TVD Live Shots: Starsailor at KOKO,
10/26

When I watch James Walsh and Starsailor perform, I think to myself, how can any band in the world create such glorious music? The fact that they not only perform their studio albums perfectly in a live setting but also turn them up a notch is a feat that a lot of their peers can’t accomplish. I’ve seen the band six or seven times over the past two decades, and I would without a doubt say they sounded better than ever before in London.

When I heard that Starsailor would be releasing their long-awaited sixth studio album All This Life, without hesitation I pre-ordered the super deluxe package as James Walsh and Co. can do no wrong in my book. Since its September release, I’ve given this record a few spins hoping that it would bring back the feeling that I had when I first heard Silence is Easy or On the Outside. It didn’t immediately resonate, although the live show brought the record to life for me—as it should have.

The tried and true formula of a band releasing a new record and then immediately, and tirelessly, touring to support it works because it showcases the music as it was meant to be heard—performed live. Positioning this as a “Greatest Hits” tour was probably not the best idea as it makes the band sound like a nostalgia act who is either trying to get out of a long-term deal with a record label that treated them like shit, or a band living in the past. While the set did include some Starsailor “hits,” it should have centered around the new record. Combining both left several gaps in the “hits,” while exiling any rarities that could be mixed into the set.

While I do appreciate a well-selected cover or two in a headlining set list (the band paid tribute to the late, great Tom Petty with “American Girl”), I would have MUCH rather heard another track or two from Silence is Easy. “Why Music was Saved,” “White Dove,” and “Telling Them” seem to be forgotten songs in the set which blows my mind as I think they are the three of the strongest songs the band has written to date.

Tracks from the new record “All This Life” and “FIA – Fuck it All” were standouts, but again the set list choice is baffling. Maybe it’s because I’m an American living in the UK and it’s a different mentality given song selection, but after seeing the band four times in the past year, the same songs seem to show up again and again without going deep into the band’s impressive yet brief catalog. I guess I’ll have to wait for the 15th or 20th anniversary of Silence is Easy, and maybe the band will go on tour and play it in its entirety.

KOKO is an amazing venue, but it was so jam-packed that it was virtually impossible to enjoy the show. I’ve seen James Walsh perform solo and acoustic outside at a venue where you could lose yourself in the music. While I prefer the full band, I found it frustrating that I couldn’t truly enjoy the music as I would have liked to. Maybe I’m just getting too old for big crowds, but I’m only a couple of years older than the band members.

David S Pumpkins in attendance watching the show

Bottom line: One of the most brilliant, under-celebrated bands in the world make a welcome comeback with a solid new record. But I would love to see the band perform in a proper theater—and maybe throw in a small string section. Starsailor continues to tour across Europe and you can find the dates here.

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