Well, it’s a way to stand out, that’s for sure. They
take to the stage before 3 acts that could easily fill
this venue on their own, and have, 3 acts who’s collective
sighs define – to varying extents – mainstream coffee-table
lost-in-love angst, 3 acts who could probably ignite
the stale Astoria air with the phosphorus whiff of hype
and expectation. Remy Zero have the opportunity to land
like a sabre toothed tiger amongst the pigeons. Inevitably
they don’t quite manage that, but they at least snarl
and rock and distort and wail a bit. And anyhow, whispering
"boo" would scare your average Starsailor fan into the
foetal position. The 5 piece from Birmingham, Alabama
have got the streamlined rock thang down to the last
Pearl Jam stylee arched back. Forthcoming album ‘The
Golden Hum’ on this evidence could turn out a tune-laden
treat, even if they do remind us of Live here and there.
Could have just been the way the lights hit frontman
Cinjun Tate's scalp.
It’s small wonder that Starsailor’s egos have been vacuum
packed down enough to fit onto this bill as a support
act, never mind second on, because what we find tonight
is a very different band to the nervous doe-eyed college
boys aiming tentatively at something soaring and sweet,
as they were this time last year. Even back then they
looked unlikely to find it and now, with little extra
to match James Walsh’s swelling cranium (or for that
matter his gut) save for some unconvincing distortion
and starched, over-practiced rock moves, they don’t
even seem to be facing in the right direction. You’d
say they were stuck in their ways, but they don’t seem
to own their own. And what chance do they have of rescuing
the situation when The Other Three barely even seem
involved in the music.
Ryan Adams, on the contrary, is more than involved.
He’s had a game of poker with it, stuck on a Hank Williams
CD, grabbed his acoustic, shared a bottle of Tennessee
whisky and is currently trying to keep it upright. And
in tonight’s company he is nothing short of a revelation.
Revelations can be wasted, right? In a set littered
with gaps, stuttered starts, irreverent anecdotes, rambles
and ranging mirth (each holding more style than you
could ever pray for incidentally), the moment he drifts
into song, – sometimes alone, sometimes accompanied
by a 2 piece string section – everything is slight,
authentic, rough, deeply soulful and utterly perfect.
A set of almost entirely brand new music – including
the brilliant ‘World War 24’ (not about the obvious
but "the way my girlfriend dresses") – he finishes with
James Walsh guesting, who may suck away any personality
onstage, but at least offers honourable backing to a
mournful piano led ballad.
After such shockingly simple and inherently natural
rock n roll perfection Travis were always going to seem
like a repeat on for the thirteenth time that just couldn’t
be as good as you remembered it the first time. And
we haven’t even seen them that may times. Not that it
isn’t always a joy to see Andy rip the Keith Richards
out of notes more destined for Kings Of Convenience,
Dougie increasingly morph into an animated camp David
Bowie (sadly no ‘All The Young Dudes’ cover tonight
though) and Fran play the nations favourite storyteller.
But what should have been a back to their roots indie-dive
rockathon ended up their trademark polished please everyone
arena show in a smaller room. But they do finish with
‘The Man Who’s fabulously excessive secret track 'Flashing
Blue Light’, almost tripping over themselves to rock
(remember when it was all they wanted to do… ahhh),
which makes us happy. But nobody could take the night
away from Ryan Adams. Now which bar/gutter do you think
he’ll have ended up in?
James Berry for Crud Magazine© 2002