Tuesday 31 December 2019

Influential Music of 2019

Here are a few of my favourite albums from 2019.

Why not give them a try?

Sound of the Sirens
This Time
A major talent, fully deserving of greater exposure. Highly original songs, powerfully delivered.
Jah Wobble and The Invaders of the Heart
Ocean Blue Waves
Jah and The Invaders are easily one of the best groups around. They are on a productive high and every album sounds very different. Nobody works harder on the stage and they are touring almost constantly.

Stray Cats
The return of Stray Cats came as a big surprise. '40' celebrates the number of years they have been together and the new songs formed the backbone of their triumphant reunion tour.

Joan as Police Woman
A fabulous collection from a wonderful artist. New song 'What a World' is just one extraordinary highlight from the three discs of wonderful and thought-provoking songs.

In Stereo
Said to be already in the can when Bananarama briefly became a trio again, this upbeat dance album sees the duo on top form. Definitely one to catch 'live', if you can.

Sophie Ellis-Bextor
The Song Diaries
Greatest hits with an orchestral backing! The 2019 tour was wonderful and the new arrangements add extra dimensions to the classic songs.

Dawn Landes
My Tiny Twilight
A six-song, all-killer EP from a very talented singer/songwriter. Hopefully the exposure gained supporting Nick Lowe on tour this year will raise UK awareness to Dawn's work.

Patty Griffin
There is always room in the world for more Patty Griffin albums. This year's self-titled offering was her first after  period of illness and it was so good to see her touring again this year.

Rachel Harrington
Hush the Wild Horses
Rachel's return to writing and touring was doing overdue. This set of songs, showcased at the  Summertyne Americana Festival, reminds us of what we have been missing. Don't vanish again, Rachel.

Eilen Jewell
I love Eilen's music and Gypsy is a very strong album. The short Winter tour of the UK gave me the opportunity to see Eilen and her excellent band once more, on what was certainly one of the best evenings of the year.

Real Life
Emeli Sande
My final recommendation ties in with my last gig of the year. Real Life offers a selection of songs which should resonate deeply with most listeners.

What musical treats will 2020 bring, I wonder...?

Best of the Year: 2019

I set out with the deliberate intention of making 2019 the best-ever time for gigs and the year was clearly a great success in that particular area.

The pursuit of musical excellence took me to stadiums, a castle, several basements and a plethora of local venues too.

Some of the artistes were new to me and some were making very welcome returns to the diary.

I embraced virtually every genre of music including rockabilly, rock, rock and roll, pop, country, folk, Americana, punk, post-punk, electronic and just about everything else between the respective extremes, including numerous tribute acts. Some artistes were coming towards the end of their careers and some were just starting out.

2019 is unlikely ever to be matched (but that will not be for the want of trying).

It would normally be a very difficult task to choose the top highlight from such an extraordinary range but this year the pick of the bunch just has to be the full Stray Cats experience. To see them in action on all four dates of their UK Tour was a dream come true.


Here are links to all of my gig reviews of 2019. The next post will look at some of the best new music of the year.

Reviews of 2019


Jah Wobble and The Invaders of the Heart

The Hootones

Steve Harley

Anita Harris


Freya Ridings

The Cureheads

Siouxsie and the Budgies

Vonda Shephard and Sharon Corr

Shakin' Stevens

Amy Macdonald

Sound of the Sirens (1)


Moya Brennan

The Kast Off Kinks

Wilko Johnson

Lucy Rose (1)


The Goldhawks (1)

Big Country

Nick Heyward

Mott the Hoople


The Bluejays (1)

Katherine Jenkins


Patty Griffin (1)

Leo Sayer

Patty Griffin (2)

Lauren Daigle

Emma Stevens

Glen Matlock

Martin and Eliza Carthy


Roy Orbison and the Travelling Wilburys Experience

Johnny Cash Roadshow

Totally Tina

The Spice Girls

Alice Jemima (1 and 2)

Sophie Ellis-Bextor (1 and 2)

Bikini Kill

Dawn Landes

Nick Lowe

Stray Cats (1-4)

Gladys Knight


The Who

Danny 'O' and the Astrotones

Joan as Police Woman

Kylie Minogue

The Local Honeys

Rachel Harrington

Rachel Harrington

Massy Ferguson

Sham 69

Killing Joke

Martha Reeves and the Vandellas

The Goldhawks (2)


The Bluejays (2)

The South

P.P. Arnold

Heaven 17


Midge Ure


Christina Aguilera

Shakespears Sister

Wishbone Ash

KT Bush Band

Sound of the Sirens (2)

Nancy and The Dolls

Adam Ant

Alice Jemima (3)

Sophie Ellis-Bextor (3)

Eilen Jewell

Sarah Darling

Lucy Rose (2)

Dawn Landes (2)

Emeli Sande

Sunday 15 December 2019

Emeli Sande 02 City Hall, Newcastle

Emeli Sande
02 City Hall, Newcastle
12 December 2019
December’s gigs have all been excellent in their own different ways - and this one was no exception.

Emeli Sande's new album, Real Life, hit the ground running in September and this well-crafted show acted as a perfect showcase for the new material, together with prime cuts from her earlier releases.

The event started in unexpected fashion, with Emeli tucked away stage left, on the keyboards, playing and singing Survivor. After that, she took centre stage and went through the card. Her extraordinary voice was strong and highly emotive. The new songs came across excellently, with Honest being a particular highlight. The established classics were present and correct, including powerful renditions of Clown and Read All About It (Part III).

In fact the evening was every bit as great as I thought it would be - with only one fly in the ointment. Certain parts of the audience seemed determined to try and spoil the evening for everyone else. There was too much coming and going for drinks, followed by the same people needing more toilet trips - and even more drinks. Some appeared to take delight in talking over the entire set, including the quiet moments during which Emeli introduced the more personal songs and explained their meaning. Out of all the audiences in manifold locations I have been to during this busiest of all years for gigs, this one was definitely the worst. Venues need to be more proactive to prevent such problems from building. Drunks should be thrown out; people leaving the room should not be allowed back in until there is a suitable break.

Anyway, this looks like being my last gig of 2019 (although late additions cannot be ruled out) and soon I will write about which gigs were the best of the year.



Dawn Landes at Middlesbrough Town Hall

Dawn Landes
Middlesbrough Town Hall
9 December 2019
My first night back on Teesside after a hectic time in London saw the run of December gigs continue in style.

I had become aware of Dawn’s music a couple of years and took the first possible opportunity to see her play when she visited York in 2018.

Then I saw her again at The Sage earlier this year when she was supporting Nick Lowe on his tour. Post-show chat revealed Dawn was coming to Teesside in December, which seemed too good to be true. It was fortunate indeed that the date in question just managed to avoid my time away,

The Courtroom of the Town Hall is an intimate little venue with an interesting history.

The seats at the front are very neatly on the stage itself. 40 or so people were there for the evening. A small crowd, but an appreciate one all the same. After all, it is not often Middlesbrough offers an evening of Americana.

Songs from Meet Me By the River and Bluebird enjoyed an almost equal part of the set list and that meant we were in for an excellent selection, including Bluebird, Try To Make the Fire Burn Again, Bloodhound, Traveling and What Will I Do. There were plenty more songs besides, including I’m Your Mama, Amelia and a particularly good cover of What is the Color of the Soul of a Man.

Jonah Tolchin, who has proved very able support, joined Dawn for a couple of songs at the end of the evening.

It was so good to see Dawn on Teesside and we are looking forward to the next time she comes to the North East.


Lucy Rose at The Barbican

Lucy Rose
Barbican, London
4 December 2019
I had enjoyed seeing Lucy Rose at Manchester’s Stoller Hall back in April and was pleased to see her Barbican date coincided with my time in London.

Apparently Lucy doesn’t like the traps - or trappings - of fame, but such matters cannot be avoided in the world of public performance.

Playing at the Barbican - capacity 1158 - is always going to be a more daunting experience for a shy singer than a venue the size of the Stoller Hall (capacity 482) and Lucy honestly admitted she was ‘just going to try and get through the evening’, having had this show on her mind for a very long time.

The stage was very dark most of the time too, further adding to the mysterious element of the evening.

No Words Left, which was hot off the press in April, again formed the backbone of the repertoire. Indeed, unless I am very much mistaken, all 11 songs were present and correct. There was also a sprinkling of songs from her earlier albums - plus two new songs (All That Fear and White Car).

It was a delightfully delicate show, clearly enjoyed by the people around me (some of whom were unnecessarily talkative throughout the evening.)

2020 will be an interesting year for Lucy Rose. Will there be more new music? Will her confidence in public performance grow? Various paths are possible for this enigmatic artiste.

Sarah Darling The Union Chapel

Sarah Darling
The Union Chapel, Islington
2 December 2019
The Union Chapel has long been one of my favourite venues, ever since my first visit there to see Patty Griffin back in 2013.

It is such a remarkable and beautiful venue for an evening of fine music and the atmosphere is particularly appropriate for a Christmas-themed show.

There is always a wonderful atmosphere in the Union Chapel; it is a case finding your own pew space and then enjoying not just the music but also the ever-changing light and its effect on the chapel lighting.

Shows promising special guests often produce nothing of the sort, but this one did deliver; the guests included The Wandering Hearts and, even more famously, the hugely popular Ward Thomas (I have now seen them four times by accident).

The evening featured a fine mixture of country, Americana and Christmas music, with Sarah as the lynch pin of the occasion. Sarah’s own songs - such as Blue Sky, Call Me, Fire and Talk About the Weather - rubbed shoulders with the covers such as River and Landslide (both with Ward Thomas) and, from the festive side of the tracks, Santa Baby, Winter Wonderland and Silent Night.

It was a lovely evening of warmth and music. Hopefully Sarah Darling will tour in 2020 as I would very much like to see her again.