Saturday, 25 May 2019

Glen Matlock at The Cluny

Glen Matlock
The Cluny, Newcastle
23.5.2019
There can't be many people who followed up an Emma Stevens gig with a trip to see Glen Matlock.

This was the second time this year I had been to The Cluny to see a big-hitter; Jah Wobble and The Invaders of the Heart back in February, had all but blown the roof off and now it was time rock out once more.

The set list drew heavily from Glen's Good to Go album, released last year. A major selling point on both album and tour was the presence of none other than former long-term Bowie guitarist Earl Slick. It turned out to be quite an evening.

I enjoyed the highly energetic opening set by The Continental Quilts, whose self-titled genre is senile delinquent super yob rock n roll!
Glen has great stage presence and engages the whole audience in style, using the usual methods (clap-alongs, sing alongs).
Fans of a certain age and 'Never Mind' T-shirts had to wait until the encore to hear a classic from the Sex Pistols era, but the stomping, sing-along version was worth the wait. The evening drew to a close with a high-tempo cover of the Small Faces' All or Nothing, guaranteeing the evening would end on a high.

Glen maintains a certain swagger and style. It was the first time I have seen a singer pause to comb his hair.


Set List

Won't Put The Brakes on Me
Wanderlust
Sexy Beast
Nowheresville
Speak Too Soon
Hook In You
Montague Terrace
Piece of Work
On Something
Couldn't Give A Damn
Blank Generation
This Empty Heart
Born Running
Keep On Pushing

Encore

Pretty Vacant
All or Nothing
It was an exemplary evening of pulsating rock 'n' roll and another significant triumph for The Cluny.

Incidentally, there is a track-by-track guide to the songs on Good to Go here, which is well worth a read.

Emma Stevens at Gullivers

Emma Stevens
Gullivers, Manchester
21.5.2019
Gigs come in many shapes and sizes and the journeys to and from them can be equally varied.

Two years have flown by since I first saw Emma Stevens, at Stockton's Arc. There were no North East dates on this particular tour, which meant another expedition to Manchester.

This was the Atoms Tour, to celebrate the release of Emma's new EP. Atoms is excellent and can be highly recommended, but its release was not without problems, being tied to the Pledge Music system, which collapsed leaving many artists severely out of pocket. Big-name acts were caught out too but for independent artists the impact of the collapse could prove to be particularly severe. For someone as dedicated to her art as Emma, there was clearly no question the release would be abandoned and Atoms duly arrived, but no doubt at a huge personal cost.

Quite a journey.

It was quite a journey to get the Manchester too. Everything seemed fine until the train ground to a halt after 10 minutes. The train in front had somehow run into a herd of cattle and the lines were completely blocked. I could see the 'cancellation' messages appear on the station boards. After waiting for nearly an hour, the train received permission to back up a few miles and try a different route. This worked well, until the much-delayed train was called to a permanent halt a couple of stops down the line. All change! The next train was much-delayed too but was making a good effort to make up for lost time, only to be told it would have to terminate a few stops early. The remainder of the journey was made on shanks' pony.

The journey back was eventful too. The taxi driver turned out to be a big fan of musical theatre, which led to a very interesting conversation on the subject, but unfortunately the subject changed dramatically due to an unfortunate incident involving deer, who had chosen a bad time to try to cross the road.

Quite a journey.

All is usually forgiven if the gig in question turns out to be worth the difficult journeys. Fortunately, that did indeed turn out to be the case, as Emma, flanked by a brace of Sams, brightened up everyone's world with a wonderful set of uplifting and positive songs; a rewarding fusion of folk, country and pop.

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I had only been to Gullivers once before when, despite the intense summer heat, I enjoyed on of the gig highlights of 2018 thanks to the excellent Eilen Jewell. It was a cooler evening this time and the rook was set out cabaret-style.  Despite the strange journey leaving very little time before Emma arrived on stage, I was still able to bag a seat very close to the stage.
Emma has such style. Her genuine personality connected very well with the audience. The between-song chat also added to the experience. I always find it interesting to hear the stories and inspirations for songs, but it can often be bittersweet. For instance, Emma spoke of her mother's belief in her future as a solo artist but it was only when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer that the musical journey really started on the road to fruition. At the other end of the emotional spectrum, it came as a surprise when Emma discovered one of her songs - which had been used in TV shows in China - had been streamed many millions of times, leading to a recent tour of the country.

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The set took the audience through a whole range of emotions, from the moving Sunflower through to the liberating Shoot the Breeze With Me. They, together with Atoms, were my favourites of the evening.

There were a couple of sing-alongs to bring the people further together and there were even sweets thrown from the stage as random rewards.

Set List

Once
Simple Things
Money Can't Buy Me
Atoms
Make My Day
The Cappuccino Song
This is For You
Singer of My Song
Walking on Sunshine
Because It's You
Shoot the Breeze With Me
Sunflower
Sit Down
Riptide
Encore

A Place Called You
Star That Guides You Home

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Emma is very happy to meet people after the show; it's hugs and sincere thanks all round.

It is no secret that there is a growing trend to be negative, hyper-critical and destructive. What we need is more positivity, more generosity.  What we need are more people like Emma Stevens to bring back the positivity.

That really will be quite a journey.

Meanwhile, I still have the sweets I caught...

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Keep up to date with the latest news and tour dates over at Emma's official website.

Now, about adding a Teesside date to the next tour...

Friday, 17 May 2019

Lauren Daigle at the Islington 02

Lauren Daigle
Islington 02
14.5.2019
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.

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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.
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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).

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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
Tremble

Encore

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
13.5.2019
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.

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Patty was on fine form again.

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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
12.5.2019
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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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
11.5.2019
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
Standing
Hourglass

Had a Good Reason
Long Ride Home

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

Encore

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...