Music Showcase

SXSW Live Shots
Photo By John Anderson


Austin Music Hall, Friday 15 Friday was Sensitive Boy night at the Austin Music Hall, with pleasantly soggy music by Starsailor, as well as fellow Brit Ed Harcourt and Antipodean superstars Neil Finn and David Bridie. The youngsters of Starsailor actually made a surprise appearance during Harcourt's set, adding full-band accompaniment to his "She Fell Into My Arms," from Here Be Monsters. After the set change, the full-house throng was treated to a long, protracted intro complete with a scrim and randomly projected images. It was so long, drawn-out, and pretentious, actually, that it was downright annoying -- affectation isn't pretty when you're still so green. When the quartet finally took the stage, all pretensions were dropped as vocalist James Marsh led the charge into an unaffected, if slightly mannered and tame, version of "Fool," a welcome respite after all that overblown teasing. They followed with a tight version of "Alcoholic," boasting a big sound that was well-suited to the venue. While there wasn't much variation in style and delivery from the album, it was a solid set that didn't disappoint. Marsh even dared take the piss out of himself and his bandmates. "Whoever that group was that played with Ed Harcourt was terrible! They were rubbish!" he joked before launching into the title track from the album that has made the group the It Boys of British music. At this point in the show, however, things began to feel a bit calculated. During the angst-ridden "Way to Fall," Marsh was bathed in ethereal green-blue light to accentuate his boyish, angular cheekbones and willowy physique. While it's clear the effect was meant to be one of artsiness, it just served as a reminder that these boys have a way to go before they have true credibility and are willing to take artistic risks beyond creative lighting. The final moments of the set were a step in the right direction, with the band offering muscular, beefed-up versions of "Tie Up My Hands" and "Good Souls," adventurousness that hinted that the kids will be alright with a little less coddling and a little more time in the trenches.

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