A very fine way to spend a Sunday night – a gratifyingly full house turned out to the Muse to welcome Starlite & Campbell, introduced by our compere Mr Paul Keddle with his customary panache.
Starlite & Campbell certainly don’t do things by halves. Brandishing a truly astounding collection of guitars, keyboards, drums and esoteric electronica, they shook the Muse to its foundations with a powerful and eclectically complex sound that is both tight and proficient.
In the up-tempo numbers, the brilliantly accomplished drumming of Hugo Danin (alias Dai Jones – an adopted Welshman for the evening) propelled an irresistibly dance-able rhythm, as Suzy Starlite‘s funky bass traded licks with Simon Campbell‘s rocking lead guitar. The combination created a punchy energetic rock & roll sound that at times was reminiscent of the raunchy riffs of the Rolling Stones.
In the slower blues numbers, Simon’s guitar and vocals were delivered with a poignancy and delicacy that evoked fond memories of Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac.
Perhaps most memorably though, they played several numbers from their new concept album STARLITE.ONE, which represents a huge and fascinating departure from the more conventional world of bluesy rock & roll. Underpinned by a soundscape of classic old-school keyboards, synths and electronic samples, the STARLITE.ONE material is complex, intriguing, original and demanding of attention. If you really wanted to place it into a genre, then perhaps the sound and overall mood is closest to some of the ‘progressive rock’ that many of us grew up with in the ’80s. The lyrical content, however, is bang up-to-date… clearly of personal importance to the band themselves, the heartfelt and sometimes difficult lyrics are never obvious. They leave plenty of room for the listener’s own interpretation, as they circle around dystopian themes of sadness, loneliness, isolation, A.I. and war. Simon’s voice becomes darker and more Gothic in these numbers (you really believe him when he sings “a part of me is broken”) – but then blends back effortlessly with Suzy’s lovely melodic singing voice, to achieve a kind of redemptive resolution.
The moving acoustic performance of ‘Blow them all to pieces’ – a lament and protest at the futility of war – was a memorable highlight of the evening, especially as Simon rejoined Suzy and Hugo for its delicate ending.
It’s a rare band that can be so inventive and musically proficient in such a diverse range of musical styles, and yet somehow pull them all together into a cohesive, unified and powerful experience.
They seemed to enjoy being in Brecon as much as we appreciated having them here. We wish them all the very best for the rest of their tour, hope to welcome them again soon, and we’ll be fascinated to see what new musical directions they pursue next.
For everyone who turned out to see this gig – your support is particularly appreciated for a band touring all the way from Portugal… the difficulties and expenses of doing that are now immense, so many thanks for coming along. Grateful thanks also, as always, to the wonderful Muse, and everyone else in the team who helped to make this gig possible.
Photos by Barry Hill
Review by Jim Kerslake