Tonight is the best night of Billy McCarthy’s life.
I admit, this might be a slight overstatement, but tonight is certainly the culmination of years of struggle – Line-up changes; hard-drinking; half-finished albums; half-finished tours; tumultuous record deals; and, most pertinently, the death of a brother have led up to this show. Over a single bottle of champagne that bassist, Eric Sanderson, pours rather sparingly for the handful of dedicated fans they toast their achievement: Rise all ye sunken Ships.
“This is fuckin’ unreal” the low-toned singer screams through an ear-to-ear grin as he hammers out the opening chords to Ballad of a Patient Man. He is a captivating stage presence with a voice that cuts through your chest twice before you note just how personal and heartfelt his lyrics are. “We’ll raise a glass, to borrowed cash…” he sings, rather pertinently on Headlong. But as much as this show means for the band it means just as much to the fans. With every instruction McCarthy gives to “follow me down”, they respond in unison that they will, knowing every word and every phrase to songs I suspect newest recruit, drummer Rob Allen, wasn’t even aware of (not that he missed a beat!).
This certainly did not go unnoticed by McCarthy and Sanderson and there is sincerity in every thank you and gratitude they speak. It has taken them a long time to get here but tonight I suspect the band have fully realised something the fans knew all along: it was inevitable.
McCarthy throws himself around on the stage, believing every word he sings as if the song were written this very morning. “NEW YORK CITY CAN GO TO HELL” bellows the Brooklyn-based singer during album opener, Augustine, and tonight it can! New York maybe home, but tonight is a true, overdue homecoming.
“We’ve just been signed to play Latitude festival…” McCarthy tells the Lexington’s privileged crowd, “…I have no idea what that is.” It is a fitting sentiment that these three gentlemen do not know how big their band is going to be, but there is no better indication then when the chords to Book of James are strummed. The crowd, small as they are, scream so loudly I suspect McCarthy had to turn up slightly. He looks to the sky as sings, dedicating every vowel and consonant to his late brother of the tracks’ title. But if there is one moment that speaks for everyone tonight it is when McCarthy utters the lyric, “He stood there in his boots, unable to move, and I came here to tell you that I love you.” Every person here, band and crowd, wanted to say that. Every person here felt it.