A few days ago, Standin’ Man opened for The Who in their native St Helens. So whatever I say about Dean Fairhurst and the lads, he can just turn around and go, “Yeah, but we opened for The Who, mate,” and fair do’s, I couldn’t argue.
The thing is, though, this European-wide jaunt with Vintage Trouble is the least they deserve because Standin’ Man is very, very good indeed.
Fairhurst, who was the leader of the wonderful Slydigs, has always had a gift for expansive, 60s-tinged rock n roll with a bit of Northern grit, and SM is all of that and more besides.
The set they play this evening is chock full of glorious stuff, notably “If You Don’t Know What To Do With Yourself” and “Be Your Own Messiah,” but there’s a real skill too. They do a guitar-based cover of “Eleanor Rigby” which segues so neatly into “Achilles Last Stand” and back again, and by the time they end with the single “Changin’ Wind” (and an appearance from Vintage Trouble’s frontman), it’s impossible to think anything more than stars are born. Only relatively recently formed, such is the ambition of their sound, Standin’ Man is off and runnin’.
Towards the end of their set, Vintage Trouble play “Shinin'” (what is it with the bands tonight and their lack of last letters?), and if there was one song that could sum up the show, it’s that one.
Warm as a summer breeze and happier than Pharrell Williams, it’s the very point of Vintage Trouble shows. And right in the middle is Ty Taylor, let’s be honest, the star of any show, sings the hook: “It ain’t over till I say it’s done” and it’s clear: this is his world for 90 minutes and we’re all guests in it.
It’s been a long time since VT Rock n Souled around here, and they are eager to make up for that.
They’ve got quite the canon these days too. “Run Like The River” and “Blues Hand Me Down” are classics now, I suppose, while “Doin’ What You Were Doin'” achieves the fine feat of getting a whole crowd swaying because Ty told them to.
But it’s a set that is heavy on the “Heavy Hymnal” tunes, and rightly so. When I reviewed the new album, I talked about how you imagined the band playing these live, Taylor out front being evangelical. And that’s the case on “You Already Know,” the breakup soul of “Not The One,” and the raucous “Holla.”
Another “….Hymnal” tune “Who I Am” sees Taylor in the crowd again (he’d earlier gone in for a dance) but this time for a surf and a handstand, before Fairhurst appears to do Lady Blackbird’s parts in “The Love That Once Lingered.”
The band gets their moment in “Total Strangers” – a virtual instrumental – before Taylor wraps his incomparable voice around Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground.”
There’s a serious message to all this too: that the word “tolerance” isn’t enough, and we need more understanding, which is at the heart of “Repeating History,” the last of the new songs and perhaps the most important. Before “Knock Me Out” is a good time, hands in the air finish.
No encore (it wouldn’t suit a band who is all about equality), instead an evening that has, at its heart, been about human connection, finishes with the band going to the merch table to meet their people.
Ironic, really, seeing as Vintage Trouble belongs on stage.