Field Music with The Open Here Orchestra @ Northern Stage, Newcastle

Orchestral manoeuvres near St. James Park

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To launch their new album Open Here and kick off their UK tour, Field Music played three specially-staged performances at Northern Stage. We caught the third and final show at this venue on the Saturday night. The Northern Stage performances also featured an expanded orchestral line-up – The Open Here Orchestra.

Our show was filmed and streamed live on YouTube and is still available to watch at the time of writing. The band had sourced a vintage Tyne Tees television camera for the task, with impressive musical pedigree having previously been used to film The Tube. Another camera was filming from the audience a couple of seats away from us.

This being a theatre, the performance was split into two halves separated with an interval. There was no support act, but maybe it wouldn’t have worked well, with the main performance being split in two.

The set opened with Time In Joy which immediately showcased the sound of the expanded line up. Peter and David swapped over on drum and vocal duties for Count It Up – the first of numerous switches during the night. The string quartet and flute backing on title track Open Here was captivating and, as with several songs from the new album, it’s hard to imagine how this could be performed as well without the orchestra.

The set featured all ten songs from Open Here, interspersed with a highlights from their back catalogue. Other than the Open Here album, there were four songs from Plumb and three from Commontime, with one apiece from the earlier albums.

The second half contained the excellent Checking On A Message and Share A Pillow from the new album. The highlight of the set for me was the closing track to the second half , Find A Way To Keep Me, helped in no small part by a film backdrop of the landscape of the North East. A great example of visuals and music combining powers to create something special.

It’s always a pleasure to see Field Music but it felt especially fortunate to catch them in this unique setting, with The Open Here Orchestra, bringing to the sound of the new album to life.

Field Music Setlist Northern Stage, Newcastle, England 2018

Other points of note:

1. Pre-gig food and beer was from McKenna’s cafe inside Northern Stage, including a steak sandwich so rare it had bled on the bread.
2. I bought myself the blue vinyl version of Open Here, after much agonising between the relative merits of clear versus blue versus black vinyl.
3. Unexpectedly, it had snowed whilst we watched.

Take That @ Metro Radio Arena

Manc man-band deliver belated Christmas present

I still remember the sinking feeling shortly after hitting the “buy” button. Was that really £398 I’d paid for two tickets to see Take That?

Tickets to see Take That were suggested as a Christmas present idea. Having procrastinated for too long and missed the regular scramble for tickets, I resorted to a secondary ticketing website. After spending an age comparing and contrasting different seating options and prices on each of the sites, I settled on my choice. I continued with purpose to the payment screen, acutely aware that the clock was ticking and I may lose the prized tickets if I delayed. I clicked “buy” and sat back, quietly satisfied with myself.

Hang on, was that not supposed to be around £290? Undo undo undo! Where did the £82.38 “booking fee”, £9.95 delivery fee and £16.48 VAT come from? You swines! Can I return them? “It’s not possible to cancel or exchange tickets once a purchase has been made as orders are considered final. If you cannot use the tickets you purchased and there is still time before the event date, we advise you to re-list them by clicking on the “Sell” link on the event that you have tickets for.”

So the moral of this tale is to always read the total before you click “buy”. And that secondary ticketing sites are the work of the devil.

Christmas arrived and a print-out of the confirmation email had to serve as the gift.

A few months later and the gig finally arrives. A nice meal beforehand at George’s Great British Kitchen with a bottle of Haviestoun Bitter & Twisted.

All Saints provided the support and did a nice little set encompassing all of their big hits from the 90s. Gone are the cargo pants but the synchronised shimmying and striding remain the same. They finished with Pure Shores which sounded great.

The oestrogen levels were palpable as Take That prepared to take to the stage at around 8.30pm.

The gig was performed “in the round”, so all parts of the arena had a decent view. The band emerged separately at opposite ends of the arena and made their way down narrow gaps in the crowd to the stage, whilst performing opener Wonderland.

Throughout the show there was constantly changing scenery, lighting and projected images and a seemingly endless stream of dancers and performers. There was some loose concept around the performance (which went over my head) interspersed with spoken word interludes. The band themselves sported some unusual clothing lines; Mark was rocking some high heeled boots to give him an extra lift, Howard sported some MC Hammer clown pants in a range of colours, Gary was no-nonsense.

The music spanned their career but mostly concentrated on their material from after their rebirth as a stadium indie/electro pop band. The energy levels barely dropped throughout the set, only slowing slightly when a tabla player joined the band for an acoustic medley section in the middle of the set.

The light show for The Flood was particularly impressive (should have shot the video below in landscape). They finished with Never Forget and Rule The World, with mobile phone lights aloft around the arena.

It was impressive stuff – more of a theatrical production than a gig in many ways but with tickets priced at £95 (face value) you want to see something special. All in all, a really good evening’s entertainment and well worth £398 of hard earned cash (hmmm). Next time I really must remember to be on the ball when tickets go on sale.