Augustines @ SWX

Written for Epigram

“Funday Monday” quips frontman Billy McCarthy, surveying his mass of admirers beaming back at him. The eager cheers he gets in return prove that he’s not trying to set the tone, but reflecting on the atmosphere inside Bristol’s SWX. Kicking things off with 2011’s ‘Headlong Into The Abyss’, it is clear from the start that although this farewell tour marks the end of an era for Augustines and their fans, it is very much a celebration of all they have achieved and the brilliant legacy they leave behind in their three albums.

What makes seeing Augustines live such an experience is the sense that you are witnessing something organic, something never to be replicated in quite the same way again.  Renowned for their unrivalled connection with their audiences, they seem to have a special affinity with this city, palpable in their shout-outs to Bristol gig scene legend and fan Big Jeff, star of their recent video for ‘Are We Alive’. Indeed, although the setlist is littered with tracks marking Augustines out as one of the most compelling names in indie rock of the last decade, as they tell us tales of dodgy kebabs the night before, it’s clear they still have their feet firmly on the ground.

The band’s sense of pride for all they’ve achieved and an appreciation for their roots makes their performance all the more endearing. The middle section of the gig is devoted to the memory of Pela, the band from which Augustines was born. Ex-drummer Tomislav Zovich joins them on stage for a crop of noughties Pela tracks. 2007’s ‘Waiting on the Stairs’ is a particular highlight. It bolsters the fact that what the band are putting on this tour is so much more than a clip show of greatest hits; it is a veneration of a brilliant set of careers. Without any air of sycophancy, it is easy to say that nights like these are the quintessential definition of why live music is so fantastic.

What is less easy to do is talk about a farewell gig without sounding at least a little bit elegiac. There’s a collective dropping of hearts as the band leave the stage for the first time, a reminder that things are coming to a close. But even if they hadn’t been intending to do one, there is no way the crowd would have let them slip away without an encore.  We’re told they’ve been trying to do the “whole three-hour set thing” this tour; whilst venue curfew slightly curtails this, we still get a glorious second round. At first, McCarthy returns to the stage alone for an earnest and soul-bearing rendition of ‘Weary Eyes’. There’s a sense that he, like his audience, wants the few last songs to stretch out just a little bit longer; it’s like that classic film scene of someone running down the platform trying, in vain, to keep up with a loved one chugging away on a train.

It is truly gutting that Augustines are splitting, particularly at a time when they deserve to still be cresting the wave of success of this year’s album, This Is Your Life. As the night closes on 2014 hit ‘Cruel City’, it seems cruel indeed that this is the last time this city will see Augustines.


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