Wednesday, March 26, 2008

British Sea Power--The Empty Bottle, Chicago, Illinois

When a band titles their new album, Do You Like Rock Music?, they better be able to back that question up. Not only does Brighton, England’s British Sea Power deliver on their word on the album itself, but their live show is sincerely a force to be reckoned with, as evidenced by their raucous set at the Empty Bottle on March 24.

When I arrived at the Empty Bottle for British Sea Power’s second of two shows that night, my expectations weren’t too high, to be completely honest. It was a Monday night, it was still cold out, despite the fact that the first day of spring had just occurred, and I wasn’t particularly in a mood to see a show.

Walking inside the venue, I was greeted with the opening guitar riffs of local Chicago favorites, The 1900’s. I’ve always been a so-so fan of The 1900’s, as in they have songs I really like, and then other songs that completely bore me. Their live show is pretty much the same, the poppy songs killed it, and the not so poppy songs seemed to elicit less of a response from the packed crowd. “Welcome to the sleazy late night show,” exclaimed singer/guitarist, Edward Anderson, who then went on to ask the crowd if they had ever had too much Sparks before. Judging from Anderson’s Sparks chugging and his high level of energy throughout the entire hour-long set, it was safe to say that he had imbibed more than few of the alcoholic caffeinated drinks. But if that’s what it takes to deliver a great opening set, then hell, pour yourself another one, Anderson. The 1900’s gave the crowd exactly what they wanted, playing favorites like “When I Say Go,” “Two Ways,” and the title track from their debut album Cold &Kind. But the song that really drove their ‘60s-inspired pop sound home and turned my anti show-going mood around was “Bring The Good Boys Home,” a live mainstay from their first EP, Plume Delivery, which got even the most bored-looking hipsters in the crowd to at least nod their heads or dance.

At a little after midnight, a recording of “All In It,” the haunting opening track from Do You Like Rock Music? filled the Empty Bottle, as the members of British Sea Power walked on to the stage. The crowd cheered and without much more than a “Thank you,” the sextet launched into the soaring “Lights Out For Darker Skies” and followed it up with a thrilling rendition of “Atom,” the fist-pumping anthem from their new album.

While their set mainly featured songs from Do You Like Rock Music?, including favorites like “A Trip Out,” “Down On The Ground,” “Waving Flags,” and “Canvey Island,” it was the classics that really worked up the already excited crowd. Drawing a great deal from their debut album, The Decline of British Sea Power and a little less from their sophomore album, Open Season, British Sea Power demonstrated their true depth and variety by mellowing the crowd out with a sweeping, melancholic song like “Blackout” and then doing a 180 and stirring up the room with a two-minute punk upstart like “Favours In The Beetroot Fields.”

Perhaps the biggest thrill of the evening though came from guitarist Martin Noble who decided to jump into the crowd towards the end of British Sea Power’s nearly two-hour long set. Noble started off at first riding the shoulders of a bandana-ed hipster clutching an Old Style, as he played his guitar perfectly in sync with the rest of the band. After the hipster almost dropped him several times, he decided to crowd-surf, riding the wave of hands that stretched out to pull him along for several minutes before being pushed back on-stage.

The band continued on with their set as if it was no big deal, eventually culminating in the one-two punch of Do You Like Rock Music’s “No Lucifer” and The Decline of British Sea Power’s “Carrion,” the latter being the infamous single/crowd pleaser from their debut album. During “Carrion,” Noble put down his guitar and started playing air guitar and drums. Grasping his half-empty beer, he proceeded to shake it all over the front row of fans, before grabbing the hand of one lucky fan and pulling her on-stage to play his guitar. As Noble jumped down to crowd-surf once more, the keyboardist/cornet player, Phil Sumner, ran over to the opposite side of the stage and climbed on top of the speaker cabinet and started wailing away on his cornet. Noble eventually made his way back on stage, colliding with the speaker cabinet and vocalist/bassist, “Hamilton” Neil Wilkinson.

As the final guitar riffs on “Carrion” wound down, the song ended in a mess of feedback as Wilkinson carried Noble on his shoulders, both screaming into the microphone together. Noble eventually jumped down and Wilkinson closed British Sea Power’s set by doing a head-stand as drummer, Matthew Wood, slammed down on his cymbals one last time and singer/guitarist, “Yan” Scott Wilkinson (yes, they’re brothers), strummed his guitar violently. It was a truly fantastic end to one of the more energetic sets I have seen in ages. It appears that British Sea Power knew what they were doing when they titled their new album, Do You Like Rock Music?, as was clearly displayed in their dynamic stage presence at the Empty Bottle.

--Anna Deem


Anonymous said...

nice review. yeah the second show was a splendid show. The early show had some sound issues unfortunately. The late crowd was much more into it as well. It was great seeing them in that venue.

ewf said...

Yes. I Do like rock music.

Anonymous said...

Did they play Apologies to Insect Life? If so, how awesome was it?

Anna Apocalypse said...

Nah, they didn't play Apologies. I wish!

The Dong Machine said...

I saw them in Louisville, and not being a huge fan of theirs, I was amazed by what a good show they put on. They put on an outstanding show.

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