The Augustines farewell tour! Why? They were doing so well. The official explanations suggest that it just wasn’t working financially. But they had achieved so much. It’s so sad to see them giving up when, you never know, they could have been big. Following in the footsteps of one of their undoubted influences, Bruce Springsteen. Instead, they’ve followed the example another massive inspiration, The Clash, although there is no indication that the split is for personal reasons.
So last night was a celebration – of the music and the spirit that they have created over these last six or so years. The spirit of rock’n’roll, of the faith in redemption through music. The same values that Bruce has always embodied. The belief that inspired me to write my book on music.
I’ve lost count of the times I’ve seen Augustines. I think it is six or maybe seven. I first saw them at Latitude in the i-Arena tent in 2012, and their energy was so immense, their following already so devoted, that I had one of those this is the future of rock’n’roll moments. I saw them at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, still finding their way. I saw them on the street – Berwick Street, playing a few songs at a free concert celebrating Soho. I saw them in and out at Latitude again, balancing gigs, and, crucially at the Roundhouse in December 2014, when they were astonishingly good, playing with awesome energy, emotion and intimacy. Billy McCarthy, main man and singer/guitarist poured out his soul at that one.
And every time I loved them even more.
Last night brought it all together. Yeah, it was a bit self-indulgent in places, but why not? It was a celebration of the past – and I hope, a look to the future. All the great songs, “Book of James”, “Juarez”, “Now You Are Free”, Weary Eyes” and, of course, the awesome “Philadelphia (City of Brotherly Love)” were there and in rocking and anthemic shape. And much, much more.
One lovely moment was when drummer, Rob Allen, brought his dad, “Bob” out on the stage, to celebrate his 70th birthday. We sang “Happy Birthday” and then he went onto the spare drum set, which had been set up for a previous cameo from some old friends/ colleagues of the band from New York called Pela. And they played a cover of of the Clash’s “Guns of Brixton”. Wonderful.
Maybe the reason I like Augustines so much is that they not only have the ethos of Bruce throughout their music, but they have the same favourite bands as me, with the Clash to the fore.
A few pics here. Billy has grown his hair and wears a cap. That looks a bit like The Hold Steady, a band with which they have quite a lot in common. But Augustines have a more optimistic world view. Like Bruce, they reflect the sadness, but also the hope and aspiration.
The celebration at the end with the whole team on plus Pela members. The Augustines family!
There’s a film about Augustines on the road coming out in 2017. It’s bound to be good. Maybe it will revive interest and get them back together. I guess we wait and see.
In the meantime, Billy and all the band, thank you for some great music and some awesome concerts. Music we live for. The true, undying spirit of rock’n’roll.