This evening was spent watching a band I haven’t seen in a few years in a pub I haven’t visited for many more years… The Robin Hood in Sholing, Southampton, is staggering distance from where I went to college. I used to walk past it a couple of times a week on my way to be educated. It wasn’t the pub I used while I was at college, as Micawbers, as the Robin Hood was known at that time, was less lenient than the pub on the other side of college for serving people that weren’t necessarily of drinking age… Still… that’s a long time ago now, and the pub we used to use is now a vets surgery, the Robin Hood has regained its original name and Coast are back!
I have followed Coast for six years now, since I saw them at the 2011 Wickham Festival. They are originally a Southampton-based band, now based up in Scotland. They’ve had a fair few personnel changes since I’ve been seeing them, and the current lineup really works. Coast have had a couple of years off of gigging in the UK and today was their comeback gig ahead of a tour of Denmark starting next week. Paul Eastham (lead vocals) said it was essentially a rehearsal for the upcoming Scandinavian dates.
There were lots of familiar faces in the audience and more than a smattering of Coast t-shirts. Walking into the pub was like stepping back two or three years. Coast are a bit of a family outfit – Paul’s brother Chris Barnes is on percussion (proper percussion – they have a drummer as well for the kit stuff) and another brother, Russ, opens the show as the support act. Russ is an accomplished guitarist and plays his set of rock covers old and new to warm the crowd up. He did a great job, with everyone singing along by the end of his set.
Following a short break, the new Coast lineup took the stage. For those that are unfamiliar with the band, their website describes their sound: ‘Their brand of Celtic Rock has the power of Big Country, the passion of Springsteen and the soundscapes of Coldplay, moulded into a new original and exciting sound.’ There’s a heavy influence from Celtic Rock stalwarts Runrig, which was immediately evident in the first song of their set (the title of which escapes me).
This first track set the scene, then came one of my favourite tracks, Big Blue Sky, from their self-titled first album. This blended seamlessly into the new track, No More Heroes (not a Stranglers cover, and I may have got the title wrong, but hey… these things happen).
Paul then played a track on synth, pausing only to take a sip of whisky. One of his five-a-day, Finlay Wells (guitar) quipped. Apparently, Paul’s tipple of choice is Monkey Shoulder, much to the dismay of those in the audience originating from north of the border. The audience, mostly made up of seasoned Coast fans, were singing along to Keep Loving, louder than the PA. Those in the crowd that had been brought along for the first time were surprised how in tune the singing was. The track was finished with some Flamenco-style tremolo guitar by Finlay.
The band swiftly launched into a great rendition of Long Way Home from the EP Dancing With Satellites, then their tribute to Bruce Springsteen, I Wanna Sing With The Boss. Cue much whooping from the audience.
Finlay took to the mic briefly (not for the last time this evening) and filled in while instruments were being changed, saying how when he travelled from the Highlands of Scotland down to Southampton for this gig, he was expecting balmy, sub-tropical temperatures compared with those at home, and was somewhat disappointed that it was actually two degrees colder here than up there. While he was on the topic of Scotland, he shared a little wisdom regarding the bagpipes. Pipers spend half their time tuning their pipes and the other half playing them out of tune. One of the guys in my band plays Northumbrian pipes and describes them as like having a troublesome pet. I think I’ve got to agree, but they do make a great sound. Apart from when I try playing them.
The end of the set came with a powerful performance of the song Oceanos, with lots of audience participation. The song is about the fate of a cruise ship, the MTS Oceanos, that sank in 1991. The captain and crew abandoned ship without sounding the alarm or sending a mayday message, leaving the small entertainment crew to deal with the 571 people left onboard. All were rescued. After Oceanos, Coast played America, from the first album, providing a well-rounded finale.
It was explained that this was the end of the Denmark set and that the Denmark encore would be next. This began with the ethereal sound of Paul on low whistle with Finlay backing on guitar, playing a track from Paul’s 2011 album, An Cuan Siar. Then a local favourite, Docks of My Hometown, written about Southampton, with powerful guitar from Finlay. The final track of the encore was the title track of the new album, released this week, Windmills In The Sky. A perfect end to a long-awaited gig. The audience wouldn’t have it, though. There was still time before closing and they really hadn’t had their fill. Paul satisfied this with a solo cover of Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark.
Finlay’s final go on the mic for the evening was a completely alien experience for him. Drawing the meat raffle. “We don’t have these in Scotland!” he exclaimed, before reading out the ticket numbers and prizes, adding a few comments where appropriate. Number 253 – you’ve won a chicken. Without feathers. Number 5 – Beef brisket. Sounds posh. Is that beef wrapped in chocolate that you dip in your tea, or is that beef biscuit?
It was a great night out, first rate company and outstanding musical talent. Ladies and gentlemen… Coast are back!