In a market becoming increasingly difficult to retain autonomy, British Sea Power do just that with flair and guile. The band's thirteenth show in fourteen days, saw them make a triumphant visit to the Kentish harbour town of Folkestone and was a major success for a number of reasons. Firstly they confirmed for me (and the number of hardcore fans that made the journey) that they truly are architects of their own destiny. There is no subterfuge, no radio friendly unit shifters in this set. The Power do as they please, whether it's Sigur Ros-esque emotive balladeering or teasing the crowd with quasi-threats of quitting; they own the stage and captivate their crowd.
It was also a success as not many bands come to Folkestone these days. East is east after all and if the visit is made, it is usually to the Leas Cliff Hall. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but the Quarterhouse is a splendid venue which deserves greater recognition. Modern and compact, oozing out pink neon and is testament to the ongoing regeneration in the local area. The venue though small, exhibited excellent sound quality and was able to handle BSP's notoriously impressive live display.They are after all, a group at the peak of their powers and enjoying every moment.
The group's performance is not so much an assault on the senses but a rekindling of them. Olive trees glimmer with fairy lights as archaic images flash in front of you. In some respects, you feel like you could be in a Sicilian orange grove sipping on a limoncello, such is the grace of the stage show.
This is typified by the slowburning, instrumental opener 'Heavenly Waters' that ebbs and flows into a confident crescendo of guitar, drums et al. The band continue to glide through their set with aplomb. These are master craftsmen after all, steering the way through old classics such as 'It Ended on an Oily Stage' and 'Carrion' while also playing newer offerings such as the mid-paced 'Machineries of Joy' and 'Zeus.'
The set reaches a heady climax during the foot-stomping 'Remember Me' and pro-immigration sing along 'Waving Flags' then again changing pace for a powerful rendition of 'The Great Skua.' Before you know it, the band are off and saying their goodbyes and the intense following has fizzed into life, demanding more. And more is what you get at a British Sea Power gig. More tunes, more chanting and more...bears. That's right folks, before the crowd have time to lay eyes on the intense finale the Wilkinson brothers are offering up, Ursine ultra, an 8 foot black bear, is making his way though the crowd and towards us with surprising speed. He is accompanied by a smaller, yet still impressive polar bear much to the delight of the pogo-ing, elated crowd around me. I was just thankful I was sober as panic may well have set in had a whiff of the barmaid's apron been taken.
All that we had time for was a visceral version of 'No Lucifer' and Jan Wilkinson throwing himself into the crowd to be ably surfed to the back of the Quarterhouse auditorium and carefully returned, before the band were linking arms and bowing to the grateful crowd at the end of another successful show and tour.
If you haven't seen British Sea Power, I highly recommend it. As a band they represent traditional British quirkiness and are at the peak of their powers, Even if they are not your particular cup of earl grey, where else in Britain would you find yourself dancing with an 8 foot black bear on a Saturday evening?