Starsailor; London Arts TheatreLondon Arts Theatre, 2nd September 2001. Review by Joe.
This kind of thing doesn't happen to me. I'm not one of ‘those’ people. You know, those self confessed ‘mega’ fans of bands. The kind of people who set up websites using free Internet space, who buy CD1 and CD2 of every single release. Who get their albums signed at in-store gigs, who will never hear a bad word said against their band of choice, even when they've descended into shameless self-parody. I was always too smart for that, too cool. I liked some bands more than others, but I was never going to attach myself to one and hold on to the bitter end. Until now.
Before this gig, I liked Starsailor. The hype surrounding them almost put me off, but the combination of the great tunes that were on the Fever single back in February, and an ear-catching voice of the lead singer meant that Starsailor sat nicely at the lower end of my top 10 bands. Then, in April, Good Souls came out and this wonderful, lighter-aloft, arm round complete stranger song, enhanced them still.
But I wasn't prepared for the life changing experience that happens to me tonight. I'm still not quite sure what happened in that little theatre in Leicester Square last night. It still seems something of a mystical experience. The only thing that I can be sure of is that after tonight, the most important band in my life are Starsailor.
They amble on stage at about half past 9. By 11, I'm changed forever in some way. The catalyst for this alteration is when James Walsh opens his mouth about 30 seconds into opener Way To Fall. I sit there and the last 5 years of dull, painful, Kelly Jonesied British guitar music is instantly forgotten. When Walsh sings, you can feel all that pain, all those horrible albums, all those mistakes, vibrate through you and then leave your body. His voice is so raw, so natural, so emotive, that it is almost other worldly at times.
Starsailor play songs from their forthcoming debut album Love Is Here. They play them with such power, such cinematic grace, that at times tonight I find myself almost catching my breath. The first powerful piano chords of forthcoming single Alcoholic, already sound wonderfully familiar, and couple this with possibly the most powerful opening line in modern rock, and a bona-fida classic is there, waiting for you to come and take it.
After about 3 songs, the rest of the band leave the stage, and a single spotlight shines on James Walsh. He begins strumming Coming Down, a vitriolic, passionate lament about a deeply unhappy relationship. This segues almost seamlessly into Jeff Buckley's Eternal Life, and in doing so it is clear which is the more powerful song. The former. It is this acoustic quarter of an hour that also includes Neil Young's Harvest Moon, and new Starsailor song She Just Wept, that truly transfixes. Stripped of the baggage of the other three, Walsh shines like a star on a bleak, cold night. The tenderness of these moments actually result in the most powerful time of the evening. It all feels just so special. So exclusive.
But it's not as if Starsailor are mid-paced. Walsh spends a lot of the evening with an electric guitar around his neck, as opposed to an acoustic, and on the violent, aggressive, yet still beautiful Poor Misguided Fool, if you shut your eyes, you wouldn't think it was Starsailor at all. You wouldn't know what it was.
We finish tonight with Good Souls. It's a small theatre. The boys next to me are indier-than-thou Goldsmiths students. The women in front of me work in a book shop. Yet still, on the chorus, I stand up, shut my eyes and scream the chorus. It's like I'm exercising demons. Demons of dark, dark, days. Demons that as long as Starsailor are around, won't return. “Thank Goodness For The Good Souls”. Thank Goodness for Starsailor. They make life better.
© Joe. 2002. All rights reserved. E-mail: Loveisjoe@aol.com
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