Starsailor Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver BC - February 3, 2004

Over the last year, a group of Vancouver-based 20-somethings have inaugurated the Bad Teenage Poetry collective, holding readings around town at which they mirthfully unveil their tortured teenage scribblings. Fatuous though the idea may be, it strikes a chord with that cadre of overly ironic, "children of David Letterman" hipsters. Said individuals were nowhere to be seen when England's Starsailor took the Commodore stage; hearing bad poems delivered by spoken-word artists is fine, they might opine, but hearing them sung is another thing altogether. Now in his early 20s, Starsailor front-man James Walsh is still working his way out of his own bad teenage poetry phase, still hammering listeners over the head with maudlin sentiments and crudely rendered explications of the human condition. But where such unsubtle poetics are unforgivable coming from the likes of, say, Richard Ashcroft, Walsh should be allowed a few years before he's written off completely. The Manchester native may not be a critic's favourite, but he endeared himself to a mid-sized weekday crowd with rote stage banter and his emotive phrasing. Standouts included "Music Was Saved" and "Four To the Floor," a pair of up-tempo stompers from the quartet's latest outing, Silence Is Easy. That album's title track also went down a storm, anchored by the notoriously soft-spoken singer's defiant refrain. Less successful was Walsh's mid-set acoustic suite, during which he covered tunes by Neil Young. Where Walsh can belt out ballads with the best of them, he butchered Young's "Harvest Moon" and "The Needle and the Damage Done," songs that beg not to be crooned but whispered. All was forgiven, however, when the Mancunians bounded back on stage for the encore, which they closed out with the anthemic "Good Souls," providing a celebratory finale to an only moderately successful evening.