This was a special concert at a very special venue. One hundred years ago (1917) Manchester’s Albert Hall hosted a 'People's Concert' and so the city’s historic venue decided to celebrate the anniversary in style. Arriving too late for Girl Ray and Boxed In I did catch Dutch Uncle’s set but wished I’d never. Hailing from down the road in Marple, they cite influences such as Kate Bush, King Crimson, XTC and Talking Heads. Sadly, their take on art-rock did little for me. Every song felt like four, with too many riffs, key changes and beat flips crammed in to each track. The focus of the band is their hyperactive front-man Duncan Wallis who couldn’t keep still for a second as he gyrated, jerked and jumped around the stage. I’m sure they’re all really lovely boys and their mums are really proud of them but for me it was just all too much. That said, on a positive note, the title track from their current album 'Big Balloon' is indeed a top tune.

Next up were Sunderland’s Field Music. Built around the nucleus of the Brewis brothers David and Peter, their indie rock stylings were less frenetic than the previous act and hence more palatable. They set the scene nicely although their set was cut short by a broken drum, but not before the excellent 'The Noisy Days Are Over' has got the Albert Hall in party mood.

But tonight was about celebration, the nostalgia of the fantastic venue we found ourselves in and of celebration, so what better band than British Sea Power to head-line the night? And so it proved. British Sea Power wowed the sell-out crowd and were fitting headliners. Of bands currently around at the moment, few are quite like them. From the minute you clap eyes on their merch stand you know that this is no ordinary band. And with six studio albums (excluding 2015’s Sea of Brass) now under their belt, there’s a wealth of material for them to draw on.

Opening with The Cure-tinged 'Bad Bohemian', the lead track from their current LP 'Let the Dancers Inherit the Party” there’ was no looking back as they delivered anthem after anthem. Surrounded by their now familiar foliage stage props they lead us through their quintessence take on Blighty; of winding coast paths, swooping sea birds and freshly ploughed fields. As original as they are majestic, they were a total breath of fresh air in the current music climes and one of only a few bands to have captured and articulated the finer points of our green and pleasant land.

Tonight’s set spanned the whole of their back catalogue and only featured four tracks off the aforementioned current album. The lion’s part came from 2008’s excellent 'Do You Like Rock Music?' and provided the night’s two best songs. The first, 'No Lucifer', sung by the band’s main frontman Yan (who, incidentally, bears an incredible resemblance to James Dean Bradfield from Manic Street Preacher’s kid brother if he had one!) hailed the appearance of British Sea Power’s now legendary bears (one brown, one polar) in the crowd. The second is possibly the best-ever tribute to the demon drink, the anthemic “Waving Flags” sung by the wirier bass player Hamilton in his more whispered tones along with ticker-tape canons. The bears retreated as the set closed with the sweepingly melancholic instrumental 'The Great Skua' as the band united as one with the partisan crowd in a final crescendo.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night was that it took the band until the first encore for them to visit their excellent 'Machineries of Joy' album in the shape of its brooding title track, paired with the frenetic 'Atom'. But there was a second and much less predictable encore. We got early single 'The Spirit of St.Louis' and a belting version of Iggy Pop’s 'Funtime' which saw Yan crowd-surfing and guitarist Noble “crowd standing” if there is such a thing. It was a fitting end to a special gig and one that will live on in the minds of everyone who had the good fortune to help one of Manchester’s most characterful venues celebrate this auspicious date.


Photographs by Denzil Watson
















Related Links:

https://en-gb.facebook.com/BSPofficial/
https://twitter.com/BSPOfficial
https://www.britishseapower.co.uk


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