Far Out headed back to The Ritz in Manchester to catch British Sea Power on fine form as darkness fell on a beautiful summer’s evening.
As expected, the Cumbria band have kitted out the venue in their usual foliage, transforming a city centre space into a countryside dreamland. It’s perhaps not quite as picturesque a setting as last time around when we were lucky enough to see them touch down at the Holmfirth Picturedrome, but that does nothing to quash a magical night.
There’s a more than welcome bonus when we discover that the support act for the evening is everyone’s favourite androgynous Japanese psych-metallers, Bo Ningen. The four-piece – although pretty far removed from the atmospheric rock ‘n’ roll of BSP – is an absolute joy, juggernauting their way through a half-hour set that is ferocious and enchanting in equal measure.
Frontman Taigen Kawabe gets the crowd excited early, jumping down from the stage and wielding his bass above his head. An enthralling opening act.
BSP arrives on stage to a hero’s welcome, with a new keyboardist to boot. Equipped with one of those head protector things sported by rugby league players, BSP’s newest member spends the night blurring the lines between band and crowd, snaking around venue bashing a drum and surfing aloft a sea of hands.
It’s kind of two gigs in one, with the first portion of the evening being dedicated to BSP’s first album, The Decline of British Sea Power. It’s refreshing to hear some of the record’s more abrasive moments, carrying a raw edge that is less prevalent on more recent material. But one of this band’s greatest assets is their versatility.
Classics like ‘Carrion’ still posses as much as potency as they did twelve years ago, and there is a conspicuous omission of ‘A Wooden Horse’ as they leave the stage. But this is only really half the story, as they return for a full-length greatest hits set, trumping those who would normally rattle out the album then come back for an encore with on or two singles.
Then comes the usual woodland outbreak as BSP’s trademark ten-foot grizzly bear mascot arrives to the adulation of the audience. The unison chant of “easy, easy” during ‘No Lucifer’ is a moment of euphoria as ever and more recent tracks slot in perfectly with ‘Machineries of Joy’ has become a bona fide centrepiece of the set.
There’s time for one final hurrah, however, as BSP come back once more – despite having already done two hours. The aforementioned ‘Wooden Horse’ brings the set full circle and provides the perfect soundtrack as the audience leave The Ritz beaming. Incomparable.