My intention this year was to only see bands I haven’t seen before over the next few paragraphs you’ll see how well I have managed to keep up to that promise.....
Smoke Fairies my year in gigs started with a total unknown band, recommended as one to watch by Classic Rock I wandered along to the Sage Gateshead and paid £9 to see two girls take the stage that looked like they were playing the end of term 6th form prom. When they started playing I was blown away. A bit like a gothic Clannad these girls have a style unlike anything I have heard before and can play their guitars with style. I was fortunate enough to see Smoke Fairies again at Evolution Festival in May and they delivered again. Watch out for them
Band of Horses were up next and impressed no end even though it was the first gig of the tour. Americana at its best with tight vocals. A great use of film show as a backdrop showed that these guys really know to put on a live show.
Teddy Thompson closed off January, in truth I wanted to see the support who was David Ford and going to see Teddy meant I didn’t break my promise so early in the year. Ford delivered an amazing solo set, and then played guitar for Teddy (a double bonus). Thompson was OK but his style is a bit all over the place, but I went home happy.
February started for me with The Hold Steady, a band I have wanted to see for ages. I have full on man flu and nearly didn’t go. I did go and the Hold Steady did what they do best, bar room rock delivered on a mass scale and I’m sure they were brilliant, but all I could think of was when would the gig finish so I could take a Lemsip and go to sleep!!
Mogwai blew me away, Hall 1 of The Sage Gateshead was built for classical music but Mogwai’s wall of sound was equally impressive. 5 guys you wouldn’t recognise walking down the street made a noise like no other. Quite stunning.
Elbow were my first fail of the year. I was due to see Iron and Wine (a new band for me) but decided I couldn’t not see Elbow and the wonderful Guy Garvey. In truth I think I should have stayed with my first choice. Elbow were great and showed that you can make an arena seem small, but the set list was nigh on totally from the last 2 albums and they didn’t play Newborn, which is my favourite Elbow track. Don’t get me wrong Elbow were great but I wished I had gone to the Iron and Wine gig.
John Grant was the main man behind a band I loved The Czars who should have ruled the world, but broke up unknown penniless and with major addictions. John Grant is now receiving the success he deserves after releasing his wonderful album The Queen of Denmark. His live show was incredible. Backed only by another piano player Grant stripped his songs to the core, playing most of his latest album and a few tracks from is Czars back catalogue to an audience desperate for more.
My last gig in March was Rumer and what a gig it was. I can safely say it was the worst gig I have ever had the misfortune of going to. I bought the tickets on the back of all the hype around Rumer, talk of Dusty Springfield and Karen Carpenter encouraged me to buy the album, but when I heard the album I wasn't so sure. I hoped that the dull CD would be delivered with passion and vigour that would make the gig great but boy was I wrong. Dull audience, dull band, they looked like they were asleep and in Rumer a front person with no personality. If I could have left I would have a real dirge of a gig!
April was quiet but John Waite finished the month off nicely. Famous for 80’s soft rock hit Missing You, Waite has made a very successful career out of delivering classic melodic rock music and I was hopeful for a slice of this and I wasn’t disappointed. The Cluny is a great small venue in Newcastle that must hold about 200 maximum. As I walked in a familiar face passed me on the way to the toilets, I could place the face so just took my spot in the crowd. The band arrived on stage and my familiar face was playing guitar but why did I know him? I placed him just before John Waite introduced him Kyle Cook, guitarist with Matchbox 20. How if you don’t know, M20 are a huge band used to playing to 10,000+ crowds. To see him playing in such a small venue was amazing and shows that it’s not all about the money. Waite was brilliant an old hand with all the moves. A great night.
Wild Beasts took me to my first new venue of the year, Gateshead Old Town Hall, they were picking venues they thought were beautiful buildings and they weren’t wrong. The band promoting their third album Smother gave a professional and confident performance. The band remind me of The Associates at times and say they are heavily influenced by Talk Talk all of this is music to my ears and I think Smother will be high on all the music magazines Albums of The Year.
Up next James Vincent McMorrow and a sold at gig at The Cluny 2. A singer songwriter from Ireland McMorrow armed only with a guitar and a cup full of red wine, he held the audience in the palm of his hand whilst running through most of the material on his debut magazine and a few carefully picked covers. McMorrow could easily be new singer songwriter of choice for every Tesco’s shopper he is that good. Watch this space.
May continued on with Sufjan Stevens I narrowly missed seeing Stevens in October in Seattle and was devastated to read the stunning reviews of his show, so I anticipated much and Stevens delivered that and so much more! 2 ½ hours on a cosmic journey as Stevens called it. This was simply one of the greatest gigs I have ever been to, space ships, angels wings and a encore of Chicago coupled with hundreds of balloons being set loose from the ceiling, left me leaving the gig with a smile from ear to ear and a belief I had witnessed a genius at work.
On to Low and a special mention to Sleepingdog although Low gave a good performance I was absolutely taken aback by Sleepingdog a duo fronted by Belgium Chantal Acda they make beautiful fragile, landscapes of music that everybody should know about.
May ended with Evolution Festival a great 2 day festival held on Newcastle Quayside, each year, although the line up is more aimed at a younger audience I have to say Two Door Cinema Club surprised me with a tight energetic performance, I spent most of my time at the Third stage which is held in a big top tent. As Mentioned early Smoke Fairies were great, Karima Francis was adorable (if you don't know her music look her up) and at the recommendation of my Nephew and Niece I when to see Bellowhead who had the whole of the tent dancing and reminded me of The Pogues in their early days.
June and onto my second fail of the year as I went to see Ron Sexsmith its maybe 10 years since I had seen Sexsmith in a very small venue on Newcastle Quayside. At the time Sexsmith came across as a very humble man happy to me doing what he does, and although the size of the venue has grown 10 fold he still seems to have the same beliefs. The gig was good if not a little functional. I enjoyed it but suspect it will be another 10 years before I see him again.
Writing this I realise that May was an epic month and I suspect that it will be very to replicate that again either this year or any other year. I have already seen a couple of gigs in July and have another 12 lined up so far between now and December, most are bands I haven’t seen before and I’m hoping that Bon Iver in Edinburgh may be my ‘Sufjan Stevens’ for the next 6 months. I have a couple of ‘fails’ already lined up but couldn’t go without seeing Danny and The Champions of The world and David Ford who are both amazing live performers.
When I can I take photographs at gigs, I only use a compact camera and don’t profess to being a photographer but if you want to have a look here is a link to my Flickr account. http://www.flickr.com/photos/58452315@N08/