‘Bring back the bear!’ someone shouts from the back during a pause to swap instruments, talking about the 8-foot Ursine Ultra that would occasionally join the band on stage. For Sea Power, known more for gigs at Jodrell Bank and Canvey Island, the organ-framed stage of St. Luke’s is maybe on the conventional side. Covering the stage of the church in green foliage gives the gig an odd anachronistic feel, like seeing Wire at a school assembly. But there’s always been something a little out of time about Sea Power, from subject matter of the songs to the flugelhorn and violins that accompany their classic rock revivalism – the E-Street band in sensible knitwear.
They’re at their best when they push out of the confines of guitar pop, though: the INXS/Depeche Mode influence on current album Everything Was Forever, coming with Martin Hannett-like, stripped down drums and flashing red and black electro lighting brings a welcome change of pace to the second half of the gig.
The extended instrumental sections of ’No Lucifer’ and ‘Bad Bohemian‘ see the band driving each other on and seems to be where they’re at their happiest, building into ecstatic crescendos of sound. The rapturously received encore of ‘Remember Me’, ‘Waving Flags’ and an emotionally wrung ’The Great Skua’ sees the stage plants chucked into the crowd and waved aloft like triumphant pennants. They’re a compelling and clearly very accomplished group of musicians, swapping vocals and styles with fluency.
It’s an audience of faithful fans here: the material from the early albums is definitely met with the biggest response and there’s plenty of singing – and chanting – along with the old favourites, in a set that begs for a summer festival stage to play it on.