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Wednesday, May 18th, 2005

It Ended On An Oily Stage

As I mentioned before, I’m a bit of a johnny-come-lately to British Sea Power. I was won over by their newest album, Open Season, but having gotten their debut effort The Decline Of… last week, I can understand where the people who are disappointed in it are coming from. Where Open Season is warm, wide-open and relatively laid back, Decline is tense and explosive in parts. I think I originally checked out BSP a few years ago but only heard “Apologies To Insect Life” and wasn’t interested. If I’d only started with “Fear Of Drowning”, it may have been a very different story. Ah well. At least I got on board soon enough to catch them at Lee’s Palace last night.

I’d been previously warned about the eccentric nature of BSP’s live performances I had fairly high expectations for the show. The crowd cheered when the roadies began bringing out the foliage and branches that were used to decorate the stage. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen vegetation get applause. The band got a better response, yes, but the foliage was definitely appreciated. Opening with “It Ended On An Oily Stage”, British Sea Power tore through material from both records with a tone somewhere in the middle of both. Songs from Decline seemed softened up a little and songs from Open Season rocked a little harder. I felt things could have leaned a little further to the Decline end of the spectrum, but that’s nitpicking. I’ve often said no one does anthems like the British, and after last night (and with the previous night’s Doves show as exhibit B), I will continue to stand by that. It’s hard to imagine anyone from anywhere but England write something as rousing as “Please Stand Up” or grandly romantic as “Oh Larsen B”, even if the latter is about a breakaway Antarctic ice shelf.

There was a taste of the chaos when keyboardist Eamon pulled on a hard hat early on in the set (he went through a selection of over the course of the night), grabbed a drum and jumped into the crowd, banging away. Besides that, however, the performance was high energy but not especially insane. I was prepared to be disappointed overall but in the second half of “Fear Of Drowning” (they played the first half of the song, went into several more and then came back and picked up where they left off – sort of a medley but not), guitarist Noble put his guitar down and all hell broke loose. There was stage diving, wall climbing, ass kicking (literally), sitting on shoulders while bass playing, lighting rig dangling… This was the anarchy I was promised! With such a ridiculously chaotic finale, there was no way they were coming back for an encore. And that was fine, because I was satisfied.

Opening things up was The Most Serene Republic, who I was uncertain about after seeing them a couple weeks ago. Well after a second go-around, I’ve made up my mind: They don’t do it for me. What was novel the first time seemed more contrived the second time around – they seemed to be trying a little too hard to be zany. There’s not a real good shelf life on the singer guy’s antics… The sound was far better this time around, making it easier to really listen to their ADD-affected prog pop and I simply didn’t find there to be much substance to it. The Can-indie musical collectives to which they’ll inevitably be compared (Broken Social, Arcade Fire) possess an emotional core to their songs that I didn’t detect with Serene Republic. They seemed more about being goofing around and having a good time, which is fine – there’s absolutely a place for just fun music, but class clowns eventually have to decide if they want to be Jim Carrey or Pauly Shore.

Considering that they seem to be getting added to open every show that passes through town over the next couple months, I’m sure there’ll be ample opportunity for me to be won over. I would actually be more interested to see them play in a room not filled with their friends out to support them, in a situation where they have to win the crowd over – I suspect that might be a more interesting environment in which to see them. Similarly, if I’d been introduced to the album before the live show (assuming the album proves me wrong), I might have a different POV but for now? No thanks. But they’re young, there’s certainly time to grow. We shall see.

Photos here. British Sea Power do make for some compelling visuals, that is for certain. Dig Hamilton’s headdress from the first part of the show. And by the way – would anyone happen to have an mp3 of British Sea Power’s cover of Galaxie 500’s “Tugboat” off of that Rough Trade 25th anniversary comp from a couple years ago? Or what I assume is a cover of Mum’s “Green Grass Of Tunnel” from the Oily Stage CD-single?

Paste gets a quick one in with Jason Molina about The Magnolia Electric Company’s What Comes After The Blues.

Coldplay are at the Air Canada Centre August 2 with Rilo Kiley supporting.

The Decemberists are keeping a tour journal! Can’t wait to read the Toronto entry after this Saturday…

The Beat reports that Kelsey Grammar has been cast as The Beast in X-Men 3. Thank goodness for CGI. Also, they’re saying that Lost‘s Maggie Grace is being courted to play Shadowcat. Now a nitpickier man might point out that they already had Kitty Pryde in the first two films, most definitely played by a pre-teen, but if they want to cast someone more… mature, then I certainly won’t second guess the producers.

Arrested Development has officially been renewed for a third season! Yay.

24: Oh Mandy, you came and you killed without caring! Mandy Mandy Mandy Mandy Mandy! You’ve been a baaaad girl. Yes you have. Best lesbian assassin ever. Of course, she was making time with that dude but he swung both ways so I guess it’s all fair… Still, you have to wonder if maybe there’s a dearth of assassins in the greater LA area that she gets all the work? Poor Tony – he reconciles with his ex-wife, decides to leave CTU, has his whole life ahead of him. All he needed to do was buy a boat for his retirement to guarantee he’d be taken hostage. Interesting that they’d introduce another plot thread so close to the end – two hours to stop the missile, rescue Tony and punish Mandy. Oh yes. But you she’s gonna live – 24‘s been renewed for two more seasons! Poor Jack, he will never get any rest.

np – Television / Marquee Moon

By : Frank Yang at 9:15 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Mike says:

    I was completely satisfied as well with last nights show. Sometimes when you see a band the show seems to ebb and flow, but with BSP I felt like it was consistent the whole way through. I didn’t want it to end. One of my favorite shows of the year (so far)!

    The Most Serene Republic – I found them interesting musically, but the lead singer mostly just got on my nerves with his antics.

    Here’s hoping BSP make another stop in T.O. in the near future.

  2. Torr says:

    hey, how come Texas didn’t get the foliage down here just a couple weeks ago? Perhaps it couldn’t get thru customs. Here’s an mp3 of BSP’s Mum cover, it’s not near as good as you might have hoped.

    http://…/

  3. Aaron says:

    I managed to get ahold of the Most Serene Republic album and its not great. Not bad, but not up to the A&C standard. Maybe the "remixing" promised will help, but the songs themselves just aren’t that strong.

  4. information leafblower says:

    I am so sick of the "Ambush attack while Jack and the crew take their prisoner to the car for transport back to CTU". They’ve done that like 4 times this season. Lame.

  5. Jo says:

    Torr,

    I believe they gather local flora rather than carry it with them.

    That said, I was surprised by the foliage, since I’d heard they were determined not to do that anymore. Here’s their amusing explanation why: ("trees are trying to kill us") http://…/

  6. Matthew says:

    Kelsey Grammar is kinda ideal for that role, good for them.

    I don’t blame them for recasting Kitty Pryde. That girl barely acted in the movie, she may not have been right, and they obviously wanted to make Kitty a bit older and more like the current version in the comics.

  7. bad username says:

    I saw Serene at Lees as well, but on Monday night, opening for Monade.

    Couldn’t agree with Frank more. The musicianship is great, but the singer needs to grow up a little. Plus, his brand of singing becomes monotonous all too quickly-and only a handful of singers who sing that way manage to have staying power. Wayne Coine-yes, Ganharvas singer-no.

  8. Andrew says:

    Am I the only one who thought BSP mailed it in last night? Or have I completely romanticized my memory of their Horseshoe gig from last year?

    But, as they say, wow them in the end…

    Most Serene Republic = (shrug)

  9. Jo says:

    I agree with Andrew. The Horseshoe gig was better–more intense from beginning to end. Both had mad amazing marvellous endings, but this time the first half or so of the show was a bit lethargic.

  10. tankboy says:

    Of course you’re assuming Jack will live through this season. Which is safe to say. Since Souplatch made up with the ex before hitting the road with Jack he’s obviously the BIG GONER this season.

  11. mr g says:

    Mandy is so totally going to turn out to be Nina’s sister.

    Mull that one over.

  12. Shoma says:

    The Horseshoe gig was more intense because they were supporting an album that was more intense. Since Open Season is relatively more melodic it seemed that any chaos would have to come in one concentrated burst. And oh how it did.

    Having seen them before I can understand waiting for the moment where it seems that their ritalin wears off. Someone should Noble that "stage diving" into five short girls isn’t a good idea.

    I loved that everyone kept clapping throughout "Lately" assuming the song was over. Oh and that kid who introduced the band! I want to adopt him.

    I didn’t get a chance to say it last night, but nice meeting you, Frank.

  13. elva says:

    this being my first time seeing the bsp, i loved every bit of it. every tree branch, stuffed bird, and acrobatic maneuvre. catch you tomorrow at rilo kiley!

  14. shoma says:

    Joe Pernice’s Crib … "linens from Mississauga, which is a little town somewhere… like Ohio"

    http://…/

  15. Dodge says:

    BSP is good, haven’t seen them live, but will at first chance.

    The Decemberists are great live…just saw them, see MOKB & You Ain’t No Picasso for Louisville show write ups and pics…

    YAY!! Arrested Development renewal!

    good post Frank.

  16. sean says:

    That British Sea Power version of Tugboat: http://…/

  17. Frank says:

    thanks to Torr and Sean for the covers.