My Life Story - Shepherd's Bush Empire, London
Jake Shillingford brought a bit of glam to the British indie music scene of the 90s with his large ensemble My Life Story. The collection of musicians, including a string and horn section, released three albums between 1994 and 2000, with album number two The Golden Mile the most succesful of the trio, leading to Top 40 singles and televison appearances on music shows and children's programmes.
The band split up at the end of 2000 but reformed again for a show at London's Mean Fiddler venue in May 2006, followed by a larger gig at the Astoria next door that Christmas. Jake and his gang played a handful of shows in the years that followed, with the latest, an anniversary concert at London's Shepherd's Bush Empire to celebrate 15 years since the release of MLS's The Golden Mile album.
I viewed the band on several occasions in their heyday and attended their 2006 Mean Fiddler show but I hadn't seen any of their other reunion events so it had been a while since the band were on my radar. With this in mind I'd brushed up on my MLS back catalogue in the days before the SBE gig, re-connecting with the songs, so was eager to see the band again and was delighted when they took the stage, with Jake highkicking his way through opening number 'Suited and Booted'.
The Golden Mile was played in full at the show, though not in sequential order, so the fans were kept guessing at to what song was going to pop up next, with 'Mr Boyd' nestling up next to 'Marriage Blister' and 'The King of Kissingdom' followed by a little "moment", with Jake strapping on a guitar to perform a solo rendition of album closer 'November 5th'.
The only problem when band play albums in full is you know what you're going to get, so the track you're not a fan off will inevitably appear! This was the case when 'I Dive' finally came round as it's a song I've never had time for. It was swiftly followed by raucous single "Strumpet' though, so my spirits were lifted once more, enabling me to join in with the assembled masses for the myriad "ba-ba's" that featured in the number!
The song that probably received the biggest cheer of the night was the phenomenal '12 Reasons Why I Love Her'. It's a track that gives me goose bumps throughout, from the moment the strings frantically appear after the opening drum roll to the final "Yeah" as the song swirls to an end. The SBE audience even got the 12 inch mix - with an extra five reasons - so it was the obvious highlight for me, especially as it's a song that would always appear in my top ten singles of the 90s.
The Golden Mile run through ended with a sumptious 'Sparkle' but there was still time for a few more songs, so 'There's Nothing For Nobody...' and 'It's a Girl Thing' showed up from Joined Up Talking as part of an encore with Mornington Crescent's 'Motorcade', with the album's 'Angel' giving the show a heavenly ending.
Although the main event had finished there were still several My Life Story diehards hanging around as the band had sold several "golden tickets" so uber fans could have a meet and greet with Jake and the crew and sample an additional set. Although this was a real treat for fans I felt it was a slightly bad call. As a regular freeloader I can't really complain but the band's main set only lasted around 70 minutes including encores. If a reformed band only plays one gig a year I'd assume that everyone who attends would have a major love for the act, or at least has come with someone who really appreciates them. Sadly in this climate a lot of people can't afford an additional purchase on top of their regular ticket, so I felt it was a bit of shame for them to be deprived of the half dozen songs that made up the evening's bonus content, especially 'Girl A, Girl B, Boy C' and 'Funny Ha Ha' as no MLS show should be without them.
That being said, the "golden ticket" was still a great idea and value for money, especially as a gorgeous screen print of an updated re-creation of the album sleeve was included in the price - but I'm sure buyers would have been just as satisfied with the screen print and a photo opportunity in the venue's bar after a regular set that included the additional songs.
I was extremely happy that I was allowed to view the extra performance though as 'Girl A' runs a close second to '12 Reasons...' as my fave MLS song and the set was quite a relaxed affair, even though the band went punk on us for a thrashy 'Emerald Green'. They did show their softer side for a heart pulling 'Neverland' but the night finished on a rowdy note with Jake bombing into the crowd towards the end of 'Funny Ha Ha', completing a tremendous evening in style.