Sea Power @ The Liquid Room, Edinburgh, 25 Oct

Although their set isn't perfect tonight, Sea Power are an act you could still see making interesting, vital and complex music another two decades down the road

Live Review by Max Sefton | 27 Oct 2021
  • British Sea Power @ The Liquid Room

While their early 2000s indie peers either rose to superstardom, brutally crashed and burned, or sometimes both several times over, the band formerly known as British Sea Power have wandered an eclectic path. 

Over the past two decades they’ve supplemented their six core albums with a brass band-assisted reimagining of old tracks, three documentary soundtracks, and the music for the most acclaimed RPG video game of the decade, Disco Elysium. Now the journey from brothers Yan and Hamilton Wilkinson’s Lake District childhood home to the beaches of Brighton and the bothies of the Isle of Skye has finally led them to the precipice of their seventh record, Everything Was Forever, due out in February 2022.

In the past, Sea Power live shows have featured bear-suited mascots and copious onstage foliage. This time the tree branches are present and correct, while several fans down the front appear to have come equipped with hiking gear. From their old-fashioned evocations of the natural world to their frontman’s carefully parted hair, there’s certainly a feel of a band out of time.

Just as their name evokes the awesome elemental power of the oceans, so too does opening track Heavenly Waters, a weighty, proggy instrumental that captures the awe and spectacle of the natural world, while Oh Larsen B sounds like The Strokes if they wrote songs about wandering icebergs rather than having sex with models in scuzzy New York bathrooms.

In the past the band have meandered from thundering post-punk to widescreen soundscapes but the new songs rolled out tonight are at the more accessible end of the Sea Power spectrum, with the throaty Two Fingers offering a singalong chorus and the thundering krautrock of Doppelganger dropping into a motorik groove. 

While their records have achieved a cult acclaim with their diehard audience of bespectacled 30-somethings, it was a non-musical achievement that thrust the band back into the public eye recently, with the decision to ditch the 'British' part of their former moniker unleashing screeds of commentary both critical and complimentary. However, any fans surprised at the decision to reject a name that the band felt evoked a narrow nationalism hadn’t been paying attention. On tracks like No Lucifer the band have long undercut martial imagery with lusty football chant backing vocals.

Tonight even Yan himself messes up and uses their old name on one occasion but it’s their new name that the crowd chants when they want more. It’s not a perfect set; neither brother is the strongest singer and not every song can reach the heights of Waving Flags, their anthem for open doors. But more than many of their more famous peers, Sea Power are an act you could still see making interesting, vital and complex music another two decades down the road.