TVD Live Shots: James Walsh at Bush Hall, 5/30

Starsailor frontman James Walsh has just released his second solo record, Tiger on the Bridge. It’s one of the most beautiful records I’ve ever heard, and sees the celebrated UK-based singer-songwriter taking a page from the Americana playbook.

If you’ve read any of my past reviews, then you know that Starsailor is favorite of mine, having seen them four times here since I moved to the UK three years ago, with an additional three shows in the US. I think they are easily the best band from the ’90s Britpop invasion and have followed them ever since. 2014 saw the release of Walsh’s first solo record, Turning Point. I was first in line to pick that one up, and I thought it was a solid debut. Tiger on the Bridge is on another level.

From start to finish every song showcases Walsh’s exceptional voice on top of some of the best songwriting I’ve heard in a decade. The opening track “Germain” sets the stage and preps the listener for the Americana twist that many of his fans probably didn’t see coming. “Germain” segues into arguably the strongest track on the record “Heavy Heart” with its tribal-like crescendo, reminding all of us very quickly how no one on the planet can sing quite like this guy. From a soft soprano to a powerfully piercing perfect falsetto in an instant, he makes it sound so easy. I was in the studio when he recorded this record, and it’s fucking mindblowing how remarkable and powerful his voice is.

The live show brought these songs to life in a proper theatre setting for the first time. Walsh does bring Starsailor classics into the mix, introducing “Poor Misguided Fool” and “Lullaby” early in the set, but this was a celebration of the new album. Along with “Germaine” and “Heavy Heart,” other standouts both on the album and live are “Ida,” “Dream of Mexico” (my personal favorite), “Single Life,” “Didn’t Mean to Fall,” “Glitch in the Machine”—hell, every song from the new record was a highlight.

Singer Hannah Nicholson joined James on stage for the title track “Tiger on the Bridge.” She brilliantly traded verses with Walsh which sounded so good it begs the question, why wasn’t she in the studio? Hopefully, there are plans to record “Tiger” as a duet moving forward.

Another interesting part of the set came when Walsh and keyboardist Jo Dudderidge left the stage, walking through the crowd to a waiting grand piano where the duo burst into the John Lennon classic, “Jealous Guy.” When he returned to the stage, he muttered, “I was hoping that was going to work,” and it surely did.

Walsh ended the night with Starsailor’s first proper hit, “Good Souls,” whipping the crowd into a sing-along fury before thanking everyone and gracefully bowing with his band. An absolutely brilliant evening celebrating what will likely be my favorite album of 2019.

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