Sunday, October 12, 2008


Damn these Sunday night curfews. I got to The Ritz at 7.25 or so convinced I would be in time to see opening act Matt Eaton - only to find him finishing the first (solo) part of his set with the song Woodburner. (I will write soon about his very fine album Finish Your Chips).

Disappointment turned to happiness though because the second part of his support slot was provided by The Modern Ovans, the Jonathan Richman tribute band Matt is part and which includes Hamilton (bass) and Noble (drums) from BSP. They played a brief four-song set (Buzz Buzz Buzz, Corner Store, Abominable Snowman In the Market, Morning of Our Lives) to a rather sparse crowd: "we're more of an after-midnight kinda band" explained Matt.

I have a soft spot for The Ritz. I do not have the long history or romantic attachment that some do but it does have a special atmosphere all of its own. Tonight though some of its faults were showing: most of the draught beers were off leaving us with the nasty fizzy Fosters and then there was the cavernous sound to compete with. Cavernous sound and British Sea Power you say. Surely they go together? Well...

First was second support Film School a Los Angeles psych-drone five piece (drums, two guitars, bass and keyboards). They were a bit My Bloody Valentine, a bit Black Mountain - with some programmed beats too I think to give a slight industrial edge - but mainly a bit dull. A constant wailing wall of sound was neither entertaining nor subtle (adding handclaps to one of their songs I found laughably pointless). I couldn't tell any of their six song set apart.

The summary of the BSP set was good but not great , marred by the iffy sound. There was little atmosphere for the most part I felt on stage or in the crowd - despite some enthusiastic flag-waving (crowd) and the re-appearance of swathes of foliage and heron and owl as stage decoration.

The first five songs should have been a joyous opening salvo but were defeated by the really poor sound mix (where were the drums?! where were most other instruments other than a prominent bass line? Or had our ears been shredded by Film School?) and a mixed ages crowd that gave those songs a bit of a lukewarm reception. The moment were it did come right was The Great Skua, a soaring instrumental accompanied by video footage of, well, sea-birds. And some fish. It sounds terrible but the wisest words of the evening were spoken at this point: "there's not many bands who could drop that in mid-set and not just get away with it but make it a high point".

Things did pick up with a furious closing Apologies For Insect Life and then the two encores (but the 'easy, easy' chant of No Lucifer really is the least interesting part of the song) but all a bit too late. The usual chaos the closing song featured a reappearance of Ursine Ultra the giant bear (if you have to ask, you won't get it) and some impressive stage-diving from guitarist Noble. At the Ritz there is a deep channel between the (high) stage and the crowd. Probably a gap of seven feet - with a solid chest-height metal barrier in front of the crowd. Noble donned flying helmet and made as though he as going to run up. Surely he wouldn't? Yes he did - not once but twice.

Mr P took a different view of the evening - "definitely a top ten BSP gig" - but his view was swayed by some enthusiastic, early doors, alfresco drinking. Sorry to report more soberly: it was "bottom ten" on my scorecard.

The Set List:
Remember Me
Larsen B
Fear Of Drowning
Down on the Ground
A Trip Out
The Land Beyond
A Lovely Day Tomorrow
Lights Out For Darker Skies
Waving Flags
The Great Skua
Canvey Island
Apologies For Insect Life
No Lucifer
Spirit Of St Louis/Rock in A

Matt Eaton
Finish Your Chips [BUY]

Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers
Roadrunner, Roadrunner[BUY]

British Sea Power
The Decline of British Sea Power [BUY]

British Sea Power
Do You Like Rock Music? [BUY]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mr I,

You are absolutely right - the sound wasn't great and the atmosphere wasn't brilliant either (despite my best efforts!). But this just goes to prove that the right frame of mind (alcohol induced or not!) makes a huge difference to gig perception. I was out for a good time and a bloody good time was had. And isn't this part of that whole discussion re some of the forumites?

And you could well be right that the spectacularly dull Film School had f*cked up our ears!

Highlights for me were:
1) The Great Skua - I would be perfectly happy if they played that song (and video) for an hour and a half!

2) A Lovely Day Tomorrow - Don't hear this played often enough.

3) Larsen B - really enjoying its revival in the set.

4) Several pints of Cumberland in the Briton's Protection!

5) The company of your good self and our new BSP comrades!

Can't wait for the Leeds write up!

Mr P.