Hailing from Brighton, England and currently digging into a 52 show tour of the states, British Sea Power hit the Cleveland scene hard, promoting their newest release ‘Do You Like Rock Music?’ at the Grog Shop Wednesday night (3.26.08).
With a stage presence described as energetic, eccentric, and whimsical, British Sea Power emerged from the murky depths of the Grog Shop and took the stage, looking as if they’d recently wrecked their indie pirate ship somewhere along the banks of Lake Erie after several years of aimless drifting, and had crawled, scratched, and fought their way to Cleveland Heights just in time to pick up their duct taped instruments and play some music.
Regardless of how they got there, Yan, Noble, Hamilton, Wood, Phil Sumner, and Abi Fry took the stage, drinks in hand, greeted by cheering fans and a mostly packed house. To get superficial for a brief moment: Yan (Scott Wilkinson) and Hamilton (Neil Wilkinson) sort of resemble hungry little house elves, a bit like human versions of Dobby and Kreature from Harry Potter. Yan had his pants tucked into his socks, and Hamilton was wearing a blouse like item that was missing a right armpit ,and based on the little flower shaped buttons that adorned it, appeared to have once (a very long time ago, indeed) belonged to a woman. Wood (Matthew Wood), a shaggy blonde number, perched behind his drum kit, was wearing a one piece jumper, looking like a lanky Fred, of Scooby Doo stardom. In appearance, Noble (Martin Noble) was rather inconspicuous, wearing mildly ragged clothing, with pegged pant legs that had much loved and well worn thermal underwear sticking out the bottoms. Little did I know that Noble needs no fancy attire to steal the spotlight. Abi was barefoot as usual, a daring move if you could see the state of the carpet on the Grog Shop stage. She was sporting what appeared to be an ice dancing dress of some sort, kind of like those commonly seen gracing the ice rinks of the winter Olympics circa 1984. Phil Sumner was clad in black, bandanna tied around shin, hiding behind a curtain of hair for most of the set… possibly hiding the scars from his recent and dramatic face plant, off of a 12ft. PA system, back in January that left him lying on unconscious on the floor, amidst the crowd, in a pool of his own blood. This is just speculation, however, he could just be shy and/or have unruly hairs.
The low stage, lack of security barrier, and the various colorful flags BSP had draped about the place gave the show an up close and intimate feel. The crowd was a varied one, and while a bit stoic at first, they managed to get into the set before the halfway mark, perhaps because Noble leapt from the stage, landed amongst them with his guitar in hand, and herded them into it.
Playing a 16 song set, with 8 songs off their recently released album (2.9.08) ‘Do You Like Rock Music?’ British Sea Power did more playing, singing and drinking than audience schmoozing. Cutting right into their dreamily eccentric and melodic set from the get go, “Lights Out for Darker Skies,” with Yan starting out the night in the lead vocalist position was launched first, and burst with noise and energy despite the deceptively mellow movements of the band. The lone song of the night off of 2005’s ‘Open Season,’ and the most spirited song about a collapsed Antarctic ice shelf I have ever heard, “Oh Larsen B” was nothing short of invigorating. Several songs from their 2003 full length debut ‘The Decline of British Sea Power,’ were well received by the audience and included “Favours in the Beetroot Fields,” “Remember Me,” and “Blackout,” with Abi Fry ditching her viola and taking over control of the keyboards.
Yan and Hamilton switched back and forth, passing off guitar and bass to one another several times during the set, mostly staring glassy eyed out over the audience as they sang. Noble made his presence known with energetic and frequent trips into the audience to play, as well as taking a moment to kindly lend a helpful hand to Hamilton, who’s guitar strap came loose as he was playing. Around the time “The Great Skua,” an instrumental rock out was delivered, the British Sea Power gents began to get a little rowdy, and by the time “The Spirit of St. Louis” came into being, Noble was riding around the stage on the shoulders of Sumner, who had exchanged his cornet for a guitar and was still somehow playing despite being climbed on like a jungle gym.
When the band returned to the stage for the encore, Noble appeared on stage first, and was swirling and twirling around in a giddy manner, with a 2 X 4 on his shoulders and a beer in his hand. Yan, Hamilton, and Sumner had to duck and dodge on several occasions to avoid being slammed in their face regions with it, but, the crowd was really excited about the antics, so, in the end, I suppose it was a successful gesture. The 2 X 4 got tossed around a little more, Noble shoved it down into his shirt and walked around, and the rest of British Sea Power played the old favorite “Carrion,” and the incredibly catchy, destined to be new favorite “No Lucifer,” that had everybody chanting “EASY! EASY!” in unison with Yan and Hamilton.
By the end, Noble was crawling about, upside down from the rafters, and Yan was swinging from them and kicking his feet around… certainly and without a doubt, British Sea Power lived up to their rather quirky and rowdy reputation.
Opening the night was local band Pale Hollow. Playing a rather short set, and being constantly reminded of their time limitations from the sound guy, Pale Hollow did their best to warm up the crowd… which was probably difficult, because the crowd was rather non-existent at that point in time. Looking as if they’d been ripped from their real bands and tossed onto the same stage without ever meeting before, the band members seemed to struggle a little with cohesion. Despite this, their set was solid and singer Michael Allen left the audience with a memorable and heartfelt delivery of “Sugarcane,” off of 2007’s self-titled album ‘Pale Hollow.’
The 1900’s, up and coming indie darlings out of Chicago, had no issues with cohesion despite there being seven of them crammed onto a very small stage. Signed to Parasol Records after the first live show ever, The 1900’s played a great set of melodic and enjoyable songs, driven by soft female vocals, violin, tambourines, keys, catchy choruses and an infectious retro feel. Dedicated fans were present and dancing, and the gesture was much appreciated by the smiling band members. Their brief set list included an array of songs from 2006’s ‘Plume Delivery EP,’ including “Bring the Good Boys Home” and “Patron Saint of the Mediocre” and several songs off of 2007’s ‘Cold & Kind LP’ including the tile track “Cold & Kind,” “Acutiplantar Dude,” and “Medium Way.” They seemed excited to be opening for British Sea Power, and as their set danced quickly by, the venue filled and the stage was properly set for the boys from Brighton.
Photos © Emily Drakulich