Tell anyone you’re off to a Starsailor gig and the reaction is frequently the same. A far away stare, brow furrowed as they repeat the name, recollecting a warm feeling whilst trying to remember why.
Play the same person Starsailor’s hits from primarily the first half of the last decade and the penny drops. Songs such as Four to the Floor and Good Souls are iconic, melodic and stirring tunes, supplemented recently by new album All This Life. Quite why Starsailor haven’t become a household name can only be because not enough of the record buying public have seen the band in the flesh.
Lead singer and band focal point James Walsh greets the Leeds crowd with a simple upturned thumb, before launching straight into Listen to your Heart from the new release which, together with that record’s title track, neatly sandwiched Alcoholic and Poor Misguided Fool from their 2001 debut.
The set contained a mix of new and old, the forefather of it all being Fever, Starsailor’s first ever single, released so long ago that “the people who bought it have had kids who can now drink”. Walsh launched into a solo tribute of Tom Petty’s American Girl before Take a Little Time and Caught in the Middle neatly brought the set back into current day.
The demographically varied audience saved their loudest responses for the familiar tunes, Tell Me It’s Not Over (with a snippet of what sounded like MGMT Kids in there), Four to the Floor prefaced with Walsh’s simple “Here we go” introduction and Silence is Easy. And rightly so. Performed live these tracks take on a new life, James Stelfox’s bass and Ben Byrne’s drums driving the set along much more prominently than on the recorded versions.
The encores of FIA (oddly done with Byrne replaced by a backing tape) and Good Souls bring the set to a close.
Starsailor don’t strut about like rock stars, Walsh announced “We have been Starsailor” numerous times in the concluding minutes – imagine a Gallagher doing the same – but the band seeming to genuinely enjoy the evening, judging by the sense of comradery emitting from the stage.
Starsailor have many ventures to fill their time between albums but come back together regularly to remind us about their longevity. And long may that continue.
Second support Alex Francis is undoubtedly a talented vocalist with an impressive range. Having released a number of EPs to date, new one Stronger Love is due on December 1, Francis delivered a short set of rock songs with the foundations firmly in soul and blues. Francis’ time on the stage was perhaps too short to really gain momentum but on this evidence his exposure will only improve.
One band that certainly aren’t short of rock ’n’ roll prowess are evening openers Paves. Strutting across the stage, feet firmly fixed to monitors, set closer being a (long) extended Take Me While I’m Here perfectly showcasing the level of self-confidence in their brand of blues rock. Before that new track Baby had warmed the Leeds crowd up but given half the chance Paves would still be playing those closing notes now. A confident one to watch.