Earlier this year British Sea Power signalled their intent to pay homage to debut album 'The Decline Of British Sea Power' on the 12th anniversary of its release by playing the LP in its entirety. At Camden's Roundhouse tonight (June 13th), the venue is awash with British Sea Power fans surging forward, eager to hear those songs they have known and loved for some time. The excitement is palpable.
Drenched in yellow light and adorned with branches and leaves, the set has an earthy feel. As the familiar harmonies of 'Men Together' fill our ears Yan, Hamilton, Noble and Wood take their places. Barefoot, they stand amongst their man-made forest. Grounded, they return to their roots.
The mischievous bass line of 'Apologies To Insect Life' draws us in and we are flung into an assault of frantic drums and frenzied guitar work, which continues into 'Favours In The Beetroot Fields'. The post-punk influence is ever-present and those early day comparisons to Joy Division are brought to mind as Eamon Hamilton struts about the stage, banging his drum. Punters fling themselves about with reckless abandon, but Yan's energy is less charged. He seems controlled in a way that befits a 30-something man revisiting the work of his twenties: with a touch of apprehension.
'Something Wicked' sees a change of tempo, and Yan relaxes, his haunting vocals at their best when given space to lead and rise with the song's anthemic quality. "It starts with love of foliage and ends in camouflage" rings out as die-hard fans hold branches aloft, many of them adorned in BSP T-shirts that are now slightly faded and ill fitting, but worn with pride nonetheless.
The aptly named 'Remember Me' heralds the moment that British Sea Power really begin to enjoy themselves. Noble's masterful guitar riff fills the auditorium and arms are raised, eyes are closed. 'Fear Of Drowning' is equally epic as it washes over us in waves, and we swim in the glory of reverence; lifted and transported back to 2003.
Abi Fry and Phil Sumner join the band on stage for 'The Lonely' and though Fry's violin can't be heard too well over the rise and fall of guitars, her bow slices back and forth, slowly and methodically. Yan's husky voice vows "Like Liberace, I will haunt you with peculiar piano riffs" - a nod to Sumner's melodically adept work on keys. 'Carrion' is the band's big hit and it doesn't disappoint. There is a sense that Yan has been saving himself for this moment, "brilliant in mortality". Hamilton takes to the mic for 'Blackout'. His sweet voice is childlike and less stirring than Yan's and the song doesn't hold much weight in comparison.
'Lately' pulls us in bar by bar, climbing and soaring, layered and sonically rich in its instrumentation. Fry's violin dances above the climactic flurry of guitars and keys. British Sea Power reach the conclusion of these epic thirteen minutes amid chants of "B-S-P" and Yan raises his glass to the audience. He is so moved that he misjudges the opening bar of 'A Wooden Horse', proclaiming "It's been a very emotional night. It's interfering with my guitar playing."
Part two sees an array of tracks from British Sea Power's prolific discography including 'The Spirit of St. Louis', 'Machineries of Joy' and 'Lucifer'. Eamon runs amok in the auditorium, strutting about the upper circle and banging his drum, whilst the band's famed eight-foot bear can be seen crowd surfing in the pit.
British Sea Power's sound has developed almost beyond recognition in the 12 years since 'The Decline...' was released, but 'decline' they have not. Tonight they have proved beyond the quirky onstage antics for which they were first famed, that those early songs still stand strong and true.
Words: Becci Ride