British Sea Power on the road, exclusive reportage from the official BSP archivist…
Brighton, Tuesday, October 26
It is, to quote them lush Lenny Henry fans in The Libertines, an ending fitting for the start. It’s 5am on the first night of the tour. In the Brighton home of BSP men Eamon and Hamilton, a party is taking place. There are three young women dancing away in matching, barely-there Edwardian corsets – accessorised with pheasant feathers and tartan sashes. There is also Liela Moss of The Duke Spirit, doing a bold interpretative dance routine to ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ by Queen. She can’t half move and is easily as alluring as the spongy plant from which she takes her name. Everyone is supping the drink of the night, the Gingersnake (Trafalgar family-value gin mixed with Lynx lager and Frosty Jack white cider ).
The atmosphere is one of celebration. British Sea Power have just played a victorious concert at Brighton’s Concorde 2 – the first of four intimately-scaled shows to be staged under the Club Sea Power banner. All in all, it is the kind of action for which, like the brave island of Malta, they should be collectively awarded the George Cross. Now, however, members of BSP are sat down in the cellar with Mia from Electrelane and some of support band The Mystery Jets. They are somewhere in the middle of a five-hour jam session loosely based on Jonathan Richman’s ‘Egyptian Reggae’. It is the kind of action for which they should be taken outside and shot. Gingersnake is drunk and the jam goes on. And on. Eventually, at 7.30am, there is a mercy killing. The Duke Spirit decide they can stand no more and turn off the mains. Well done The Dukes!
Nottingham, Tuesday, November 2
Crunch! Shhssss! With a hiss of hydraulics, the BSP tour vehicle comes to a halt outside Nottingham’s Rescue Rooms. It is a plush ten-wheel sleeper bus – state-of-the-art chassis by Scania of Sweden, immaculate bodywork by Van Hool of Belgium. “But what gives?!” we hear you ask. “Surely this is a band known and loved for their amazing and innovative touring methods? Like, how could we forget the time they toured the Scilly Isles in a Brixham trawler?”
Well, yes, but that was then. Nowadays, everyone has crashed the retro-biplane tour mode. From now on it’s global-positioning satellite all the way for BSP. This Nottingham show is intended as a belated tribute to the great Brian Clough. This man is a god to BSP, both for his maverick leadership style and for a fashion sense that combined flasher mac, brogues and soiled Oxfam tracksuit bottoms. Noble, BSP guitarist and man of action, goes off
in search of a picture of Cloughie to stick on the giant Remembrance Day poppy he’s made.
With support from Chris T-T and The Mystery Jets, the show is a wild one. Driven into a frenzy by the new BSP songs ‘Elegiac Stanzas’ and ‘Shit Factory’, the crowd clap very enthusiastically indeed. BSP then cover Galaxie 500’s ‘Tugboat’ and it sounds IMMENSE. By the end, Noble’s in the crowd with a marching drum jammed on his head, while singer man Yan is halfway down the room walking on people’s hands. Hamilton repeatedly bounces his bass off his own bonce and Woody drums away like a mountain hare in Spring. After the show, they dance to MC Hammer and share grapes with everyone.
Manchester, Wednesday November 3
Waking in Manchester, there is bad news. Frat-boy hobbit Bush Jr has been re-elected. But, always a silver lining. Eamon and Hamilton had bet on the election and now Eamon is 50p to the good. By way of celebration, he takes Noble to Manchester Museum to press some buttons and get scared by a stuffed Bengalese tiger. The pair discover a sea beast called a dugong and promise to see one for real before the world goes to war. It’s great to be back in Manchester, but playing here always feels a bit like doing an accidental benefit show. Once this proud city had Factory Records and the great aviation company Avro. Now it just has lots of cafés and Mark E Smith sucking his teeth.
But Manchester 2004 does have Storm Records – home of tonight’s support act David Wrench. As he takes the stage at the Academy 3, it’s clear that Wrenchy is some presence. A 6ft 5in albino dude of Welsh/Viking extraction, he is wearing an immaculate white leather suit, flanked by voluptuous keyboard lady Mary and elfin guitar man Hywel. Over his rural synth pop he gives bittersweet dissection of the British Isles, “From Land’s End to the Shetland Isles… from St Kilda to the Serpentine”. Tonight BSP must rise to the challenge.
Nae problem. A full-throttle finale of ‘Lately/Rock In A’ ends with the soundman playing TS Eliot while Yan roars selected lines from The Streets’ ‘Don’t Mug Yourself’. Noble dangles from a fluorescent lighting tube. As BSP leave the stage, two young lovelies skip toward the exit, waving oak leaves liberated from the stage set. A stocky 30-something gent in a St Helens rugby shirt bellows to no-one in particular: “Fucking hell, I haven’t seen a band like this in 20 years.” This is BSP – something for all ages.
London, Thursday November 4
BSP arrive in the smoke having sat up all night listening to two talking books they found in Hove Scope – Brideshead Revisited read by Bruce Jones (Les Battersby from Coronation Street) and Kes done by Whoopi Goldberg. At soundcheck a guitar amp blows up. The doors open to the sound of Club Sea Power DJs blending The Supremes into the krankenhaus funk of Campag Velocet. Then The Mystery Jets take the stage with their truly astonishing mix of prog rock and the Libbos. Their stage set features a large scale model of a Messerschmitt Me 163 WW2 fighter (the rocket-propelled ‘Komet’ – Grossdeutschland Ed). The crosses and swastikas have all been scrubbed off and replaced with question marks – take that, perverted Nazi science! Before anyone’s had the chance to draw breath, next turn The Pipettes start their set, re-doing the classic girl-group thing like a young Princess Margaret fronting The Ronettes. Bazzin’!
As BSP assume the position, everything becomes a blur of power chords, saliva and sycamore boughs. A rare airing of BSP’s B-side take on the 1930s Czech tune ‘Fakir’ is driven on by viola and human blood. ‘Remember Me’ resounds like a giant iceberg breaking free from Larsen B, foremost of all the collapsing Antarctic shelves. Charismatically, BSP end it all with a perfectly-choreographed synchronised group crowd surf. Then they head backstage to drink wine with bubbles and throw lighted cigarettes at friend and foe. For now their work is done. Truly, this is all you will need this winter.