Southampton Guildhall
October 6, 2002
There are many strange and unexplained phenomenons in this world – UFO's, Crop Circles and The Bermuda Triangle, but perhaps nothing is as unexplained as that difficult second album. Toplaoder, who have recently been a victim of this rather bizarre unwritten rule of the world, are now just trying to recover on this, their 2nd date of a massive 41 date UK tour.

To be fair, Magic Hotel sounds much better in a live environment, and this is no more apparent than on the excellent 'Strange Game', which could well be a future single. It's not quite up to the standard of 'Achilles Heel', but it's as close as Toploader comes to matching the new songs with those found on their consummate first album Onka's Big Moka.

Where Toploader really excel themselves is in the unpredictability of their set-list. Jamie Oliver's favourite track, (come on someone had to mention him sooner or later) the irritating Dancing In The Moonlight, is played slap bang in the middle of the set. This is good for two reasons. First of all we're saved from it being the previously foreseen closure of the evenings proceedings Second of all, it really wakes the crowd up as before there was a danger of no bedtime story being needed tonight, as everyone would already be asleep.

Dancing In The Moonlight is followed by ginger-haired (not that it should be considered a disability) keyboard/singer Joe Washbourn introducing the excellent Let The People Know by declaring it "much better than the last one". Indeed it is and the now passionate Southampton crowd do exactly what our ginger-haired friend tell us to, live high and push back the boundaries with a smile.

'The Midas Touch' and 'Only For A While' follow with Top 20 single 'Time Of Your Life' closing the main set. The encore provides us with another newie before the set closes with their current career highlight 'Achilles Heel'.

Overall, after a bit of a shaky start, crowd and band alike enjoyed the evening. It can be very easy to rib a band like Toploader with their Jamie Oliver (there he is again) and Gail Porter connections but the fact is not many bands in the last five years have made as good a debut album as Toploader did with Onka's Big Moka. True, Magic Hotel is not up to the same standard, but what was aired from it was certainly enjoyed by a very passionate crowd and with Joe Washbourn keen to mention the words "Southampton" and "Thank You" in virtually everything he said, it will only awhile before they're missing from this part of the world.

Writer: Alex Towers

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