So, to my first live encounter with British Sea Power at the Carling Academy, Birmingham, which is a lovely dark basement of a venue that looks as though it may have once been an underground car park and has Britains stickiest floor. So sticky, in fact, there were fifty or sixty pairs of shoes left in front of the stage at the end of the gig. I kid you not (well maybe a little).
First up was Matt Eaton, who has the deepest voice I've heard since Lee Marvin droned Wandrin' Star at my youthful self.
Matt performed a couple of acoustic numbers and an anecdote about being bitten by a spider in a Tesco bag before spilling a drink on his antique Gretch (gawd I've started noticing,) guitar. He was then joined on stage by his band 'The Modern Ovens' to rifle through a few quick Jonathan Richaman covers. Oddly, a couple of members the 'The Ovens' are dead ringers for a couple of members of British Sea Power. Coincidence, I assume? Got the toes tapping anyway.
Next up, LA band Film School, who were as good a support band as I've ever seen; And I once saw Catatonia open for Gene, so I think I can safely be called the world's biggest expert on that subject.
Film School look a real mixed bunch, with superb young female bass player, A lead singer who looked about fifty and a lead guitarist, Dave Dupois, who I couldn't take my eyes off. A bespactacled cross between Alan Davies and 'Sideshow' Bob Terwilliger, he would stand at the back of the stage, cautiously tiptoe towards his effects pedal, theatrically lift his leg and gently prod it to produce some fantastic change in their shimmering sound and then beat a crazy legged retreat to the back of the stage, where the whole pantomime would start again. Fabulous. Their album Hideout is the latest addition to my iPod. Must see!
The final chapter of the evening brought BSP to the stage, led by guitarist/singer/dreamboat Yan who is EXACTLY the same height as me (when he's standing on a five foot stage). They performed a good selection of tracks from Do You Like Rock Music.. including the obvious crowd pleasers Waving Flags and No Lucifer and the slightly awkward (to my ears) Canvey Island. The whole performance was flawless, and they seem to be at their absolute best during long instrumental breaks and cresendo's where just shouts and gutteral cries are shouted into the microphones. The chaotic finale involved one member poised precariously on top of an amp stack, another seemingly lost in and on top of the Mosh Pit and with a large furry monster prowling the stage, which was now resonating with a messy cacophonous hum of discarded guitars and their feedback. Then they were gone. The beautiful racket contining for minute or two, then abrubtly ceasing. A twee scratchy black and white 'The End' appearing on the projection screen at the back of the stage. as if we'd just watched a fifties public information film.
Unique, eccentric and glorious.