British Sea Power played Spring & Airbrake in Belfast on 18/02/11.They were support by Girls Names.The idea of British Sea Power playing a small gig in the Spring & Airbrake is an intriguing but bewildering one.
Renowned for their high concept themes for albums and a sound that is deliberately huge in scope, it seems they would better suited to a venue where the sprawling epic nature of their sounds can be given greater reign. Afterall this is a band who have played in such
locations as the Natural History Museum, the Arctic Circle and on top the Great Wall of China.
However, it is the Spring & Airbrake where British Sea Power are playing tonight to promote new album Valhalla Dancehall and supporting them are Girls Names, a local trio who build the mood with a set of carefully crafted songs that switch from introspective shoegazing to more upbeat numbers combining bubbly guitar and bass lines within a few heartbeats as well as a cover of the Twin Peaks theme. Solid percussion acts as a backbone throughout and despite a few sound problems at the start, Girls Names win over a crowd that appear seemingly aloof and distant from whats happening never venturing into a circle of empty space in front of the stage apart from one carefree dancer.
British Sea Power appear onto the stage, shrouded in dry ice and bathed in red and green spotlights and unleash their epic brand of post punk indie rock and immediately the crowd are swept into what could be the soundtrack to a chase dream.
Calm beginnings of songs build in intensity, carefully creating tension before releasing it, singer Yans voice backed by guitar notes twisting and entwining like lovers embracing after a months absence.
However, despite the grandeur of the intricate soundscape being unveiled before them, the mature crowd appear standoffish for the nitial part of the set - whether this is because everyone is rooted to the spot listening or because the band themselves are emitting an aura of glacial cool isn't clear. As time passes and the music swings into the rawer spectrum of aural bombardment, the crowd became more responsive and the tracks such as Living is So Easy, Waving Flags and Fear of Drowning are greeted with euphoric glee with We Close our Eyes before the encore prompting a particular vocal response.
With minimal interaction between each other and the most contact between band and crowd being a guitar playing crowd surf, the performance of the band is faultless, although at times the soundsystem struggled to cope with the complexity of the performance. Overall however, it washard to shake the feeling that perhaps if this was taking place in a bigger venue and the crowd had been more responsive this would have gone from a good gig to a truly great one.
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