Saturday, November 10, 2007


Ah the Yorkshire Dales. God's Own Country. Or a very bleak, windswept landscape with no signs of life for miles around. Except the Tan Hill Inn, Britain's highest pub (1372 feet above sea level) and the inspired setting for one stop on British Sea Power's current tour.

This was the only date I could get to this tour so expectations were high. Arriving at Tan Hill on Friday night in the dark with rain threatening and a side wind so strong you had to lean into it even just to walk, I started to wonder if it was such a good idea. But just stepping over the threshold into the warmth and welcome of the Tan Hill Inn dispelled the concerns. They were further dispelled by the Black Sheep bitter which slipped down with velvety smoothness. Tan Hill Inn has three rooms with one main bar and then a 'barn' has been built at the back which you can walk straight into from the pub. The barn was a square room, built of white-washed breeze block with a small stage at one end. The word 'functional' comes to mind.

Wild Things were support. The first song was a curious mix of folky chorus, falsetto vocals and guitar played like a banjo. The second song was the same. The third was different - with hints of A Certain Ratio or Postcard records jangle. A very curious experience, still not sure what to make of it.

The barn and the stage were so small, BSP didn't make an entrance so much as appear and tore straight into Remember Me. The next three songs were equally fast and furious and the reaction from the crowd was great. I reckon there was about 175 people in the barn and the atmosphere and the intimate setting were great without ever feeling packed in.

I felt the pace dropped a bit after the first four songs as the set mixed songs from the new album (coming out 14 January) and older mid-tempo songs like Blackout. They were also accompanied by Phil on cornet, air raid siren and (I think) some keyboards and Abby on Viola on certain songs. Here's the set list.

Towards the end of the set there was plenty of crowd-surfing and a couple of people somehow managed to get on to a high wooden beam that went across the breadth of the barn. It was odd without the usual closing madness around Lately/Rock in A. Instead BSP have adoped a surprisingly traditional approach of playing encores. So after a short break they came back on and played How Will I Ever Find My Home, Carrion and Spirit of St Louis. This was sublime: the energy of band and crowd were terrific and St Louis ended in predictable chaos with Noble playing on the shoulders on an audience member and then crowd surfing (see this great set of photos).

I think the set finished about 11.30am but the evening wasn't over because Tan Hill Inn is open until "whenever we feel like it" and most people weren't going anywhere. So the pub filled with a really chilled bonhomie as band and fans mixed and drank even more. There was a charity auction of a signed single (went for £50 - good effort whoever bid that) and then following a further whip-round for charity there was "sing-along-a-BSP" around the piano.

This started with Noble playing snatches of Bohemian Rhapsody and other 'standards' before he, Hamilton and Yan did A Wooden Horse. There was also Out of My Mind on Dope and Speed played by Noble plus fans. Alas none of the band knew any Neil Diamond. My photos are never the sharpest at the best of times but after all that Black Sheep these were distinctly dodgy.

Called it a night about 2am. Some hardy folk were camping(!), we opted for kipping in the car in the sleeping bags. Truly memorable, despite all the Black Sheep. This should become an annual event. The only downside was the indisposition of Mr P and then the seven hour journey home the next day due to "massive signal failure". With a bad head.

British Sea Power
Krankenhaus? EP [BUY]

Julian Cope
Skellington [SEEK]

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