Starsailor play Liverpool Carling Academy
Sunday 3rd October 2004. Report and photography by Boo
for Janice Long's BBC Radio 2 show.
Each year BBC Radio 2 visit a UK city for a week of free live music events, featuring both local talent and established bands, across varied genres of music in a packed timetable. 2004 took the BBC outside broadcast teams on the road to Liverpool and a schedule of events was set that would prove a real treat for local music fans, with free events to see artists as diverse as Beverley Knight, Donny Osmond and Ralph McTell.
Starsailor were scheduled for a full band live event to be broadcast in Janice Long's midnight to 03:00am show, on Sunday 3rd October 2004, with supporting sets from Ed Harcourt and Amy Winehouse. The gig took place at the Liverpool Carling Academy on a wet and windy autumnal evening, but once inside, the dampness from queueing in the persistent rain soon evaporated in the stifling venue.
Ed Harcourt and Amy Winehouse each delivered a one hour set that was recorded for later transmission during Janice's show and each act had their core of fans that clustered at the front. Sound problems towards the end of Ed's hour rather spoiled the flow of his set and Amy's upbeat sound with an accomplished brass section got people moving rather more, although the beer consumed by that late hour did nothing to help earn style marks.
Janice Long came on stage just before the scheduled midnight start of Starsailor's set and explained how the show would be going live on air and asked for a suitable welcome for the band as she introduced them to audience at home. Frankly, she could have saved her breath, the audience were wound up and ready to go. By the shake of her head and laugh as the band crept on behind her, she realised her instruction really hadn't been necessary.
Obviously concerned that home audiences weren't as awake at midnight as those at the Academy, Starsailor woke them up with a powerful version of Poor Misguided Fool and just in case they relaxed after that, hit them with Music Was Saved. Now they'd really got their attention, they went for the jugular with Four To The Floor. If that hadn't woken them up, they were beyond help.
But they relaxed their grip a little with the next three songs, two of their earliest hits and a newer album track. James introduced the still haunting Alcoholic with a somewhat lame joke about spirits, re-told for someone at the front who must have looked perplexed and followed that with Fever, which is still one of those songs that takes on a whole new identity when performed live and softened the pace still further with Silence is Easy album track Fidelity, very definitely a different beast live than the recorded version.
It's just possible that Radio 2 listeners were being lulled into a false sense of comfort, so time to up the stakes again. James introduced the next song as a new one that might be on the next album and Mr Stelfox was unleashed on the fabulous In My Blood, almost certainly a first hearing for many people. Yep, they liked it.
The one song that I get most glowing comments about after live performances is the Love is Here album track Tie Up My Hands - I can't actually recall anyone telling me that they didn't like that track and those that have no particular view on the recorded version, very quickly form one after hearing it live. It really is a tingle down the spine song when delivered in-yer-face like that. A glance back through the audience ascertained that everyone in the room was looking forwards, no one was chattering, the bar area was quiet. Starsailor well and truly had their attention.
James paid tribute several times between songs to what a great place Liverpool was (he must like it there, he visits regularly and it's something to do with blokes in red shirts and a ball) and how nervous they were when one of their very first gigs, supporting Doves, had been on that stage and at the time, the stage and venue looked huge to them. They looked pretty comfortable filling both tonight.
As it was now almost 01:00am and home audiences might have been tempted with the idea of some sleep, time to finish with a burst of energy, firstly with the title track to their second album Silence is Easy, followed by the anthemic hit that brought the band to many of us; Good Souls, James explaining that there wouldn't be an encore, so they'd try and make the last song go on for ever! Sorry James, it still wasn't long enough.
Please click the photographs to see a larger view and use your browser's back button to return to this page.