Texas, Royal Albert Hall, London

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
Ignored since the late 1980s everywhere except the far-flung corners of independent local radio, Texas continued to exist long after their record company was expected to put them out of their misery. It was solely the infectious slide guitar of their first single, "I Don't Want a Lover", that fuelled them through the fallow period that was the rest of their career. Until now.

When it is unfurled inside the classic confines of the Royal Albert Hall, there's something amiss. Every time Sharleen Spiteri yodels the title refrain, there is a great yawning gap after it where the slide guitar used to be, and no amount of funky guitar arrangement is going to make up for it.

Some time between the last moderately selling album, Rick's Road, and the latest massively selling Number One album, White on Blonde, Texas decided the slide guitar was a millstone and junked it. Indeed, when the sound that made them famous is briefly employed elsewhere, it's like Texas are indulging a once-fond and generous but now embarrassing maiden aunt.

The latest album saw them dumping their AOR rock 'n' roll sound in favour of a lover-friendly rock 'n' soul blend with a dusting of Portishead-style trip hop.

Spiteri aches to be part of the soul tradition - part Aretha Franklin and part Al Green, but she wiggles and preens around the stage like a teenage heart-breaker getting ready for the school disco and substitutes blustering volume for emotion, making her a soul belter rather than a soul diva. Her gesticulations - arms aloft, pent-up emotion and uncontrollable hand-flapping (a la Alanis Morrisette) - all say "I am a serious artist" but her voice doesn't match it. It's the songwriting that does most of the work when they are at their most glorious on songs such as "Black Eyed Boy", "Halo" and the neutered but enjoyable "I Don't Want a Lover".

Elsewhere, things go awry again. "Breathless", their song for Brian Wilson, employs a string section sitting on the same staccato note to give it urgency; the result sounds like an impoverished version of The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby".

Clearly, coming back with a hit single such as "Say What You Want" almost a decade after the first hit, Texas have employed the kind of resurrection shuffle which means they could give lessons to Lazarus. However, in the Royal Albert Hall, the soul and rock elements struggle for supremacy and cancel each other out.

Texas attempt to do for soul what the Gallagher brothers did for Merseybeat - there are plenty of musical and lyrical borrowings which tease you into thinking you've heard a particular song before - a lyric from Marvin Gaye here, the rhythmic arrangement of Tamla Motown there. But it's a malformed approximation of the real thing which leaves Texas more in the league of Robson and Jerome than Liam and Noel

Comments