Friday 31 May 2019

Dido at the Albert Hall

Albert Hall, Manchester
Dido is someone whose music I have admired for a long time but for years I thought I may have left it too late to see her 'live'. However, the fall of 2018 brought news of a new album - Still on my Mind - and a tour - her first in 15 years. It was essential to attend one of the dates.

Fortunately, this week's expedition to Manchester feature none of the carnage of last week's trip; everything went remarkably smoothly.

The Albert Hall was originally a Methodist central hall but has undergone several changes of identity over its 111-year history. The most recent renovation created an intriguing music venue, with the upper level still religiously recognisable, with its stained glass windows and pews. Certain aspects were reminiscent of The Union Chapel; there was a sort of fusion between that famous Islington venue and the standard 02s. Such a venue is very impressive and thanks to the stained glass windows the ambience changes as the light fades.

Songs from the new album formed the dominant force in the set list, heralded by the powerful Hurricanes. The pace hardly dropped; the band was on energetic form and Dido's voice was very strong and highly emotive.

The set list was all anyone would want it to be, with the classic older tracks all present and correct, plus the prime cuts from the new one.

Set List

Hell After This
Life for Rent
No Freedom
Grafton Street
Sand in My Shoes
Give You Up
Thank You
Sitting on the Roof of the World
Quiet Times
Here With Me
See You When You're 40
Mad Love
End of Night
Take You Home
Take My Hand


Have to Stay
White Flag

After the first part of the encore, Dido said there was time for just one more and were there any requests...and I doubt there was anyone in the Albert Hall who didn't either shout or think White Flag. Possibly her finest song, White Flag brought the impressive and triumphant performance to a fitting end.

15 years is a long time to be away and there must have been doubts on all sides as to how this tour would be. Surely the doubts can now be put aside - permanently. In fact a new set of tour dates has just been announced for November and December, with Manchester again included.

This full-on year of gigs is proving to a fabulous experience and there are plenty more big-hitters to come. The return of Dido will definitely remain as one of the major highlights of 2019.

Monday 27 May 2019

Martin and Eliza Carthy at The Waiting Room

Martin and Eliza Carthy
The Waiting Room, Eaglescliffe
It was supposed to be a gig-free weekend but a late opportunity to attend this special evening came from an excellent friend - and it was gratefully accepted.

This was the fifth time I had seen Eliza Carthy but only the second time I had seen (her father) Martin - and the very first time I had seen them together. I was surprised to discover nearly three years had flown by since I last saw Eliza, at the extraordinary evening in the Whitby Pavilion just ahead of the release of Big Machine.

Unfortunately, due to a 'monumental con' the fabulous Wayward Band were not paid for their Big Machine efforts and Eliza's most recent album, Restitute, was created to remedy the unsatisfactory situation.
Meanwhile, the date at The Waiting Room (one of the most intimate of venues, where the audience can eat fine vegetarian meals during the shows) focused mainly on the 2014 Martin/Eliza collaboration The Moral of the Elephant and featured several prime cuts from there, including Happiness (a great opener), Blackwell Merry Night, Grand Conversation on Napoleon, The Elephant and Monkey Hair.
There was an apology regarding Martin's singing voice, which was having to rest for the duration due to illness, leaving Eliza to handle all of the vocal duties. This was more than compensated for by Martin's remarkable solo rendition of The Downfall of Paris. It was mesmerising to see such a performance at close quarters (the front seats at The Waiting Room are just a few inches away from the performers). Other highlights included Bottle, the title track of the collaborative album with Tim Eriksen album (the only one they had left to sell at gigs after successfully selling out at previous shows).
I enjoyed hearing the stories behind the songs, especially those concerning the elephant and the perception of history in general and Napoleon in particular.
The whole evening was a spellbinding folk masterclass. Great music is there to be enjoyed, of course - but it should also have the power to make people think. The Carthy family, with their inimitable style, certainly have such power.

Saturday 25 May 2019

Glen Matlock at The Cluny

Glen Matlock
The Cluny, Newcastle
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
Sexy Beast
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


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
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.

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.

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

Simple Things
Money Can't Buy Me
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
Sit Down

A Place Called You
Star That Guides You Home

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...

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
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 a 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.