For those people who didn’t fancy a cold, wet evening stood next to a bonfire in Sheffield and watching damp squibs of fireworks explode, the Octagon offered a far more enticing prospect in one of the more underrated bands currently working today.
Although we were just too late to see Manchester band Pioneers play a seemingly well-received set, there was more than enough time to grab a decent spot to watch former Easyworld vocalist David Ford perform his support slot. Ford and his band set up their own stage set, which included a video screen at the back of the stage.
If there’s one name who David Ford is probably sick of hearing by now, it’s Damien Rice. Yet it’s an inevitable comparison – the quiet, intimate voice, the beautiful back up vocals of Frances Law and the intense stage presence all recall the Irish songwriter.
Yet David Ford is a very different creature to the likes of Daniel Powter and James Blunt – songs such as I Don’t Care What You Call Me have a stately power that stick long in the memory. Ford’s backing band recreated his songs perfectly too: on the album, he played every instrument himself, but here he confined himself to guitar, harmonica, keyboards and even a spot of drums!
A highlight of Ford’s set was State Of The Union, which saw him dashing around stage multi-layering different instruments on top of each other while his band drew pictures on the video screen, and the charmingly titled Cheer Up You Miserable Fuck. After a beautiful new song, actually written in Sheffield, entitled Song For The Road, he was off, pretty secure in the knowledge that he’d made a fair few new fans.
An impressive light show signalled Starsailor’s entrance, seeing them burst into Way Back Home from their latest album. They’ve been unfairly dismissed in the past as a ‘post-Coldplay‘ band, but On The Outside showcased a far more muscular sound than on previous occassions, which is ably demonstrated in their live act.
Starsailor may not do anything revolutionary, and they may not write chapters of rock history, but they’ve written some damn good songs on their three albums. It’s fair to say that the earlier material drew the biggest cheers tonight, such as the mass singalong to Alcoholic, or the beefed up Poor Misguided Fool, which sounded stunning tonight.
Although some of the new material did begin to sound a bit samey, tracks such as In My Blood and especially This Time were brilliantly performed. Recent single In The Crossfire also sounded superb, hoisting it up there with some of Starsailor’s best material.
James Walsh is an engaging frontman. Although he may not be bursting with charisma, his enthusiasm and energy were palpable throughout the show. Audience interaction was mainly kept to the tried and trusted “cheers” and “it’s great to be back in Sheffield”, although he did rather touchingly pay tribute to Sheffield for “producing a great band like the Arctic Monkeys“.
After a marvellous rendition of the anthemic Good Souls (which saw James improvise a few lines of Pulp‘s Common People) and a storming Four To The Floor, they encored with a raucous Silence Is Easy, with the light show behind them in full effect.
It was an immensely entertaining evening from one of the most under-rated bands around today. While they may never set the world alight, tonight’s performance proved once and for all that they’re much more than a ‘poor man’s Coldplay’.