British Sea Power sinks at the Paradise

A review of British Sea Power at the Paradise Rock Club on May 13, 2008

, Staff

British Sea Power has somewhat of a reputation for raucous and crazy live shows. Stories of fighting between members (all for the sake of entertainment, of course), stages decorated with various odds and ends, and injuries from stage diving, are all well-documented. Sadly, very little of that made its way to the Paradise on Tuesday night, and the band turned in a disjointed, puzzling performance.

The evening started out promising enough, with the band coming in stage to a recorded version of "All In It" that segued right into a performance of "Lights Out for Darker Skies", and the first two tracks off of Do You Like Rock Music? proved a great way to kick off the night.

The band played nearly every song from 2008’s Rock Music, including popular tracks such as anthems "No Lucifer" and "Waving Flags" that got much of crowd waving their hands in the air or jumping up and down.

For a band with such a solid catalog – three full-lengths in five years – filled with a number of great songs ("It Ended On An Oily Stage" was yelled out by the crowd as well as "Be Gone", both from Open Season), it was bewildering that the band chose to play almost strictly Rock Music tracks. I understand it’s your new album, but would it kill you to play one or two songs the crowd would have gone ape for?

What was also perplexing about the show was its structure. The first two-thirds were very good, and would have been a fine show by itself. Although the band interacted with the crowd very little, they got to all the tracks off of Rock Music and a few others (a great rendition of "Larsen B," in particular).

After about an hour. unfortunately, Hamilton (aka Neil Wilkinson, bassist and vocals) said, "My brother [Yan, aka Scott Wilkinson, vocals and guitar] is going to sing a few more and that’ll be it." With that, the show took a turn for the worse.

The final 30-40 minutes was an extended jam session that featured a handful of 10+ minute songs. The strangest thing was that the band seemed much more alive and animated during these songs than they did during the "pop" segment of the show. At one point, the Wilkinson brothers jumped on the shoulders of their band mates and had a chicken fight. Maybe BSP is as crazy as they say, but if they were half as crazy during the entire show, it would have been much more entertaining. The band seemed to be "going through the motions" with the earlier songs and started acting like themselves during the last third, which is a bit troubling.

Many patrons (and presumably BSP show veterans) left once the band began the jam session, knowing there wasn’t going to be an encore. I, for one, am glad I stayed and got to see the chicken fight.

The night wasn’t a total disaster, as the band played all of their new songs and sounded great doing so. But almost total ignorance of the audience, very little representation of older songs and a superfluous 30 minutes of jamming out that seemed to serve the band more than the crowd made for an underwhelming show.

Maybe it was playing for a crowd that wasn’t 100 percent into you. Maybe it was performing far away from home. Maybe that’s just their style. Whatever it was, British Sea Power did not make many new fans on this night.

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