James Walsh, The Tijuana Sun and Justin Martin – Cafe Drummonds – 05/11/10
So, this gig was all very last minute for me. Only got the go ahead on Wednesday, and had managed to double book myself with this and dinner with my brother who was up from Edinburgh for the evening. A quick dinner at Ma Camerons, and along to Café Drummonds I go for James Walsh from Starsailors solo gig.
First up was Justin Martin, a guy I’ve seen about in Drummonds and Tunnels plenty of times, but never knew he was a musician. Before playing a five song set, he tells the audience he’s full of the cold, and isn’t sure how long he’ll last. Personally, I think he milked this a bit too much, reiterating after every song just how ill he was. As I’ve not heard Justin before, I wasn’t sure if what I was hearing was his best, or if his set was altered because he was ill (did I mention this before?). His set consisted of mainly cover versions, Half The World Away, Rolling On The River, his favourite song of all time Stand By Me, and finishing with Ring of Fire. It was a shame, coz through most of his set, the crowd down the front were chatting and not paying much attention. His voice was really gravely and almost aggressive sounding, virtually growling the words, but as I said, it was difficult to judge if this was because he was ill. I’d like to see Justin again sometime, when he is feeling well, to get a better idea of his style.
Next up, The Tijuana Sun, sparked a bit of a discussion between my friend and I. How do you pronounce Tijuana? I pronounced the J (might be slight letter bias?) but unfortunately I was wrong. I’ve seen this band advertised before, but never have had the opportunity to catch them live. I believe they usually play as a five piece, but tonight we have three and an acoustic set. First impressions, love the lead singers cardigan, and they seem to have style but without trying too hard. So they open with what I think the singer said was a new song, but again, the crowd down by the bar are speaking so much, I struggle to hear what he is saying. This means unfortunately I miss a lot of the song titles and also, a distraction means I miss much of the later part of the set (Still Burning, I’m looking at you!). The singers voice reminds me a bit of Ray Lamontagne, gravely and rough, but good. The Tijuana Sun are definitely a band I would check out again, and am interested in hearing how they sound as a full five piece.
James Walsh next, you might recognise the name, yes he is the lead singer of Starsailor, but is in Aberdeen tonight for a solo performance to promote the release of his debut solo EP. So, taking to the stage with no introductions, he starts with Tell Me It’s Not Over, from his new EP. I kinda felt he should have made some sort of introduction, I wasn’t even sure the crowd at the front notice he had taken to the stage. Maybe getting this idea himself, after his first song, he says “How you doing Aberdeen, ready for a sing along?” to which the crowd greets him with the cheer I’m sure he was looking for. He then breaks into a slower, more haunting sounding Alcoholic, which slowly gets more upbeat as the song progresses. Over more chatting from the bar, he explains how he’s warmed us up with a few old songs, now he would play some from his new solo EP. I felt really bad for James, you don’t pay a tenner to get into a venue for a gig, then stand at the bar having a chat, not in my mind you don’t anyway – its just bad manners. He moves to the piano for my personal favourite Starsailor song, Lullabye. Again, it was a slower version than the original, almost sounding detached. Still at the piano, he continues with another song from his EP, Live At The Top Of The World. Although sitting up in the back of Drummonds, my favourite spot for a good view of the stage and an alright sound, I don’t feel there’s a connection with James, just that he’s some bloke singing some songs on a stage. Saying that, there’s a semicircle of mesmerised fans down the front waiting for his next move. Personally, I’m just looking for a little more passion than I’m seeing right now.
So, Starsailor never came to Aberdeen before, so I guess he has a lot of making up to do, mixing it up with old Starsailor songs and his own new material. Back to the guitar he goes, and off the set list with an impromptu version of Poor Misguided Fools. I’m actually surprised this wasn’t on his original set list, would have thought it would have been included in the “Starsailor favourites” that everyone would be expecting to hear. Glad he played it though, and so are the crowd as they respond with a cheer when he asks if everyone is having a good time. Introducing his next song as a song that’s about when your missus or bird is doing your head in, and you’re like ‘leave me alone’ then she goes and buys you something nice, and you’re like ‘ you’re alright actually’, this is LIFE. This is probably the most upbeat and lively I’ve seen him all night and the crowd down the front are really going for it with the dancing. It’s probably here that I start to engage more and realise how professional he is, knowing what he does and is executing it almost perfectly. Next, is a cover of John Lennons Jealous Guy, a winner with both my friend and me, about blokes being dicks and not realising it (how true to life!).
You may not realise it (but if you haven’t, you should definitely check out my interview with Mr Walsh for more information!) but James has done the soundtrack for the movie adaptation of Kevin Sampson’s novel Powder. The next song comes from the movie, which he worked on with The Rascals. Back to an old favourite in Four To The Floor to really get the party going, and the crowd are really enjoying it, singing and clapping along. Clever more here, but goes straight from this into the Gorrillaz Dare, took me a couple of seconds to realise it wasn’t just how the song went, and then to realise what song it was, nice move! Already we are at the last song of the set, how quickly it seemed to come about. Another Starsailor classic to finish, Silence Is Easy, and along with the crowd down the front, and probably to everyone around me’s annoyance, I find myself singing (if it can be called that!) along. Can tell the crowd are starting to get a bit boozey by this stage, as they break into the chorus a wee bit too early, but for me, this kinda thing just adds to the gig experience and makes it a little more personal.
I always think you can’t leave the stage in Drummonds in a cool rock’n’roll way – you have to come off the stage, into the crowd, then through the wee door to the backstage area. So James does this, his tour manager checks his instruments and its clear to everyone in the audience that he’s coming back for another couple of tunes. Wishing a happy birthday to someone in the crowd, he starts his encore with another solo number It’s A Long Walk To Love, and finishes with a version of Good Souls, which includes a wee break into Moving On Up by Primal Scream. Another clever move, I like.
Took a little while for me to get into this gig, but I’m glad I went, and I think James did a real good job of mixing up his own songs from the EP he’s promoting and old Starsailor favourites. I always think it must be hard to suddenly find yourself on a stage without the comfort blanket of your band. Although it took me a wee while to get “into” the show, and James Walsh gave a very professional performance. JoJo.
All pics by Still Burning. (none of Justin Martin as I didn’t get there in time, sorry fella!)
James Walsh Website
The Tijuana Sun MySpace
Justin Martin MySpace