Previous experience has taught me that the addition of anything resembling a string section to a live show can only ever be a very good thing. In fact, just a single violin can do the trick, and luckily for me, and the rest of the sold-out audience filling Cambridge’s Junction tonight, the latter is exactly what greets us as we wait with quieted breathing for the four boys of Stornoway to stroll onto their first ever Cambridge stage. The solitary stringed instrument fades into the background as lights flood said stage and the full band swoops into opening song, ‘The Coldharbour Road’.
In a plot surely intended to deceive and confuse anyone who’s heard of them, Stornoway the band are completely unrelated to Stornoway the place of shipping news fame. They are, in fact, from Oxford. Lead singer Brian Briggs banters about the Oxbridge rivalry, enlightening the audience with the fact that Oxford produces more Prime Ministers, while Cambridge produces more spies. An audience member wittily retorts that they can’t be very good spies if people know about them. This tomfoolery continues throughout the evening, culminating in band and audience singing Happy Birthday to Brian towards the end of the set. It is actually his birthday.
The band work through their debut album, Beachcomber’s Windowsill, adding the occasional exotic instrument to liven things up – the kazoo sounding instrument should have made ‘Fuel Up’ sound comical, if only it weren’t such a good song. The admittedly unseasonal ‘I Saw You Blink’ (basically sounds like summer in a song) is accompanied by the colours of summer sunsets washing the stage and the boat sails that drape across it and the audience.
‘We Are The Battery Human’ is “a song about spending too much time on Facebook, including the Queen, who recently joined”. It’s a marvellous call to arms for the screen-addicted generation to go outside and live a life not watered down by the trappings of technology. The two girls in front of me take a picture of themselves as the song comes to an end, and immediately upload it to the aforementioned social network. Oh, the irony. Brian then thanks James Blunt for single handedly preventing World War Three, and explains that the singer recently admitted to doing so as he disobeyed an order to attack Kosovo. Thanks, James. Stornoway aptly swoop in to ‘Here Comes The Blackout…!’, before announcing that they’re going to try something out unplugged to end with, “because you’re such a lovely audience”. I bet he says that to all the packed out venues on this sold-out tour. This acoustic rendition of ‘End of the Movie’ is sublime, and ends with drummer Rob Steadman fading the volume on a crackling black and white tellybox.
Predictably, the band reappear after demands from the audience to provide an encore, which they duly do with ‘On The Rocks’ and non-album track ‘Beachcomber’s Windowsill’. They close with the anthemic ‘Zorbing’, to the visible elation of the whole audience, who leave the venue in the kind of happy daze usually exclusively experienced after too much sunshine and cider as they disappear into the frozen November night.