MUSIC WAS SAVED
Last night's concert: Starsailor @ Berbati's Pan
This was the second time I'd seen Starsailor. I think the last time was covered in an early blog entry, but I am too lazy to look. The previous time had been in Seattle, they were opening for the Charlatans, and their drummer had hurt his arm, so it was mainly an acoustic set. What struck me then was how powerful James Walsh's voice was. The guy opens his mouth and it fills the room. With all three of his band members backing him up last night, it was no different. Not even the cavernous sound of Berbati's could dull it. People (usually from the legion who hate Starsailor and always go out of their way to tell me so) wonder why Phil Spector would come out of nutball retirement to work with this band, and I'd say that your answer is in the pipes. I can't imagine not wanting to provide a backdrop for that voice.
And the band was no slouch either. They all performed really, really well. The bulk of the set was off the first album, Love Is Here, and we were treated to most of the singles ("Fever" was to be part of the encore, but got booted). "Poor Misguided Fool" and "Lullaby" are still beautiful, and maybe only "Alcoholic" didn't have the swerval goodness of the original. Sprinkled in amongst the familiars were songs from Silence Is Easy, their not-as-strong follow-up--though, it's grown on me and I did enjoy the tracks much more with the live muscle behind it. Like The Thrills last week, there was a rougher energy surrounding a lot of the tunes. It was like they had the crusts cut off to go down easier, quicker, and it gave the songs a ragged glory. The set was well-constructed, too, starting quieter and building, closing with the loud numbers like "Four to the Floor," "Tie Up My Hands," and "Silence Is Easy," where the big sound of the voice was matched by the music. Equally great was the encore of "Good Souls," still their best tune.
An unexpected highlight was an acoustic run through of the first verse and chorus of U2's "All I Want Is You," easily that band's best song. As with the Pet Shop Boys cover of "Where The Streets Have No Name," it seemed evident that U2's material is serviced best by someone else. Replacing Walsh's elegant vox for Bono's tired croak would be an easy decision.
Low point of the show was some of the audience. I'd seen the phenomena before. English people in America seeing an English band. They have this need to declare themselves to their countrymen, as if they should instantly be buddies, shouting out where they are from or something about Football or whatever. Generally, the Britpop poseurs will join in, both acting as if they know what the English guy is talking about and throwing out their own bullshit to be part of the group. (Worst ever, at a James concert in '93, some girl who kept screaming, "Madchester!" until Tim Booth said, "Fuck Madchester!") These are the same poseurs who work words like "loo" and "lift" and, God forbid, "lorry" into their regular speech, just to be extra embarrassing.
Sad thing is, in Portland, there are, like, three British people and they're all friends and they go to all the shows. And they don't shut up. If they don't get noticed, they keep being obnoxious until they do; if they do get noticed, then it's exactly what they want and they keep digging for more attention. Last night was no different, and we learned that one was from Yorke, another was from Leeds. Between every song, it was more nonsense, and I guess football eventually came up, because Walsh noted that whatever team one supports in Wigan actually beat Leeds last time around. This fact seemed to physically pain the guy from Leeds, and I am not sure what he said in the next go around, but it inspired a response of "Fuck off with your shit football team," and eventually, a total breakdown, as Walsh explained to the audience, "Everywhere we go that isn't England, there's some English people who can’t help but tell us where they are from, and all I can think is, 'If it's so great, what the fuck are you doing here?' Now, shut up and quit ruining it for the people who are here to listen to music." Cheers followed, and it seemed to largely work. It was one of those moments where there was this huge relief. Someone actually finally said it!!!
Current Soundtrack: Erasure, Hits!