Good things start with a spark.
A spark, musically, can be a reunion show. An invitation to tour again. A demand for more. The rediscovery of the enjoyment, the hook that kicked everything off.
Ask Milburn. This is nothing new.
As with most sparks, they ignite. They ignite and spread.
Good things follow when a record deal is laid on the table with creative freedom. The demand for more becomes a demand for new. A demand for a continuation of a career that seemingly was side-tracked by numerous projects.
A demand from the people who matter, the fans. A demand from the people who can make it happen, the record label. A demand and a desire from James Walsh and Starsailor to pick up where they left off.
The feeling needs to be right. So much of Starsailor is based on feeling. Emotive, raw; a relatable personal vulnerability.
Starsailor are champions of the understated. They go about their business with little need for attention, no swoon for adoration. Their business is about making music that is right for them in the moment. Music that uplifts the soul. These are guys who have been going for seventeen years now. Genuine music people. They know what they’re doing.
It shows at The Leadmill.
Paves opened the night. They opened the night with real charisma. It feels fuzzy … a psychedelic bluesy sound. One that brings drama. It encapsulates and draws you in. The set is one that leaves you unsure of your bearings. What next? A thrill of the night. The crowd is being treated to a set not too far removed from a movie soundtrack. Maybe a bit Tarantino, possibly a bit Clint Eastwood. A psychedelic western. Certainly a journey.
It tells so much that the crowd is already in. It tells that James Walsh and the Starsailor boys have picked the support bands for the tour. It tells that Barry Westhead from Starsailor plays keys with them on a song mid-set. This is worth checking out tonight.
Paves are followed by Alex Francis. For me, Alex and his band changed the pace a little too much. Quite the change from Paves. It was melodic: a little bit country, a little bit folky. The crowd continued to build as Alex Francis smashed through the set: they’re full of it as they’ve just recorded their upcoming EP with someone who’s produced and engineered on all their favourite Rolling Stones records – and it shows.
But it just felt a little safe. A little bit like it’s not quite there and there’s more to offer. Like there was something missing, that captive urgency. The crowd loved him, however.
Listen to your Heart, straight from the new album, opens proceedings. Undeniably Starsailor. It’s emotive. It’s captive. It’s exactly what you expect from a band who are at consummate ease with what they’re doing.
The next one needs no introduction. The delicate licks of the opening to Alcoholic. Pitch perfect. Crowd hanging on every word, sung back with just as much emotion as the hits start to flow. Flow into Poor Misguided Fool. Effortless. They know exactly what they should do. No danger of that.
There’s a confidence to Starsailor. Processes may have changed through the years but the sound doesn’t. Lead single from new album All This Life next. It’s where we’re all going. Typically Starsailor.
The new ones fit the profile. Fits the back catalogue. There’s an intense connection between James Walsh and the crowd. The crowd, gripped, again belt back All This Life. You wouldn’t pick it out as a new one. The power of Walsh’s voice fills The Leadmill. It holds true, it sounds truer.
Mid-set and we have a tribute to Tom Petty. Emotion at the forefront of all of Walsh’s vocals throughout the night, throughout his career, and he delivers again as he covers American Girl.
To run through each of the twenty-ish songs would be too lengthy. To leave them out feels like a disservice to a flawless night.
Tell Me It’s Not Over gets an outing and, honestly, I love it. It takes me back to the exact moment when I discovered it. Initially the acoustic version. It gives me the feels.
Thankfully it’s not over as Walsh drops into yet another singalong, yet another cover. A cover of MGMT, a time to pretend that this could go on and on. Everything feels tranquil as nothing is missed. There’s no let-up in quality, in tunes. It’s the fresh and the emotion of the old wonderfully entwined.
You forget how many songs Starsailor have. Floor To The Floor and Silence Is Easy take us into the encore comprised of FIA (Fuck It All) and Good Souls. Vocals at their absolute peak. Crowd adoring.
A night which started with a spark back at the reunion shows. A seriously top gig. A gig that will live on. One that leaves you wanting more, albums revisited. Demand for more.
That spark is well and truly reignited.
Sheffield souls replenished. The good souls are back.