You know you’re at a British Sea Pow­er gig when there’s some slight­ly weird stuff at the merch stall and the stage is full of foliage. 

The band’s new March release Let The Dancers Inher­it the Par­ty has had pos­i­tive reac­tion from fans – it’s a tri­umphant, upbeat and play­ful col­lec­tion, designed to give us hope in these dark times, BSP, as always, draw­ing inspi­ra­tion from a wealth of sources. And hear­ing it played live, at Shep­herd’s Bush Empire, the mate­r­i­al pos­i­tive­ly shimmers.

The band opens with Val­hal­la Dance­hall’s song about protest  – Who’s In Con­trol from 2011, as if to remind us that polit­i­cal mad­ness and insta­bil­i­ty are cyclic phe­nom­e­na. This is fol­lowed by a run of the new mate­r­i­al, start­ing with Inter­na­tion­al Space Sta­tion. One of the plea­sures of live per­for­mance is when the artists add some­thing inde­fin­able to a song you’ve been lis­ten­ing to, lift­ing it from ‘nice’ to a thing of pure beau­ty. Not sure if it’s Matthew Wood’s urgent drum­ming, Jan Scott Wilkin­son’s lush vocals or the seduc­tive refrain “Between the moon and the stars…” but when I hear the song now, this inspired live ver­sion is what I remem­ber. Sim­i­lar­ly St Jerome is a blind­er played live with its extend­ed instru­men­tal section.

They fol­low this with the first sin­gle from Let the Dancers – Bad Bohemi­an, which feels as it it’s already becom­ing one of the band’s clas­sics. It starts with a clas­sic BSP spine-tin­gling intro, help­ing to rev up an already enthu­si­as­tic crowd. What You’re Doing is a dreamy, floaty and lay­ered num­ber, with a def­i­nite Fleet­wood Mac (Rumours era) edge. Keep on Try­ing (Sechs Fre­unde) isn’t one the album’s best with a some­what clunky Franz Fer­di­nand feel, but played live it melt­ed into the gen­er­al enjoy­ment of the evening. 

The new mate­r­i­al grad­u­al­ly gave way to a run through of the band’s clas­sics with No Lucifer giv­ing the chance for the crowd to join in with a bit of “easy, easy”, fol­lowed by Wav­ing Flags and the emo­tive The Great Skua. For the encore, which includ­ed Car­rion and Iggy Pop’s Fun­time, British Sea Pow­er reap­peared on stage resplen­dent in sil­ver suits.  I kept hop­ing for (but did­n’t expect) Apolo­gies to Insect Life and indeed it was­n’t to be. Nev­er­the­less the show was BSP at their best, togeth­er with impec­ca­ble stage light­ing, atmos­pher­ic foliage and the bears which made danced along with the bounc­ing crowds.



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