35 years ago I was just discovering music through my Dad’s copy of Hunky Dory, Top of the Pops (on a Thursday night) and a well worn cassette of Queen’s Greatest Hits. Somewhere around 400 miles north of me a feisty hairdresser was forming a band.
Fast forward those years and that (now ex-hairdresser) is giving us one hell of a show with enthusiasm and armed with a cache of hits in her pocket that are infectious, memorable and a part of modern British pop history. Although this is pop as in popular music, Texas’s songs prove to be taut and muscular live. Lead front and centre by the unstoppable Sharleen Spiteri.
Striding on stage as if it was Knebworth not the Academy, Texas surprise us from the off; opening with ‘I Don’t Want a Lover’; the sparkling green guitar almost dwarfing the pocket rocket that is Spiteri. It’s a brave move, but pays dividends, instantly winning an already eager and devoted crowd.
While there is no doubting Texas are a formidable live band, Spiteri is no doubt the ringleader, or rather gang leader. She is so comfortable at her craft, accepting flowers from the front row, allowing an audience member the mic. It’s an honest and pure connection between her and the crowd. In lesser hands such gestures could have fallen into cliche territory. Instead it’s almost revelatory how easily Spiteri breaks the ‘fourth wall’, and manages to always entertain and remain a touchable star.
I’m by no way a hardened Texas fan, yet I find myself easily knowing, (and caterwauling) to at least two thirds of the songs tonight. Highlights are hard to pick in such a well formed set, at a push ‘Halo’, ‘Black Eyed Boy’ and a superb closer of ‘Suspicious Minds’ raise slightly above the others. Then that maybe simply be from familiarity, rather than greater quality.
I would be failing if not to mention main support Imelda May – and shemade good fight for the crown tonight. Initially all a bit beige and Radio 2. May then dug into T-Bone Burnett-inspired clutch of raw, sassy, soul rock songs, such as ‘Fallen Angel’, combined with a dash of her hard work, Irish looks and charm. By the end of the set, May had set the bar high.
This venue was smashed by Texas. An early finish, did not matter, we left smiling, satisfied and knowing next time we’d be catching both acts again. Celtic Girl Power 1, Cynical hairy man 0.