I’ve arrived at the O2 Academy in Glasgow at a little after one thirty. As I make my way from the car park at the nearby “clockwork orange” underground I have to weave my way through supporters of one of the two big teams in Glasgow. This, as any resident of this “no mean city” will testify, can be fraught with danger but today any sense of trepidation I may have felt under normal circumstances is thrust from my bones by the knowledge that I am heading to the Britpop event of the year.
The Star Shaped festival offers those of us who remain tied to the nineties the chance to answer an important question; was Britpop really as good as I think it was or am I just a victim of nostalgia? In about nine hours I will have an answer to that question. I don’t actually need to wait nine hours of course…I already know the answer.
So do you.
Chris Helme, formerly of The Seahorses is first up and despite the early slot and a crowd made up of only the die hardiest of the die hards he performs with enough pure emotion and raw talent to leave everyone who witnessed it cursing whichever God they do or don’t believe in for not placing him in the spot currently occupied by Dead Sheeran.
It really is incredible.
He hits notes that are so pure that Angels gather in the wings to hear.
“You can Talk to me.” is so beautiful that I feel tears welling in my eyes. From that sublime moment Helme plays us like a fiddle and performs a little slice of The Seahorses classic “Love is the Law”…in the style of George Formby. It is unnerving quite how well that works! Even stripped of the guitar voodoo of John Squire this song still sounds like the best song you’ve ever heard.
He then follows that up with “Blinded by the Sun” and it’s even better.
He’s really good.
A thirty minute set that has given me all I could have wanted from the whole day.
Welcome to Star Shaped.
Andrew Montgomery of Geneva has now arrived on stage and immediately delivers a statement of intent by launching into “No One Speaks”.
I feel my breath leave my body.
My heart skips a beat.
My stomach flips.
This must be what it’s like when you reach Heaven.
When he sings “Further” I have a very strong desire to simply live this moment for eternity. It might be the single most beautiful experience I’ve had at a live music event. “Into the Blue” confirms my suspicions. Geneva are too good…too special…to not give us one more album…or one more something. The crowd agree, they know these songs (from a band that few outside of the venue would recognise) as well as anything from the likes of Oasis and Blur. A cult band? Maybe. I have a funny feeling that we may not have heard the last from Montgomery…or Geneva.
At this point I pop out for a sandwich. As I come back into the venue “Stay Together” by Suede is being played by one of the Star Shaped DJ’s…I think to myself that this might be the most Britpop moment of my life.
And then Northern Uproar are on the stage and I think this might be the most Britpop…oh you get the general idea.
After the delicate charms of Geneva this is pedal to the metal pop and roll. Roaring guitars, chords that chime and charm, choruses that stick like glue.
They are another band who suffered from the sheer number of acts who were grabbing for space in the nineties. History has been kind to them because the passing of time hasn’t diminished the power of the songs. Particularly the spectacular “From a Window” which sounds just as awesome tonight as it did when I first heard it.
I tell you what boys and girls and girls and boys…Northern Uproar can actually cause a bit of an uproar. They are loud, ferocious at times, but deliver everything with a little heart.
The Real People are here with all the usual unusual stuff they do so well…melody, psychedelic pop, songs that sound like stadium rousing anthems and humour.
They’ve been doing this a bit longer than most of the bands here today and the result of that is that they are tighter than a really tight thing.
They are also loud enough to wake Rip van Winklepicker.
MY LIFE STORY
Jake Shillingford is here to shake your soul with his pop masterpieces.
The fact that he starts with “Girl A, Girl B, Boy C” is a good enough reason to carry on living and loving in this crazy old world of ours. Incredibly this, the first MLS single, still manages to drive its way into the depths of what is left of my soul and render me a quivering wreck…like one of those poor souls at some evangelical revivalist gathering having a demon cast from their body.
I love My Life Story.
So do you.
Just look at Jake high kicking and strutting across the stage in a suit so stylish it makes a mockery of my own sartorial choices…which isn’t all that difficult given that I normally look like someone has dragged me backwards through a charity shop with my naked body covered in Velcro strips.
“Motorcade” from “Mornington Crescent” has me dancing…I say dancing but what I mean is sort of marching on the spot in time to the music, nearly.
There really can’t be many performers who can control a crowd like Jake. He’s like a pop riot police. He says jump and we say “How high?”. He’s a force of nature.
I think I love him.
“12 Reasons Why I Love Her” sees the introduction of two very glamorous backing dancers who look VERY familiar. Cool cats both of ’em.
Do you know what this is…
It IS The Superbloodynaturals.
They don’t waste any time in reminding everyone why we loved them in the first place.
Beautifully crafted little nuggets of pop glory. Soaked in West coast 60’s America…a bit of The Monkees…some indie…blah blah blah. A strange stew that tastes like every great meal you’ve ever eaten and ever will.
I feel full after one song but want to stuff myself over and over again.
I have no idea what I’m talking about!
I live in hope.
And now the end is near. Only one act remains. I’ve been here for 8 hours. I’ve been thrilled for every second of that time.
But this is something a bit special.
A band I loved a little more than almost all of the others…but never saw live.
That’s all about to change.
Because here are Echobelly.
I’ve come over all peculiar.
It’s beyond description.
I’m not joking.
Sonya is the most charismatic presence I’ve seen on a stage. Presence. She has presence.
Glenn is a man who transcends talent and embraces gifted. He’s so good it’s difficult to watch.
It’s a union.
A holy union.
We should bend the knee and give thanks.
After a set that lit my soul on fire they are gone and part one of Star Shaped 2018 is over.
Now my heart is full.
Huge thanks to team Star Shaped…for everything.