A great way to see out the year…
Before we get on to Starsailor a few words on the support band. Doncaster’s Bang Bang Romeo have had a hell of a year. Airplay on national radio has coincided with playing loads of the big festivals and they were seeing out 2016 supporting Wigan heroes Starsailor.
I have seen BBR twice before and had a great time but I have to say in the 12 months or so since I last saw them they have come on leaps and bounds as a live act. Playing at the Isle of Wight and Leeds festivals has obviously allowed them to hone their skills in front of a large audience and front woman Anastasia Walker has become even more of an imposing presence as a result of this. ‘The Maze’ kicks things off at Sheffield’s Plug and you can see people who haven’t heard the band before immediately take notice. Ears are pricked, eyes are drawn to the stage. Nobody is expecting such a polished sound from a band third on the bill and Stasi’s voice is awesome to behold as always. It is ‘We Wear Our Bones’ and particularly a storming ‘Johannesburg’ that really kicks things off though. From there it’s nothing but killer as the catchy chorus to ‘Adore Me’ has the crowd singing along and an emotional ‘Runaway’ is as affecting as anything that Starsailor will play later in the evening.
All the while, Stasi prowls the stage that she owns imploring the crowd to come closer, sing along or start clapping. They are happy to oblige her. ‘Chemical’ and ‘Invitation’ end a well received performance and the latter has become a monster set closer complete with strong backing vocals from guitarist Ross Cameron and bassist Joel Phillips. Drummer Richard Gartland completes the line up and not one of them leaves anything on the stage in a pummelling, all conquering evening. A few minutes after they have finished, with Stasi’s voice still ringing in my ears, I hear someone in a Starsailor t-shirt whistling the chorus to ‘Invitation’ in the gents toilet. Another convert then…
Starsailor take to the stage to a rapturous reception from the Sheffield crowd and dive straight into a rocked up version of ‘Poor Misguided Fool’ from their brilliant debut album Love is Here. This more rock infused sound is an overriding theme of the evening actually with the Wigan band sounding more beefed up and in the process more powerful. The heavy guitar licks suit Walsh’s haunting delivery and the crowd goes nuts when the opening refrain of ‘Alcoholic’ lands just three songs in. Joining the band on guitar for this tour is Richard McNamara from Britpop heroes Embrace and he leads a stomping performance of ‘Fidelity’ before the more subdued duo of ‘Love is Here’ and ‘Fever’.
Sandwiched between note perfect renditions of ‘Way to Fall’ and ‘Lullaby’ is new song ‘Blood’. I must admit I lost touch with the band after 2005’s On The Outside but if both ‘Blood’ and fellow new track ‘Best of Me’ are anything to go by then we could well be seeing an unlikely comeback from Starsailor in 2017. Both capture the sound of the band at their hypnotizing best and the crowd treat the songs as old friends.
‘Tie Up My Hands’ has always been my favourite Starsailor song and so it proves as the song enjoys the best crowd reaction of the night. ‘Silence is Easy’ follows, a song that doesn’t receive anywhere near the adoration it deserves on the music scene but is shouted back at them in Sheffield, before the band leave the stage.
They return of course and ‘Four to the Floor’ and ‘Good Souls’ (dedicated to Jo Cox) are a perfect end to an incredible evening. It is refreshing to see one band on their way up and another on their way back and both playing as if their lives depended on it. This is what music should always be about.