British Sea Power - Salty Water

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High Rocks, nr. Tunbridge Wells, UK

I love the smoky darkness of the Roadhouse and Night & Day as much as any of you. I love the way most of Manchester's venues are within easy walking distance of each other, and the 24 hour Spar is never far away. So what am I doing being driven through a wood in Kent? Strangely enough, I'm still hot on the trail of live music. A long way from home or any other recognisable urban civilisation, heading down the dark steep country lane out of Tunbridge Wells there's little to imply that there might be a gig down there. Or, in fact, much else. Then whilst I'm still wondering if the taxi driver's taking us somewhere quiet where our bodies may eventually be found by a dog walker, the shining lights of a timbered barn. High Rocks Inn is more accustomed to "Sunday Lunch With Kenny Ball" and wedding receptions than rock bands, but in a world increasingly populated with Carling Academies it makes rather a nice change for the jaded gig-goer. Much like British Sea Power themselves.

Yan bounds onstage with a red ribbon tied around one leg and that look in his eyes that says this is going to be a good one, and there's no easing in here as they pile straight into a blistering "Apologies To Insect Life" and bodies, some extremely young, go flying everywhere. Low stage, no barriers, monitors on stacked up beer crates and a potent mix of local teens and the band's notoriously excitable regular following, many of whom haven't seen them since last year, meant that injury is almost a given. Thus it's from the sidelines, popping back a slightly dislocated shoulder, that your correspondent enjoyed the imminent single "It Ended On An Oily Stage". A straightforward but lovely indie pop tune with intriguing lyrics about people finding God, if the reception here's anything to go by it could be their crossover hit - and it's not even the best new song in the set. A tender, slower tune "Like A Honeycomb", delivered in trademark irresistible half-whisper briefly calms the increasingly chaotic mass down the front before Hamilton, looking as ever like he's been nesting in a nearby hedgerow and wearing the type of cardigan a retired teacher might don to tend an allotment takes the lead vocal for a pretty little indie-pop song "How Will I Ever Find My Way Home". In between, well-worn classics such as "Carrion" and "Blackout" seem to sparkle afresh - or maybe it's that here amongst the low wooden beams that these five young men who always seemed more superimposed on the modern world than a part of it really feel at home. And as Yan picks out the delicate introduction to regular set closer "Lately" there's a certain anticipation. This is a band who know how to end a gig properly, none of this thanks / goodnight / shamble off nonsense - by the end of a British Sea Power gig it's quite normal to see people wandering shellshocked going "what the fuck just happened?" All we know is it won't involve the legendary bear tonight - according to Sea Power myth he passed away during last year's festival season and lies buried in a wood somewhere - not that he could have fitted on a stage this size anyway. Guitarist Noble's the first to go, up the back wall and across the ceiling like a crazed marmoset until he's hanging over the centre of the audience, somersaulting around a beam whilst Woody bangs his drums ever harder and faster. Yan's next, leaving Eamon thrashing at a guitar as he surfs the crowd, howling and twisting his wiry little frame from one ecstatic knot of fans to the next, and finally Hamilton's swinging from a chandelier, although by now I'm somewhere near the bottom of a three deep pile-up across the monitors. Then finally Wood slows the beat to a stop and band and fans gradually untangle themselves, grinning and wide-eyed. The greatest rock'n'roll band in the world just did it again.

Author: Cath Aubergine
Source: Manchester Music
Date: 11th February 2005

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