British Sea Power / The Pictish Trail – The Garage, Glasgow – Saturday 17th February 2018

I’d kind of got used to the fact that my Scottish indie world and the wider touring band circuit rarely collided. The days when Chemikal bands would tour with bigger acts seem to have long gone and in recent years there’s been very little interaction between what increasingly seemed to be two different worlds (Tuff Love supporting Ride was perhaps the exception that proves the rule).

So kudos then to British Sea Power for asking both Meursault and Pictish Trail to support them in Edinburgh and Glasgow respectively on their last two UK tours.

Fresh from (an expensive) series of dates with Belle and Sebastian, Johnny and cohorts took the stage to a half empty Garage albeit with a crowd still containing a decent number of supporters. The band set about winning over the remainder with an impressive set largely drawn from last album ‘Future Echoes’.

The tunes from the album all gain an extra dimension live but curiously ‘Dead Connection’, probably my favourite from the record, sounded a little flat.

But with a tight running time and Johnny’s chat cut to a minimum the focus was very much on the music and the exhilarating disco finale of ‘Brow Beaten’ won a fair few new fans in the by then growing crowd.

To the headliners and, regrettably, there seems to be a conspiracy designed to spoil my enjoyment of BSP gigs at the moment (probably my well merited reward for deserting them for a few years). After the crush of the Liquid Room and the misbehaving PA in Dunfermline last year, grit in the eye this time was provided by the knob behind us who insisted on shouting to his companion for pretty much the first half of the set.

It didn’t help either that we also seemed to have stood ourselves on the drink replenishment supply line and Mrs MPT had the misfortune of a drink getting half poured down her leg at one point. Lesson learnt – we won’t stand close to the wall again.

Despite these annoyances there was plenty of evidence that BSP remain a formidable live act even if any attempts to engage with the crowd seem to be limited to Hamilton’s thanks and Yan’s facial contortions.  

The set largely comprised uplifting indie anthems with a couple (you know what they are) capable of filling much bigger rooms. And these songs were predictably great even if a little interchangeable. So it was the outliers that I enjoyed the most.

‘Machineries of Joy’ (calm with intent) and an epic ‘The Great Skua’ were my highpoints because they’re set a little apart from the rest (and the knob had finally more or less shut up by that point). The band also showed their freakier side on comparative rarity ‘The Pelican’, which recaptured the spirit of the first couple of times I saw them.

Yet I just wish they’d take more risks both live and on record. Without that they seem perched just outside the Premier League of my favourite bands. Not that I imagine that they’ll lose any sleep over that!

The owl’s not where it seems!

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