Low-key dates in smaller or unusual venues are part of the British Sea Power strategy for trying out new material live. So previously there have been gigs in sweaty dives like The Roadhouse or in more exotic locations like a Napoleonic coastal fort. The band also like to try out new venues when moving around the country. And when it comes to Manchester they’ve never played The Deaf Institute or Sound Control (the latter only open since December). So whose idea was it to book them into MoHo Live?! My least favourite gig venue in Manchester. No let’s say it: the worst gig venue in Manchester.
It was a solid but restrained performance from BSP (saving themselves for the second Sing Ye From The Hillsides Festival at Tan Hill Inn this weekend maybe?). Friendly, focused but unshowy (other than a few banners taped to the back wall there was no elaborate stage décor or foliage). But we did get five new songs. However the whole evening was beleaguered by the customer-unfriendly experience and atrocious sound at Moho Live: as usual the mix was awful, plus tonight there was random echo on vocals and often the guitars dropping in and out. The band made a few minor cock-ups which is understandable as a bit rusty live but there is no forgiving the venue’s dire sound. You get the sense this is a venue that just doesn't care about the music or the bands or the people as long as money is going in the till.
And the new songs? Well ‘Zeus’ reminded me of an early Fall b-side, taut, minimal rockabilly with Yan shouting over the top. ‘Mongk’ sung by Hamilton was less immediate, its lines about “lose your self (soul?)” and washes of guitar sounded quite psyche-soul-rock. ‘Pyrex’ was a glam stomp with shouted sloganeering: “I Just Don’t Know / Who’s In Control” - The Glitter Band with a political agenda. And ‘RNF’ was a real curio – quirky keyboards and lines about parties and dying. Reminded me of early Gorky’s – but given the sound I can’t vouch for how accurate a comparison this is. And they finished the encores with a noisy Krautrock jam with more shouting called according to the set list ‘Fuck It Up’ (which may or may not bear some relation to b-side ‘Water Tower’).
What struck me was how diverse the songs sounded and not all like an immediate follow-up to ‘Do You Like Rock Music?’. Will be interesting to hear them again live with decent sound. Mr P, veteran of many BSP gigs, classed this as ‘lower middle’ ranking. As ever he was right. But a good appetiser for seeing the band playing in a barn (with better sound! And better beer) this weekend.
This gig originally went on sale for 23 April but got moved from that Friday to tonight. Shame it didn’t move venue at the same time.
The Set List:
Lights Out For Darker Skies
Scottish Wildlife Experience
Apologies To Insect Life
Down on the Ground
The Great Skua
The Spirit of St Louis
Fuck It Up