Salako, Whelan's, Dublin, 5 February 2000
"I thought the crowd were fine," James Waudby of Salako tells my friend. Unfortunately the sight of the Salako lead giving an interview to a bogus NME reporter, said friend, using a mobile telephone as a dictaphone is one of the more entertaining performances Waudby gives that night.
Salako were ostensibly the main draw at Whelan's on Saturday, 5 February, but one doubts that many of those in the crowd could boast much of a knowledge of the Hull group's output to date. The gig was part of an "exclusive" tour of the band's new album "Musicality", their second album in just over a year. By my reckoning there were less than ten actual fans in the crowd, one of whom was Hungarian (I love Ireland, I love Guinness, I love Salako). This meant the remainder would have to be won over to the band's charms. They weren't. So why not?
Well, ironically, the band were ill-served by an excellent set played by David Kitt, which featured a memorable duet with his pre-teen relative, Robbie Kitt. They were a tough, but not impossible act to follow. The group ambled on to the stage about 11.00pm and opened with 'The Overhead Projector Theory' from their "Mappleton Sands" EP. Like much of the rest of the gig it was pretty if unstimulating stuff. Think a lightweight version of Space and, perhaps, to a lesser extent, Babybird or Travis. Luke Barwell and Tom Spencer provided sterling support on bass and drums, but all their hard work could do little to prevent the vocals and guitar sounding float-away and rather forced.
In fairness, Salako did lose guitarist, Dave Langdale, at the turn of the year leaving Waudby to carry the full weight of fronting the band, a burden he clearly struggled with. Perhaps with a full four-piece a more forceful performance would have been forthcoming. As it turned out it wasn't long into the set before Waudby could sense that the crowd was 'being difficult'. But rather than putting more into his performance he chose to berate the audience for its apathy. "And I thought Dublin was a cool place," jeered Waudby in an attempt to retrieve the situation that owed more to the Margaret Thatcher school of diplomacy than stagecraft. Although the gig did warm up towards the end, especially after a sparky rendition of 'The Hull City Tiger', that had as much to do with the glasses of black stuff the people behind the bar kept giving out as anything else. Tellingly, there were no calls for an encore.
After Salako left the stage to do an interview with my mickey-taking friend (the crowd wasn't very receptive, what did you think of that? Do you have a girlfriend?) Richard Colburn and Leagues of Salako label-mates Belle and Sebastian did the dj-ing honours. Very competently too, and a welcome respite from the notoriously repetitive fare usually served up on a Saturday night. All in all Salako put in workaday performance that was inoffensive but uninspiring. No one left with their lives changed, but then no one was particularly affronted either. Tame but tolerable. Anodyne. Take your strange aunt to see them the next time they're in town. Incidentally, for those interested, James Waudby does have a girlfriend.
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