Friday, 12 April 2013

British Sea Power, Casual Sex @ Oran Mor, 7th April

For much of their current tour, British Sea Power have been opening gigs with a bonus set of ‘mellow’ fan-favourites. Unfortunately, Oran Mor’s tight curfew prevents such an arrangement tonight – which is a shame, but an ultimately insignificant one. Because if anyone has turned up early on the off-chance of getting extra BSP-for-their-buck, support Casual Sex offer succourable compensation, their impeccably tight set snaking through styles superbly – from the penetrating groove of North to the choppy, wiry guitars of National Unity.

As is customary for a British Sea Power performance, tonight’s stage is bedecked with woodland paraphernalia, continuing a penchant for pastoral-theatricals dating back to their earliest shows. But while some things haven’t changed in their decade-plus existence, in other respects the band performing tonight seem an age removed from their erratic roots. The contrast is most strongly felt when a breathless, fitful Apologies to Insect Life veers forth towards the end, its idiosyncrasies standing out starkly against the more measured sounds – largely picked from new album Machineries of Joy and 2008’s Do You Like Rock Music? – that precede it.

Yet, while most of tonight’s highpoints have miles on the clock (most memorably a stunning rendition of Lately), the band BSP have gradually become are far from a disappointment – for instance, Machineries of Joy’s title track makes for a stately opener, while the buzzing rush of K-Hole can’t be faulted. And besides, it’s difficult to accuse a band of encroaching conservatism when their finale comes packaged with a dancing polar bear – a sure sign that their appealing quirks are far from exhausted.

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