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British Sea Power
April 27, 2005 – Neumo’s – Seattle, WA
by Ashley Graham

By the conclusion of the first song of their set it is obvious that British Sea Power is guilty of one of two things; taking themselves too seriously, or simply being bored.  With their clearly calculated attire and ambiance, the signs point to the former.  Expressionless faces, a rigid stage presence but solid music – can they make it work?

The first forty minutes of British Sea Power’s set is tiring.  The songs sound repetitious, the band members do little to nothing in the way of showmanship and the crowd is generally subdued.  There are highlights scattered throughout though; for example when lead singer Yan begins to furiously play the tambourine using only the plastic pheasant he removes from its place atop an amp.  There are also two smiles in response to an audience member’s comment “That was fuckin’ awesome,” one from Yan and one from guitarist Noble (the representative “straight man,” the only member not donning solid colors and a scarf or neckerchief).  But for the most part the show drags and the drunk lady giving private dances to the security guard stage right is more fun and interesting to watch.

A change occurs, however, when bassist Hamilton takes over at the mic.  He brings an energy to the position that wasn’t there before with straight-faced Yan and the two songs he sings move the crowd away from their uncertain head-bobbing, to full-on dance.  And when Yan returns to the mic the same energy, luckily, continues to flow throughout the room.

The last twenty minutes are what should have been happening all along.  The band members loosen up; keyboardist Eamon even moves away from his position at the side of the drum set to make an appearance in front of it.  Yan dances occasionally.  The band seems to be enjoying the show more and they feed off of the new-found interest of the crowd.

When Noble finishes his piece of the final song he moves toward the crouching Yan at the front of the stage, climbs onto his shoulders and Yan, quite small in stature, stands up with Noble hanging on for dear life.  He goes so far as to spin and turn, nearly dropping Noble a couple of times. 

The stunt is something the show is generally lacking, it is fresh and in-the-moment, and whether or not they’ve done it every night of the tour, there is a spontaneity in it that they both seem to enjoy, and that keeps the audience on their toes – more of that same spontaneity might have proven helpful throughout the set.

British Sea Power’s tour continues into and throughout May, including a performance at this year’s Coachella Festival on May 1.  More information can be found on their website at
www.britishseapower.co.uk