Well, this Texas gig seemed to be a bit of a game of two halves, for me – it was certainly a mixture of high points and low, that’s for sure. A couple of days before the gig, I’d received an email from the Cliffs Pavilion telling me that the show would start at 7.45 PM, so we had to rush to get there on time. But we needn’t have rushed as it was at least 8.15 before Sharleen Spiteri strolled on stage wearing a stripey sailor’s shirt; and explained that it would be a two-part show. The first set was to be a kind of history of the band’s 25 years, with some songs ‘that we haven’t played in a million years’; and the second set to be those Texas songs that had recently been given a major Soul make-over. Fair enough. This opening monologue though, was a mere taste of what was to come – on which more later. Solo, she then sung ‘Start A Family’ strumming an acoustic. It was sung beautifully and confidently, reminding us (not that we needed reminding) that she is a most wonderful singer.
Hinted at in the opening monologue, it was now clear that Sharleen fancies herself as something of a stand-up comedienne. There was some good rapport with the audience; and a long anecdote about recording the first single; but unfortunately this was all punctuated by Ms Spiteri unnecessarily swearing like a trooper throughout! I should point out at this stage that I’m not particularly offended by bad language – I hear it every day at work, and I don’t object to the odd emphatic F-word; but personally, I don’t swear in public, and I don’t want to hear it in a show from a major artist who is long enough in the tooth to know better. Now some people in the audience seemed to think that every time she swore, it was hilarious (why, I couldn’t say); but most didn’t. One woman near me summed it up by asking rhetorically: ‘Why does she have to keep swearing all the time?’ (Again, I couldn’t say). Incidentally, someone I know went to see Paolo Nutini recently, and apparently he couldn’t stop f***ing swearing either!
Joined by the rest of the band now, she eventually got round to the second song – the band’s first hit: ‘I Don’t Want A lover’. For some reason they had opted to do this without the iconic Bluesy bottleneck slide guitar part – merely strumming it through. Who knows why? Perhaps the guitarist had lost his bottleneck? Perhaps he’d lost his bottle! Many, including myself, were most disappointed. Ironically, I’ve heard the song covered (although not sung) better by pub bands – whose guitarists did use/have a bottleneck! But again, the vocals were excellent nonetheless; and it was lively enough.
There then followed a few pretty strum-along Texas songs from the band’s back catalogue; each separated by lengthy anecdotes and joking with the fans, or just talking nonsense (plus more swearing, of course); and I began to think she likes the sound of her own voice (well so do I – when she sings!) Now, I’ve said before on this Blog that I like a little preamble before each song when I see a band live, but her chattering was almost incessant! I could sum up the first set as ‘The Sharleen Spiteri Talk Show + a few Texas songs’. I heard one bloke near me say ‘I didn’t pay good money to listen to a load of rabbiting!’. He had a point. I reckoned that four or more extra songs could have been played in the ‘rabbiting’ time. Anyway, there then followed a short break.
Sharleen and the lads returned to the stage with the addition of a two-man horn section, for the second set; which she described as the ‘Soul Sessions’. They immediately launched into ‘Halo’ and it was clear right from the start that this second set would be a good’n. We heard a couple of the other monumental hits from the classic White On Blonde album which had received a major Soul make-over; plus some other well-known numbers in this half – all excellently performed. The band and the Horns were tight and impressive at all times; and Sharleen’s vocals faultless as we’d come to expect. Also, I’m not clear why, but halfway through the set, the keys player sang a little of Bowie’s ‘Changes’. There was far less old chat this time too; and that improved things a lot. I thoroughly enjoyed this second half. Everyone was on their feet dancing, clapping and singing right from the start. That’s what we’d paid for and that’s what we got! The band went off to great applause – and, on merit of this second set, they deserved it.
Of course, they were soon back for encore; and played ‘Conversation’ and ‘Inner Smile’. They went off again, but a second encore was demanded. Sharleen dedicated this final number – a cover of Elvis’ ‘Suspicious Minds’ – to a young lady in the audience who was celebrating her sixteenth birthday; and she led the fans in singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to her. A nice touch.
All in all it was a show full of highs and lows. Now I won’t hear a word of criticism about Sharleen’s vocals, as she was sublime in this respect throughout. My only complaint on that subject is that we didn’t hear enough of it because of all her rabbiting – and I can’t see the point of all that f***ing swearing either! The band were OK in the first half – fantastic in the second. So would I go to see them again? If I thought they’d stick to the music, then yes; but we’ll see. PTMQ