Wednesday, 19 May 2010

494 THE SHEILA DIVINE, Ivory Coast, The Paradise, Boston MA USA, Thursday 29 March 2001

Another quick trip to my favourite rock'n'roll bolt hole, namely Boston, MA! This gig, the first in a double-header of CD release shows by The Sheila Divine was ostensibly the reason for the trip this time, although the real reason was to get away from my unhappy marriage for a few days on my own, talk things through with good Boston friends, and get the impetus to do what needed to be done. So, a direct flight then over to my digs, then walking to the Paradise via a circuitous route from Coolidge Corner!

Get there and have to queue up; my "guest list" status apparently means squat to the bouncers! However, I get in for 8, at which point there were only 10 tickets left; this is going to be one hell of a show! Meet up with TSD bassist Jim Gilbert as soon as I get into the club, a large (for Boston) hall resembling the Bristol Studio or old Hammersmith Palais in layout if not in size. Jim's pleased I made it over, but keyed up for the "showcase" homecoming show. The support, Ivory Coast, do their job well with some vaguely emotive pop and choppy powerpunk, an appropriate combination considering they feature a vocalist who is the spitting image of Sebadoh's Lou Barlow!

Make my way to the front, annoying some locals in the process but Jim, setting up onstage, notices my location and stops for a quick chat, which prompts another nice chat with a fellow punter. The Sheilas then come on with a swagger and a strut (mainly from big Jim, over 6 feet tall but looking double that size onstage!) to a rapturous welcome, kicking off a clutch of newies from the CD "Where Have My Countrymen Gone?", the release of which these 2 shows celebrate. The opener, "Sideways", is an insistent groover, but it's 3rd number in, "Every Year" which is the gem, a true Sheilas classic with power, emotion and a brilliant hook. Jim is massive onstage, all movement and huge rock gestures, circa mid 80's U2, drummer Shaun Sears wrestles with the rhythm like an angry octopus, and new boy Colin Decker throws angular shapes. But it's vocalist Aaron Perrino who is the real star. Pale, McCulloch red-lipped and innocently boyish, Aaron's voice is choirboy pure one moment, and grizzly-bear angry the next, but always huge, resonant and capable of filling the hugest venue on it's own, never mind The Paradise! The voice perfectly fits the Sheila's brilliantly emotive, soaring powerful rock, so reminiscent of 80's pop geniuses Kitchens Of Distinction, early Buffalo Tom or even my late teen "home team" Echo And The Bunnymen, but mainly all their own work.

"Opportune Moment", which just builds and builds to a pressure-cooker intense crescendo, is superb, but it's "Hum", with its' towering hook, and Aaron's bulging red-faced vocal intensity, which is the real highlight of a set packed full of them! After a couple of newies, The Sheilas encore with a frankly appalling version of Kim Wilde's "Kids In America" which Aaron needs a lyric sheet for (!), and is frankly out of step with the rest of this awesome set, but I can forgive them that.

I hang out afterwards with the crew, meeting the rest of The Sheilas for the first time, or so I think; Shaun tells me he remembers my name from his time at Q Division, mailing out their stuff to me! Aaron reveals himself to be a huge Kitchens fan (surprise, surprise) and fends off a comically drunk fan, but is pleased to sign my list and talks about his ambitions to bring The Sheilas to the UK, as do they all! Before heading off, I also meet up with Michael Creamer (TSD and Pit manager), and Mike Deneen (ace Q producer and also nicknamed "Sheriff"!) for the first time!

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