LIVE REVIEW: My Life Story @ Princess Alexandra Auditorium, Yarm (14.02.20) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: My Life Story by Dawn Storey

From his silver suits to his flamboyant high kicks Jake Shillingford has always been the consummate showman. It’s 25 years since the release of My Life Story‘s debut album but the cheeky glint in the King of Kissingdom’s eye is still present, as is his obvious passion for performing. The size and layout of tonight’s auditorium mean he’s in his element, able to jump, dance and wield his microphone stand onstage yet have ample space to prowl around down below to get up close and personal with the Yarm audience. It can’t be easy to create atmosphere in a room where the cabaret table set-up is reminiscent of a wedding reception, but the guests are enthusiastic and, suited and booted in a sparkly jacket and trademark white winklepickers, Jake is as comfortable belting out ballads beside his bandmates as he is jumping onto chairs and stealing sips from punters’ pint glasses during Girl A, Girl B, Boy C.

Despite being caught up in the Britpop movement of the late 1990s, the band’s 12 piece orchestra chamber pop never did quite fit alongside the indie boy guitar swagger of many of their contemporaries and it’s perhaps for this reason that their best-known hits have withstood the test of time. With Shillingford the only original remaining member, the band is now a five-piece with the string and brass parts substituted by alternative musicians and instruments – namely Nick Evans (electric guitar) and Aimee Smith (keys, vocals and swirling hips). It’s testament to their performances as well as Jake’s songwriting skills that Top 40 tunes such as 12 Reasons Why and Sparkle are still capable of becoming the same jubilant singalongs that they always were, with the “ba-ba-ba“s of Strumpet a particularly entertaining moment of audience participation.

But tonight is not just about the classics because, as Jake informs us, “after 19 years of procrastination” My Life Story finally released a new album late last year – and there is clear agreement among tonight’s gig-goers that it’s rather brilliant. Title track World Citizen is an instant earworm thanks to a rousing guitar melody and anthemic “whoa-oh“s and showcased alongside the similarly superb Taking on the World and ethereal No Filter it seems unthinkable that this is the band’s first release since 2000’s Joined Up Talking. The wordier, atmospheric Telescope Moonlight Boy magnifies Shillingford’s lustrous lyric skills, with Broken’s “I’m looking on the bright side / I’m only broken on the inside” couplet surely something of a mantra for the modern world.

If memory serves correctly, it was 21 years ago that My Life Story last visited Teesside, at the now defunct Middlesbrough Cornerhouse.  After such an enjoyable evening with too many highlights to list (but It’s a Girl Thing and You Can’t Uneat the Apple were also up there) let’s hope that this time they don’t leave it as long until they return.

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