There aren’t many bands I have seen more than ten times. In fact, there is only one band that’s reached double figures, and that is British Sea Power. Why do I keep on returning to see them? The answer: variety.
Over the past 12 years, since I first saw them, they have expanded their sound from a four to a six-piece band and have played some of the most unusual venues in Britain; including The Natural History Museum. There has been stuffed animals, monkey boxers, wrestling, stage dives and of course, giant dancing bears. These are not gimmicks to make up for their mediocre back catalogue like an 80’s hair-metal band. The music is paramount, and certainly, British Sea Power knows how to deliver.
And deliver they did at London’s O2 Empire (Shepherd’s Bush) while promoting their sixth album, Let The Dancers Inherit The Party. Black Honey and Tom Williams did a great job ofwarming up an audience that was built up of mainly middle-aged men (an unexplained phenomenon), and the beautiful Empire slowly began to be engulfed in foliage in time for the headline act. British Sea Power began with their raucous 2011 single Who’s In Control before going deep into tracks from this year’s excellent new album. ‘International Space Station’ and Hamilton (bassist) sung ‘What You’re Doing’ sounded better live than on the record with comparisons to The Psychedelic Furs. Playing six new tracks in a row was a brave move, and some of their more fair-weather fans did start to make trips to the bar until they played some old favourites. The sublime Lights Out For Darker Skies saw Noble prove that he’s the guitar hero of this generation, and Remember Me whose infectious energy allowed the older generation to relive their punk days with some frantic pogoing.
Following these great songs, the band mixed the new with the old and eventually played ten tracks off their new album; which shows exactly how proud they are of their new material. Keep On Trying (Sechs Freunde) was very well received, with the help of a cheer-leading giant polar bear. Violinist Abi Fry beamed throughout, and frontman Yan made a rare aside to the audience expressing that the crowd had the best reaction to the track so far.
They went on to play two of their most interactive tracks from 2008’s Do You Like Rock Music?: Waving Flags and The Great Skua. The latter sounded as epic as ever and filled the hall with hypnotic hush before the rousing crescendo caused the entire 02 Empire to be an impromptu choir.
The band leave the stage and return dressed in spacesuits to play the title-track from Machineries Of Joy, and why not? The polar bear returned with a friendly brown bear and made their way dancing through the audience as the band play their old favourites. There were no issues regarding the absence of the former guitar for tracks Spirit Of St Louis and Carrion as the entire venue were up on their feet and joined in on the chant of All In It. “We’re all in it, and we all close our eyes” rings around the venue like a brainwashed cult, and all of the disciples of British Sea Power were euphoric to see the band break into a cover of Iggy Pop’s ‘Fun Time’ to end another memorable gig.
As we walked out, many fans were still heard chanting, still hypnotised by the show. Another great performance, we may have missed out on some stage diving from Nobel, but this is a band who are recharged by the fantastic reaction of their new material and there is a similar vibe in their shows as they had during their prime period of Do You Like Rock Music? They are playing festivals all summer long and will be a must see, if you are not sure where to find them – just follow the bear.