British Sea Power.

15th June.
Crucible.

Reviewer – Pete Martin.

I last saw British Sea Power about ten years ago supporting the Libertines at the Leadmill. The crowd was loud and aggressive and one of BSP performed the best and most reckless swan dive into the crowd I've ever seen. Over the years they have retained that inner fire and built up a reputation for innovative live shows, with idiosyncratic stage sets and obscure and remote locations for gigs. They have recently released their fifth album Machineries of Joy, but tonight they're providing a live soundtrack to Penny Woolcock's 2012 documentary film From the Sea to the Land Beyond, which debuted at the Crucible at last year's Doc/Fest.

From the Sea.. is a film looking at Britain's coastline and its relationship with people's lives in both wartime and peacetime, with extensive footage drawn from the BFI National Archive. With their love of nature and wildlife, it was a perfect match for the enigmatic Brighton-based band to be commissioned to write and perform the soundtrack.

Before the screening Woolcock made a short speech saying that it was the only film she'd made that was “unstressful to watch”. She explained that it showed 100 years of social history, women's history and the rise and fall of fishing and shipbuilding. Although she acknowledged that she hadn't shot a single frame of film herself (footage from Mitchell & Kenyon to a young Peter Greenaway is included), she called it “a beautiful and poetic experience”.

The 6-piece band took to the stage to huge applause and as the film began plaintive keyboard chords were joined by trumpet, cello and a crescendo of drums and cymbals. The music ebbed and flowed with the elements - wild seas, gentle summer breezes, birds taking wing. Fascinating wartime footage shows RMS Mauretania, troops practising trench manoeuvres, synchronised marching battalions and women priming and loading bombs. In more peaceful and innocent times, families enjoy the simple pleasures of the seaside, with palmistry and phrenology available on the beach. More up-to-date footage of the British at play includes a wind and rain-lashed Blackpool with holidaymakers battling the elements. Exhilarating black & white and colour footage of lifeboat and helicopter rescues highlights the sheer size and power of the sea and the bravery of those involved is tangible.

Throughout this kaleidoscope of disparate images and emotions British Sea Power played with real passion and restraint, giving an atmospheric and evocative performance. Though unobtrusive, this is far from incidental music.

This film wouldn't have been possible without the dedication and efforts of so many people - the various filmmakers, forces personnel and members of the public, both past and present. The star of the show though is undoubtedly the rugged brutality and beauty of the sea, which will still be battering the British coastline when we're all long gone.

Holy Esque.

14th JUNE.
THE BOWERY.

Reviewer – Tasha Franek.

Local promoters Semi Detached are definitely set to spoil us this summer. Having already had the return of their infamous boat party, they continue to showcase heaps of blossoming talent from Yorkshire and beyond. The limited space in the Bowery has always drawn me to it for live music. Intimacy is rarely a bad thing. I was really pleased to see the place was already alive when I arrived, shortly before the first band, Peaks, set up their array of equipment on stage.

The brand new duo from Sheffield definitely brought with them the ethos that ‘more is more’, as they switched and changed from electronic equipment to various instruments, creating thick layers of electro sound. I saw a lot of potential on stage, and although the set seemed awkwardly eclectic at times, when they got it right the atmosphere was perfect. With a little more zoning in on what sound they are looking to produce I think that Peaks will definitely kick off.

Next up, squeezing their way onto the stage was the brilliant Leeds six-piece Heart-Ships, and in my humble opinion these dapper gentlemen put on the appearance of the evening. Front man Ryan Cooke’s vocals resemble an aggressive yet delicate early Maccabees’ sound, and the fantastic stage presence of the whole band had everybody desperate to join in with Cooke’s avant-garde dance moves. The stage buzzing with energy, Heart-Ships braved the almost unthinkable and played five brand new tracks. Luckily their gallantry paid off as they all went down a treat and gave us a taste of what may be on the horizon as they start to think about the release of their second EP.

Headlining the evening was the brilliant Holy Esque, all the way from Glasgow. Another lead singer with a remarkable, stand-out sound, Pat Hynes oozed sex appeal with his gritty, faltering vocals and lucid movement around the microphone. The band has had a fantastic year so far, having played at huge events including festivals from The Great Escape in Brighton to SXSW in Texas, so it was a privilege to have them here with us.

The final track of the evening was my favourite of the night, their most recent single, ‘St.’. Leaving the audience with a delightful aftertaste, Holy Esque packed up and Peaks returned to put on a DJ set until the early hours. A fantastic job by Semi Detached for bringing together three rising talents.

Jimmy Cliff.

24th June.
Plug.

Reviewer – Joe Baker.

To a crowded house at the Plug, the 65-year-old Jimmy Cliff was greeted with a rousing reception and jumped in (at times literally) to his classic ‘You Can Get It If You Really Want’ from the soundtrack to the film The Harder They Come. Backed by a tight 5-piece band and backing singers, and decked out in a red, gold and green scarf, from the get go Cliff had bundles of energy to give the hungry crowd.

The man’s back catalogue is long and impressive, and he rolled off hits like the Cat Stevens cover ‘Wild World’ and the politically conscious and still relevant ‘Vietnam’ (revamped as ‘Afghanistan’), before some of the best known songs that made him a pioneer of reggae music and the only living musician to hold the order of merit from the Jamaican government. The uplifting ‘Wonderful World, Beautiful People’ had even a cynical bastard like me smiling and feeling positive about the world for five minutes. Next up was a moment to slow things down, with ‘Many Rivers to Cross’, yet another classic. The crowd was captivated.

It was time to go back to the start, to the ska days, and ‘Miss Jamaica’ once again had the crowd singing every word. Cliff and his band were really cooking now, and ‘I Can See Clearly Now’ was followed by ‘The Harder They Come’. By this point the set was already an hour long, but the energy and enthusiasm was still infectious.

After ‘King of Kings’ and ‘One Blood’, and after over an hour and a half, the ensemble left the stage, but the crowd made sure there was an encore. We were treated to not one but three more songs before a well deserved rest.

The packed crowd sung every word and it was a beautifully positive gig. A two-hour set as lively as it was - if I can be patronising and say “at his age” - was mighty impressive, and a lot of acts should look at his energy as the blueprint for a live show. Hands were in the air and bodies moved all the way through his set. There was a real connection between the stage and the crowd. I hope I'm half as active at his age, although he proved that age ain't nothing but a number.

Beardyman.

3rd June.
Leadmill.

Reviewer – Paul Robson.

Demented, deranged and hilarious - this is the best way to describe a live performance by Beardyman. He may have had to reschedule his gig at the Leadmill but he didn't fail to disappoint. He is on tour to promote the Beardytron 5000, a music system that allows him the capability to layer live sounds using only his mouth. This sounds tedious and a tad gimmicky, but when mixed with Beardyman's wacky imagination, the results are entrancing.

“Hello Sheffield,” was applauded by an enthusiastic crowd before he sarcastically jested “...and hello Leeds.” He began to build a simple hip hop beat before adding a bass that quickly transformed it into a house track. This is where Beardyman's skills lie - he can take simple sounds and quickly jump from genre to genre. Because the performance flowed in a continuous stream it is difficult to pick out single tracks. It felt as though the audience was taken on a crazed journey through this man’s psyche.

Beardyman's performance style is largely improvised but it never became pretentious or heavy handed. The show fed off the audience as well as relying on his own abilities. By injecting humour and a sense of uncertainty he managed to keep the crowd engrossed. His snide remarks regarding David Cameron were met with jubilant cheers, as was his reference to “sex and drugs”.

When he left the stage at the end of his set the packed venue roared the demand for an encore. There was a brief moment of anticipation and Beardyman reappeared to a euphoric response. For the only time during the gig he engaged in some old school beatboxing using a single microphone. He exhibited his vocal dexterity by performing a hip hop and drum & bass hybrid that worked the spectators into a frenzy. He then returned to the Beardytron 5000 to finish on a slow track that lost a little intensity. Although it did exhibit Beardyman's singing and songwriting abilities, the show worked best when moving at a frantic pace.