I am stubborn.
My friend advised me against it, reviews are not so positive, the latest album listened on (god bless) Spotify is not a great piece of music.
I took with me the helmet, my legendary spirit of contradiction and I went to this gig to see Starsailor live.
To see what’s left of the “next missed big thing” of Brit pop of the noughties.
Starsailor broke through the music scene more or less the same time of Coldplay. Both bands lead the neomelodic vein of music following the path draw by Travis. Whilst they were debuting in the small cosy venues band at first album tour, the music magazines started debating whether Starsailor or Coldplay were going to be huge in few here times.
Four album and eight years later, Starsailor arrive to Cambridge for one of the latest dates of a small tour. They are more or less touring venues the same size of 2001. Coldplay on the contrary sold out in few minutes, months in advance, two dates at the huge Wembley Stadium. Despite the recession, despite they have been touring the world and have already played UK several times in the last months.
Tonight’s stage is overlooked by the sunglassed kid appearing on their latest album cover. The logo-name on the drums is there to reinforce the message and remember the audience which ticket they bought.
Among the fans the feeling is the one of a quiet night out saved from the sofa-remote-telly triad.
Older than I thought, with few youngsters among them, the die-hard fans are the only one remained since the glory days.
When James Walsh drags the rest of the band on stage, what surprises me is the absence of the excitement that usually accompanies the light-off/spot-on sequence that defines the start of a show.
He has to “thank you Cambridge” to draw the attention from the queue for a second pint to the stage for the first song.
Concert starts from the beginning, Tie Up My Hands is the track opening their first album, Love is Here, and opens tonight’s gig.
It is a nice ballad but it is clearly not the song that will be capable, tonight, to turn up the excitement.
A song that perfectly fits the definition of sugary brit-pop band that Starsailor perfectly suit.
In The Crossfire follows. The songs that opens In the Outside, their third work. A shy electric guitar tries to wake up the night. It seems to work a bit, people’s heads start moving, following the 4/4 beat of the drum. It looks more as a duty, an automatic reflection than a real desire to be immersed by the music, but at least it is a reaction.
Time is set for a new song, All The Plans, the title track of latest album opens with a chords progression so shamelessly copied from Oasis that they could sue them for plagiarism if only there was the hint of a song instead of the four minutes of dullness that follow.
Fidelity fills the gap with a piece from the (yet) missing second album. As good rock employees, four songs have been carefully selected from the four albums.
Everyone has got their pick. Is everyone happy, though? Judging from the queue re-forming at the bar I doubt.
I am already quite bored. It is ok. I have never been a fan of predictable chord progressions even when they were put together by Sir Paul.
What surprises me is the boredom of the people that paid for the ticket. The look of the few hundreds people is the one of those who want to convince themself that are having fun but, in fact, if they could, instead of pleasing their girlfriends passion to see James Walsh live, would head to the pub just outside to watch Manchester United playing Porto.
Even more surprisingly is that Starsailor, if they could, would unplug their instruments and join their fans to watch the match.
On stage the atmosphere looks like that of a weary late work meeting between employees. I can’t accept it.
I believe that the moment rock embodies the frustration of a subordinate job, a trap you cannot escape, the duty, because you have the credit cards bills and the mortgage rate, well, that moment rock, as I see it, dies. Nevermind if the mortgage is to repay a Beverly Hills mansion.
The concert continues with this slow pace. New and old songs alternates.
Expectedly the older songs from the debut Poor Misguided Fool, Love Is Here, Alcoholic, stand out from the rest.
They also stress the evidence. The nostalgic feeling of a story that is living its final chapters emerges. A flower that inexorably is withering.
I wonder if it hasn’t already dried up after Love Is Here, their first and quite good album.
I cannot foresee the sign of any other Starsailor trace in British pop music.
Hopefully tonight’s set list saved us from The Thames a new songs that on the CD contains at the same time an embarrassing “kind of western” guitar part by Rolling Stone’s Ron Wood and one of the most ridiculous opening of rock history:
“Is love just a big mistake? Just a risk that we all take?”
Will you ever ask such a stupid question to someone you care? No you won’t!
Mediocrity rules to the point that I find myself thinking the unthinkable. Reflecting onto the never-ending Starsailor vs Coldplay comparison I must conclude the second come out as giants.
A statement in itself that I am scared to write.
Hopefuly this agony doesn’t last too much. The song that opens the new album, closes the main part of the show.
It is titled Tell Me It’s Not Over and put at this precise moment, after such a gig, in this time of their career it sounds as a desperate desire, one of those dreams that you know will never realize. I am quite sorry guys, but I feel it’s going to be over.
Three more songs during the encore please the fans and Good Souls finally closes this night.
I am sure they are good souls indeed, I don’t dispute that, what I cannot see is who feels the need of having Starsailor still around in 2009 if not even their public seem to be abit emotionally involved.
Nowadays a band that can count just a good debut album and nothing else afterward is destined to fade away at the first disappointing single. Starsailor got the last bus that keeps them on tour still because of that debut, despite three deluding LPs followed.
Some decency and the prevision that the mortgage is about to be paid off should be the driving force to declare this experience concluded. Getting bored twice, even to review a gig is a sensation that still hasn’t occurred to me.
Having a fixed image on the backstage at the beginning looks as a great opportunity for your photo set. Something different from the usual backlights, long curtains or the dark messy structures that support the whole stage.
After a while it becomes more of a nuisance, because all the pictures end up having the same touch.
How to get the best out of it without being redundant?
It is a black or white situation, you don’t have a middle option.
Either you go for it, and include it to your shots or you find a way to leave it completely out.
Pictures showing just a part of it usually are unpleasant as if you cut the figure one of the musicians.
If you opt to include it, mount a mild a wideangle (unless it is a huge stage) and wait for the moment when the backstage is well lit and clear. If it has to appear in your image, it has to appear in the moment it is best visible.
Be sure there will be one of the three songs where the light technician will please you.
On the contrary, if you want to exclude or minimize it, you have to wait for the darkest moments.
When the light setting is dark or strong backlight point at you, it is the time to take the shots that will not show the image.
Move your zoom to a mild telephoto (or mount it if you are using primes) and try to cast musicians against the dark (or very bright) back. If you have fast lenses as a 85mm f1.4 or so, working wide open it is another way to blur the back enough to be indistinguishable.