Thursday, 16 November 2017

Starsailor release Digital Deluxe edition of All This Life


Thursday 26th October - Starsailor announced the release of the digital deluxe edition of their latest album All This Life, which is now available to download/stream and includes acoustic versions of 4 songs from the album.

All This Life is Starsailor's fifth studio album, which is their first since 2009 and their highest chart placing for 12 years. The album has been greeted with rave reviews and is their fifth consecutive Top 30 studio album and sees the band re-energised and on outstanding form.





“Winning fusion of powerpop, electronics and blue-eyed soul.” – Mojo

“…guitar, keyboard and vocal elements perfectly blended into the type of arena sound formula that works for Coldplay and U2.” – Louder Than War

The band have also released a video for the live acoustic version of the ‘Listen To Your Heart’, which is taken from the new album and filmed in an intimate session during the recording process.




Friday, 20 October 2017

All This Life Tour Blog by Nick Bull (@nickbull21)


New songs galore. Fan favourites aplenty. Packed venues. Brilliant performances. Starsailor's last series of headline UK shows may have only been 10 months ago but their All This Life Tour - which they're already over halfway through - feels like an overdue return of one of the best bands on the scene right now.



From Ben Byrne's brilliant tom and snare drum intro to "Listen To Your Heart" in Cambridge last week through to a rousing rendition of "Good Souls" in Liverpool's ever-sweaty O2 Academy on Thursday night, the band continue to excel in putting people through an emotional rollercoaster night after night after night after night.

Naturally, the old favourites are being played. "Fever" sounds jazzier than ever thanks to Stel's nightly improvisation on the bass. "Four To The Floor" has new life breathed into it in a favourable pre-encore slot. "Lullaby" comes with an introduction from James Walsh during which he says that anybody born around the time of its release as a single in late 2001 would almost be able to drink legally. How time flies, eh? And I dare anybody to say they're bored of hearing "Tell Me It's Not Over", which retains all of its anguish and power a decade on from its first live airings.

But, thankfully, the band's sets are full of material from their triumphant "All This Life" album. With the long-overdue inclusion of "Sunday Best" - demanded relentlessly by fans on social media - in Birmingham this week, the last few shows have seen an impressive eight new tracks in their 95-minute sets. Few bands these days would have the guts to play that many, I tell you now. "FIA", performed as per the studio version with only James, Stel and Barry Westhead (complete with his whirling keyboard parts) on stage, steals the show. Monday night's airing of that in Leeds was particularly special, with its sweary refrain echoing off the walls of the Beckett University's box-shaped venue. That said, you can't overlook the ferocity of "Blood", which comes up and slaps you in the face like a hoody-wearing teenager seeking their first ASBO.
However, this tour is more about the band and their music. From the first timers in Cambridge and the drunk couple in Norwich through to those seeing their 50th Starsailor show, audiences up and down the country have more than played their part in the gigs.

One enthusiastic heckler on night one demanded even more from the new album, definite proof that it sits brilliantly alongside the four fine releases that precede it. So good was the audience's singing in Sheffield that James spontaneously got the crowd to sing one final chorus of "Fever" on their own, a request that they duly fulfilled in style. One of the tour highlights, that. And those inside Bristol's Bierkeller at the weekend simply got it. "Saturday night gigs are normally really good, but this has been exceptional," James told them, thus raising the noise levels even more.

Another new song, "Best Of Me" plays a part in the nightly vibe, too. Having more than adequately replaced "Keep Us Together" in the pre-end of main set audience participation slot, the way James commands them to sing the chorus "WOAHs" shows a front man on the top of his game.

And you know what the best thing is? There are still five chances to see them around the UK on this tour, starting with Newcastle (Saturday) and Glasgow (Sunday). That's an offer you'd be silly to refuse.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

All This Life review, by Nick Bull (@nickbull21)

Eight years. Has it really been eight years between Starsailor releasing All The Plans and All This Life, of which the latter came out last Friday? In that time they've teased us with brilliant headline tours in 2015 and 2016, festival appearances aplenty and two new tracks to supplement the Good Souls: The Greatest Hits release. However, the band's fifth studio album - produced by Embrace guitarist and occasional fifth Starsailor member Richard McNamara - is their first studio album in nearly a decade. And guess what? It's a cracker.

There's plenty here for fans old and new, most notably the key musical ingredients of Love Is Here (James Walsh's powerful voice, the subtleties of Barry Westhead's keyboard and organ playing and the most underrated rhythm section in music today in Stel and Ben Byrne). Add to that the experimental sounds of Silence Is Easy, production as fresh as that on On The Outside and the lyrical themes of All The Plans and it's a commanding return.

In true Starsailor style, the album begins with a powerful opener. Premiered online at the start of July, Listen To Your Heart is a musical tour de force, driven by Ben Byrne's drumming throughout. His playing also makes it easy to overlook Stel's bass riff in the verses, too. Together they compliment each other perfectly, a complete juxtaposition to the "head is saying give up, don't go on it's too much, listen to your heart" battle in the chorus.

All This Life lends its name to both the album title and second song on it. If the record's opener had an emotional dilemma at its heart, this song sees the author in a more definitive mindset. "Gonna find another bed to break, instead of changing the way we feel" sings James in the opening verse. In dark times worldwide, the notion that "in all this life, there's no love without light" is positively reaffirming. Furthermore the video features scenes of Stel serving behind a bar and Ben peeling spuds - what's not to like?

Patience is the name of the game in Take A Little Time, the third track made available online prior to the album's release. Fittingly, the song dates back a number of years - it was originally demoed by the band in late 2014 and has changed considerably since. "Great journeys start with one small step," James Walsh sings in the opening verse, under which sets a bed of his backing vocals. We're not quite talking Bohemian Rhapsody here in terms of complexity, but across the multi-tracked choruses and bridge, not to mention Ben's numerous drum and percussion parts, it's clear that the band put a fair few hours into this one.

Starsailor go funky for Caught In The Middle, which is further confirmation of the band's numerous and varied musical influences. Yet amid Stel's soulful bassline, finger clicks and claps, and Barry's unique keyboard sounds, lyrically and emotionally it's a continuation of the album's emerging theme, one of a relationship breakdown. The second verse is suitably emotive: "Suddenly confusion rings, where we once had peace of mind, can ambition be contained, when there is no other light..."

And that theme continues into Sunday Best, a track that gets better with every listen. It feels post-argument, mid-period of reflection: "How would you feel if I was somewhere else? And how would you feel if it was someone else?". By using guest vocalist Ella McNamara brilliantly in the outro, it feels like the listener gets to hear both sides of the story.

Debuted live during last December's Out In The Fields Of Winter Tour, Blood is surely going to keep its place in the band's sets for the foreseeable future. Helped by a mantra of a chorus ("All the blood that I bled, all nights that we cried, all the demons we fed, should have kept the same side...") it builds up to fantastic musical crescendo to end.

Another track played in concert prior to its official release, Best Of Me includes one of my favourite bridges James Walsh has ever written. "And if you don't wanna fall out, don't kick when I come down, kick when I come down. Better help each other out, before we go to ground, before we go to ground," he sings, ripping into it like a man possessed, as if there's a battle that needs winning. The "woahs" in the chorus should be a crowd pleaser, too.

Break The Cycle contains the line "running out of words, running out of words to write". There's no harm in admitting writer's block: heck, 300 words or so on that very subject gave Springsteen one of his biggest hits in Dancing In The Dark. This song is also the start of the best narrative four-pack I'd say the band have ever laid out on any album.

Fallout is already a hit with the fans - and also Barry Westhead's favourite on the album. The brilliant melody combined with a cross stick drum rhythm, crunching guitar riff, moody bass line and movie score-esque strings adds to the tense, stand-off nature of this masterpiece. Thematically, it appears that a resolution is near: "Are we destined for a life of blame, or are we ready to embrace the change?" I'm not too sure we'll hear it live, but James has already begun adding excerpts into Tell Me It's Not Over...

My go-to song on the album is FIA (F**k It All), which is also the longest studio recording the band have released to date (I'm not counting the secret track to end Coming Down on Love Is Here). It sounds like nothing the band have released previously, yet it sits nicely at home in the back catalogue. James's ever growing falsetto confidence continues throughout (he switches out of it in style for the "doesn't matter what we want if it hurts them now" line in verse two) and is complimented by some spacey keyboard parts. It's one to listen to through headphones late at night.

In signature style, All This Life ends with a pensive, stripped back track, although no previous album closer has been as heartfelt as No One Else. Track length aside (it clocks in at just over two minutes) it wouldn't be out of place on Dylan's heartbreak album Blood On The Tracks. Its confessional lyrics ("No one else can calm the fear in me, no one else can hurt me like you do") and beautiful, hair-raising vocal from James remind me why I fell in love with this band 16-and-a-half years ago.

This is, undoubtedly, Starsailor's finest hour. There are songs perfect for a party playlist, others for a quiet night in. This isn't just Starsailor's Sunday Best, it's an album that perfectly fills the eight-year gap since their last. All This Life is out now! Grab your copy here

Friday, 30 June 2017

New album 'All This Life' + UK tour announcement

British quartet Starsailor, have announced their brand new album All This Life, set for both physical and digital release on September 1st via Cooking Vinyl. The triumphant lead track ‘Listen To Your Heart’ is now available to stream HERE.

Starsailor today also announce a full UK headline tour (see details below). Fans who pre-order All This Life now from the Official Starsailor Store on the band’s website will get exclusive access to the tour presale, and also be able to download ‘Listen To Your Heart’ as an instant grat. Exclusive signed items and special bundles are also available through the store.

‘Listen To Your Heart’ is the stellar opening track from the album. Lead singer & guitarist James Walsh describes it as, “an energetic, emotional song. I think in doing what we do, you have to be emotion and instinct lead. If every decision was sensible, practical and mulled over, we'd never have done anything or got anywhere. It’s not always easy, so you have to keep reminding yourself”

Of the album and recording process, Walsh says; “Recording the album was an intense and rewarding experience and we're excited to get it out there. There's a good mix of the aspects of the band people know and love, and a few changes in direction"

Their fifth studio album – and first since 2009 – All This Life finds Starsailor re-energised and on outstanding form. They played to an ecstatic crowd in a packed Big Top Stage at this year’s Isle Of Wight Festival and debuted a new track from the forthcoming album. 

Starsailor play British Summer Time at Hyde Park today alongside Phil Collins, Blondie and more, as well as Hope & Glory Festival in Liverpool in August.  They set out on a 12 date headline tour of the UK in October – see full tour dates below.


FESTIVAL APPEARANCES
June 30th – BST @ Hyde Park, London
August 5th – Hope & Glory Festival, Liverpool

UK HEADLINE TOUR
12th Oct – Cambridge, Junction
13th Oct – Norwich, Waterfront
14th Oct – Bristol, Bierkeller
16th Oct – Leeds, Beckett Students’ Union
17th Oct – Birmingham, O2 Institute 2
18th Oct – Sheffield, Leadmill
19th Oct – Liverpool, Academy
21st Oct – Newcastle, Boiler Shop
22nd Oct – Glasgow, O2 ABC
24th Oct – Manchester, O2 Ritz
25th Oct – Brighton, Concorde 2
26th Oct – London, KOKO

‘ALL THIS LIFE’ TRACK LISTING
1. Listen To Your Heart
2. All This Life
3. Take A Little Time
4. Caught In The Middle
5. Sunday Best
6. Blood
7. Best Of Me
8. Break The Cycle
9. Fallout
10. FIA (F**ck It All)
11. No One Else

Monday, 19 December 2016

A BLOG FROM THE ROAD: PART FOUR - MEMORIES OF NOTTINGHAM - Nick Bull

James Walsh has been in a nostalgic mood when it comes to his introductions to "Fever" during the Out In The Fields Of Winter Tour.

In Leamington Spa on night one, he admitted - for the first time that I've heard - that the song was about an ex-girlfriend ("Most of them are!"), while London's intro mentioned the excitement when they heard Steve Lamacq play it on Radio 1 in early 2001.

On Sunday night in Nottingham, the band's fifth show in as many days, he dedicated it to anybody who attended the band's gig in the Robin Hood city at the Social (now the Bodega) in March 2001. "A great night," he recalled.
Maybe in 15 years’ time, Walsh will recall the band’s return to Rock City, which doubles up as a gig venue and student-friendly nightclub, with similar fondness.

Playing in Nottingham’s famed venue for the first time since 2005, the power of Walsh’s voice throughout was remarkable. It didn’t sound tired or thin at any time during the show – a remarkable feat given how he never holds back in going for the difficult notes, and that this latest gig was off the back of shows in London, Cardiff, Southampton and Norwich. “I can’t drink much afterwards,” he admits. “Plenty of honey, lemon and steam help a lot, too.
“I think it was a particularly good show tonight. When you come to a venue like Rock City, one that’s over 30 years old and has a bit of history to it, the atmosphere is always good. You know coming here that the acoustics are right for a gig, Nottingham’s famous for being a good place to play, and the crowd were in to it.”

The loud audience also led to arguably the best two moments of the night. First, in the gap between “Keep Us Together” and new song “Best Of You”, most of the venue burst into an impromptu singalong of the “woah oh woah!” part from the former’s chorus. Then, during “Four To The Floor”, as he went to “scope out the crowd” during the final choruses, his mic cable came out. No need to panic, though: having already shown their willingness to join in with the songs, the crowd took over brilliantly. So good were they that, once the technical problem was rectified, Walsh’s first instruction to the band was “more choruses!”.

Speaking afterwards, he said: “We had Doggen out of Spiritualized playing guitar with us for “Tell Me It’s Not Over”, “Silence Is Easy”, “Four To The Floor” and “Good Souls” tonight.

“Admittedly, I enjoy bearing the weight of playing all the guitar parts and us being a four piece, as when we’re clicking together, that’s the origin of the sound. But having the extra person on stage gives me freedom to get out with the audience and see who’s really into it. That’s when the mic plug came out – but everybody was already singing along, so I wanted to keep that going!”

Songs like “Four To The Floor” and “Fever” have been a mainstay of the band’s set for over 10 and 15 years now; remember, the Stones continue to play “(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction” five decades on from its release, which puts to bed any debate over whether or not they should keep their place.

Of course, with two new songs in the setlist, plus an album and tour likely for 2017, Starsailor are far from a nostalgia act. If anything, it’s also clear that many of the set’s older tracks mean more than ever all these years on.
“Her Iron Hand did not understand the plight of the common man,” in “Four To The Floor” may need a slight tweak to reference Theresa May’s expensive leather trousers, but the sentiment is the same.

In the year when fear, paranoia and division won out with Brexit and Trump, the key line from “Keep Us Together” – “it should be where you’re going, not where you’re coming from” – becomes more pertinent. Heck, even the song title is as good a retort to the division that many seek to sow.

Then there are Walsh’s personal favourites: “’Thank goodness for the good souls’ and ‘silence is easy’ are still the big two lines for me,” he says. “It’s a subconscious thing; I’m never too scientific about the songwriting process, but the lyrics that have the simplest metre that people can latch onto always work well. Sil-ence is ea-sy: you don’t need to hear it too many times for it to stick in your memory.”

“I can’t leave until I can leave with a little pride,” Walsh sings during new song “Blood”, but there’s little chance he departed from Rock City last night feeling anything but satisfaction. “I’m so pleased with how the new songs have been received,” he added. “That’s good to know as we prepare to head back into the studio straight after Christmas.”

And even when the band ended their set with one of those songs played at the Social gig nearly 16 years ago, that moment still felt as new as ever for Walsh.

“It’s amazing how many times we’ve played ‘Good Souls’ now – it’s well into the hundreds,” he said. “But it’s still a massive buzz going into that opening riff, fully aware that the crowd will be into it. It’s a great feeling.”

Nick Bull, by day a sports writer, has seen over 50 Starsailor concerts. @nickbull21









A BLOG FROM THE ROAD: PART THREE - BARRY MAGIC - By Nick Bull

"Stel and I have to be tight to form the backbone of the songs," begins drummer Ben Byrne's explanation into how Starsailor create their live sound. "Jim then plays his rhythm guitar parts over the top of that.

"At the same time, Barry 'Magic', over to my right, is adding whatever he feels like on the top with his keyboards and organ."

The wizard he is referring to, of course, is Barry Westhead. Hard to see when the band have a second guitarist on stage (as will be the case next week when Embrace's Richard McNamara joins them in Sheffield, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Aberdeen), and not somebody demands a spotlight or two to be shone in his direction during any show, it's easy to overlook his contribution.

But watching him during Friday's show in Southampton's Engine Rooms, a venue situated somewhat surprisingly on an industrial site near to a John Lewis and Ikea, but one that was far more conventional inside, not to mention packed and really hot come 10pm, was a revelation.

No more was this the case on the night's big surprise, and arguably the highlight of the evening, during "Love Is Here", the second tour premiere since show one five days ago (out went “In The Crossfire”). Stretching across to play on both his Nord keyboard and Hammond organ throughout, his right foot tapping away to the beat, Westhead's playing was stunning and perfectly complimentary of what the rest of the band were doing. The song's outro, in particular, was flawless, the lively Southampton crowd loved hearing it, as I suspect every other audience will at future shows, should it stay in the set.

His straightforward, chord-led organ parts during “In My Blood” and “Fever” are easy to pick up both on the record and during live shows, but if he repeated his more subtle keyboard work from Friday night's gig on the piano situated in the middle of London's St Pancras station, he'd probably end up being filmed by a member of the public and would go viral.

“Honestly, when the band took a break in 2009 [to 2014], my playing went to s**t,” Westhead admitted. “I wasn't playing live, I was busy at home, so I didn't practice. Over time, you lose what you've learned.

“So I've worked really hard to get back to where I thought I was at, and then go beyond that. I put the time and effort in, and I think I'm a lot better now than I was six or seven years ago. “Now we're back together, and my kids are growing up, I want to do them proud. I'm not just playing for myself. I'd say that's why the band's sounding so good at this moment; I think every member is in a good place.”

The last part of Westhead's comments also applies to Southampton, too. Lead singer James Walsh referenced how sweat-inducingly hot it was inside the Engine Rooms when he praised the crowd for “making it so energetic” despite the temperatures, before leading into “Tell Me It's Not Over” with a claim that he was going to “attempt to jump up and down and go for it during this next song".
Yet, undeterred, the crowd stayed on it all night. Santa hats were spotted in the front row, some got caught up in the moment and the music, while others snapped away on their iPhones in an attempt to get as good a photo as possible to remember the night by.

Friday's audience certainly generated the loudest singalong to “Alcoholic” that I've heard on this tour, and their “WOAH!” during each choruses of “She Just Wept” and “Keep Us Together” sounded just as good. Regardless of whether the day of the week it was, and the proximity to Christmas helped in their willingness to participate, they've raised the bar. Norwich and Nottingham, over to you.

Musically, you'd be hard-pressed to argue a claim for when the band were playing better night upon night during their entire career. It's too tough a call to split their performances in London and Southampton, but neither crowd were shortchanged. Sporting a trimmed haircut from earlier in the day, James once again led from the front, covering all parts of the stage during his singalongs and solos, but the other three members were also on form.

Drummer Ben Byrne and Barry, perhaps helped by sitting so close to each other towards the back of the stage, had a blast, and laughed away with each other after certain songs. “He missed a few beats that's why,” insisted Westhead. “And make sure you put that in the blog!”

Musicians in being human shock. But that's what it's all about, and why nearly 1,000 people left the Engine Rooms on Friday evening after a 17-song powerhouse set, after 90 minutes of joy, anger, desperation and camaraderie.

You get all these emotions just from watching Barry. He adds to the beauty of “Boy In Waiting”, the anguish of “Tell Me It's Not Over” and the drama of “Tie Up My Hands”. Watching him throughout the latter, a song crowds up and down the UK seemingly love more each year, at times he played with both his eyes closed, seemingly lost in the music, but not missing a beat. That's the Barry Magic right there.

Nick Bull, by day a sports writer, has seen over 50 Starsailor concerts. @nickbull21








Thursday, 15 December 2016

A BLOG FROM THE ROAD: PART TWO - LONDON - By Nick Bull

When you've ticked off performances at all of London's iconic gig venues, ranging from the Royal Albert Hall to the Brixton Academy (multiple times, too), Hammersmith Odeon to the much-missed Astoria, playing at a new venue in the city must be a bit daunting.

Scene of the latest stop on this Out In The Fields Of Winter Tour, the indigo at The 02 is very much the famed arena’s more welcoming and charming sibling; possibly the Poppy Delevingne to the Cara, if you will. It’s neither awkwardly intimate nor hideously big, but how would it fare for show three? “I normally prefer the small, sweaty clubs,” admitted bassist Stel. “This isn't that. But it's a good place for a gig, the sound is always good in new venues, so that's immediately one less worry, especially as playing in London is always a little bit weird. It's a pressure show, as it's always the one the industry people come to, but tonight we just went out and got on with playing. I loved it.” After an excellent opening night in Royal Leamington Spa on Sunday, and an equally as triumphant first Brighton show in over a decade 24 hours later, Wednesday’s London outing clearly showed the band have more than hit their stride.

Of course, as the dates pass by and the four band members reignite that chemistry that has prompted rave reviews of their live shows over the years, that’s to be expected. But some groups struggle to get this well-honed after hundreds of shows together. Segues between songs were sharper, endings that little bit tighter, and the introduction of “In My Blood” at song two in the set was a welcome addition.

Stel, whose Saturday job playing with Spiritualized has kept him on the road for most of the past couple of years, was clearly in the groove throughout. Subtle but sweet freestyled bass riffs during the likes of “Alcoholic”, “Fever” and “Four To The Floor” highlighted how underrated a musician he is. “I can't say it's the best I've ever played – if I say that, that puts pressure on me for the next shows,” he joked.

Alongside him on the stage, Ben Byrne on drums and keyboard player Barry Westhead were their fine, dependable selves. That may not seem like a huge compliment, but trust me, it is. Neither are flashy, nor do they go over the top, but they both form a huge part of the band's room-filling sound. Has anyone ever heard them mess up on stage? Thought not. Standing directly in front of the speakers on Wednesday night, which prompted my ears to still ring the following morning, Barry's ad-libbed synth parts and Ben's ferocious drumming during “Way To Fall” helped create the best performance I've ever heard of that song.

Upfront, singer and guitarist James Walsh was a man on a mission. Not content with adding extracts of East 17's “Stay Another Day” and Paul McCartney's “Wonderful Christmastime” to proceedings, he was dancing around the stage like Springsteen during “Tell Me It's Not Over”, and ended up on Barry's keyboard riser for the final couple of bars. Time and time again he moved around the stage, microphone in hand, encouraging the crowd to join in with him, while his delivery of the “wipe the cobwebs away” line in “Good Souls” to end the show was sung with goosebump-creating intensity.

Stel added: “I like having a second guitarist on stage with us, as we've had in previous tours, as it really adds to the sound and allows Jim to do his frontman thing without any worries. Not that this stopped him tonight! He was really on it.”

Then there’s the London audience. At times, the crowds in the capital can be tough to please, perhaps a product of having so much entertainment on their doorsteps every night of the week. But, just as they were at Shepherd’s Bush Empire on the final night of the 2015 UK Tour (another legendary venue the band have played at), those inside the indigo were infectious.

Their level of enthusiasm was more Friday night in Liverpool as opposed to a weekday in London. One girl was repeatedly up dancing on her partner's shoulders, much to the annoyance of venue security, and once again the audience respectfully took in the two new songs in the set, “Blood” and “Best Of You”, which continue to evolve the more they're played.

“The crowd were rowdy tonight,” said Stel. “The noisier they are, the better for us.” Worry, what worry? It turns out that playing the indigo was an inspired choice.

Nick Bull, by day a sports writer, has seen over 50 Starsailor concerts.


@nickbull21