Starsailor at O2 Ritz, Manchester, UK – 21st November 2018

Posted by Bianca on Wednesday Nov 21, 2018 Under Alternative rock

Gig Review by Simon Saynor with Photography by Mark Loraine

It’s a staggering 15 years since Starsailor’s second album ‘Silence Is Easy’ was released and to celebrate the band are out playing three anniversary gigs. Manchester is sandwiched between Glasgow and London. Those who own the album (and if you don’t then you really should) will know the part strings play throughout and so it is that the band are enhanced by a six piece string section for the three gigs.

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There is something unassuming about the band. It’s almost tempting to call them perennial underdogs. They’ve never chased the arena circuit, never clambered for the front pages and always just let the music do the talking for them. In James Walsh though they have the finest male voice this country has produced in the last 20 years. (I’ll allow Paul Heaton to be mentioned in the ‘best male singer’ discussion but that’s it). James can still come across as shy when addressing the crowd but it’s all very endearing. It really is the music that matters.

I’m quite of a fan of seeing a band do an album in its entirety as long as there’s no cheating. I’ve seen bands miss the trickier songs out or mess around with the running order. Any band worth its salt agonises (sometimes for months) over getting the running order right. Starsailor do it the right way. We get all 11 album tracks from ‘Music Was Saved’ to ‘Restless Heart’ in the correct order. Up until last year’s ‘All This Life’ it was my favourite Starsailor album.

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“This is going to be a special night” James tells us after 2nd song ‘Fidelity’. He’s not wrong. ‘Some Of Us’ is simply one of the most beautiful songs ever and leads effortlessly into the stomping magnificence of ‘Silence Is Easy’. “It’s a while since we played this so early in the set”. 2018’s Starsailor is a band at the top of their game. Their musicianship is second to none, all fronted by the sometimes angelic, sometimes haunting, sometimes powerful, always perfect James Walsh vocal. ‘White Dove’ is glorious, “It’s great to see people singing along to album tracks they’ve waited years to hear. You’ll all know this one though”. The strings and drums intro of ‘Four To The Floor’ has the packed, sweaty Ritz crowd in raptures. (They may be the perennial underdogs but they’ve built a huge following purely based on their class as a live band). The string section seem to particularly enjoy the triumphant crescendo. It was written as a wannabee indie anthem. It’s way better than that. James takes over keyboard duties from Barry Westhead for the last of the ‘Silence Is Easy’ tracks, ‘Restless Heart’ and their off for a quick break.

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They return with Travis’ Andy Dunlop replacing the strings and they launch into 2009’s ‘Tell Me It’s Not Over’ before an unnecessary cover of Stone Roses’ ‘Waterfall’, great song, better vocal and we are in Manchester but Starsailor have enough classics of their own. We’re immediately back on track though with the massive singalong of ‘Alcoholic’ (a song that this time next year will legally be allowed to buy alcohol). All too soon it’s last song time, track one – album one, ‘Tie Up My Hands’ from ‘Love Is Here’. The string section return for the solitary encore, dedicated to ‘us Northerners’, the mighty ‘Good Souls’. Again it’s one huge singalong, The Ritz awash with grinning faces.

Starsailor have kept the same line up for their near 20 year career and released 5 studio albums. Prolific isn’t their byword but because of these two facts they are always fresh, nothing sounds remotely dated and without desperately trying to release an album a year quality control is always at a premium. It shows in their live performance. They are simply sublime.

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Set List:
Music Was Saved
Fidelity
Some of Us
Silence Is Easy
Telling Them
Sharkfood
Bring My Love
White Dove
Four To The Floor
Born Again
Restless Heart
Tell Me It’s Not Over
Waterfall
(Stone Roses cover)
Alcoholic
Poor Misguided Fool
In The Crossfire
Lullaby
Best Of Me
Tie Up My Hands
Encore:
Good Souls

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