LIVE: British Sea Power – The Picturedrome, Holmfirth

Far Out Magazine fled the bright lights of the city for the rolling Yorkshire hills on Wednesday to catch a band who couldn’t be more apt for a spring night performance within such leafy surroundings.

British Sea Power celebrated a decade in our consciousness last year and marked the occasion in in the only way they know how – with the release of not one but two records, From The Sea To The Land Beyond and Machineries Of Joy. Both sounded fresh and of the moment, while still maintaining the same balance of anthemic drive and angular introversion that has characterised much of their work.

Hailing from green pastures themselves in the shape of Kendal in the Lake District, there is something organic and heartfelt about their output that might not shine through as brightly within the homogenised settings of bustling city centre academy venues – but their visit to Holmfirth has a sense of occasion from the off.

After a more than satisfying pint of oat stout and a stroll down the canal adjacent to the Picturedrome, the country retreat vibe continues inside with British Sea Power’s trademark stage setup, which includes decorative additions of foliage and shrubbery. It genuinely feels like the festival season is already underway.

Support is provided by north-eastern instrumental duo Warm Digits. The pair have previously collaborated with David Brewis of Field Music and School of Language, but their sound is one that is a little more angular than these endeavours.

Taking influence from krautrock and 80s electro pop in equal measure, their set provides a perfect warm up. Perhaps the recent spate of two-piece bands has something to do with the lack of financial prosperity of setting up huge collectives in the current climate, but Warm Digits drummer Andrew Hodgson certainly cannot be accused of seeking an easy pay day, smashing his way through a half hour set on beat with scientific precision.

The venue quickly packs out during the interlude and British Sea Power take to the stage to be greeted by a reception that mirrors the triumphant return of an old and familiar friend. Seven albums in ten years have seen them rise high above most of their other indie contemporaries that littered the charts back in 2004, but are nowhere to be seen in the present day.

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Filling the stage in a more all-encompassing capacity, the sextet kick off with the wistful transportation of ‘Heavenly Waters’, a track that gradually draws the audience into the world of British Sea Power, before plunging them into the deep end with a guitar jam that resembles the crashing waves of the North Sea.

As the atmosphere hots up, the horticulture is bizarrely but thrillingly combined with a set of strobes in a way that creates a vibe symbolic with the band’s fusion of the down to earth and the otherworldly.

A moment of Yorkshire’s infamous confrontational whit comes when a member of the front row takes issue with singer and guitarist Yan Wilkinson having yet to take his coat off, uttering the immortal “won’t feel the benefit” jibe.

Rather than offer any resistance, Wilkinson removes it and launches into an epic sounding rendition of ‘Atom’.

British Sea Power should be treasured as an act that have risen from obscurity in a controlled and deserved way, having never relied on ill-founded buzz to harness a fan base. It’s these more fickle situations where an act’s audience can turn from frenzied endorsement to forgotten neglect in a heartbeat, but there is a feeling that Wilkinson and co’s followers have accompanied them on an honest and genuine trajectory – and they are no doubt there to stay.

A set that spans as long as one and three-quarter hours is commanding throughout, with Yan’s brother Hamilton occasionally taking his bass centre stage to provide vocals on some lighter moments.

‘Machineries of Joy’ offers one of the biggest crowd-pleasers, before 2008’s Do You Like Rock Music? steps up the party atmosphere with the melancholy battle cry of ‘Waving Flags’.

After ending the main set with the solace of ‘All in It’, British Sea Power have no intentions of leaving the excitable crowd wanting and return for a triumphant encore. The feeling of being out in the sticks is comprehensively solidified during showstopper ‘No Lucifer’ when an eight-foot bear (or at least a man in an elaborate fancy dress costume) bursts through the side door of the venue.

The beast’s arrival is met with amazement, amusement and disgruntlement (largely from those that have had their view of the band submerged). The Wilkinson’s power though undeterred though and leave the stage to a rapturous reception, bringing to a close a night that would have somehow lost something had it been held anywhere else.

Patrick Davies

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