NME Awards Tour, 2003. London Astoria.London Astoria, Tuesday 4th February 2003.
Photos and report by 'Boo.
Starsailor were set to headline the NME Award Tour show on February 4th 2003, following sets from Hope of the States, The 22-20s and Nada Surf, with some of the ticket price going to charity Scope. The tour, of several dates in London and across the UK, was setting the scene for the annual music industry bender . . . sorry . . . the NME Awards on the 13th February, which for 2002 were descibed by the NME themselves as an orgy of “embarrassing drink-related shenanigans” and for which 2003 “promises to be bigger and messier than ever before . . . ”
The three support bands all gave sterling sets to a fast filling venue of enthusiastic music fans on the quest for a good night out. Hopes of the State opened procedings, followed by The 22-20s and Nada Surf. I personally didn't know much more than their names before the night and I'm not equipped with the skills to give a review of music I'm not familiar with, but I will say that I was in no hurry for any of them to finish and within 24 hours had checked out each of their web sites, so they must have been pretty satisfying to my ears at the time. As the venue filled to apparent capacity, the scene was set for the headline act.
The lowering of the house lights and the original version of Alcoholic played through the PA indicated Starsailor were imminent, followed by the Soulsavers mix of Poor Misguided Fool and a crescendo of dramatic stage lighting to build the tension and expectation yet further. The band's arrival on stage left no doubt as to which band most of the people filling the venue to bursting had come to see and they let rip immediately with a brand new song (hotly rumoured to be their next single release, their first in 2003) Music Was Saved, followed in short order by an energetic and loudly accompanied rendition of Poor Misguided Fool.
They took a pause for James to say good evening and he commented on the recent phenomena of gig attendees phoning their lazy mates on mobiles to let them hear part of the gig and suggested now was a good time to do this. From my position in the projector gallery above the main hall, I saw the entire floor area light up with little green beacons of LED display, indicating the aforementioned lazy mates were now listening in. Starsailor didn't disappoint them, they treated them to free performance of their first single Fever.
At Parr Hall in December 2002 they showcased several new tracks from their second album, currently being final mixed in the studio and tonight was the turn of another first time performance of Telling Them which was very enthusiastically received by fans, hungry for the new material. Another contender for inclusion on the second album can now claim to have been heard twice live; 4 to the Floor, which judging by the crowd response to it, might prove to be the second album's competition for the Good Souls crown of anthemic crowd pleaser.
Old favourite Alcoholic opened with Barry and James working as a team, making a powerful and emotional statement in its raw live form and was followed by first album title track Love is Here.
It was very evident throughout that the band were having a whale of a time, visibly good humoured and enjoying their music and blowing away the recent studio cobwebs. The interstatial banter was amusing and delivered with a nod to the rumoured celebs in the VIP gallery, with speculation that Will Young might be in attendance and an apology to Gareth Gates for forgetting to invite him. James later also claimed, with a wry smile, to have patched things up with Noel Gallagher who had reputedly been passing on songwriting tips to young James (like he needs them!): “Write four lines of complete and utter rubbish that doesn't make any sense and in the fifth line say you didn't mean a word of what you'd just said. Genius.”
Born Again followed, a track recently re-worked in the studio and which is shortlisted for possible inclusion on the second album, leading nicely to the powerful album track Tie Up My Hands. Somewhere during procedings Ben became a little over-excited at the end of a track and tossed a drum stick or two into the crowd, one of which made high speed contact with the front row. A dialogue established that no apparent harm was done and then he requested the stick back, realising it was still needed. James questioned why it couldn't be kept as a keepsake and explained that Ben wasn't usually that tight and was in fact quite a nice chap. Not really news that.
The as yet unreleased Silence Is Easy was delivered as though it were the finale and the band left the stage, no doubt nearly deafened by the applause. After a few moments James returned to deliver a solo acoustic set, opening with a cover of Neil Young's The Needle and the Damage Done, which I was especially thrilled to witness delivered live in person. That led into Lullaby, which couldn't really be claimed to be a solo performance as every note was sung loudly by the crowd. He finished his acoustic set with the song, the choice of which for inclusion, had caused quite a stir after Parr Hall, U2's Where The Streets Have No Name.
The audience still hadn't had enough and managed somehow, with banging, whilsting and hooting, to tempt the band out again for a two song encore; their recent charity contribution cover of the Small Faces' All or Nothing and they closed in a suitable crescendo of sound and light with Good Souls, James making a final brief re-appearance to applaud the crowd in return. Don't worry Starsailor, the pleasure was ours.
Please click the photographs to see a larger view and use your browser's back button to return to this page. More photos from the Astoria on page 2
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