EMMY THE GREAT | BISHI | 29.05.2019 | Newcastle Cluny | REVIEW and PHOTOS

Emmy The Great | Bishi – 29th May 2019 – Newcastle Cluny

Review and photos by Victoria Wai (Victoria Wai)

It was a night of everything from people drawing, to human keyboard stands and lyric prompters to even someone telling the audience that The Pixies were on the phone (well the ring tone was them!) but before all this we had an electrofused sitar set in the form musician Bishi donning a somewhat Morticia Adams/Cruella De Vil hairstyle. She’s got style, she’s got substance and she mesmerised us with things I never thought could be heard from a sitar.

The crowd were somewhat dumbfounded and some, once they finished telling each other about their evening meal, were under the spell of Bishi who loop pedals her vocals and commands the audience with power stances and stares which are quite a contrast for what was to come but one thing for sure, if you witness Bishi live, it is one name you won’t forget and I am imagining that maybe her own headline show will be something big and bolder than what we had on this night.

So, Emmy The Great. I was actually going to start this review with pure cheesiness by saying that yes, she is great and well, thank fook for that but what is it that makes her great?

This tour is the 10th Anniversary celebration of Emmy’s first album, First Love. In those ten years she’s had a Second Love and other releases and is celebrating coming off maternity leave from having her first child and returned to Newcastle to play the first venue she ever played in this city. The night is all about celebration and reminiscing that there are some in the crowd that mouth every word that is sung by Emmy keeping her in check. If you follow Emmy on the socials, she’s made no secret that she has been somewhat suffering baby brain. She has also stated that she doesn’t like calling her fans ‘fans’ and this is what the night feels like. She’s connecting with those friends that you don’t see for a long time and when you do you just pick it up from where you left off, even for the 2-3 people in the crowd that have never seen or heard her play.

Emmy has her setlist ready which is simply a playback of First Love. She gives us a commentary of most songs including the MIA encounter which she says should have led to a sticky on the album as “cute but offensive!” The ‘interlude’ song, Easter Parade Part 2, follows where she jokingly invites the audience to top up their drinks and even exchange sketches as one gig goer, Jim, actually sketches throughout her set. She engages the audience as much as she can throughout on a personal level leading to great short exchanges, otherwise people are just living the album like they did ten years ago with many singing along especially that one audience member, Helen,  right in her line of view nailing every word with the exception of Emmy just getting right into it and sings ‘fuck on your grave’ rather than ‘piss on your grave’ during the title track which then leads the room singing in chorus for the rest.

Closing the night she invites Gary on stage who at her show the previous night in Sheffield to take on the roll to steady her keyboard for the closing track of the night, Everything Reminds Me Of You. And as she goes to step off the stage to a thunderous roar she returns to sing the last song from the album which is City Song and then into three of the four bonus songs on the album. The album has a few extras in sound but tonight it is Emmy, her guitars, a keyboard and a roomful of ‘friends’ reminiscing the good times through heartbreak to celebrity references. It was one of the most relaxed and fun nights of music I have had and this is the first time in her 10year plus career that I got to experience the greatness of Emmy The Great live and surely it won’t be another ten until I get to do this all over again.

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ROISIN MURPHY | 19.05.2019 | Newcastle Boiler Shop | REVIEW and PHOTOS

Roisin Murphy – 19th May 2019 – Newcastle Boiler Shop

Review by Lee Hammond. Photos by Victoria Wai

As a precursor to her slew of festival shows in the weeks and months ahead, Roisin Murphy decided to warm up for these in Newcastle. Opening tonight are duo Audiobooks, the pair initially don’t strike you as a typical duo and their music reflects that. Acclaimed and in demand producer David Wrench’s beats are crisp and clean, and they sound particularly pleasing in this wonderful venue. However, the same cannot be said for the bewildering Evangeline Ling whose vocals rather than enhancing the beats they sit atop, instead fail to enthuse.

Their sound is definitely unique but perhaps not in the right way, the culmination of their set sees Wrench shredding through a plethora of riffs whilst Ling screeches through the final track. The build up to Roisin Murphy’s set starts the best part of fifteen minutes before she even takes to the stage, a palette cleansing drone that slowly builds accompanied by looping visuals. As the lights dim and the band take the stage, Murphy makes her grand entrance opening with House Of Glass. This heavy number setting the tone for what is to come.

It’s a night of many costume changes, Murphy’s on stage wardrobe is truly impressive. Personal favourites Demon Lover and Ten Miles High featuring early in this superb set. However, by far the best costume and accompanied song is Plaything, as Murphy carries her silver ‘plaything’ around the stage. Sparking a significant crowd reaction as she twirls it around, it’s not just about that however as the song itself is particularly vibrant and packed with unbridled energy.

That is true of most of this fervent set, with Murphy barely stopping to draw breath the majority of the time. Without doubt she is in incredible form tonight, closing out her set with Overpowered and Flash Of Light you cannot help but be overcome by her style and manner. She has this crowd hanging off her every word, as they dance their night away. Roisin Murphy proves without a doubt how truly brilliant she is tonight with this insanely impressive set, it’s predominantly effortless her costume changes her relentless excitement all of which rubs off on to this elated crowd.

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WILDWOOD KIN | FERRIS AND SYLVESTER | CALLUM PITT | 03.05.2019 | Newcastle O2 Academy | REVIEW and PHOTOS

Wildwood Kin | Ferris and Sylvester | Callum Pitt – 3rd May 2019 – Newcastle O2 Academy

Review and photos by Victoria Wai (Victoria Wai)

Under The Apple Tree (UTAT) is the brainchild of Bob Harris, AKA Whispering Bob Harris. You might actually know him from The Old Grey Whistle Test. UTAT is a “music brand that focuses on bringing attention to amazing artists who deserve to be heard by everyone,” with sessions recorded at a studio nestled under an apple tree and now hitting the road, with artists handpicked by Harris himself and this year it’s the wonderful trio Wildwood Kin supported by Ferris and Sylvester and to add to the already fantastic bill local acts were also picked to open the night and in Newcastle we had Callum Pitt with a stripped back band of keys and backing vocals (Jonny and Annie).

It was an early start down o2 Academy in room 2 as the night would coincide with an ‘opening party’ of a festival and we would get to hear the contrasting sounds later, however, Callum and his band gave us a wonderful soothing start. If you are familiar with Callum’s music you may have heard many people talk of those vocals and damn those vocals for they sure can give Mariah Carey a run for her money. Seriously check him out and have your jaw dropped to the floor. He has local artist Annie Griffiths guest with him on backing vocals and just hearing them together is just as spellbinding. A wonderful stripped back set showcasing his sounds to many that have never heard of him before includes his big hits Rabbits to his most recent single Forgotten Kids.

Ferris and Sylvester are a duo I managed to catch literally the last number of when they supported another act about a year ago and it seems they have just gone from strength to strength with some of the audience gathered as big fans of theirs. Issy Ferris and Archie Sylvester are an ‘alt folk blues soul’ duo with personalities as big as their sound. They sure brought the party to town and got the somewhat reserved crowd warmed up and even mimicking ‘vikings.’ Yup, you read that right, I just wish their were pints of SKOL and long beards there to complete this vision. My personal fave was when they swapped places on stage especially as the stage is on the small size and Issy takes over the kick drum from Archie and the crowd really get ‘in the moment’ then Archie gets up close and personal by coming to the foot of the stage which is literally in the face of the audience. Ferris and Sylvester give us everything as they even strip it back with their newest release of Flying Visit.

So far so good with the two gigs coinciding under the same roof this night and then it is time for the headliners and a huge credit to Wildwood Kin. We are off to a flying start as they open with new a new song Headed For The Water which showcases their spellbinding harmonies and then it is straight into familiar territory with Steady My Heart. The crowd is captivated from the get-go; only when the unfortunate moments of the balcony doors that adjoin Academy 1 to Academy 2 open and we hear the louder sounds of the other gig downstairs spoil it. Luckily the sounds of Wildwood Kin is at a great volume during the songs and the mood is not dampened. There is great interaction with the crowd and Run even gets a singalong. It is really hard not to get into this gig as the girls really do gel off each other which is lucky as they say never work with family. If you are unfamiliar with Wildwood Kin, the trio is made up of sisters Beth and Emilie Key and their cousin Meghann Loney.

Meghann takes the lead with most of the onstage banter especially during the somewhat frustrating moment for Beth and the failure of her bouzouki which leads to a quick set change and we jump ahead to another new track called Wake Up Sleeper but we do then get a pretty hilarious rundown of the bouzouki and their “pleasantly awkward” conversation, however I think it gives them a certain edge and even their sound engineer Josh gets a special appearance due to it! If things go wrong in a show then take notes from Wildwood Kin in how to get a show back on track!  The bouzouki is fixed and the girls do not need to rejig the set as much as we thought and we are back on track with Warrior Daughter.

Plagued with technical problems and battling with sound from the other venue, the girls are running against curfew but the crowd are having none of it. Security look a bit worried as the chants are pretty loud for an encore and do not waver so not to disappoint Beth, Emilie and Meghann return and give us a warm rendition of Valley allowing the gig-goers to leave happier which shows as they then pretty much engulf them at the merch stand afterwards.

It was my first time seeing Wildwood Kin I would definitely would see them again and if we were faced with the same problems I would be happy. In fact, they could decide to leave all their instruments at home and do the whole gig with just their voices and chat here and there, though the way they play their instruments definitely does add a certain touch more.

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TOM WALKER | JADE BIRD | 24.04.2019 | Newcastle O2 Academy | REVIEW and PHOTOS

Tom Walker | Jade Bird – 24th April 2019 – Newcastle O2 Academy

Tom Walker - 24th April 2019 - Newcastle O2 Academy
Tom Walker – 24th April 2019 – Newcastle O2 Academy

Review and photos by Victoria Wai (Victoria Wai)

When you have to upgrade your venue because the demand is high and you could have upgraded again you know the show is going to be a pretty mental one and this is what happened for Tom Walker on tour for his debut album, What A Time To Be Alive, and everyone with a ticket knew it as the queue to get in nearly wrapped itself around the venue and come showtime for Tom himself most of the venue was toasting his success and Tom himself lapped it up from start to the finish.

Looking at the set up it feels he and his band were not ready to upscale the venue as the instruments and screen pillars were packed tightly in on the stage but what a set up and what a band as a slow intro builds into Angels and he appears to a thundering roar with the first glimpse. He goes in between taking control of the mic and then to a guitar as he goes through songs from his early days to the big hits and I think most of the crowd were there from his early days as there was no lull in the energy from them throughout.

The vibe was pretty constant throughout with big thumping sing-alongs but midway through it seemed to step up a notch as Cry Out seems to bring a slight element of rock sounds and the lights are bright and epic and then Tom walks over to a drum towards the end of Dominoes and the venue, if possible, feels that touch more alive.

Tom is very much a musician in his own right, particularly when he gets the chance to shine on his lonesome. Which he does spectacularly on Blessings, which is a really special moment. Slightly eclipsing this, as cheesy as it sounds, a sea of mobile lights come on for his biggest hit to date; Leave A Light On which closes the night and it is a beautiful ending to the set.

However, welcoming this highly excitable crowd to the Wednesday nights entertainment is Jade Bird. Many people had gathered for this night as they saw her name added to the bill but there were also many people there who did not have a clue who she was but as soon as she took to the stage people took note from the get-go. Kicking off with Uh Huh from her recently released self-titled album and showing off her vocal and lyrical ability to the crowd’s amazement, she had this sold-out crowd in the palm of her hand and most were in the building to witness it. It was great to see many people singing and bouncing along from the first second and literally shutting people up who normally overlook support acts.

Jade and her band played an amazing short but very tightly packed set with a great variety of sounds from the album which really does show off her abilities from the big numbers to the slightly more stripped backed ones as she immediately follows the opener with Good At It. And as if the set couldn’t be any more fun for both her on stage and the audience, she throws in the 1980s hit Walk Like An Egyptian from The Bangles which definitely shows the difference of age gaps in the crowd. However, even if you didn’t know the song her infectious performance definitely had you dancing along if not singing along.

I have seen Jade a few times live now but this would be the first time I have seen her a band. Seeing her with an extra three bodies on stage just highlights her personality more as she interacts with each band member while engaging with the packed out crowd and not losing any connection with either. There’s not one moment where the crowd are running off to the bar. In fact, in this short set, it seemed more people wanted in on the action.

When Jade sings I Get No Joy many look on in amazement as she wraps her words around that catchy tongue-twisting chorus. She then has the majority clapping along to the hoe-down track that is Going Gone and as she exits the stage many are gasping, “that was amazing!”

It was basically the hottest ticket in town on Wednesday night and value for money. Tom Walker has had to upgrade his sell-out shows to sell out again and with that performance and many more getting to witness Jade Bird, if they hadn’t heard of her before, you know that her upcoming shows in November are going to be following the same direction.

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WARD THOMAS | THE WANDERING HEARTS | 06.04.2019 | Gateshead Sage | REVIEW and PHOTOS

Ward Thomas | The Wandering Hearts – 6th April 2019 – Gateshead Sage

Ward Thomas – 6th April 2019 – Gateshead Sage

Review and photos by Victoria Wai (Victoria Wai)

“It looks like heaven….It’s picture perfect paradise.” The first and third lines of Lie Like Me from country-pop twins Ward Thomas opens the show and this is what it feels like and definitely doesn’t “feel(s) like hell” like the second line of the song suggests as everyone that took up the standing area were packed in tight to get close to the action and from the get-go nearly everyone is singing as loudly as they can to the new numbers blending into the older ones with ease.

A lovely moment (with no disrespect to the amazing band) is when Catherine and Lizzy have the stage to themselves to give a heart wrenching stripped backed performances of Cartwheels, No Fooling Me and Deepest You; the latter welcoming Billy their guitarist back. You get to really feel the emotions in their harmonies. It really is a testament to singers when they can sing in this way and sound pitch perfect to the recorded versions or better in the case of Ward Thomas. But if you are familiar with Ward Thomas you know they can’t keep you sitting down for long and the upbeat numbers are dotted around the setlist which works brilliantly. The majority of the crowd came to dance there cares away and even those that had to settle for the upper tiers were on their feet as crazy as those in the standing area. Credit to those guys, as I wouldn’t want to be on my feet that high up! I am unsure how we could have cranked up the atmosphere any more but we did with I Believe In You as claps tripled in volume and more audience members lent their voices to the singalong.

Another medley comes but this time with songs from their first album From Where We Stand with The Good And The Right, A Town Called Ugley and Push For The Stride, which is probably as close to honkey-tonk country as we get. And oh, you could just feel the power more so in their vocals with the last song of this medley. It sure got my heart thumping as mad as the beat of the drum. You could definitely feel those who were seated were ready to get on their feet.

My personal highlight came with Rather Be Breathing. Since getting their latest album it’s one of the songs that really gets to every bone of my body. From the beat and the ‘whistles’ in the darkness of the room before the lights came on I actually had to hold back the tears. I can’t describe the actual feeling but it’s definitely one of those songs for me.

You really couldn’t fault the setlist. Catherine and Lizzy brought everything to the table and covered what they could from all three albums in this hour and twenty minutes with Carry You Home not only closing the night but the whole of the UK Restless Minds tour. If you wanted to witness perfection this would be close to it.

Speaking of perfection, as if Ward Thomas fans would not be satisfied enough with just seeing Ward Thomas, I would say they made about half the room more ecstatic with Americana’s other sweethearts The Wandering Hearts as their support act. AJ Dean, Chess Whiffin and Tara Wilcox played a solid harmony blazoned set with songs from their critically acclaimed debut album Wild Silence. They played last years concourse stage at SummerTyne festival in the same venue and just like that day the queue to meet them was crazy. I believe it was still quite a length as showtime for the headliners was getting closer. Let’s just say if you WANT an audience just put both Ward Thomas and The Wandering Hearts on the bill and you WILL get those numbers and one helluva atmosphere.

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ART SCHOOL GIRLFRIEND | ELIZABETH LIDDLE | 05.04.2019 | Newcastle Cluny | REVIEW and PHOTOS

Art School Girlfriend | Elizabeth Liddle – 5th April 2019 – Newcastle Cluny

Review and photos by Victoria Wai (Victoria Wai)

Have you ever been to a gig where everything feels complete and then at the end of it you think, ‘what just happened?’ I have been to gigs where I have had ‘moments’ and there are only a handful, yes I can actually count them on one hand, where I have become so immersed in the gig that I have forgotten most of it because each second was perfect. I had people come talk to me before and after the support act and headliner. I remember those parts but tell me to describe the gig for you and I am a bit lost for words. Thankfully I managed to grab a setlist to trigger some moments.

So, Friday 5th April at Cluny 2, what can I tell you?

Local girl Elizabeth Liddle opened the night. She quietly took her place behind the keyboard where her fingers glided over the keys giving us gorgeous melodies with her silky powerhouse vocals. They held the audience captivated and most of them hidden in the seated area at the back of the venue. It was a dreamy set so why would you not want to sit back and relax but as her name gets known there’s no doubt in my mind there will be more bodies in the room that they will want to get closer to the action.

Elizabeth Liddle – 5th April 2019 – Newcastle Cluny

Credit to all that turned up to this venue to see this artist on this date as before Art School Girlfriend was announced I had my heart set on another show that was rescheduled, then another was announced and a few more that I would have loved to have gone to but as soon as I saw this show scheduled I knew that there was only one I would and could attend and those that joined me also knew that there was only one show to be at especially after hearing what they had to say afterwards.

The room took a moment’s silence as the electro pulsating beats of Distance opened the show as Art School Girlfriend, AKA Polly Mackey, and her band settled on stage and a few more bodies took to the floor area. After each song the audience sent rapturous applause and a few thumping yells of ‘yes!’. We are a relatively smaller crowd than I anticipated but we made sure our appreciation was heard as ASG sends us into a whirl of electro dreamscapes from the opening number to the last note. We get the tracks from her previous two EPs, Measures and Into The Blue Hour, and are also introduced to the latest single Come Back To Me and an even newer one called Diving.

I realised during Uncomfortable Month that I was actually singing along at a mild volume to every word besides Diving. Until this night for a while I have skilled the art of lip-syncing as I have noticed at a few gigs my fellow gig-goers can over-sing the artist which can get annoying but the sound was loud enough that I didn’t realise I was actually singing until I mouthed my favourite lyrics of ASG’s which is, “You’re so shy, I could kill you out of love.” I even caught myself smiling at this point too. It’s a lyric that just GETS me!

There have been a few gigs I have been looking forward to going into 2019 but this gig was the one that I anticipated the most and I don’t know why but after the night I knew I was right to trust that gut feeling. A few I spoke to afterwards eagerly waited to try and talk to Polly after the show. I say try as some then left without a word as she left them speechless.

I am unsure if these words are really a ‘review’ so to speak but what I can say is that from having  seen Art School Girlfriend at a festival and a rowdy showcase where people were queuing to get in (and many missing her set due to the numbers) to a solo support show for another artist and two headlines of decent audience numbers in Newcastle, every performance has been quite euphoric and the most recent one tops them all. Art School Girlfriend will soon be mouthed from the lips of more people and the best thing about it is that she is so humble that I don’t think she realises just how great she is and how the music captures others souls.

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CLEAN CUT KID | TOM SPEIGHT | 31.03.2019 | Newcastle Cluny | REVIEW and PHOTOS

Clean Cut Kid | Tom Speight – 31st March 2019 – Newcastle Cluny

Review and photos by Victoria Wai (Victoria Wai)

It’s always quite tough being the support act as you never know who will turn up for your set and if they will like you, as many if not all would have bought a ticket to see the headline act. On this night Tom Speight would open for Clean Cut Kid.

Tom and accompanying musician Lydia Clowes gave us a stunning set, but on the mention that he was going to be on Radio 2 soon, there was almost a flat response but then a mention of Glastonbury quickly followed and the reaction was the complete opposite. With that we definitely knew what type of crowd we were dealing with and as the set grew so did the audience that he won over especially with the Phil Collins cover ‘In The Air Tonight,’ with Lydia giving the drum part a good going. We had a bit of crowd participation with phone lights and the duo coming into crowd for a song titled Joni and a special guest appearance from frontman of the headliners, Mike Halls, giving some impressive backing vocals along with Lydia. The crowd were not prepared for that and it was a bold move that when he ended his set a lot were genuinely quite sad.

Ironically, or maybe not, Clean Cut Kid open with the song Goodbye from their latest album, Painwave and if that is how you say goodbye I think we need more of it – an upbeat melody with sad lyrics actually works especially in the Clean Cut Kid way.

As with any headliner, the floor space immediately fills up closer to show time and the hardcore fans were already in place with Clean Cut Kid over their chests for all to see (in T-shirt form) and with a big booming ‘hello Newcastle’ from Evelyn the vibe was set. Evelyn tells us that she is originally from down the road which gets a huge cheer. The new songs went down well and those that knew the words were mouthing them with such passion as they bounced around while others were literally smiling throughout in awe of the energy. As a photographer I was actually lost as to where to point the camera, as I wanted to make sure I caught this energy in a still frame. Hope I’ve caught this for you.

Mike does most of the talking throughout the night and has us laughing even through the sad moments of when he describes, ‘Hayden, Give Love’ and ‘Jason.’ Clean Cut Kid actually say that the new album is, “reaching out to the listener and saying “ok let’s talk about these things we’re not meant to say out loud,” and what better way to ‘talk’ than through the power of music. And with the power of music, there’s actually a dedication to new bassist Gaz who fell out with Mike for a good few years. The crowd laugh but we are told it is a true story as we go into the mellow ‘Brother Of Mine.’ I can’t help but stress how many people were smiling but if you really heard the lyrics, WOW! And tonight reflecting on it that is how ‘Red Green Black’ came to me especially the lyric, “but then the colours went away like the memories fading fast.” Hearing it on record is one thing then hearing it live with the people that wrote it takes it to another level.

Before the night ends we get a storming trio from their debut album kicking off with title track ‘Felt’ then ‘Pick Me Up’ before the mini encore that gives us, as the kids say ‘a serious bop’ with ‘Vitamin C’ and the ‘kids’ have the whole room jumping with not only the infectious guitar hook but the song as a whole. But the ultimate ending of the night comes with, ‘Emily,’ and I mean that in the sense it is such an anthemic tune. The crowd singing, “there’s a hole in your heart,” is a special moment as I round off my March gigs with a song that ‘takes depression completely for what it is, and doesn’t try to make it seem less important than it is, but discusses it in such a raw and pure manner,’ as Mike has described it previously. I did not want to be seeing Clean Cut Kid this night. I wasn’t ready to have these danceable tracks come to me with their deep lyrical meanings as March 2019 was a month I really wanted to give up a lot of things but music and the added bonus of live music with my camera kept something positive ticking away inside me. This night Clean Cut Kid made me have a night out in my happy place and quoting Mike on the night he says “it’s like playing in your living room,” as they were so chilled and I like many was chilling and bopping our cares away.

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BENJAMIN FRANCIS LEFTWICH | ROSIE CARNEY | 27.03.2019 | Newcastle Wylam Brewery | REVIEW and PHOTOS

Benjamin Francis Leftwich | Rosie Carney – 27th March 2019 – Newcastle Wylam Brewery

Review and photos by Victoria Wai (Victoria Wai)

This night really was one of those nights where it was wonderful to get down early to capture the full set of the support act and more so in the stunning venue of Wylam Brewery nestled in Newcastle’s Exhibition Park. Rosie Carney is a new name to me and seeing her in this setting was like a dream under the stars, as pretentious as that sounds. I wasn’t looking at the audience but I could feel they were witnessing what I was. You almost felt afraid to breathe in case you upset the mood. Rosie had an accompanying cellist which added to this most beautiful atmosphere. What a perfect start to the evening.

There was a nice long interval between Rosie and the man of the night Benjamin Francis Leftwich coming to the stage but when he did that mood and atmosphere increased. The vibrant chatter amongst friends fell to almost immediate silence as a melancholic version of Davis Bowie’s, We Could Be Hero’s’ filled the darkened room as a huge bright spotlight lights the empty stage (besides instruments) as you wonder when will Leftwich come to the stage. As the song reaches a climax he and accompanying keys player, Lowpines (AKA Oli Deakin) do appear and open with Sometimes from his latest release, Gratitude. Unlike the support act, I was the sole photographer but then another two joined me for Leftwich’s set, which in the environment of the Wylam Brewery and Leftwich’s music probably isn’t the best thing, as each one of our clicks makes him ‘want to die,’ as they echo in the room. I totally get this and just before he starts 1904 he checks in on the audience making sure they are having a good time – and they definitely are – but he also says that he doesn’t mind people taking a recorded memento of him on stage just as long as it is without sound effects as it makes him nervous and credit to him for saying this and in a lovely manner. In fact, the only sound effects we get for the remainder of the night is the odd fan here and there singing along to his songs, or in my case, one fan singing every word back in my ear throughout the whole night. Luckily she was in tune and in time.

Leftwich’s stage presence is something quite special. The bright spotlight shines on him. He is dressed simple. The stage is simple but as he starts strumming the guitar and sings every note he feels quite monumental. I glance at the audience now and then and I can see their breathlessness! Leftwich tells us this night is very different from previous dates played on this tour where the crowds were rowdy and screaming his name, whereas in Newcastle, although we have a reputation, when it comes to musicians like Leftwich we are as he says, ‘so chill’. The crowd, of course mimic and shout back his name but besides this and the rapturous applause between numbers it remains pretty silent, which seems to triple the meaning and the feel of his music. He echoes this feeling as he steps out in front of the mic to the edge of the stage to sing Pictures and later Shine and allows the acoustics of the room carry his voice and half of the audience whispering along the lyrics. Oh the feels.

Leftwich really has had one helluva journey and if he is not thanking the audience tonight (which he does a LOT), he is thanking someone from his team with heartfelt thanks as they each get their own special mentions throughout rather than grouped one. Benjamin Francis Leftwich really is a genuine down to earth person. He is like your mate next door who just happens to be a musician and when he performs in a room full of people it feels like he doesn’t really know just how loud the volume of his music is, although it is stripped back when played live. That really is the power of music and when he performs the last song of the night, Atlas Hands, it feels like we should be in the biggest arena or field, as every voice sings along with him feels like twenty thousand in this one intimate room. This is the moment you live for at live shows.

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DAVID GRAY | L.A. SALAMI | 24.03.2019 | Gateshead Sage | REVIEW and PHOTOS

David Gray | L.A. Salami – 24th March 2019 – Gateshead Sage

Review and photos by Victoria Wai (Victoria Wai)

L.A. Salami started the night with many in the room not having a clue who he was prior to this gig but he definitely had many talking by the time his set ended. One person even muttered, “It’s actually nice to hear someone sing something with actual real meaning.”

A tune plays in the background at a nice volume as people settled for showtime. Unsure if people thought it was a part of the show but it definitely felt like it and as soon as the figures appear on stage and a hello from David Gray comes there’s a huge cheer as The Sapling from his latest album, Gold In A Brass Age, opens the show.

The show itself feels huge. It’s a sell-out this night. All bodies are still and silent. As a write this, I have read again and again about people talking at gigs being a big no-no and I totally agree. The odd whisper is good but not through the whole show and at a volume where you can’t hear the artists and this night it seems all but that one woman are in agreement. I don’t know if it is because it’s a Sunday or because of the grand venue we are in and the music of David Gray not being of the ‘beer swigging’ standard. This is not a bad thing and this is not a negative reflection on the audience as at every song change the claps and vocal appreciation feels electrifying. They just seemed in awe with every second Gray and his band give us this night of music. But good on that woman whooping and trying to get the venue clap along at the appropriate moments, though deep down I think she wanted it the whole night.

Back to David Gray though. His (and the band) performance was such a calming experience. It was one of those perfect gig moments where you get lost for a few hours and everything feels right in the world no matter what subject matter is being sung about. Until this moment I have only ever seen Gray on television with a guitar or behind a keyboard. I have never seen him do what he did this night. He was loop peddling between guitar swaps – huge nod to the guitar tech doing the swiftest of changeovers and allowing Gray and band to smoothly carry on. As he starts, A Tight Ship, he sings into his ukulele to capture a sound then quickly takes up his place behind the keyboard with no note missed. What a moment especially for a first-timer of a David Gray show. Other moments include Gray letting loose and busting a few moves which could definitely have given Elvis a run for his money.

We are given a ‘solo’ section, not that Gray really needs it as from the second he stepped on the stage he owned it, even though the backing band are fantastic, it is a wonderful part of the show which includes Snow In Vegas that was a duet with LeAnn Rimes from his 2016 Best Of album, his 2002 hit The Other Side and a Bob Dylan cover One Too Many Mornings. This is also the moment where Gray does the most talking as he mentions his grandfather being from South Shields. The biggest cheers come with The Other Side and it is no surprise that other songs from that era also get this reaction – Sail Away came earlier in the night.

When the band rejoin Gray on stage, a few more amazing numbers come from his current album but his ‘biggest hits’ close out the night in the form of Babylon with This Years Love and Please Forgive Me in the encore which really gets the crowd on their feet….and you wonder why they just didn’t do this from the start….however it’s also good that they didn’t – one reason because I may have been the shortest person in the room and secondly people really got to sit back and take in every moment in admiration of David Gray and it really was that kind of night where you appreciated the silence and be in awe of art.

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Images Copyright Victoria Wai. For permission to use these images please contact victoriawai.co.uk


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KT TUNSTALL | LAUREL | 11.03.2019 | Gateshead Sage | REVIEW and PHOTOS

KT Tunstall and Laurel – 11th March 2019 – Gateshead Sage

Review and photos by Victoria Wai (Victoria Wai)

What I absolutely love about both the support act and headliner on this night is that there are no airs and graces but pure passion and appreciation of being able to do what they do for an audience that has gathered, who are also just as appreciative of what they see before them. With each drop of the ‘f-bomb’ it is done so with so much love.

Laurel is starting to make a name for herself and has been touring the more intimate venues for a few years. She admits that she is a huge fan of headliner KT Tunstall and is thriving on every moment given to her. The last three times I have seen her the crowds have been somewhat rowdier but the Sage crowd is quite a contrast that the first ‘f-bomb’ of the night is dropped as she is amazed by the attentiveness. The only time it gets really loud is when she and her band shout the ‘yeah’ bit in Lovesick.

Laurel has an instant connection with the crowd that when she introduces South Coast someone asks where she is from. Jokingly her instant reply is ‘the south coast,’ but then she says Plymouth and the crowd cheer which is some feat as this gig is in the North East. The volume is tripled as she introduces the last song Adored as the audience want her to stay a longer. Showing their appreciation at the interval there is a never ending queue for her at the merch stand.

KT Tunstall – 11th March 2019 – Gateshead Sage

A booming ‘Hey Micky’ comes as the room darkens then appears the lady of the night KT Tunstall and with a quick hello the members of her band join her to open with the song that is wrote on her white guitar, Uummannaq Song. She narrates that we are in a Sage shaped space ship travelling to the furthest side of the world before starting ‘Other Side Of The World.’ Tunstall is quite clever like this and we get these soundbites throughout the night that lead into her songs. There is also a personal connection in that she talks of the rivers of “Gateshead and surrounding areas” reminding her of home as well as those “clear blue skies then stepping out and it’s like fuuuccckkk!” She maybe LA based now, but she still talks like a true Scot.

There is so much energy in the air and true or not the band slip off twice for their ‘beer break’ and Tunstall is on the stage alone, just her with a guitar, a loop pedal and a tambourine then later a harmonica. She says most people probably spent their hard on cash to see her because of the song that has now become a ‘karaoke classic’ that she couldn’t be more proud of as she can now buy a few rounds of drink. The way she plays Black Horse And The Cherry Tree is one of those special moments where it feel like it is just you and her in the room even when the room is clapping along leading into the band coming back and a mash-up huge loud mash up with the classic hit Black Betty is played.

Although Tunstall has a stellar back catalogue we also get some from her latest release Wax with Little Red Thread being a personal favourite on the night visually. We get back-to-back of The Night That Bowie Died, Dark Side Of Me and The Mountain as she asks for us all to just get lost in the music. Besides the claps in between each song the room obliges and is still as we let her do her thing. What a moment. But being KT Tunstall we go out on a with the heavy rockier song ‘The Healer’ before she is off and the crowd call for her back.

The crowd is rewarded with ‘Invisible Empire’ and a rendition of Tom Petty’s ‘Won’t Back Down,’ which makes the room still and silent once again and it is such a beautiful moment. I could watch and listen to Tunstall perform this way all night but her vibrant soul is also something to be witnessed and it probably couldn’t be more fitting that the night ends with ‘Suddenly I See’ and those that were sitting before that were invited to stand earlier in the night were right up on their feet with everybody else in the room. If only Sage had room for those big streamers this was the moment for them as the band leave the stage and Tunstall runs and hand slaps those at the front with a big shout of “we totally love ya.” That feeling is echoed back to her as the venue empties.

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