I have been a fan of British Sea Power for a while now. I am talking about the band here and don't want people to think i am some sort of un-American traitor. The British Navy can bite me -- i live pretty far inland, so am kind of out of their reach. I mean, you can't exactly sail a boat up the Chattahoochee… Anyway, this is the fourth time i have seen BSP the band live, and coincidentally they are on tour for their fourth full-length record. They have consistently put on fun shows, and The EARL is trying to be timely these days, so i was actually looking forward to this Sunday evening show.
We arrived about 8:40 or so, to find that the back concert room at The EARL was empty. Seriously: the sound guy, the bartender, the concert promoter, and EvilSponge were the only people there. As a result of this, the show start time kept getting pushed back. Originally, the first band should have gone on at 8:30, but that obviously didn't happen. In fact, they didn't go on until almost 9:15, almost an hour late. I understand that it sucks to be a touring band playing in an empty room, but dammit people i have to work in the morning. I do not want to be out late just because the band and promoter wanted to wait until more people showed up to start the show. Here's a hint: a lot of people show up late in order to miss the opening band. People do that on purpose!
The waiting really pissed me off, as you can tell.
During the wait i had ample time to marvel at the lavender drum case
that BSP had with them.
This opening act, A Classic Education, were actually really good. They were a five-piece act from Bologna, Italy. EvilSponge has a strange relationship with the Italian music scene, and as soon as they said that i was certain we had a promo request somewhere from this band's management. (We did!)
Italian rockers in action.
A Classic Education had a keyboard that i could actually hear, layering it alongside two guitars, bass, and drums.
You could actually hear her keyboards, while her voice was a little under-micced.
You win some, you lose some...
It might be because i was standing directly in front of his amp, but i found that the lead guitarist's work was really engaging. Not that he was doing anything that special, just a sort of trebly, chorusy playing, but it was really entertaining. In fact, the whole band was fun, gyrating around on stage, singing (even if, like the bassist, there wasn't a microphone anywhere near you), and generally having fun. The band seemed to be having a blast.
I liked his playing.
At one point in the show they covered Little Red Riding Hood by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs. This is a great song, and they did it well, really getting the crowd going. This was a perfect song for A Classic Education to cover, as that sort of groovy 1960s pop is pretty much what they were doing. Oh sure, they used pedals instead of the natural reverb of those old instruments, but the general sound and atmosphere were the same.
Hey there, little red riding hood...
They were definitely a fun band, and worth waiting for. I suppose. Since i was there on time, the band could have played at the normal time and i still would have enjoyed them. But i am trying to not be so bitter about late concert times.
When they were finished we waited some more. I was growing increasingly aware of the late hour. BSP's roadie taped down their setlist, and i went to take a look. It was long. I looked at the clock. There wasn't enough time left before midnight for the band to play all of those songs, and thanks to our archaic Jesus-lovin' laws, the show had to be over by midnight. I was hoping for it to be done sooner, but oh well.
Around 10:30 or so BSP took the stage. They are still a six-piece band, adding a violinist and a keyboardist/coronet player to the rock band lineup. I was pleased to see that they still had the violinist, as i like what she adds to their rock sound. The violin adds just a bit of depth to the proceedings.
In addition, the violinst is a much needed back rest during long sets.
There were some surprises, including a rollicking version of Larson B, but most of the first half (45 minutes) of the set was new material off of their just-released Valhalla Dancehall. I was unfamiliar with the record going in, and as they played this material i came to two conclusions. Firstly, it is a slower and more meandering than the material on their previous record, Do You Like Rock Music?. Secondly, it is more complex.
There was a lot of intricate guitar interplay, along with horns and strings and keyboards all adding to the melody. It sounded good, and i think i will enjoy listening to this LP. However, live i saw it wearing on the crowd. After about half an hour or so most people looked a little bleary eyed, and just wanted the band to start rocking.
"Easy! Easy! Easy!"
So, of course, they played No Lucifer, and from Martin Noble's first shouted "Easy!" the crowd got bouncing. The last part of the show was a lot more energetic, as the band played their older work, the time-tested "hits" from their first three records.
BSP rock out in three guitar lineup!
For the encore the band came out and played No Man Is An Archipelago from their excellent Man of Aran album. This is a long instrumental that slowly builds, with the violin taking the lead and the guitars playing counterpoint. BSP can make utterly lovely music when they want.
Horns: the secret to added loveliness in instrumental rock.
Then, of course, they ended with the traditional BSP guitar freakout, in which guitarist Martin Noble wandered into the crowd, seeing how far his guitar cord would go (not into the bathroom, alas), and climbing onto the roadie's shoulders for a long solo.
I hope the roadie gets paid extra for being a prop in
Martin Noble's guitar freakouts.
It was a good show, and i am glad i saw them. However, when i finally got home and crawled into bed with the anxious cats, i looked at the clock, did some quick math, and realized that i had only a little over 5 hours until i had to wake up to get ready for work. I hate being rushed to do anything, and being rushed to sleep just doesn't work. If only the show hadn't had that hour or so delay...