‘Sorry I’m not saying very much – we’re trying to pack as many songs in as possible,’ explained British Sea Power front-man Jan Scott Wilkinson. He wasn’t wrong – his band played more or less solidly for an hour and a half to a chilly Glaswegian crowd hemmed into the Arches – a former viaduct turned gig venue.
British Sea Power are one of those bands whose albums are dangerously close to becoming beige – they occupy a space somewhere between Arcade Fire and the Manic Street Preachers. Previous albums carried a judgemental tone, almost as if the idea of popularity and recognition as an ‘indie’ band was beneath them. However, latest offering Valhalla Dancehall marks a change in direction from previous releases, making greater use of synthesisers and strings which compliment Wilkinson’s breathy vocals and – dare I say it – bordering on being fun.
The new sound is reflected in the bands’ live performance – an addition in the shape of viola player Abi Fry adds an ethereal element to the gig. Her whispered backing vocals, although barely audible, lift Mongk II and new album opener Who’s in Control.
Wrapping up with old favourites Waving Flags and Please Stand Up, BSP managed to acknowledge the crowd with wan smiles before making their way quietly off the stage. Their set was well played, but they didn’t look like the enjoyed it a whole lot, and their apathy was reflected in the crowd, who barely raised a cheer at the end. BSP are respectable songwriters and musicians, but they need to loosen up – merriment does not come at the expense of artistic integrity.