Starsailor impromptu private gigThe Strangeways Hotel, Hindley. Sunday 29th February 2004.
Report and photos by Boo.
On the eve of Starsailor's very exclusive charity fundraiser at Liverpool's Barfly, they organised a family get together whilst in the area, to catch up with family and friends after their hectic US schedule of tour dates, radio and TV. It was intended as an informal get together over a beer and what could be better than to hold it at a pub owned by a family member. Barry's brother Dave, well known to Starsailor fans, having worked with them from the outset, retired after a serious knee injury incurred at a festival in 2002. Dave made real the lifelong ambition to own his own pub and The Strangeways Hotel in Hindley was the setting for what was to prove to be the most incredible evening for performers and audience alike.
The pub, sporting a sign declaring "closed today for a private function, sorry", looked in grave danger of bursting at the seams, the entrance blocked by two large "if your name's not on the list, you're not coming in" bouncers in footwear that indicated they meant business.
No one was quite sure what to expect, the tiny stage probably had a smaller footprint than their usual speaker stack and standing room was at a premium, for the band and the audience. Even the towels were small, Ben expressed his disgust at having to use a 'John Smith's' beer slop towel for brow mopping - holding it aloft, upside down, just in case anyone had any doubts as to the sacrifice he was enduring.
The entire performance was delivered in incredible good humour, the familiarity with the audience was reflected in the banter and heckling and each side gave as good as it got. Starsailor opened their set with Music Was Saved and James apologised to those who were disappointed that 'the turn' had interrupted their bingo, which would resume after their set. Some were later disappointed to find that he was, in fact, lying. He also suggested that he could use a better script writer for the gags.
The Starsailor sound filled the implausibly small venue and my goodness did it sound good. In-yer-face, up close, white-of-their-eyes live music at its very best.
Second song Alcoholic reminded the band that they were without beer and the evening's host duly delivered pint glasses and Stel doubted his ability to serve a decent pint.
Perhaps the highlight of the performance came from a singer not normally seen in the Starsailor line-up, host and long term friend, Dave Westhead, who was invited to sing the vocals of Fever and those that have seen the DVD Easter egg will know that he is given to this particular party turn after the consumption of alcohol.
It was something to behold and it was evident to participants and witnesses alike that we were watching something pretty special. Dave struggled momentarily with lyrics and James stood alongside and gently assisted and the track was delivered with much meriment. I think Starsailor will be happy to concede that Dave deserved - and got - the loudest applause of the evening. There were a few of us with lumps in our throats too, if only because it was a joy to see them reminded of why they love what they do so much and how much fun it still is.
Sunday 29th February 2004 was a very special day for a lot of people. Every gig they do matters to people, their live performances touch people everytime they take to the stage. But that particular day they were amongst loved ones, the very people that helped them to where they are now, made sacrifices to help them along. It was an honour to stand alongside.
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