British Sea Power - Salty Water

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Spaceland, Los Angeles, USA

It was the night before Halloween, but the spectacle that the Brighton, England-based quintet put on was not merely some holiday dress-up lark. It was an every-night, this-is-who-we-are dress-up lark.

With quiet force British Sea Power took the stage of Spaceland, which had been magically transformed from a gaudy metallic blue and silver-draped Los Angeles club with low ceilings into a distinctly British-feeling woodland, complete with fresh and dried tree branches, aromatic fennel and large plastic statues of an owl and a falcon, peering from atop Marshall perches. Although not wearing their oft-seen military outfits, the band came in an array of vaguely militaristic dress, resembling kids playing fort in their living room - not too cool trouser legs tucked into large, thick socks; a scoop-neck t-shirt with a large badge featuring a puffin; and a gigantic white fuzzy Russian-style hat. And so we were presented with the characters known simply as Yan (lead vocals, guitar), Hamilton (bass, vocals), Noble (guitar), Wood (drums) and Eamon (keyboards, bass drum).

Influenced by the likes of Joy Division, British Sea Power specialize in the ethereal, washing their listeners with gorgeously melancholic melodies and reflective, poetic lyrics. These nice, handsome boys with a sharper edge lurking just below the surface - demonstrated in Yan's vocals, which are a cross between David Bowie and David Byrne - would make good candidates for the Dead Poets Society. One could imagine their after party involves the band retreating into a cave where they feed on the words of Keats for enlightenment as they don crowns made of branches.

Throughout the 80-minute set of lush and tuneful sonic landscapes, the only words from the stage came near the beginning as Yan apologized for coming on late "although it's not our fault." But a lack of banter didn't matter as the audience already seemed to feel like they had been let into the inner world of British Sea Power; they shared a bond that didn't need to be expressed in words. Although the show was slower in the start, the band kept the audience's attention throughout the mellow set. It was the final song of the evening, however, that defined the entire performance.

As they ended their set with the catchy and rhythmic "Lately" from their ironically-titled debut album, The Decline Of British Sea Power, madness ensued and the show made a sharp crecendo into rock n' roll indulgence. Eamon, after parading through the small club taking full 180-degree swings at his drum, climbed back on stage and spontaneously (it seemed) dropped his drum to the ground and picked up a guitar. The band's crew nervously spotted as he was lifted onto Noble's shoulders and the pair jumped into the audience, teetering. Hamilton then climbed on his brother Yan's shoulders and held his bass aloft, nearly scraping the ceiling. As Eamon and Hamilton made their dismounts, mic stands, large chunks of brush and guitars tumbled to a heaping pile on the floor. Yan then, as if possessed by an '80s breakdancer, ended the finale with a handstand, legs bent in the air.

In their wake, British Sea Power left a little destruction and a lot of beauty. It was fucking awesome.

Author: Dani Barnard
Source: Indie Rock Resource
Date: 30th October 2003

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