Gig preview: Starsailor at First Direct Arena, Leeds

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Five years ago Starsailor were on top of their game. But four albums in, with hundreds of thousands sold, they left a lot of disappointed fans when in 2009 the band was put on hold.

s with all hiatuses there’s always a slight wonder if these guys will ever come back, and if they do will the chemistry be any good or will it be just a quick a of cashing in on past successes.

Starsailor’s frontman James Walsh considered all this, in fact it was at the forefront of his mind as one of the reasons he did not want to return to Starsailor. And it’s not a surprise, considering he has embarked on a solo career and writing music for film. It wouldn’t seem right if he had failed as a solo musician then three months later the news showed Starsailor were back together.

Walsh says the band’s 2014 reunion is one of those moves that was made out of no other reason than “it felt right”.

“Something I’m really mindful of is that this feels really special, and the fans are really excited about it,” he says.

The band have an arena tour lined up, supporting James in November. This was a result of James bass guitarist Jim Glennie “always being a big supporter of Starsailor”.

Whether you were against the hiatus or not, Walsh thinks that “the reaction to the announcement of the gigs kind of proved that taking a break was the right move, really.

“And everyone’s that bit more excited about it. There’s some fans who will always have a special kind of relationship and magic with Starsailor.”

While this is good news for both Starsailor and fans, Chorley-born Walsh, who turns 34 next week, sounds both excited and a little apprehensive about this return to doing live shows.

“I don’t want to milk it too much, and go off and do hundreds gigs – that way it loses the magic.

“As long as it’s exciting and as long as it’s special we’ll keep going until that fades.”

Walsh thinks of this as “getting back with your old mates”.

“It’s kind of like turning the clocks back in a way, there’s still all that energy that comes back when we all get together. At the moment I’m just really looking forward to playing with the band again.”

For now it’s an exciting time. With a couple warm-up shows, such as one with the one in Gloucester, and some festival shows booked over summer, James Walsh has come quite a way since Starsailor first took their break. Keeping busy with his solo project as well as writing for films, there’s a wonder whether he’ll be returning to that world alongside Starsailor in the future. “I’m open to all areas at the moment. I really enjoyed working on Powder and recording the song Lullaby.”

And that’s just his film background. For his solo project, Walsh has also seen a reasonable amount of success, which he partly attributes to the continued support from fans of Starsailor. “One of the reasons it felt like the right time to get the band back together was that there was a growing number of people coming to the shows to hear the solo stuff. In a strange way it’s now that I’ve established myself as a solo artist that I feel like I’ve accomplished that, and I can go back to the band without it feeling like a safety net.”

A fair point – too many bands have got back together after not being successful on their own and if you squint hard, you can almost see the pound signs in their eyes.

But it’s not all about being successful with the solo projects; the support that the band has for each other is one of the major components that allow them to reunite with any vehemence towards each other. When Walsh talks of his fellow bandmates’ own careers there’s a slight lift in his voice.

“James’ [Stelfox, bassist] has been touring extensively with Spiritualized, and he’s really enjoyed doing that. The drummer and keyboard player, Barry [Westhead] and Ben [Byrne], they’ve been teaching music and getting some enjoyment from that as well.”

With everything back on track for Starsailor, they seem more than ready to get out there and reconnect with their old fans as well as get in touch with some new ones.

Also, Walsh has a message for you: “Thanks for being patient. I really appreciate your support, and on this occasion as well it’s a huge honour to support James. We also really hope that the James fans, who maybe aren’t so familiar with Starsailor, enjoy our set as well.”

Starsailor support James at the First Direct Arena, Leeds, on November 23, 6pm, from £36. http://www.gigsandtours.com/event/james-special-guests-starsailor/first-direct-arena/789867

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