The small Maxwell’s (QRO venue review) in Hoboken, New Jersey wasn’t the perfect place for the wide-open sounds of the Brighton band, but it did mean everyone in attendance got in close with the (surprisingly rather small in stature) foursome. And while BSP couldn’t hit every one of their great songs, they did hit a lot, from classics to soon-to-be-classics.
Doing a mini-tour of the northeast U.S. on the back of their just-out EP, Krankenhaus? (QRO review), British Sea Power laid down tracks off that, as well as others sure to be found on 2008’s full-length, Do You Like Rock Music? But they relied most heavily on numbers from their amazing 2003 debut, The Decline of British Sea Power. And that was a good thing, as while 2005 sophomore record Open Season is certainly strong, it can’t quite match the power of Decline. Plus, if a band is going to give the audience a number of new numbers, either unreleased or just released, then the set-list should also contain a lot of crowd favorites as well.
Generally, the first half of the show was a mix of Decline and Krankenhaus? pieces, while the second half had yet-to-come songs leavened amid the Decline. Opener “Apologies to Insect Life” lit the fuse with its impacting bass line and guitar riffs, gearing up the crowd from the get-go. And BSP didn’t let up for a second, going straight into possibly the best song from each of the last three main releases, Krankenhaus?’s uproarious primary track, “Atom”, then Decline’s too-good-for-words big single, “Remember Me”, and Open Season’s uplifting anthem, “Please Stand Up”. “Remember Me” had the audience cheering massively from the first chords, and did kind of outshine Krankenhaus? numbers like “Atom”, or later “Down On the Ground” and “Pelican”. Those two were notable, however, for the fact that bassist Hamilton (Neil Wilkinson) switched not just second guitar duties with Yan (brother Scott Wilkinson), but also singing.
The middle of the set was all older numbers, starting with a doozy, “The Spirit of St. Louis”. The pressing rock-take on Charles Lindbergh was only released as an EP in Japan in 2004, but the crowd knew it from the first strains. British Sea Power went a lot further back in time with Decline’s expansive, emotional post-rock, “A Wooden Horse”, and then back out to sea for Decline’s more gothic “Fear of Drowning” and Season’s ode to a fading ice shelf, “Oh Larsen B”, with “Larsen B” taking a definite step up, live.
British Sea Power playing "Fear of Drowning" live @ Maxwell's, Hoboken, NJ:
From there, the band delivered back-to-back new Hamilton numbers that couldn’t have been more different. “Lucifer” was forceful and epic like “Larsen B”, if a bit more straight-up, while “Leaving Here” was outright poppy and catchy, enough so that one felt like one knew it, even if hearing it for only the first time, but the song was still given the BSP spin of importance. Yan returned to vocals and Hamilton to bass for grand Decline single “Carrion”, fulfilling the loudest (but hardly only) audience request. New piece “Lights Out F.O.S.” had a nice drive, but was maybe a little simplistic. But that was quickly forgotten once British Sea Power brought out their biggest gun, the crashing, destructive, exploding, semi-improvised finale, “Rock in A”.
British Sea Power playing "Carrion" live @ Maxwell's, Hoboken, NJ:
The set maybe could have used to have the Krankenhaus? and newer numbers more evenly spaced out, as opposed to bunching one group at the beginning, and the other at the end. And there were naturally great tracks that were missed (such as Decline’s “Childhood Memories”, Season’s “It Ended on an Oily Stage”, and non-album single “A Lovely Day Tomorrow”). There was also virtually no chitchat or between-song banter by the group, nor an encore (and none of the legendary ‘Club Sea Power’ stage décor, like foliage, plastic birds, or 10’ tall stuffed bear, Ursine Ultra). There were some nice light show effects near the end, but it’s about the music, and given Krankenhaus? and this incredible live performance, British Sea Power doesn’t look set for even the hint of a decline.