Tom McRae @ The Cluny, Newcastle & The Wardrobe, Leeds – 2nd & 3rd October 2017

Two stunning evenings in the company of Tom McRae

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Tom McRae has released 8 studio albums, numerous live albums and demo / b-side collections.  I first heard of him on the short-lived music channel, The Amp.  I saw some infomercial type interview about Just Like Blood and was then hooked.

The Cluny

The last time I saw Tom was at The Sage.  It was a serene performance ruined at times by a drunk woman singing louder than Tom.  Andrew joined me that night as a Tom McRae virgin, as Ste couldn’t make it.  The Cluny gig was the 6th time I’d seen Tom live (although one was an in-store performance).  Ste had been with me for 4 of those.  I’m pleased to say that both Andrew and Ste were with me at The Cluny for our first proper gigamonth (proper includes essential ingredients; just the three of us, a pint, a chat and some food) since Haley Bonar in May.  The food (The Rumble Po’ Boy Jumble!) & beer (Andrew had a Wylam DH Table Beer and Ste & I had the space in between…or something like that) were up to the usual high Cluny standards.

Support act: IMG_0924Lowri Evans opened the evening supported by Lee Mason on guitar.  I enjoyed the set, which included a Welsh intro to a Welsh language song.  It was nice to hear little anecdotes and stories behind the songs spread throughout the set.

Tom McRae: Tom took the stage at about 9.30pm.  Totally unassuming.  He slowly ambled onto the stage and picked at a few guitars before letting Dave know he was ready to start.    I was instantly transfixed in the performance as Tom ignored the guitars and opened with an a capella version of Mermaid Blues.  Simply amazing.  That was soon followed by my favourite song of his latest album (album; Ah, The World! Oh, The World!), Show Them All.  Tom performed using a range of acoustic guitars, an electric guitar, a couple of harmonicas and a piano.  Every song was stripped back and completely beautiful.  Show Them All & Summer of John Wayne were both acoustic before the only use of the electric guitar on Won’t Lie.  Won’t Lie was the first of a number of audience participation songs.  The was a respectful and quiet hush from the crowd throughout, but every opportunity to get involved was taken with real intent.

2nd Law followed on piano.  Achingly heartfelt.  Next up was How The West Was Won which transformed into a cover of Free Fallin’ by the late, great, Tom Petty.  Tom Petty had died a short time earlier and his passing clearly affected the thoughts and performance of Tom.  When Runnin’ Down A Dream came on the PA after the gig, it sounded amazing and very poignant.

The High Life provided another opportunity for “angry” audience participation and Tom started taking some requests, checking in with his little red book every once in a while.

Everything seemed so relaxed.  Tom commented that the lack of a band meant it could be that way.  No need to rehearse.  Take it as it comes.  Sao Paolo Rain was sensational.

Tom seemed to warm up his on stage patter as the night went on, revelling in the recent life transforming nature of having a song covered on the Norwegian version of The Voice.

Tom indicated a new-found purpose to performing.  The world is so screwed up at the moment, that if he can just depress his audience enough during a gig, then the world might not seem so bad in comparison when they leave.

At this point in the gig, I was completely absorbed.  When he was taking requests, I wasn’t in the least bit compelled to make one.  I don’t care what he played.  He could have played anything from his back catalogue and I’d have been happy.  Yes, I have favourite Tom McRae tracks, but I didn’t need to hear them tonight.  I’ve heard them before and was just wanting to be taken away by whatever was next.  It Ain’t You, Expecting The Rain, For The Restless and Ghost of  a Shark were next.  Ghost…bled in to Please before My Vampire Heart.  None of This Really Matters was the penultimate song and only one of two played from the next album (which I’d have been happy to hear in it’s entirety).  He closed with One Mississippi.  An encore was not needed.  Lights up.  Tom Petty on.

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I’d come to gig clutching 4 of Tom’s albums to be signed, hoping he’d be out before or after the show.  I already had 4 signed albums, so was hoping to complete the set.  He kindly obliged and stopped for a serious selfie.  I left very happy.

Tom had arrived at the gig following an epic journey.  He delivered a fantastic performance.

I left the gig thinking that this was the sort of performance I’d like to see again.  I wondered where else he was playing, but figured I was unlikely to go to another gig on this tour.  I’d never done that before.  Never been to another gig by a band or artist in the same tour.  Ste and I had recently discussed whether this was something we could see us doing.  We thought it unlikely.

I listened to a bit more Tom on the way home (From The Solo Lands) and thought, what if?

The next day I was in Rotherham with work.  I was taking someone with me.  At 7am they let me know they weren’t well.  Tom was playing in Leeds that night.  Well, considering I’d already travelled down, it would be rude not to.  Ticket booked.  Night two.

The Wardrobe

There was no Andrew & Ste.  I arrived in Leeds at about 5.30pm.  3 hours to kill.  My phone wasn’t going to have much battery left!  I had a nice pint of Wardrobe Pale Ale and a burger and headed downstairs to watch Lowri Evans (this time solo) at 8.30pm.  Another enjoyable set, made even better by the previous nights familiarity.

Tom joined us on stage at 9.30pm and after some guitar lead issues, he opened again with Mermaid Blues.

I was right at the front for this one.  There was a small change to the start of the set with For The Restless replacing Summer of John Wayne.  Tom described it as the best opening of set that he’d done for some time.  Who am I to argue?


The set started to change as the requests came in.  Sao Paolo Rain was the first request, at the same point in the set as at The Cluny.  I shouted for Walking 2 Hawaii with several others and that followed.  Simply stunning.  Possibly my favourite Tom song.  This version was incredible.  Simple he said.

Human Remains was another audience shout which really appealed to Tom and this was followed by It Ain’t You.  Tom then spotted a “hole” in the audience and unplugged his guitar and took a trip to the centre of floor and performed Bloodless.  The strict curfew was looming and so previous night set closers; None of This Really Matters and One Mississippi followed.  Ghost Of A Shark was then sneaked in under threat of fine and the set was closed with Free Fallin’.  Tom dedicated the night to Tom Petty.  Rest In Peace.

Ramshackle. Heartfelt. Meandering. In all the best ways. Thank you, Leeds. And all who are travelling to multiple shows! #dave #dave #dave

— tom mcrae music (@tommcrae) October 3, 2017

I travelled home, pleased to have experienced two incredible nights.  I was pleased with my spur of the moment decision and thankful to a supportive wife for not complaining!

I’d completely immersed myself in Tom’s back catalogue before The Cluny gig, listening through all the studio albums and most of the other collections.  I normally respond following a gig, by stopping listening to the band or artists for a while.  This is not one of the those responses.  Ah, The World! Oh, The World! is a stunning album, that gets better on every listen.

Tom McRae Setlist The Cluny, Newcastle, England 2017

Tom McRae Setlist The Wardrobe, Leeds, England 2017

Barns Courtney @ Think Tank? Newcastle

Barns Courtney delivers a quality set that deserved a larger audience

This was a first.  Well, at least a first for a long while.  Barns Courtney was introduced to me by my wife, Clare.  I was away at Glastonbury when she texted to say that she’d like to see him.  I’d never heard of him, but said yes.  When I got back, I had a listen on spotify and was hugely impressed by Golden Dandelions, Fire and Little Boy.

Think Tank? is a small venue in Newcastle with a capacity of about 250.  This one was far from full with about 70 to 100 or so present.  I was surprised as I expected it to be full.  It should have been as it was a little treat.

Barns Courtney took the stage at 9pm and the first thing I noticed was that he was sporting a moon boot on his right foot.  This didn’t impair him much.  It probably should have as I feared for his safety for most of the gig!  He seemed intent on bouncing around the stage as if it wasn’t there and fortunately managed to stay upright for the whole gig.

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The audience was relatively odd for the evening.  I don’t think I’ve previously been to a gig where the crowd stood back from the stage for the main act, but they were intent on doing so tonight.  Clare & I were probably the furthest forward and we were a couple of meters away.  That didn’t affect Barns’ from engaging with the audience.  He did so impressively, but his masterstroke (presumably tried and tested) came 4 songs from the end when he asked everyone to come forward so he could take a photo of everyone.  Everyone duly came forward.  He took some video footage, threw his phone to the ground and informed everyone that they might as well stay where they were now.  Sweet move.

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The highlights were clearly the tunes I knew from Spotify, but all in all it was an excellent 12 song set with a huge amount off energy.  John Waugh, the saxophonist with The 1975, played on three of the tracks and it brought an extra quality dimension to the set.  Barns was clearly happy to have him there.

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Glitter & Gold, Never Let You Down, Little Boy, Golden Dandelions and Fire were all awesome.  His debut album is out on the 29th September, so I’m looking forward to hearing it.  Shame it doesn’t look like it’s getting a vinyl release, but it will be well wroth checking out.

There was something about his attitude that I really liked.  I don’t know why, but he brought me in with something that I found incredibly amusing.  As he was finished with his mouth organ on one tune, he absently discarded it over his shoulder and it bounced to the back of the stage.  It was the way he did it that just had me laughing and warming to his excitable style.  I’m interested to see what comes next.

I pilfered the setlist from the stage as others were clearly hovering to do the same.  Shy bairns…

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Support act: Georgie Keller opened the evening.  He was on the stage by himself with a backing track for 30 minutes.  Pretty impressive and pretty brave, only taking brief respite with a single acoustic guitar cover of a Shawn Mendes track.

Food & drink: Clare & I were on our own for this one and as we were bit rushed there was no time for food in advance.  The post gig chicken kebab was a bit on the dodgy side, but welcome.  I took on board a Dead Pony Club and Clare had a Peroni at the gig.

Merchandise: none available.  Makes a refreshing change that I wasn’t tempted to part with more cash.

 

Ryan Adams @ The Sage, Gateshead

Can Mr Snow please report to the stage door…

Ste introduced me to Ryan Adams around the time of Gold.  I loved that album and subsequently picked up Heartbreaker and then committed to investing in each album going forward…to a point.  Love Is Hell Pt.1 is an awesome album.   I continued enjoying the releases (Pt.2, Demolition, Rock n Roll, Cold Roses) through to Jacksonville City Nights, which I didn’t enjoy.  I haven’t been back to it for a while, but it put me off.  I picked up 29 and Easy Tiger and then stopped.  I didn’t give the next few much of a chance until Ryan Adams was released.  I enjoyed that, but didn’t put in too much time.  Prisoner then followed and something changed.  I know it’s been critically well received, but I mean something changed with me.  I wanted to listen to it.  Perhaps because my friend and workmate, Laura, is a huge fan.  Perhaps, because I caught Ryan at Glastonbury in 2015 and loved the set.  Perhaps, because I’m in love with music again.  Or perhaps because it’s just so damn good.

The show on Sunday took place at The Sage in Gateshead.  I feel privileged to have such an amazing venue on my doorstep.  Yes, at times, it can be a little pretentious and the atmosphere can feel a bit stilted, but the acoustics are amazing and the setting is breathtaking.  On Sunday, there was no pretentiousness, just a quality rock and roll show.

Ryan made pretty regular references to Kiss throughout the night.  Kiss aren’t / weren’t quite as big in the UK as the US, but you could tell he was channelling the rock god in an alt. country style.  V-shaped guitar and all.

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The set was a little over 2 hours, powering through 23 songs with no encore.  The only breaks taken were for a few anecdotes and some lengthy end of song wig-outs.  Ryan noted a few times that he was feeling “low energy”.  If this was the case, it didn’t show.  He opened with the awesome Do You Still Love Me and proceeded to play; 7 from Prisoner, 3 from Easy Tiger, Heartbreaker & Cold Roses, 2 from Gold & Love Is Hell and 1 from Ashes & Fire and Ryan Adams and 1 new one (Tired Of Giving Up).

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I mentioned the anecdotes.  These were long, but they had a pay-off and I couldn’t help but like him a bit more after each one.  The was a fascinating tale of “Every Pirate” from an early career performance in Newcastle and another sobering tale for us all on the dangers of consuming a full bottle of Robitussin.

It’s of no surprise that the Prisoner tracks stood out for me as did those from Heartbreaker, but it was When The Stars Go Blue & Breakdown that stole the show.  When The Stars Go Blue was complete with a mirrorball and was quite possibly perfect in every way.

The set was made very atmospheric throughout by a smoke machine pumping out low levels to maintain a smokey mood.  At one point I turned to Andrew and commented that the smoke was really starting to billow out now.  Little did I realise what was to come.  Ryan explained that there was a strict curfew at The Sage and that Shakedown… should be considered as the encore.   What followed was the most polite rock n roll end to a gig I’ve ever known.  Almost as soon as the tune started, the smoke machine went into full effect.  Soon, Ryan was no longer visible and before long, nor were any of the other band members.  Still playing, it wasn’t long before the whole auditorium was filled with smoke.

The set ended behind the cloud.  The lights came on.  The doors opened.  The fire alarms went off.

Attention please.  Attention please.  A fire has been reported.  Please leave the building immediately by the nearest exit.

Trust The Sage to have to most polite fire alarm in the world and what was presumably a brilliant coded message.

Can Mr Snow please report to the stage door…

I / we went home happy.  To cap it all off, I got a retweet from the man himself.    As did my friend, Laura who has been having a tough pregnancy – I think it made her year!

I always think that any performance is so much better when the artist or band are enjoying themselves.  I sense that Ryan Adams was, judging by the number of instagram posts he made about this gig.

Prisoner will be my next vinyl purchase.

Support act: Karen Elson was pretty great too.  I hadn’t heard anything of hers prior to this gig and I definitely will be listening in the future.  She made a pretty tidy contribution to the Ryan Adams set too.

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Present: Andrew, Ste & I were all there, but Andrew didn’t mage to get down until the headline set.

Pre-gig entertainment: Ste & I went to the Hop & Cleaver.  We weren’t too impressed with the food, but the pint of Cara Munich (brewed on site) was nice.  We followed that with a coffee at the Head of Steam while discussing record & music collecting.

 

The Sherlocks @ Newcastle University

The Sherlocks shine following the release of their debut album

Last July, apropos of nothing, one of The Sherlocks started following me on Twitter (I think it was Bran, but can’t check now as their accounts have been spring cleaned).  Curious, I checked them out on Spotify and duly followed them back.  I liked what I heard & booked some tickets to see them at The Ku Bar in September.  We then saw them in Newcastle & Glastonbury.  Tonight was the first gig of the tour, following the release of their debut album, Live for the Moment.

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I took my nephew, Chris.  I introduced him to The Sherlocks last year and he’s been raving about them ever since.  He managed to catch them at Hardwick Live in August, but this was his first proper gig.  It was a good one.

The Sherlocks played with the confidence of a band whose first album has just debuted in the UK top ten (no. 6 to be precise).  A fine effort from a band that seemed to have really put in the effort to reap the rewards.

The set was made up of the entirety of the new album and nothing besides.  I managed to procure a setlist on the way out.

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The set opened with the excellent Will You Be There?  The audience responded to every tune with a huge number of the crowd knowing every song and singing loudly along.  The crowd were massively up for the gig, starting the Sherlocks Army chant of Papa’s Got a Brand New Pig Bag at regular intervals.

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Before the album came out, I was really familiar with all the tunes on Spotify and as such; Last Night, Live for the Moment, Heart of Gold, Will You Be There? and Escapade were some of the clear highlights for me.  However, the other songs on the album shone too (particularly Motions) and you could barely pause for breath as they powered through an impressive collection of anthems.

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I mentioned before that there was a confidence about The Sherlocks.  Having seen them three times before, I can say that this was definitely the best yet.  Whether that has something to do with the album coming out and me being familiar with all the songs, I don’t know.  I don’t think so, though.  This is a band that seem to love what they do.  They are willing to put a lot of effort in and it shows.

If you’ve not yet investigated The Sherlocks (horrible pun), then start with Escapade and go from there.  If I was a dancing man (I’m not), then this would be the tune to get me moving.

Support acts: we arrived just in time to catch the last two tracks of local band, Social Room.  They sounded reminiscent of Kasabian and would be worth a further listen.  Vida were the main support.  I wasn’t too impressed with them earlier this year, but I enjoyed the set tonight.

Merchandise: the merchandise on offer looked pretty cool, but having just bought the deluxe bundle of their new album, I was in no need of further merch.

Food & drink: a dirty McDonalds was purchased at the drive thru on the way.  The drinks at the Uni are eye-wateringly priced.  Student life don’t come cheap these days.  I had a bottle of a real ale, but as the bottle was poured into a plastic cup, both the aesthetic and name were lost to me.  It was tasty.

As an aside: the pre-performance music was selected well.  Full of classic (new and old) indie anthems.  I’ve rarely heard a crowd sing-a-long to so many songs before the main act takes the stage, but the crowd were in an ebullient mood.  My nephew loves music and can get pretty obsessed when he likes something.  He can sing every word on all five Arctic Monkeys albums and has an encyclopaedic knowledge of their demos and b-sides. He has decent taste in music.  However, I was amused and horrified in equal measure at what he knew and didn’t know off the playlist.  He immediately recognised Cocoon by Catfish & The Bottlemen and another recent indie anthem.  The next tune up was This Charming Man by The Smiths.  “Never heard it”…”never heard of them”.  Parklife by Blur then came on.  He didn’t recognise it until the chorus.  Common People by Pulp was up next.  “Who are they?”.  He’s a big Oasis fan so, was pleased that Morning Glory was the song that preceded The Sherlocks taking the stage (well, the tune before Pigbag).  I think a musical education is in order.

The Sherlocks Setlist Newcastle University, Newcastle, England 2017, Live For The Moment

 

Brian Wilson presents Pet Sounds @ Times Square, Newcastle

A special evening listening to a classic album performed in full

When it comes to writing these reviews / blogs I usually write them chronologically from the start of the event to the end.  With this one it seems only fitting that I start with the great man himself…

Brian Wilson

We booked tickets for this event as soon as they went on sale.  Ste & I had seen Brian Wilson at Glastonbury in 2005, which was a gorgeous performance in the Sunday afternoon sunshine.  This was a different prospect 12 years later.  Brian is 75 years old and it would be fair to say that his health isn’t what it once was.  To come out on a world tour is nothing short of amazing and it brings some context to the performance.  The Beach Boys always shared lead vocals amongst the group and this performance was no exception.  The band that Brian Wilson surrounded himself with were nothing short of awesome.  They brought all of the tunes to life with an array of instruments and vocals.  It was great to see Al Jardine on stage with Brian, but it was his son, Matt, who stole the show for me.  Every time he took over vocal duties it sounded amazing.  Brian’s voice isn’t what it once was, but for every slight disappointment (Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)’s spoken word chorus) there was a delight (God Only Knows was very touching).

Pet Sounds is my favourite Beach Boys album (& in my top 50 albums) and Good Vibrations is one of my favourite ever songs.  This was an opportunity not to be missed.  I’m not the biggest fan of listening to lots of surf songs in a row, but all have their moments.  I never thought of myself as a band of Help Me, Rhonda, but that was honestly my highlight of the night.  The whole of Times Square seemed involved when that was played and I wouldn’t have minded if they’s extended it for repeat play.  Good Vibrations seemed oddly wanting, but there was a bit of a crowd distraction at that point (see later).

I’m almost certain I’ll never see Brian Wilson live again.  I don’t need to.  This was a special night with a man whose genius will live on through this album for centuries to come.

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Brian Wilson Setlist Live from Times Square 2017 2017, Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary World Tour: With Al Jardine and Blondie Chaplin

 

The rest…

Seasick Steve was the main support act.  I’ve seen this man perform at Glastonbury 2 or 3 times and enjoy his performances each time.  That said, I’ve never really felt compelled to listen to any of his albums.  Tonight was no exception.  It was a really enjoyable set full of “guitar” changes.  One fan had certainly listened to all of his albums…on repeat.  It was great to see a big fan be selected to go on stage with him and be given a signed LP.  Nice touch.

 

Martha & The Vandellas

Umbrella gate.  It seems astounding to me that people with eyes can’t tell that if they put up an umbrella, that no-one behind them will be able to see a thing.  Not one thing.  Fortunately umbrella gate seemed to die down for Seasick Steve and Brian Wilson as people showed more respect as the night wore on.  The other support acts didn’t have such respect shown as the rain came down steadily and heavily.  Martha’s set was not one for the likes of me.  I enjoy a track of theirs when it comes up on a compilation or on the radio, but this was 6 or 7 songs too long for me.  Other people loved it, so I won’t complain.  Martha indicated that she came to “make love to y’all” and at the age of 76 you can’t hep but admire the energy and humour that goes into this type of performance.  Her tambourine had seen better days and if I could offer any advice it might be that there was a serious infection control risk with that instrument.

 

Lanterns On The Lake

I really want to love Lanterns on the Lake.  I enjoyed their last album, Beings. I also had the pleasure of seeing them perform with the Royal Northern Sinfonia last year at The Sage. They have all of the ingredients that I’m looking for in a band.  Powerful tunes with an original sound.  However, they sometimes seem to fall short of delivering.  It must have been a difficult crowd at Times Square and they only had a short set (5 songs I think).  They were just getting the crowd going (and me going) with Through The Cellar Door and The Crawl, but then slowed things right down with the final tune to leave me wanting that rousing finish which never came.  I never envy a support act for a crowd like this. A crowd waiting for a legend. In the rain.  I suspect the next album may well be the one to truly hook me in.

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Lanterns on the Lake Setlist Live from Times Square 2017 2017

Cattle & Cane

It was lovely surprise to see Cattle & Cane added to this bill.  There’s probably nothing I can say about this band that I haven’t said in other blogs, but if you haven’t heard them, you really should.  The set was a perfect highlight reel of their latest album, Mirrors, with a cover and live favourite, The Poacher, thrown in for good measure.  For an independent band from Teesside to share a stage with a legend must be a very special feeling indeed.

 

Cattle & Cane Setlist Live from Times Square 2017 2017

The Lake Poets – these were up first and I can’t tell you much about them. Ste & Amy had the tickets and were running a bit late.  I watched from outside and sent sad pictures to them of me in the rain. Not to worry, it was all worth it in the end.

 

I referenced a crowd distraction earlier.  This came in the form of a drunken young lady who sidled up to Andrew and Ste and repeatedly encouraged them to dance with her. As stoic men they were having none of it. Neither was she. Not taking no for an answer, she continued to harass them until Ste told her definitively that her behaviour was unwanted and unacceptable. I was in tears with laughter stood just behind them, all the time fearing that I was her next target!  Classic.

The Slow Readers Club @ Think Tank?

The Slow Readers Club first headline gig in Newcastle was a definite success.

Why did we end up here? At the start of February, Ste suggested this one as he’d heard Don’t Mind on the Steve Lamacq Round Table, and liked it.  I’d never heard of The Slow Readers Club before, but after a quick play on Spotify I quickly agreed.  Unfortunately Andrew couldn’t make it tonight.  If you want to know more about this band then click here.

Was it any good?  It was fantastic.  I’d had Cavalcade on fairly heavy spotify rotation, but the whole set sounded great.  The venue is really good for an act like this who connect well to the audience.  The lead singer, regularly catches eye contact with members of the crowd singing along and seems to sing-a-long with them.  Highlights for me were the first 4 songs from Cavalcade; Start Again, I Saw A Ghost, Forever in Your Debt & Plant the Seed.  The latter really got the crowd (who were in good voice throughout) going.  They noted that they don’t do encores (“never got into the habit” and “it’s a hassle getting off a stage like this”) and so informed the crowd that, without leaving the stage, the title track of Cavalcade was actually the start of the encore.  I’m never sure what I think about encores anyway, but this approach worked well!  I’m sure they get sick of comparisons, but you can’t help but hear Interpol and Editors when you listen to this band.  That’s a clear compliment.  I didn’t know about TSRC before February, but I’m hoping to hear a lot more in the future.

Did you get any merchandise? It was inevitable prior to the gig, that if there was a vinyl on offer that I’d be getting one.  Each of the band was kind enough to sign it too (pictured at the foot of this review).

What were the support acts like? Denature opened the night shortly after 7pm.  Their 7 song set, including a couple of covers, was decent.  They are a local North East band, so I wish them well.  SKIES were up next & I really enjoyed their set.  I’d given a brief spotify listen on the morning of the gig, but knew very little going in.  They were really lively, enthusiastic and played with barely a pause for breath.  I suspect having the backing track played from a laptop presents some challenges, but it seemed to work well.  This is a band to watch out for and you can start by clicking here.

What else happened?  We were stood next to a man that didn’t watch any of the gig, but instead faced the speaker stack the entire time.  It seemed strange, but I sort of hope this was his way of feeling and absorbing the music.  In other news the band noted that one of the crowd (Debbie) had followed them on their whole tour and as a reward dedicated  a song to her.  Nice touch.

Food & drink? It almost feels like this blog is sponsored by Brewdog as for the 3rd gig running, this was the ale of choice.  By the way, it’s not sponsored, but Brewdog if you’re reading…;-)  We started out at the Brewdog bar in Newcastle and had a nice couple of pints of LIVE East Coast Crush.  We then had a fantastic Fat Hippo burger and Fat Hippo IPA in the Fat Hippo Underground.  We continued the Brewdog theme at Think Tank? with cans of the marvellous Dead Pony Club.

If you haven’t heard anything from The Slow Readers Club then give Cavalcade a listen and if you’re looking for something else new then check out SKIES.

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TSRC Poster

Ste and I feature on this one…(third picture at the right)

The signed Cavalcade vinyl
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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.