Technical Difficulties – British Sea Power live

British Sea Power / Foreignfox – P.J. Molloy’s, Dunfermline – Thursday 31st August 2017

Prepping MPK2 for his first British Sea Power gig, I compiled a play list of some of the hits and some of the highlights from the last album on the way to the show.

In terms of introducing him to the material it worked – 10 of the 11 tracks on the playlist were included in the BSP setlist but it was also prescient in a different, less positive way. Due to the markedly different mastering of the albums the volume on the tracks went up and down and that quiet/loud dynamic was unfortunately to be reproduced in the set itself.

I started with earplugs in when BSP when took to the stage. But the opening ‘Machineries of Joy’ started off ridiculously quiet and, removing the earplugs, it did seem that was because the P.A. wasn’t actually working.
After a couple of minutes however the overhead speakers did kick in and, other than brief wobble midway through ‘Bad Bohemian’, it sounded like everything was as it should be. Except the P.A. then phased out again during ‘Larsson B’, establishing an infuriating pattern that would not be broken throughout the rest of the night.

This was never better illustrated than by the closing ‘The Great Skua’ which was building nicely to its climax when the levels dropped at entirely the wrong time. Unfortunately every time I started to lose myself in a song that happened with a depressing predictability.

The arrival of the BSP bears did help to divert attention from the sound for a while but only ‘Want To Be Free’, the quietest song of the evening, managed to maintain the same level throughout.

Which was frustrating because the band’s performance was terrific. I’m not sure what the technical difficulties were – does PJs have an aggressive noise limiter? But for whatever reason this was genuinely one of the worst sounding shows I’ve had the misfortune to witness and it definitely meant we didn’t get the great show that it should have been.

Support Foreignfox were new to me but it’s clear that they very much originate from that sweet spot of Scottish indie at the moment. Whereas once that would have been on a spectrum between the Stone Roses and Oasis, nowadays there seems to be a confluence between Frightened Rabbit, We Were Promised Jetpacks and Celtic anthemic rock from which all manner of bands spawn.

Over the course of 5 songs they were engaging enough (and there was no misbehaving PA). The WWPJ-like ‘Frostbite’ was probably the pick of the bunch but set closer ‘Bonfires’ is probably the song from the set with the most potential to get them wider appeal.

My advice for them though would be to try and stand out a little from the crowd. They’re a good act but, for my taste, they need to do something that WWPJ and Frightened Rabbit have managed to achieve – establish their own identity.