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Augustines, Liquid Rooms, Edinburgh

  • Published in Live


Photo by Julia Schtri.

The farewell tour of a great live band means the audience tonight arrive with mixed emotions. Many want to scream about the injustice of it all. One of the most uplifting live music experiences are set to leave the stage, as the economics of being a touring band do not add up to a life for them.

Though the audience are subdued initially, the band seem determined to be upbeat. The first couple of numbers warm them up. Lead singer, Billy McCarthy, goes to the side of the stage to shake himself between them, obviously winding himself up for a launch into some older audience favourites like 'Chapel Song', 'Juarez' and 'Book Of James'. These combined with Billy’s exhortation to not be down get the crowd singing along with familiar and heart-felt lyrics about embracing and surviving loss. The poignancy of this is lost in the moment as the room begins to jump.

The set contains a wide range of the emotions from some funked up styling during band banter between songs to a quieter version of 'Philadelphia (The City Of Brotherly Love)' to an a cappella serenade by Billy swigging out of a wine bottle to keep his lips wet. Then, there is a version of 'Walkabout' where sadness seems to finally get through to Billy as his voice cracks. But the band’s determination to get the fans out on a high overcomes this and the last encore is a rousing version of 'Cruel City' that completed the night with Billy down in the crowd bawling out the lyrics and bouncing up and down.

This gig was a roller-coaster. There were the double-edged emotions of the songs combined with the knowledge that this was the last night of Augustines uplifting music therapy for those there. There was the band’s playfulness with each other and then with the audience as keyboard player Eric got the audience to practice mindfulness as the gig moved to its final few encore songs. (They had such command of the room that they really did stop playing and get silence for the audience to take two slow deep breaths where all that could be heard was the whisper of air moving in and out of lungs.) There were the familiar songs that the fans lustily sang along with and the raucous love for life that Augustines exude.

Damn, it’s over.

Further images from the gig can be found here.


Augustines - This Is Your Life

  • Published in Albums

Augustines’ new album, This Is Your Life, is their third and sees the band moving musically while maintaining the straight from the heart appeal of their existing work. The album, as ever for the band, features the superb, emotional vocals of Billy McCarthy backed by melodic hooks and a driving rhythm. The band’s sound now also includes synthesisers, drum machines and some African vocal features.

The album opens with ‘Are We Alive?’ a song that has been used for a while on tour. It is a crowd-pleasing anthem that audiences love to sing along to. On top of the driving guitar sound, Billy McCarthy’s vocals are belting out at their heartfelt best. Its appeal to live fully reflects much of the Augustines work which is about battling through adversity to a better life. It may have worked as an upbeat final song but given the musical changes to come in the rest of the album, it serves as a pleaser to the existing fan base.

The second song ‘When Things Fall Apart’ is the first single from the album. Its opening immediately departs from the guitar and vocals of much of the bands existing work. The use of synthesiser sounds are new but the band do not lose the emotional force of their music. We still hear about a dark background on ‘Town of Vampires’ and ‘When Things Fall Apart’, but there is Billy McCarthy to pick you up by telling you that you can move on somewhere else and “get a new start”. This is the therapy of Augustines’ songs.

The different styles and textures of the album are shown in the grand sound produced on 'The Forgotten Way' by drums, chorus and strings contrasting with the fragility of ‘Hold Me Loneliness’. There are two stadium-ready ballads in ‘Running In Place’ and ‘May You Keep Well’ with Senegalese vocalists Pape and Cheikh. These feature a heavy drum track and a World-music feel with those African vocalists. The melodies are beautiful and it would be interesting to hear a simplified live rendition of these songs. For those craving this approach, the album has an answer in ‘Landmine’ with its slower more acoustic feel.

The final song, ‘Days Roll By’, is a classic closer with a very ‘80s drum and synthesiser mix backing McCarthy's warm vocals. A bitter-sweet finish to an album of songs about moving on from heart-felt sorrow to something new.

Overall, the album can feel fragmented as the band experiment with different styles. However, it retains its heart throughout and will provide much to please existing fans and deservedly win new ones.

This Is Your Life is available from Amazon and iTunes.

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