival performance was. And then some. (But minus the dancing bears, sadly. Though I don’t think they would have fit in Fibbers tonight anyway; the venue was fit to explode with a lively, bustling crowd. The excitement was almost tangible.)
I have never been so mesmerised by the drummer of the band as I was by two-piece support act Warm Digits’ Andrew Hodson. His drumming was of technical excellence, yet he attacked his drum kit with all the frantic energy and excitement of a hyperactive child. In parts he almost made drumming look like a dance routine. However, what was particularly striking about their set was that they felt no need for a verbal introduction, or any intermittent comments. They let their sound speak for them, relentlessly immersing the quickly gathering crowd in their instrumental, funky electro-rock, therefore making their performance an intense sonic experience, rather than a string of songs.
British Sea Power attract a seriously devoted crowd tonight. Young lads stand alongside ageing rockers, united in their appreciation. BSP begin mellow, with a track from their soundtrack album From the Sea to the Land Beyond. I love how their music can be swayed along to dreamily, with its hopeful, pining guitar and viola riffs, and simultaneously moshed to. While I opted for swaying dreamily, the crowd to my right had descended into an incredibly bouncy mosh pit by their third song, ‘Monsters of Sunderland’. This only gets wilder in future tracks such as ‘Remember Me’ (which received one of the loudest cheers of the night) and ‘Machineries of Joy’ (Abi’s viola in particular here sounded exquisitely soul-searching).
Half way through the set, the singers Jan and Neil swap, Neil taking the lead. His whispery voice is the key component in creating BSP’s obscure sound. I feel like those oddly penetrating, eerily pale and wide eyes of his are staring right into my soul, into every soul in the room. They make a strong emotional connection with the enchanted audience as he sings ‘When you reach out and you get shot down, once more now…’ The strange understanding of his eyes becomes a little unnerving during ‘Loving Animals’ though, as he softly croons what sounds to be a very ambiguous view on bestiality. Their finale, ‘Carrion’ climaxes like an explosion, in light and sound and energy. The unity between band and audience in this intimate setting, which has been felt throughout the whole set, now comes in full force. Jan thrusts his microphone into the crowd, pumping his other fist wildly for us to sing along. He implores us to join him with a crazed, passionate pleading in his eyes. And we do, we sing ‘We’re all in it’ and become more than just spectators of the show; we are part of the whole experience, united within the music.
It was a poignant ending, so perfect that I almost didn’t want there to be an encore. Almost. Their encore was in no way an anti-climax after the elevated (almost like divine revelation in places- with the bright lights and choir-like music) experience we have just had. BSP are good at being romantics, and they are damn good at being riotous too. A very intoxicated Jan crowd surfs, and appears to almost pass out as the band play crowd-pleaser ‘No Lucifer’ at full throttle. Despite their second exit not being as explosive as the first, I am left thoroughly satisfied once again.By Sophie Brear