Since Augustines announced their breakup last August, their farewell tour was an event that couldn’t be missed. Their music resonates the soul – there are few bands who have the passion for performing in front of an audience. Eric Sanderson and Bill McCarthy have been playing live together for nearly 15 years with Pela and Augustines, and as the latter for six years alongside Rob Allen. The years of struggling to fill bars across America, whilst sharing a van and hotel rooms, had finally paid off.
Tonight they got to play to 2000 Brits at London’s Kentish Forum and be worshiped not as rock gods, but like best friends. The original gig venue was the legendary Brixton Academy and was changed to the forum. They may have hoped that their final tour would have been enough to fill the venue, but making the change to Kentish Town was the right move. A ram packed forum, with the crowd by the stage will always top a half filled Brixton, all being filmed for their upcoming documentary.
They kicked off with ‘The Avenue’ from the self titled second album, before playing a first half set mainly of their debut album, Rise Ye Sunken Ships. The gig is a celebration of all things Augustines and they paid homage to every single person who has helped them on their journey – they even invited back their original UK tour manager to play guitar to ‘Headlong Into The Abyss’. Throughout the gig Billy and Eric spent the entire show just beaming to each other, trying to get eye contact with as many of the crowd as possible whilst blasting out classic after classic.
There was time for a few surprises: Their former drummer Tomi Zovich was welcomed onto stage alongside his own drum-kit. Billy reacted by saying “this was the moment that Pela could only have dreamed of”. As a tribute to their former band, they played ‘Waiting On The Stairs’ followed by ‘Philadelphia (The City of Brotherly Love)’ to the delight of their most loyal fans. Later, Rob’s Dad gingerly entered the stage and cringed whilst 2000 people sang him a happy 70th birthday. That wasn’t the only surprise, as the band persuaded Allen Snr. to take the drums alongside his son to cover The Clash’s ‘Guns Of Brixton’ (though they decided to not change the words to Kentish Town). A real, completely magical moment that the entire Forum lapped up.
Eric commented that this was one of the best gigs of their lives and Billy added with a grin that, as they are looking for work they may have to join forces with The Maccabees. The pair climbed down into the audience and played an acoustic version of crowd favourite ‘East Los Angeles’; the polite crowd took a step back and allowed the guys to perform, singing back the chorus word perfectly. Though the show had to come to an end (temporarily), what an end, finishing with two of their biggest anthems, ‘Are We Alive’ followed by ‘Nothing To Lose But Your Head’. The place obliviously went into meltdown, the older gents down the front became 16 for the next ten minutes, arms raised to the ceiling punching out the chorus. Stadium anthems, without the egos.
Billy came on stage alone ready to play the encore but for a cloth-cap and an electric guitar. This was the perfect opportunity to showcase his mighty lungs during ‘Weary Eyes’ and ‘Landmine’. A few tears and some emotional glances were shared between the fans, and who can blame them? As in the flesh the singer has the emotional gravitas of Susan Boyle singing ‘I Dream A Dream’ on Britain’s Got Talent times three. As the rest of the band joined Billy for a majestic version of ‘Walkabout’, Eric decided to a say a few heartfelt words and told the tale of finding a package in their dressing room filled with fan letters and pictures throughout the years, which the left the band in tears. The multi-instrumentalist went on to explain how this is one of the best and saddest nights of their lives and encouraged us to all take a few deep breaths together to soak up the moment.
As the last of our tears found the Kentish Town Forum floor, it was time to say goodbye and Augustines et al left with an especially long version of ‘Cruel City’. 2016 has been a year of goodbyes and as we all cheered on and watched the support band Fatherson and the rest of the crew dance and drink champagne on stage, it seemed more of a celebration than a funeral.
Thank you Augustines, I am sure we shall see you in some capacity once again.