"Woah, when did that happen?!" Such is my response to how quickly the downstairs section of the Academy fills up for British Sea Power first Irish show in 2 years; it's a reaction I've had many times before. For small shows like this, it's easy to get down the front if you arrive early, and that's exactly what I do. A 230-capacity venue isn't too difficult to fill, certainly not for a band who played the main room last time they were here, but the volume of people who flood in whilst Tallaght-based support Leaders of Men get things off to a flyer is impressive. An intimate venue like this (and it's certainly described as such by LOM's frontman Brian Ashe, right after his band power through the opening song of the night) does have some problems - the sound isn't exactly stellar, and if you happen to have anyone over 6 foot tall standing in front of you anywhere in the room, your chances of getting a good view go out the window - but it gets the job done. It's a damn sight better than what I have to put up with here at home, at least, and makes little impact on the night, as the focus is more on the music than anything else.

Leaders of Men, despite their Joy Division-referencing moniker, aren't part of the post-punk revival; their music is written for venues much larger than this. As it is, they seem best suited to a smaller venue; I've seen them before, upstairs (supporting Frightened Rabbit last September), but a lot has changed for them since then, and tonight is all about new songs. There is enough to suggest from a surprisingly short set (one which features only five songs) that the wheels are finally starting to turn for the quintet. They seem more concerned with honing their craft as a live act first, and their punchy and direct songwriting means that it doesn't take very long at all for the swelling crowd to get on board. They need to get into a studio and put out some new material as soon as possible, because they're shaping up to be quite an interesting band. One can see why they were chosen to support BSP, though the latter have taken a more subtle approach on their latest album, Machineries of Joy.

One thing that definitely isn't subtle is their arrival on stage, though that can't be helped; that barrier makes for some awkward moments on the whole, with crew members having trouble as well. Thankfully, the awkward bits are mostly limited to that (save a few small technical hitches), and the band prove that they can put on a hell of a show regardless of the capacity. It's 10 years since The Decline of British Sea Power, and they wind back the clock to 2003 for a blistering opening quartet of songs, with Machneries track 'K Hole' fitting right in alongside 'Remember Me', 'Apologies to Insect Life' and a spine-tingling version of 'The Spirit of St. Louis'; it's a surprisingly obscure song to play that early in the set, but it's a fan favourite, and considering they closed with it last time they were here, it works pretty much anywhere. However, a move into slower territory yields problems; Abi Fry's keyboard refuses to co-operate for 'Blackout', so that's disposed of in favour of a stunning rendition of the title track from the new record, which goes down a storm, along with the big-sounding songs from 2008's Mercury-nominated Do You Like Rock Music? - 'Waving Flags' gets one of the biggest cheers of the night, and set closer 'No Lucifer' sounds absolutely colossal.

The set is structured in a way that allows vocalists Yan and Hamilton to spend similar amounts of time in the spotlight, and each of them do indeed have their moments. Hamilton's higher-pitched voice is put to great use on the chaotic 'Mongk II' and the intense 'When A Warm Wind Blows Through the Grass', while Yan handles songs from second album Open Season with aplomb. There are moments when the band really let themselves go, too, but they're focusing less on the quirks that got them noticed in the early days (even if a bear-suited man is spotted wandering amongst the crowd towards the end of the set - that's another tradition), and more on the songs. The set could have gone the other way - other shows have seen the band go down a more mid-tempo and atmospheric route, fitting in with the general air of their new album - but the focus tonight is on energy; even if the serene 'What You Need the Most' opens the encore, 'Carrion' and the hymnal 'All In It' quickly follow (the former's false start greeted by impressive cheers), quickening the collective pulse of the crowd, before they segue into the semi-improvised 'Rock In A', a long-standing gig finale which allows them to end the show on a high, capping a joyously intimate night in the best way possible.