It was a couple of months ago, following a podcast recording event, that I pointed out that, in the 2020’s, it feels like nostalgia for the 1990s has taken the place of nostalgia for the 1980s as something of a money spinner for bands and artists from that era and, with that in mind, St James in Guernsey welcomed Republica to their stage on Saturday 11th March 2023 as part of their Global Collection series.
Before the 90s britpop-ers though it was a new young artist who opened the show, Stuart Leach.
Already a familiar face on the island’s pub and open mic scene this felt like something of a new step forward for Stuart who has long been known as a great songwriter just looking for the right outlet, and he demonstrated that more than ably tonight.
Taking a 90s indie feel, that made him fit in here, but adding a real ‘heart on his sleeve’ kind of honesty and directness to it he connected with the audience here right away, many of whom would likely have been new to his sounds.
While there were moments he was evidently nervous (something entirely understandable when bearing your soul, alone on a big stage like this) he used that energy to his advantage as he played through songs that had a familiarity even though it was the first time hearing them and had the feel they could work with a band just as well as solo like this.
Though his on stage demeanour was somewhat quiet and restrained with it came the feeling of him being someone you’d want to see succeed and, based on this outing, he has all the tools to do that when it comes to his songs.
Before, between and after the live music, entertainment was provided by one of the DJs from Not Another Indie Disco who have become regular visitors over the last couple of years and played a great range of tunes spanning every facet you might group in with ‘indie’ which fit the mood perfectly.
As soon as the current four-piece live incarnation of Republica took to the stage the audience (which was certainly heading towards capacity) moved forward with many clearly excited for what was to come and others at least curious.
For the first couple of songs however it felt like there was something of a disconnect despite the enthusiasm of the performers on stage, particularly Saffron who was as energetic and animated as they come for the hour-plus they were on stage.
Things started to click though with From Rush Hour With Love and by the time the blasted out Drop Dead Gorgeous pretty early in the set it all came together to make for a terrific time.
I’ll admit that I only knew a handful (at best) of the band’s songs but their mix of electronica, rave, pop, indie and hints of punk were certainly infectious, with drummer Conor Lawrence powering all that came over his beats.
Along with Saffron at the front were band founder Tim Dorney on keyboards who was energetic throughout despite being rather tethered by his instrument while guitarist Johnny Male carried a certain indie swagger that fit that side of the band to a tee.
There were points where things did feel, to me, a little inorganic with a lot of instrumentation seeming to be added by the keyboard and possibly backing tracks, but really this was a minor quibble as the energy and fun flowing around the hall grew all the way up to their biggest hit, Ready To Go, which saw the crowd fully kick off, closing the set but leading to the band being called back for the inevitable encore.
As I said going in I only knew a few songs but really this didn’t matter as the band put on a fine show packed with energy which was carried into the crowd as it went on, all while continuing to dispel the myth that so-called ‘Britpop’ was ever really a thing as what we got here was an hour and a bit of electro infused indie spanning everything from late 80s rave to late 90s pop all rolled into a mighty fine package.