Gig Review: British Sea Power, A Classic Education, & Eamon Hamilton – Maxwell’s, Hoboken NJ, 3/21/2011

Monday night gigs are typically a drag for most people. There is something about that day and a gig that doesn’t always go together. However, there are occasions where “Monday, be damned” becomes a mantra and the show outshines any feeling of dread or conformity. This Monday night performance by the incredible Brighton, UK based British Sea Power was one of those gigs.

Maxwell’s is a name synonymous with indie rock. The Hoboken venue has long been a staple of many bands’ touring diets. It helps that its a rather classy joint as well. Doubling as a bar/restaurant, the place serves up some mean burgers and has Stella on tap, which is a marked difference from most of the NYC venues. I have been fortunate to have caught a few gigs here in my life, but it goes without saying that when a band I truly enjoy is playing Maxwell’s, I’ll go to that show before just about any other venue in this area.

Eamon Hamilton

Opening on this night was Eamon Hamilton, a former member of British Sea Power, and currently a member of UK’s Brakes. I had the chance to speak with Eamon before the gig and he was an absolute gent, plus he put up with my gushing over Rose Elinor Dougall, who sung with Brakes on a track on their debut LP. Eamon’s set was short and sweet.  He was generally light hearted and an able guitar player with the highlight of his set being a cover of Johnny and June Carter-Cash‘s ubiquitous duet, Jackson. Eamon called for a member of the audience to join in, and older BSP fan, Mike, joined in. It was a very fun(ny) moment and the mood was cheerful. Eamon will also be opening up for the band at their show at the Music Hall in Williamsburg tonight.

A Classic Education

Following Eamon, came Bologna, Italy’s “A Classic Education” fresh off of SXSW. I was wholly unfamiliar with this band prior to this evening, and they played a very strong set of indie-pop. Frontman Jonathan Clancy was in a good mood and the band deftly went through a selection of up-tempo numbers. Most surprising about this band was how tight they were with very good musical communication. They have a strong mix of guitars and keyboards that was not unwelcome at all. Clancy also “shouted out” members of New Jersey-based indie band Real Estate who were amongst the audience.

At last it was time for the unheralded British Sea Power.  This is a band with a rather immense catalog at this point in their career, and it was the first time I had ever gotten to see them in a headliner setting rather than as another act at a festival. They’ve now been together 11 years and have garnered a very healthy following both in and outside of their native Brighton, UK.  Earlier in the day, the band taped a performance on David Letterman’s show and they all seemed to be in bright spirits both in speaking with a few of them prior to the gig and in stage presence. They were loose and carried a swagger with them as they came onto the small stage at Maxwell’s and proceeded to play some of their uniquely sweeping anthems for the crowd that had gathered

British Sea Power

Similarly with the band prior to the them, I was most impressed with BSP’s innate ability to communicate with each other musically. I especially loved when guitarist/vocalist Yan would switch off with bassist/guitarist/second vocalist Hamilton and the band wouldn’t miss a beat at all. The addition of other instrumentation like a cornet, keyboards, multiple guitars,  and the ever-present Abi Fry on electric violin really provides a full and engaging sound on many of their tracks. The new Valhalla Dancehall material , notably “We Are Sound” and set opener “Who’s In Control?” were absolutely fantastic in their style and showmanship.

My personal highs of tonight’s set were the tracks played off of my favorite BSP album, 2008’s “Do You Like Rock Music”. Wicked performances of “No Lucifer” and “Waving Flags” were greatly appreciated by myself and audience members alike, who waved their hands in the air as flags during that particular growler. Prior to the gig,  I mentioned to Hamilton my favorite track, “No Need To Cry” which he remarked had never been played live. I really hope the next time I see them that this may be a part of the set sometime down the line, but I am not one to complain. Click here for the full setlist.

British Sea Power are one of those bands that do not get enough recognition in the crowded confines of  indie rock in

British Sea Power

general. It would serve us all better if they did. Their anthems are perfectly suited to a Monday night gig and I would eagerly go see them again on any night given the opportunity.

The band play the Music Hall of Williamsburg tonight (3/22) and again at the Bowery Ballroom on 4/21. Tickets are still available for both shows, so be sure to check them out if you have the chance.


Eamon Hamilton 7/10

A Classic Education 7/10

British Sea Power 10/10

Be sure to check out my Flickr if interested as I will be adding more pictures from this show shortly.

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