The Feeling. What is it about them that inspires such extreme reactions?
Are they, as their detractors might paint them, a glorified karaoke outfit riding to smug success on the back of their pop ancestors, Supertramp and ELO? Or would their supporters counter the argument with a gloriously affirmative outfit writing happy songs to brighten up the nation’s airwaves, seeing us through another British ‘summer’?
Certainly there was karaoke at Somerset House, in the shape of their celebrated A-ha and Buggles covers. But there was also a huge grin on the face of everyone present, and by the end nobody in the courtyard could suppress a smile, with any signs of pretension totally extinguished.
The audience themselves were a curious bunch. Half of them appeared to be cloned city workers on the way home, giving their weekend an early start, while some others were clearly towards the end of a long day on the sauce. Music is a powerful beast, mind, and they were roused for all kinds of enjoyably dodgy dancing, with one sprightly soul waving their crutches in the air early on.
Even the most churlish critic couldn’t possibly resist a performance of Never Be Lonely that was more like a fairy tale. First Dan Gillespie Sells had divided the crowd in two for a sing-off of the kind you’ll have remembered from the school assembly. Then there was a genuine marriage proposal where the guitar solo should have been. Not the lead singer, of course, but a member of the audience who’d obviously cleared it with the band first.
The answer was a “yes” of course, but even if the lady in question had wilted she would have been hard pushed to resist, given the heady romance and positive energy already present in the band’s performance.
The band were tired, though, and it showed as they wilted in a central section of slower numbers, Gillespie Sells lowering his posture as he told of a marathon working day to complete the new video after a challenge from Capital Radio. Yet early on Fill My Little World and Never Be Lonely sparkled, as did a heady cover of Take On Me and a precisely layered Join With Us.
Regrouping, the quartet sparkled with Love It When You Call and Turn It Up, showing off their intricate harmonisation. Sewn was pitch perfect, its lightly melancholic undertones shoved unceremoniously to the back of the stage in a triumphant coda. The sugar-sweet Ros also fared well in the evening half-light.
It’s been a gig-heavy few months for the band, and if Gillespie Sells’ “thank you London” was perfunctory, they’re still clearly getting a lot out of playing live. More importantly, so are their audience and isn’t that what playing live is all about?