The first thing you notice about British Sea Power’s stage setup is the foliage. It makes you realise how rare onstage shubbery is, especially in these heady days of deforestation. These guys have obviously got themselves a wholesaler, though, taped as the stuff was to mic stands and kick drum and railings as if it were going out of style, giving The Liquid Room the effect of having been abandoned by some long-dead civilisation and only recently reclaimed by an adventurous sextet of musical archaeologists.
It wasn’t until much later that I also noticed the stuffed (or possibly very tame) owl on the central amp – another hint that the general goal of the evening was to supply entertainment, whether it was wanted or not. That must also have been about the point we’d reached the sultry seductiveness of Electrical Kittens, its accompanying billowing smoke giving us the sense of hiding out in some dingy tropical dive and/or the video for Duran Duran’s Rio.
All this lushness provided a counterpoint to Meursault’s ascetic opening set, which mainly presented selections from I Will Kill Again with all the ramshackle glory of its Summerhall debut. Some sabotaging by Neil Pennycook of his accordionist’s accompaniment wound up briefly putting one of the instrument’s keys out of commission, reminding everyone it’s all fun and games until someone loses an E. But luckily this was salvaged just in time for the set’s cathartic closer, which saw Pennycook enhancing his vocals through the means of some pressups on the (as-yet-leafless) stage floor.
This impromptu fitness jag would have been well followed-up had he then found himself in the centre of the BSP crowd as they roared along to the likes of Waving Flags. But the real highlight of this extended set was a slew of selections from brand-new album Let the Dancers Inherit the Party. Sure, there was the friendly gloom of its so-called ‘Sunday section’, but this was finely balanced out by the major-chord majesty of International Space Station and glorious long-burner Keep on Trying (Sechs Freunde).
Then came the encore, the band re-emerging draped in shiny silver garb pitched somewhere between pioneer space exploration and half a dozen jacket potatoes. And as the anthemic The Spirit of St Louis filled every inch of available sonic space, two people in massive bearsuits joined in from the sidelines just for good measure, making their way to the centre of the floor to accompany the crowd for the stomping, chanting coda of All in It. It was WILD – you’d swear even the owl was into it.