Friday, 17 May 2019

Lauren Daigle at the Islington 02

Lauren Daigle
Islington 02
I can say without exaggeration, right from the start, that this was one of the best and most moving gigs I have ever seen.

Lauren Daigle's Look Up Child album already established itself as one of my favourites last year - as highlighted here - and I already felt I had to make absolutely sure I would get to a gig in 2019 if she decided to come to the UK.

As it happened, there was one UK date for the current tour - and it sold out quickly. But not quickly enough to prevent me bagging a ticket.

The Islington 02 was a new venue for me. It is at the top of a shopping centre. The queue for the door snakes down the side of Pret a Manger, with a little gap to allow access.

Once inside, there was the usual 02 dash to find the best vowing position. The area downstairs had already started filling up but there was a small balcony upstairs, which I happily utilised.

The set list was taken mainly from Look Up Child but there were songs from the first album too, plus a couple of covers and a brace of new songs.

Lauren's connection with the audience was instant and remarkable. I doubt there was a single person in the venue who didn't feel the deep link between singer and audience.

The songs in Lauren's repertoire are all very strong and the set list was structured to gain a maximum reach as the evening unfolded. The defiant Still Rolling Stones is a fabulous opener, for both album and gig alike.

Lauren was smiling and dancing all night, clearly enjoying the occasion just as much as the rest of us. At one point she even brought a woman out of the audience to perform alongside her backing singers (who may well be named The Rebels from now on, after the suggestion of another member of the audience).


Set List

Still Rolling Stones
Look Up Child
O' Lord
Sir Duke (Stevie Wonder cover)
This Girl
Rescue You
Your Wings
One Love
Losing My Religion
Don't Dream It's Over (Crowded House cover)
Love Like This
How Can It Be
Rebel Heart
You Say


Love Is
Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus/Something Beautiful/You Say

This was definitely one of those 'I was there' gigs. It is surely only a matter of time before Lauren returns for full tour of the UK, in larger venues. Yet the memories of this night in Islington will stay with me forever. Her voice, her style, her openness...they all need to be experienced in person to fully appreciate the power they contain.

A truly remarkable performance.

Patty Griffin at The Sage

Patty Griffin
The Sage, Gateshead
The Sage has a unique atmosphere. I have seen Patty twice in Sage One, but only as part of a larger act: Band of Joy in 2010 and Transatlantic Sessions in 2015.
As her own act, she is usually in Sage Two, which is the smaller - by far - of the two halls, offering a much more intimate show.

It gave a different perspective as compared to the fabulous evening at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, just two nights previously.

Erika Wennerstrom was in support again and her songs have really started to grow on me. Sweet Unknown is an album definitely worth checking out.

Patty was on fine form again.

The set list had just a couple of changes, with Truth No.2 replacing Long Ride Home and Move Up displacing its Downtown Church stablemate, The Strange Man.

The encore was back to being one song, namely Heavenly Day, which brought a very fine end to a wonderful evening.

Hopefully it won't be too long before Patty comes back to the UK.

Leo Sayer at the Princess Alexandra Auditorium

Leo Sayer
Princess Alexandra Auditorium, Yarm
Leo Sayer's return to Yarm brought an entertaining evening featuring everything one would expect.

From the belting opener of Thunder in My Heart all the way through to I Can't Stop Loving You (Tough I Try) we were treated to a masterclass in pop entertainment.

All of the hits were there, including One Man Band, The Show Must Go On, Moonlighting, You Make Me Feel Like Dancing and Giving It All Away - and Leo - soon to be 71 - bopped around the stage like a man half his age.

The show was presented in two halves; there was no support act. Just when I thought all the this and come and gone, he came out with even more - emphasising the strength of his back catalogue.

There was also room for a couple of new songs: Selfie and One Step at a Time from the the brand new Selfie album.

It was a very entertaining evening and I hope he returns to Yarm next year.

Patty Griffin at the Queen Elizabeth Hall

Patty Griffin
Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
I first saw Patty Griffin back in 2010 and this new London date was my tenth time. Previous dates were in London (various venues) Birmingham, Gateshead, Sheffield.

It was a fine London day and I was excited to be on my way to see Patty again.
The most recent occasion had been at the Under the Appletree Roots Festival at Cadogan Hall back in 2016.

Patty has successfully battled cancer since then (treatment for which temporarily robbed her of her voice) and it was a great relief to see her return with a new (self-titled) album at the start of this year - her first since Servant of Love back in 2015.
The Queen Elizabeth Hall on London's Southbank has been refurbished in recent years and is now a premier concert venue. It is very close to the Royal Festival Hall, where I saw Patty back in 2013.

Erika Wennerstrom opened the show with a solo set of deep acoustic songs, drawn mainly from her latest album, Sweet Unknown.

Patty took to the stage half an hour later, accompanied by David Pulkingham on guitars (I have only ever seen her without him once - at Codagan Hall, 2016) and Conrad Chocroun, multitasking on bass, drums, keyboard and guitar.
The songs on the Patty Griffin album are strong and, as usual they accrued new power when played live.

10 (from 13) of the new songs made it on to the set list. The songs are powerful on the recorded versions but their strength is further enhanced when played live; there is a rawness to Patty's delivery which switches the connection to a higher gear.

Ostensibly, the new album appears to be a very personal work - and it is, although the focus is more on Patty's thoughts about her country rather than about herself. That is not to say they are overly political; as usual with crafted songs they are open to the interpretation of the individual listener.

Mama's Worried is a smouldering opener, setting the scene perfectly. Standing is the only older one of the opening five songs; she never has a need to rest on her laurels and is always prepared to build a set list based heavily on the newer material.
 David and Conrad left the stage to give Patty room for two completely solo songs and then it was back to a trio for the remainder of the show.

The evening flew by, as usual. The presence of the mandolin on the stage had already signalled the closing song of Shine a Different Way and this closed the main set in wistful - yet optimistic - fashion.
There was a double-song encore which was very well received before suddenly it was time head out back into the London night, to savour the experience of another wonderful and emotional Patty Griffin gig.
Set List

Mama's Worried
The Wheel
Boys From Tralee

Had a Good Reason
Long Ride Home

Luminous Places
What Now
Where I Come From
The Strange Man
When It Don't Come Easy
Shine a Different Way


Up to the Mountain (MLK Song)
Heavenly Day

Two days later, I was able to do it all over again, nearly 300 miles north of the Queen Elizabeth Hall...

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

New North East Chess Events

Tim Wall, my very hard-working friend and CSC colleague, has announced details of two brand new chess events which will take place across the North East from October onwards.

Here is Tim's plan. Anyone interested in playing in the events should contact their local chess club (all clubs already have the details).

This is to confirm the proposed dates for the (FIDE-rated) 2019-20 North East League and North East Individual Championships.

North East League
Round 1: Sunday, October 13, 2019
Round 2: Sunday, November 17, 2019
Round 3: Sunday, December 1, 2019
Round 4: Sunday, January 19, 2020
Round 5: Sunday, February 16, 2020

North East Individual Championships
Rounds 1 & 2: Sunday, March 1, 2020
Round 3 & 4: Sunday, March 22, 2020
Rounds 5 & 6: Sunday, April 19, 2020

League Teams

Based on my canvassing so far, possible participating teams** include: Forest Hall & Gosforth (Northumberland); South Shields & Durham (Durham); Darlington & Middlesbrough (Cleveland)
**We welcome applications from any other teams that would like to participate. A final decision on the league lineup will be made in June 2019.
**Please note that teams do not have to be based on an existing league team or club, but can unite players from various clubs.

Possible venues*** for North East League & North East Individual Championships:
We intend to announce the venues for the League and Championships in June 2019.
Possible venues include: Forest Hall, Gosforth, South Shields, Durham, Darlington, Middlesbrough/Teesside.
*** We would welcome offers of venues from around Tyne & Wear, County Durham and Cleveland.
*** We intend to spread the events evenly around the region, so that all players and teams get the chance for 'home' and 'away' venues, all within one hour's travelling distance.

North East League format:
6 teams of 5 players each. The League will be all-play-all.
Five rounds, each on a Sunday from October to February.
Matches start 2:30pm, finish 6:30pm
Time limit: All moves in 90 minutes, plus 30 seconds increment per move
All games will be FIDE-rated (Players will need to be ECF Gold members)
Teams will receive a total of 1 extra bonus game point per match if they include a minimum of a) 1 junior player under 18 years old; and additionally b) one male and one female player.
(Each category will give 0.5 bonus points)
The winning team will be awarded a trophy and receive medals, and there will be medals for the best individual performances.

North East Individual Championships format:

Three 6-round Swiss tournaments - Open, Major (Under 1975 FIDE / 170 ECF), Minor (Under 1700 FIDE / 140 ECF)
Open to all players born in, or resident in, Northumberland, Tyne & Wear, Durham and Cleveland.
Rounds to be played at the same venue on 3 Sundays in Spring 2020, 2 rounds per day.
Round times: 10:30am-2:30pm, 3:30pm-7:30pm
Time limit: All moves in 90 minutes, plus 30 seconds increment per move

All games will be FIDE-rated (Players will need to be ECF Gold members)

There will be a combination of cash and non-cash prizes, to be announced in June 2019.

The winner of each section will additionally be awarded a trophy and receive a medal.

There will be additional prizes for Best Rating Performance (compared to published grade/rating), Best Junior (Under 18) and Best Female Player in each tournament.

Entry fees will be announced in June 2019.

Sponsors are welcome for the North East Individual Championships.

Friday, 10 May 2019

Honeyblood at The Georgian Theatre

The Georgian Theatre, Stockton-on-Tees
Honeyblood's No Drama Tour acts as a spearhead for the release of their third album, In Plain Sight, which is due out on 24 May.

Honeyblood were formerly a duo before being reduced to a solo - namely Stina Tweeddale but Anna and Debbie have recently been recruited on bass on drums respectively to ensure a big and impressive sound for the tour dates.
Support came in the form of Coventry's Feet, who were loud, energetic and quirky, with each member of the band sporting impressive and uncoordinated head wear and equally uncoordinated dance moves. It was an interesting set and an ideal warm up session.
It wasn't too long to wait before Honeyblood took to the stage. Their set was powerful and quite different to anything I had heard before.
The band was tight, they looked great and sounded even better as they ran through a fast-paced set of older songs and cuts from the new album.
The Third Degree and Gibberish are early stand-outs from the new album, although there is clearly much to explore once In Plain Sight lands.

The sound was nicely heavy and, even though the crowd had to be promoted to come closer to the stage (assisted by a dramatic roll on the drums), once they were there the barriers between the players and the watchers fell for good.

Honeyblood have an original sound and an impressive repertoire of unusual songs. Yes, this was a fine night at The Georgian Theatre and I hope Honeyblood will return soon.

Find out more about Honeyblood over at their official website.

Project 30: Results Update

Here is an update on the results of the two ongoing Project 30 events.

KO Tournament

Rayelynn Posadas v Sean Marsh

Matt Jackman 1-0 John Garnett

Each of the rounds will feature one game played at the normal time limit (36 moves in 90 minutes followed by an extra 15 minutes on each clock to play to a finish). Colours will be decided immediately before the games in the usual fashion.

Drawn games will require a replay with colours reversed, which can be played at any time limit agreed by both opponents. If both players cannot reach agreement then the aforementioned timings will be used.

Rapidplay Match Championship

The results of round two are now complete.

Rayelynn Posadas 3-0 Peter Harker (Game four not required)

Sean Marsh 4-0 Sean Cassidy

Mike Pointon 1-3 David Baillie

Mike Creaney 0-4 Matt Jackman 


David Baillie v Sean Marsh

Matt jackman v Rayelynn Posadas

The semi-final will feature six games with 30 minutes on each clock.

In the event of a 3-3 tie, the players will contest two five-minute games and keep on doing so if further scores of 1-1 are recorded.

The final will feature eight games, with all of these rounds following the same tiebreak method as the first round (if required).

The target date to complete all of the above is 31 May 2019.