Aqualung Live Showcase at The Kabaret Club, London.
24th September 2002
A room crammed with over-attentive music business bods isn't exactly a musician's idea of fun. And Agualung's alter ego Matt Haless has no qualms in letting his feelings be known tonight. It's the "first proper gig" for him and his fellow band mates - and they're absolutely "shitting themselves".
Not surprising really. Although he's fronted a couple of bands before, it's doubtful that he predicted his rise to fame would be so sudden, or as the result of a national television car advert. But, as he points out, it's because of chance, a friend and a lucky phone call that he is sitting here at his piano looking into an expectant sea of faces.
Despite the understandable nerves, the band remain steady handed, Hales exposes a charming sense of humour and a crystal clear vocal that sounds every bit as gorgeous as it does on the recorded version of "Strange and Beautiful".
"Good Times Gonna Come" worryingly provides an ear-blasting intro that Freddie Mercury would have been proud of, but after that the more familiar whiles and tortured high notes take a promising lead.
Previous to this night, the critics saw "Strange and Beautiful" as a watered down, rip off of Radiohead. To the less cynical it's proved to be a welcome addition to the ever-expanding Coldplay, Travis and Stereophonic's brigade.
Aqualung are here to prove the doubters wrong. And to a certain extent they do. Prefab Sprout harmonies, tightly navigated arrangements, delicate and sentimental piano riffs, provided by Hales, see us through a handful of album tracks such as the high octave "Tongue-tied" and the tender "If I Fall". They've done their homework, written some charming songs and what's more managed to perform them with passion.
But if you're looking for something groundbreaking or defining you've come to the wrong place. Aqualung are not gambling with their music. They are sticking to a familiar script. But, it has to be said, once the Radiohead similarities are dismissed, they are also carving a trademark sound for themselves with the piano-dominated songs and with Hales's almost ethereal voice.
Their sound belongs amidst a setting of sofas and coffee tables. And considering an integral part of every household in the country is indeed a "sofa and a coffee table", they could be on to a good thing. They may even be graced with a longer shelf life than your average TV ad band.