Starsailor at V2004, Weston Park, StaffordReport and photos by Boo
V2004 was scheduled for late in a typical British summer of relentless downpours, with thunder storms occuring with wholly inaproppriate regularity for summer. Festival goers were more likely to have need of sensible shoes and waterproof gear than sun hats and factor 15.
The journey south to Stafford entailed lots of looking skyward and cursing of the all too familiar sight of windscreen wipers swishing back and forth. Just how much mud would we need to plod through between stages? The fortunate topography of the Weston Park estate, being slightly elevated and surrounded by rivers, ensured that the area was dry, almost beyond credibility after the rain the sky had dropped on it on preceding days. The ground keepers had had the sense to leave the grass long and this was flattened underfoot to a solid matting, making the going considerably more pleasant than anticipated. Even though black clouds loomed ominously on several occasions, they thankfully kept their payloads and many people will have ended the day unexpectedly sunburnt.
The annual V festival, now in its ninth year, is held over a weekend at two venues, with the line-up swapping overnight. The Weston Park weekend audiences would have four stages and several tent venues to choose between, playing host to bands as diverse as The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and a Scissors Sisters' DJ set. Headliners on the main stages included The Strokes, Massive Attack, Primal Scream, Dido and Muse. Starsailor were scheduled for a one hour set at 8pm on the NME stage.
The band spent the afternoon before their performance relaxing and catching some of the sets, Stel and Ben took in some of Snow Patrol and Badly Drawn Boy and Barry was spotted in the crowd watching the Scissor Sisters. No amount of encouragement however could tempt Stel into a fringed leather and feather number as seen leaving the dressing room on Jake Shears's pert body. They played some football and caught up with friends in other bands. Ben did his usual dash to the stage area to oversee the set up of his kit.
You never know quite who you might spot at an event of this nature and as the band were taking the steps at the rear of the stage for their set and the gear was being checked, Ben spotted one of his favourite celebrity fans waiting to watch their set and he and Drew Barrymore chatted for a few moments and she kindly agreed to pose for a keepsake.
Sunset was scheduled for 20 minutes into Starsailor's set and with an overcast sky, it was already drawing dark as the band took the domed stage to a thunderous reception, with waving hands, flags and inflatables as far as I could see. They opened with a known hit to get the crowd moving in the evening chill; Poor Misguided Fool, followed in short order with newer track Music Was Saved. Stel experienced some problems with the bass and Hamish was dispatched to undertake some emergency re-wiring. If James finds himself in need of employment in future, the squeals the removal of his jacket illicited, would indicate he might have a potential career as a stripogram.
I think it's fair to say that by the time Starsailor delivered most recent hit Four To The Floor, as the day became night, the crowd were well and truly into the set and were bouncing enthusiastically in unison, arms aloft and singing noisily. James announced that the next song was Barry's moment of glory as he started the piano introduction of Alcoholic - James could easily have taken a breather as the crowd sang along, those in the core of the crowd reporting that they were actually drowning out his vocals entirely.
Album track Fidelity has been a surprise festival winner, on CD it sounds too gentle to work on a big stage, but the live rendition of it gains a huge amount of energy and it was well received by the crowd who are now well and truly 'up for it' as darkness falls and this seems like a good point to hit them with some new material. Potential third album inclusion In My Blood was showcased this summer at Glastonbury and is now a regular inclusion on the summer set list. Stel's fabulous bassline throbs through the huge crowd and was met appreciatively. His big grin and thumbs up at the end of the track indicated he enjoyed it as much we did.
Ever since Starsailor started playing gigs, fans have cited Tie Up My Hands as a live favourite and the first few notes are received in a manner that indicates that this is still very much the case. It sounds as powerful and spine tingling as ever. The lighting designer ensured the crowd could be seen by the band and the sea of arms and singing faces set a powerful scene.
Had James felt lazy tonight, he could have easily rested on his laurels and saved his vocal chords, the final two tracks; Silence Is Easy and Good Souls were both sung loudly by the audience and made us painfully aware of how close the end of the set was - it had gone all too fast, the sure sign of having fun.
The band left the stage after the crescendo of Good Souls and James remained to deliver a solo acoustic that required crowd assistance. As he left the stage to a sea of arms, willing him back, not yet wanting it to end, the crowd took up the refrain and continued for some time. I later asked him if he'd been aware of it and he adopted a wry smile and said yes, he'd heard it "I somehow thought they might!"
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