On a recent Thursday night a couple sat on two stools directly in front of a stage. They looked at each other and hugged. Moments before Warren McIntyre, singer and songwriter with Starry Skies, had suggested that everyone in the audience turn and say, “I love you,” to their neighbour – a kind of rock’n’roll kiss of peace. And it proved infectious as the audience at this low-key gig in Paisley became more engaged as the set bounced at pace from one cheerful number to another.
Even the barmaid started clapping during ‘High Girls’ which saw the band joined on stage by producer Johnny Smillie and singer Monica Queen on backing vocals. You may wonder how a barmaid managed to clap along and pull pints, but the small Paisley crowd had abandoned the bar to watch the show and the chilled cans of red stripe that sat temptingly in the fridge were generally untouched. Thursday nights may be big in London, or even Glasgow, but Paisley generally waits for the weekend to warm up.
‘High Girls’ had an infectious riff on the line “hi girls, where you goin?” which could sound creepy, but the ironic falsetto voices, all faux 60’s girl band doo-woppiness, turned it into something sweeter and more nostalgic. A key changing mash of ‘Twist and Shout’ and ‘Get Higher Baby’ (from White Lines) brought the song to a frolicsome end. ‘Guns and Gold’ has a similar New York garage feel; someone said there was a hint of Springsteen, but understated, perhaps without the bombast, or an intentional nod to the jangly pop of Glasgow of years gone by. On ‘Starry Skies,’ the band’s exuberant theme song, McIntyre stutters, “we like the pleasure but we’re running from the p-p-p-pain.”
Despite the jangled pop suss of the band one audience member remarked after that her highlights of the show were at the duets which bookended the show. On the quiet opener ‘Be Kind’, McIntyre and Heather Phillips intertwined vocal and fiddle. The song has the same subject matter as Tim McGraw’s 2016 platinum seller ‘Humble and Kind’, but dispenses with the country mega-star’s prescriptive advice (“when childhood stars shine always stay humble and kind”) replacing it with the credible commitment “so I’m gonna spend all of my days being kind to everyone”. The show closed with a second encore – a gentle song called ‘Loving You’ with Phillips again providing harmonies and fiddle interplay as the couple at the front looked at each other and kissed again. No apologies again for saying that the love and bonhomie projected by the band is infectious because it is.