James Walsh at the Cellars at Eastney

The Southsea Alternative Choir  Picture: Paul Windsor

REVIEW: The Southsea Alternative Choir The Southsea Cafe

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Sweat suits James Walsh. Which is just as well, because after the former Starsailor frontman had completed his set, the deliciously sauna-like conditions at the Cellars had turned his shirt a darker shade of pale.

Not that Walsh, or those close to him, was complaining.

Fresh from the Isle of Wight festival, he seemed at ease on stage (contrary to reports of his awkward stage persona). As he worked through Starsailor’s vast and torrid repertoire, tunes such as Alcoholic and Good Souls reigning down like great musical blows.

When he did falter – forgetting the lyrics and taking five minutes to remember them – the crowd warmed to him even more.

Walsh’s voice is both instrument and weapon. There’s something choric about it, as if there’s more than one set of tonsils going at it on stage; as if it’s been reinforced, first with steel and then with silk.

The set was a pleasing and careful composition: a balance of old, borrowed (Van Morrison got an airing) and new.

The test for Walsh though, as a soloist at least, will come when his new songs aren’t allowed the crutches of the old. BEN AITKEN