Starsailor. The O2 Academy, Oxford.
My most beloved band. Fourth trip to venue, which I have only ever been to to see Starsailor.
I am writing this the morning after. I was home at 1.45am after a 3 hour journey. Trains were routing via Reading (where I had a very long wait on a deserted platform which was cool yet eerie) rather than Didcot. My muscles are aching, my feet are sore, my ears are ringing & I’ve had 5 hours sleep. But I would do it all again tonight if I could.
Starsailor and I go back a long way. V 2002 was the first time I saw them live. And I fell utterly in love with their music. I don’t know, nor want to know, why they are MY band, they just are. Something in the combination of these 4 musicians and the noise they make just gets me, gets into me & has changed my life in so many ways.
There are dozens and dozens of Starsailor stories. I should tell them to you one day. Late nights, travel all over Europe, sharing hotels, weddings, births and a death. Music, above all, music. And community. And hope. This band have given me so much. The only thing I’ve ever been able to repay that with is my loyalty to the front row and the press pit 🙂
I’d last seen the boys in December last year, when I did 3 gigs in 3 nights (London, Cardiff & Southampton) where they were magnificent, the best I’d heard them sound. So I knew they were in fine form. Oxford was a warm up gig, en route to the Isle Of Wight Festival (which in 2005 I saw them play & embarrassed myself meeting the singers Mum – see told you there were stories) so more of a chance to regroup & grease the wheels so to speak.
I was way too early (old habits die hard, Nick) as I had a photo pass & could have rocked up 1 minute before the band. But I do always catch the support (and photograph them too) as Starsailor have had some great support bands in the past. Bang Bang Romeo didn’t disappoint tonight. Big, noisy sound, fronted by a noisy & charismatic singer with a great set of pipes. They were wonderful to photograph – they put on a real show and I would be very happy to find myself in a darkened gig venue hearing them again (I’ve checked and they are playing in Bristol in October so I might just do that).
Then my boys. And they really are. It’s like a Starsailor family now. Love them all like brothers.
The lighting was terrible for a photographer, it’s as if they want to set me a challenge! It might be tomorrow night before I get a chance to process the shots, but I am not hopeful. Which is a real shame because they played Alcoholic in the opening 3 songs, where James opens out more & is better to photograph. Ah well, I’ve plenty of other fantastic shots of Starsailor. And its all about the music. Always. Being in the super privileged position of the press pit is a thrill, through, every time. No barrier, just you, the band and a camera. Its real, raw & visceral.
After my 3 songs I moved to the side, where there was some space. But the sound wasn’t great and although the crowd was rowdy, they were good-natured rowdy and there was space so I moved into the throng. Usually this is the place I least want to be at a gig. But for Starsailor. They are just different. These are my people. I am safe here. And I got to dance, and sing and move and be among the crowd. I sang and danced my heart out to all the usual songs plus Best Of You which sounded even better than when I heard it first last year and another new track that I can’t remember the title of. Tie Up My Hands gets more immense with every passing year, its brilliance enhanced rather than diminished by the passage of time. Keep Us Together. My song. Boy In Waiting. Nick’s song (the little brother I never had and a Good Soul if ever I knew one). A Stone Roses cover! Tell Me It’s Not Over, Fidelity, Four to The Floor some other songs that will come back to me as soon as I finish typing this. All sounding amazing.
They saved Silence Is Easy for the encore. It tickles me that this very loud song, sung lustily by the audience. I was joining in with the best of them. There is something so cathartic and freeing about dancing and singing like that. Its freedom. Pure freedom. Its exhilarating and life affirming and joyous. It’s the reason I’m on this journey of 40 gigs. Its the reason that I love this band quite so much.
They finished with Good Souls, which is sounding a lot heavier than it did all those years ago. The world has changed so much in the 15 plus years I’ve been hearing it played live. I’ve changed, the boys have, the world we live in now is very different than it was then. James dedicated it to those we have lost, and those who worked to keep us safe. It was fitting, beautiful and understated. For me, this song has always been about both those I love and cherish (through this bands music) and those who have fought, and continue to fight for the greater good. If I call you a Good Soul it means something.
18 months ago this song took on a new meaning for me. When I was lying in the semi darkness, semi conscious, attached to 2 drip stands receiving life saving antibiotics, all I could do was listen to music. For about 10 minutes at a time. Good Souls (and Presuming Ed by Elbow) helped save my life. So when James sings, “this is not dying, this is living” at the crescendo of Good Souls I go. Emotions run wild like horses through me to an overwhelming point. I am here. I am here. And I am alive to enjoy this moment.
Thank you for another great gig, boys. My 40 gigs journey wouldn’t have felt complete without you being part of it. Number 23 was special, but then every Starsailor gig is special. The music means so much. It’s everything. Thank you for allowing me to continue to be part of it.
23 down. 17 to go.