Augustines – St Lukes Oct 27th 2016
My first trip to one of Glasgow’s newer music venues and I have to say I like it. It’s description as the Oran Mor of the east is quite apt. Hopefully a few more bands that I like will choose this setting for their gigs.
Sadly it was also to be the first and last time I will see Augustines. They have decided to call it a day after three excellent albums citing financial reasons in the current music business climate. It’s an absolute travesty after witnessing one of the best concerts I’ve seen this year. How a band this good can’t make a living doing the thing they do best is quite disheartening. I have to admit the band put on a show that took me completely by surprise. I had no idea they were this brilliant in concert and left me kicking myself that I hadn’t been to see them before. If I’d known it was going to be this good I’d have gone to the Liquid Rooms show in Edinburgh the night before as well. If I win the lottery this weekend I’ll be at Liverpool.
I wasn’t aware of Augustines until Cruel City, from their self titled 2nd album, which was on a CD sampler that came with Classic Rock magazine. It usually takes something special on these discs for me to notice and this song did just that so I checked out the album and although I liked it at the time I now absolutely love it must have played it 20 times this week alone). I added them to the ‘bands to see live’ list and when I saw they were doing their final tour I had to see them.
I really wasn’t quite sure what to expect but as the lights went down you could sense the atmosphere change and the out pouring of affection and devotion as the band sauntered onto the stage was a real moment between the band and its fans. I almost felt as if I’d gatecrashed someone else’s party. There was a feeling of celebration in the air and everyone was there to enjoy the band one final time.
I remember one of the main things that struck me about the band when I first started listening to them was the singer’s voice. A voice full of passion, depth and emotion that just reached inside you the way that only music can. Live though his voice is just incredible, singer, guitarist and frontman Billy McCarthy stood at the front of the stage without a microphone and sang The Avenue without the aid of any amplification. It was just breathtaking and hairs on the back of the neck stood to attention and not for the last time during the show. I was just stunned, I wasn’t expecting this and at that moment I realised we were in for a special night. They had set the bar pretty high after one song and it rarely dipped below that level over the next 2 hours.
The highlights were many. The set comprised mainly of the first two albums with almost all the songs from both played. The sound was excellent and the between song banter from McCarthy was entertaining. He’s an engaging frontman and careered around the stage in between singing and must have lost a fair few lbs as the venue was sweltering. The band seemed genuinely taken aback by the crowd reaction and were clearly feeling the emotions as they are now only a few dates away from it all coming to an end.
If I had to pick out the moments it would be the beautiful Walkabout with the piano intro before the guitar and drums slowly come in and make it a completely different beast before it dissolves away to finish like it started with only the piano, the emotion charged Now You Are Free, McCarthy coming out and doing Weary Eyes and Landmine solo at the start of the encores and the final song Cruel City which had a sea of hands raised as if in thanks at the chorus and if they didn’t already have me by then, which they did, I was a fully fledged Augustines fan after that.
They are not a one man band either. McCarthy may be the main focus but it’s tight trio and occasionally a four piece. Drummer Rob Allan plays a perfect accompanying beat, Eric Sanderson switches between instruments and also got the crowd to do some communal meditative breathing exercise, it was that kind of night. For the majority of the night they were also joined by a trumpet player whose name I didn’t catch. Far from being a bit part player he seemed as much a part of the band as anyone.
I left the venue on a high of the post gig buzz but it was tinged with sadness and regret as well. Sadness that a band this good can’t make a living doing what they do best. Regret that I never got a chance to enjoy this band live before. But if you are going to give it up then you may as well go out in style and Augustines did this and then some.
As I made my way home I joined a train full of Justin Bieber fans and it reminded me how fickle and unfair the music business is. Before I get into a full music snob rant I accept there is a place for the manufactured pop rubbish like Bieber but in an ideal world there should be a place for Augustines as well. There are enough crap bands we can do without losing the good ones.
Some videos from this tour below.