The problem with artists so reliant on atmosphere (such as HOMESHAKE, the solo project of Peter Sagar), is when that atmosphere isn’t provided, the entire gig lacks. When swamped by an overwhelming cascade of chatter, the performance can become incredibly lacking. In this day and age, the ability to keep an audience enraptured is vital. On this front, Sagar failed. It is deeply unfortunate that someone whose music – beautifully hypnotic and entrancing – did not captivate a crowd to such a significant level. The gig was frankly ruined by the permanent conversation of the crowd. It felt like everyone in the audience had purely come for their hit ‘khmlwugh’, and decided all other tracks were not part of the set but merely an opportunity for a nice conversation.
The slow, dreamy synthy songs of the band were – it can’t be denied – nothing short of stunning. Opening with the low electronic tones of ‘Just like My’ provided an ethereal, dreamlike setting. The quality of the tracks – sometimes a problem with artists so production-based – translated live wonderfully, and Sagar’s voice was honey-soaked and as beautiful as ever. There was something very dreamlike and moving about the entire affair – but once more the atmosphere that could have been so powerful was ruined. It was also a case that the songs from Fresh Air stuck out as fan favourites. The live performance of ‘Call Me Up’ was exceptional, and it was helped by being one of about three songs the crowd gained the ability of being quiet for. Similarly, the drowsy and romance-drenched ‘khmlwugh’ captured the audience’s seemingly brief attention span just long enough to sing back the hit. However even HOMESHAKE’s most well-renowned songs didn’t manage to quite cease the incessant conversation.
At one point during the performance, there was even a brawl towards the front left of the audience. Set to a soundtrack of the dreamy vocals, overlaid with the gentle strings and synths played, began a fight that appeared to resolve itself in a matter of moments. The idea of such an event would be comical – the combination of lo-fi pop and violence seemed like something out of a film – however it was appalling when occurring in real time. The sheer disrespect involved in such behaviour, when it so vastly detracts from an artist’s style and intention, is something I have never previously experienced and do not wish to do so again.
It could be suggested that HOMESHAKE is simply not made for bigger venues – the tracks did begin to feel repetitive and samey after a while, but again this would be easier to change if it was possible to concentrate on the artist rather than a conversational ruckus. Despite requests for silence from Sagar himself, the crowd seemed to determine to derail the sold-out performance — something odd in itself. Even songs that seemed sensational such as the drawling and erotic ‘Give It To Me’ were impossible to enjoy, and that can only be due to the crowd, given Sagar and his band’s fantastic delivery.
While my recommendation has not changed (HOMESHAKE live was marvellous musically), I cannot applaud the gig. While any artist must keep an audience engaged, and Sagar’s stage presence was not the strongest, the level to which HOMESHAKE was mistreated by the audience last night was undeserving and disgusting. An artist of ambience, beautiful sound, and soft lyrics, it did feel as though he belonged to a smaller room. Intimacy was lost and sound was discarded for the sake of pints and disrespect. A true discredit to Manchester’s audiences, HOMESHAKE was one of the most appalling gigs I have ever attended, and it had very little to do with the music being played.