Starsailor, Brixton Academy. London <!-- none onestar twostar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

They toyed with the idea of becoming political animals, but it was as down-to-earth entertainers that the lads from Chorley ended their current tour in something close to triumph.

Once hailed as the next big thing for their introspective anthems, Starsailor have seen their thunder stolen by Keane and the undynamic Athlete. So for their third album, On the Outside, they hinted at a more outward-looking approach. The strident "In My Blood" and "This Time" were, we were told, informed by the experiences of the front man, James Walsh, after his move to confrontational Belfast.

Such an unlikely gambit was discarded on the night as the band quietly took to the stage. Intro music was made up of an eerie industrial thump and swirling keyboards, though that was quickly subsumed into the anonymous dirge "Way Back Home". Their supposedly more robust new material was handicapped by clunky instrumentation, apart from the keyboardist's out-of-place flourishes.

Walsh was less firebrand than Peter Kay's local radio DJ. "I'm sure you know the words to this one," he said charmlessly before one of their older ballads. "Get Out While You Can", from the current album, was introduced as a warning that could apply to any town, city, or even a nightclub.

What saved the first two-thirds of the gig was the band's ability to cobble together a pleasing set from three albums of material. The early hits "Fever" and "Poor Misguided Fool" were rousing singalongs, reminders that five years ago such direct lyrics were a welcome relief after the ironic flourishes of Britpop.

Then Walsh found some passion for a fiery "In the Crossfire", allowing the band to move from coasting along to bravura performance. "Tie Up My Hands" was transformed by spooky eastern-influenced guitar tones, a more exotic take on Bunnymen-style motifs. By the end, Walsh was leaping on amps and turning his mic to the crowd for "Silence Is Easy".

His audience responded, though at the end they filed out meekly after one encore. Despite recent rhetoric, Starsailor's niche was in a new generation of easygoing rock. Maybe it still is.

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