Passport; Back to the Bars, Liverpool BarflyCharity fundraiser on Monday 1st March 2004
Starsailor's performance at the Liverpool Barfly to raise funds for Shelter and War Child was just about the hottest and most sought after ticket in town. The gig was one of a series of Barfly performances between the 1st and 10th March featuring successful artists being taken back to basics at small up close and personal venues. The emphasis was firmly on the close proximity and personal contact between bands and their fans. This was one date at which blaggers and liggers were in short supply.
Tickets were only available through two sources, carefully designed to raise the maximum funds possible for each rare ticket for the chosen benefactors. Fans could either enter a text-in competition at £1.50 a throw, or take their chances bidding for them on eBay, but the four figure sums reputedly paid for some of the places, would prove too rich for most pockets.
Billed as Passport; Back to the Bars, the Liverpool Barfly only had 130 pairs of tickets up for grabs and the 24th of February proved to be a nail-biting and tense affair as fans waited for winners' notifications by text message. Some were lucky, more were not.
Barfly venues from the largest in Glasgow to the smallest in London were putting on acts over ten days as diverse as Atomic Kitten to The Cure and The Divine Comedy to The Darkness. The maximum number of tickets up for grabs for any show were 190 pairs, some as few as 75, little wonder they were hot property.
The complex entry arrangements involving photo ID and winning codes made the queue in the cold seem relentless.
The event was billed as 'intimate' and the very close proximity of the band to the audience certainly qualified and as the recorded version of Sharkfood was taken over live by the band, the long wait in the cold was soon forgotten.
The modestly sized audience and closeness to the band created a relaxed atmosphere and there was banter back and forth throughout, with shouted requests for songs and jokes. James asked if anyone knew any good jokes and and a thought occurred; “here's one, Peter Andre's currently at number one” which illicted laughter and hoots of derision. “Mind you” added James, “he's the one that's laughing”. Good point.
Various song suggestions were offered from the audience, including S Club 7 and Kylie, the latter being the one to tempt James into a langorous rendition of Cant Get You Out of My Head.
As they set up to do Four to the Flour, their third single from Silence Is Easy, released that very day, James asked if everyone had been out to buy it and a copy waved aloft from the front was evidence of at least one sale. “well done that young man in the second row” James acknowledged “we'll be out later to sign it for you”. He was good to his word. If the energetic rendition didn't tempt the rest into the shops, nothing would. Ben, drumming like a man possessed, was enough to secure my £2!
James's customary mid-set acoustic, other than the unscheduled Kylie number, was U2's Where the Streets Have No Name, the choice possibly influenced by his U2 T-shirt. James delivered another acoustic prior to the encore and he made the comment “that was an exclusive for you” - we just witnessed a brand new and as yet un-named Starsailor song in its infancy. What a treat.
The encore consisted of three tracks, Some of Us, which the rest of the band were rather startled about as it wasn't scheduled (as you can see on the set list shown above), Fever and Good Souls, but having heard Dave Westhead's rendition of the former the night before, I'm not sure that the vocal performance was lacking a certain gravitas. The same could not be said of Good Souls, which was a fitting conclusion to a pretty special show, albeit one that felt like it came around much too soon.
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