BY JEFF ELBEL | FOR THE SUN-TIMES
English band Starsailor cracked the American market in 2001 with its debut album “Love is Here.” The uplifting song “Good Souls” gained traction as other UK exports including Coldplay and Travis were on the ascent. MTV and VH-1 provided a significant boost, projecting singer James Walsh into American living rooms in stark black-and-white close-up.
Like peers Doves and Elbow, Starsailor missed mainstream stateside acceptance but developed a faithful cult following here. The mid-tempo title cut from the band’s 2003 album “Silence is Easy” was retained from reportedly difficult sessions with producer Phil Spector and showcased Walsh’s tremulous and emotive vocal. Barry Westhead’s keyboard echoed John Lennon’s piano-led solo material circa “Imagine.” A remix of the album’s “Four to the Floor” became a popular club track in the UK.
Touring activity for third album “On the Outside” included a transcendent show to a packed Double Door in 2006, with powerful response for a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and fresh material including “This Time” and “In the Crossfire.” The latter song marked a shift into heavier territory both musically and lyrically. Darker sonics and meaty guitars helped the band shed any lingering comparisons to Coldplay. The lyric expressed criticism of the Iraq war, and sympathy for civilians displaced by its violence.
The title cut for 2009’s “All the Plans” featured Rolling Stones guitarist Ron Wood. After supporting the album on home turf, Starsailor disbanded. Walsh released solo albums in 2012 and 2014. The group reunited last year, playing major UK festivals and opening for British rockers James’ “La Petite Mort” tour.
The upcoming Bottom Lounge show marks the Starsailor’s first Chicago date in nine years. The band’s original line-up remains intact, including bassist James Stelfox and drummer Ben Byrne. Although no new album has been announced yet, Byrne has promised that the band is playing better than ever.
SPOTIFY playlist: http://bit.ly/StarsailorSPOT