Wednesday, May 11, 2005

British Sea Power Et. Al.

Last night, British Sea Power played at the Earl, but more about them in a minute. Before they took the stage, two opening acts warmed up the crowd, which was pretty good considering the small size of the venue.

First up was A Fir-Ju Well. While I only caught about four songs of their set. My impression based on the small sample is that I liked them a lot better live than the samples I listened to on the web yesterday. They had a lot of energy, switched instruments from time to time and even had an accordian. I've also seen some of the band members haunting The Usual (my local bar The Local for the unitiated) from time to time, so that's a definite plus.

Despite reportedly having to cancel a set over the past weekend, Canadian singer/songwriter Feist followed the first act to support her first CD. She also has connections with some established artists, lending her voice to Broken Social Scene's last effort. Her music was a total change of pace from A Fir-Ju Well, and despite the loud clattering and chattering in the Earl, it went over quite well thank you very much. A friend observed that she seemed like a combination of Buckley and Cat Power. I had to add that I saw a bit of Patti Smith in her as well.

Her set actually got the audience very engaged and playing at being her band by providing do-wop, oh-wah-ohs, snaps and hand claps, all of which complemented her sampling machine. By the end of her set when she made her way to the merch table to see the U.S. version of her CD for the first time and sign some autographs, she pretty much had won the crowd over. I'll definitely be investigating further.

Finally, once all the greenery was artfully placed around the stage's perimeter, British Sea Power took the stage. And wow! What a show they put on. Even though the bass was a bit too much for the first couple of songs, they powered through them at a workman-like rate, getting the audience (@ 200 people, not bad for midnight on Tuesday) really into it. I must say that their music has a bit of a different vibe live than it does on their CDs--much edgier and rawer around the edges, while still staying very tight.

Seeing them live made me think that they really contain two major influences each struggling with the other to work their way out into the sound. The interplay between the two and struggle at times really makes the music work. At first, I was stunned at how much Joy Division I saw and heard in their music. Of course, the lead singer seemed to be channelling Ian Curtis, so this really added to the effect. It was all their, the cock of the head, the high guitar, the aimless wandering and looking sort of off to the side. Eerie really.

The other influence I think I saw is more widely held--Echo and the Bunnymen. I especially was thinking Ian McCulloch on the band's final song, a spirited version of "The Spirit of St. Louis". It had everything from band member's in the audience (either crowd diving or banging a drum) to jumping up and down on stage and really sending the audience out on a good energetic note (I wasn't able to sleep for quite a while afterward).

All said, I doubt very seriously that they'll play in a venue that small in Atlanta again. My friend John took some photos of the show which you can look at here.

UPDATE: Here's a good interview of Yan and Hamilton (singer and bassist).

NP: The Stone Roses - "She Bangs the Drums"

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