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?
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.
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