Adem @ The Cumberland Arms

Adem produces a beautiful performance, in an intimate setting, on a snowy night in Newcastle

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In attendance: all three of the gigamonth collective.  Andrew, Ste & I.27709516_1484636471644835_3309849123319611996_o

We’ve been wanting a Cumberland Arms gig for a while.  None of us had been before and it was obviously going to be an intimate venue.  We missed out on tickets for Willy Mason, but soon spotted the Adem gig.  Andrew had been a fan since the

first album, way back when. He’d introduced Ste to Adem.  I

hadn’t heard anything by him prior to booking this show.  I gave the latest album, Seconds Are Acorns, a listen and really enjoyed it.

It was a Saturday night, so became a good chance for some food out and a few drinks.  We started at the Tyne Bank Brewery and, before Andrew arrived, Ste and I played some table football and table tennis, reliving our youth.  Some tasty food was had at Kiln.  A few nice beers were consumed on the night and at least one dodgy one; smash fusion, beaver town neck oil, summer breeze, salty kiss…to name a few.

Pete Dale was the support for Adem.  We didn’t catch much of his set as we were getting drinks downstairs.  The Cumberland Arms is a small old school pub with an intimate IMG_2308room upstairs with a cool atmosphere.

Pete sounded in the vein of Billy Bragg.  A few of the crowd seemed familiar with his stuff and you could see Adem watching him amongst the, initially, small crowd.  You don’t often find that and it was nice to see.

When Adem took the stage he noted that he’d been asked to play this gig and that it was one of only 2 on the tour.  The other in Glasgow.  What followed was a really intimate and completely beautiful gig.  I’m not overly familiar with his tunes (as noted above), but I was captivated by them all.  I was stood right at the front of a polite, but respectful and enthusiastic audience.  I’m never good estimating numbers in a venue, but there can’t have been much more than 80-100?

The set spanned all 4 of his albums and a lovely Radiohead cover version.  I don’t have a specific set highlight, although Snow in April was pretty cool and apt (it was March, but see below).  I’m not sure what Adem has lined up next.  He hinted at a new album.  I hope so as I can see an Adem album nestling nicely in my collection.  There was some vinyl on sale on the night.  We were all short of cash and so threw our change Ste’s way and he picked up Seconds Are Acorns and a mini-chat with the man himself.  We should have had a Sharpie to hand to get it signed…!

Adem Setlist Cumberland Arms, Newcastle, England 2018

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A rare photo of Andrew, Me & Ste (L-R) from one of our gig nights.  “Snow in April*”  *March

 

Turin Brakes @ Tyne Theatre & Opera House

Turin Brakes signing their lives away and playing a quality set in a fine venue

I’ll start this review with the disclaimer that Turin Brakes are one of my favourite bands. They have been since I purchased The Optimist LP, on the recommendation of a friend (a gigamonth alumni, Andrew), back in September 2001.  They are my most watched band by quite some distance.  This was the 17th gig of theirs that I’ve seen (including only 3 festivals) which is a nice average of 1 a year since that first album purchase!  They have been the subject of three previous blog appearances (100 Club, The Cluny, Chase Park Festival) and so are now the most mentioned band on this blog.  I’ve only been to one previous gig at the Tyne Theatre…Turin Brakes.  Back in 2002 on the 25th September: The Acoustic Tour.  That gig was fantastic, enhanced by support from the excellent Fionn Regan.

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Present: Ste & Amy, Clare & I.  Andrew had a ticket, but unfortunately couldn’t make it.

With the wives present, babysitting was a challenge, so there was no pre-gig social.  Clare & I managed a swift drink, but by the time Ste & Amy arrived Eliza Shaddad was about to take the stage.

I enjoyed Eliza’s set.  I wasn’t too familiar with any of the tracks, except the excellent set closer, Waters.  I’ll certainly be looking out for a future album.

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The new album, Invisible Storm, came out earlier this year and is a superbly catchy long player.  Tracks from this album were the common thread through the night as they played 7 of the 11 tracks on it.  A huge 5 tracks were played from The Optimist LP, 2 each from Ether Song & Lost Property and 1 each from Dark On Fire & JackInABox.  Two albums weren’t represented as there was no room for tracks from either Outbursts or We Were Here.

We were sat on the front row of this incredibly atmospheric (if not slightly cold) theatre.  Front row seats for one of my favourite bands.  Nice.  The band were in fine form once more.  Again, this is a band who seem at their best when they are enjoying themselves.  I can only think of a couple of times I’ve seen them when they didn’t seem up for it.  This was definitely a night when they were up for it.  They even played through a fight that managed to break out in an all seated venue.  Yes, a fight broke out in a seated theatre venue.  A Turin Brakes gig in a seated theatre venue, no less!

They opened the set with three Invisible Storm tracks and sounded incredible.  Moving straight in to Future Boy and then State of Things, the pace was kept.  The only real break from quality tunes was the sound of of Eddie howling, and making the audience howl, like a wolf.  Slightly surreal, but fun.

Invisible Storm was probably my highlight of the night and my favourite from the new album.  Last Chance, Fishing For A Dream and Rain City all sounded superb.  I can’t help but smile whenever Gale plays the Underdog solo and that took us nicely into the end of the normal set.  The first encore included the quality Keep Me Around, new album track – Everything All At Once and the wig-out Black Rabbit.

The lack of theatre lights held the hope of a 2nd encore.  This hope was further enhanced when a disembodied thumb (belonging, I think, to Rob) started interchanging up and down from behind  a curtain.  The audience clearly wanted more and so, thumbs up it was.  A last track from Invisible Storm; Don’t Know Much, before closing on the classic first album track; Slack.   Quality from start to finish.

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The setlist is below.  As is an amusing little post script.
Turin Brakes Setlist Tyne Theatre and Opera House, Newcastle, England 2018, Invisible Storm

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Turin Brakes on Instagram

Post Script:

Earlier on this year, I purchased the deluxe bundle of Invisible Storm and splashed out on a test pressing for £50!  Hand signed and hand numbered – limited to 20.  Only, when it arrived, I found it hadn’t been numbered.  Not a huge issue for some people, but it was something that attracted me to the purchase in the first place.  I got in touch with the webstore who politely informed me that the band must have forgotten to sign.  Yes.  I realised that.  I thought I’d try the band.  I got in contact via twitter and was really pleased that they replied.

So, I went to the gig armed with my test pressing and thought I’d sneak in some additional LP sleeves for them to sign.  Cheeky, I know, but shy bairns…

Anyway, I wrote a lengthy note with instructions and threw a few different coloured sharpies into the bag, for them to select the appropriate colours.  [Yes, I appreciate that, at this point in this blog – if not before – you are building up a very clear and accurate picture of my personality].  I rocked up to the merch stand and then was struck with a disease that has affected me for a while now.  Inarticulosis.  Essentially, when faced with some pressure in a possible brush with anyone even remotely famous, or a person who might be vaguely linked with a famous person, I mutter and mumble.  I’m desperate to say something clear and sensible, but fail miserably (see the 100 club blog “you’ve got red on you” anecdote).  This time, I muttered something about contacting the band via “The Internet”.  “The Internet” – I even said it in an awkward voice – WTF.  I then said, they hadn’t signed properly and said they would.  I didn’t, crucially, mention a lack of numbering, but despite it being signed correctly – I decided to confuse things by mentioning signing in these verbal instructions.  Fatal.  Eliza Shaddad was doing the merch and therefore was the one lucky enough to be on the receiving end of my drivel.  She took it well and said I could just pick up at the end of the gig.

Of course, what I failed to realise is that I should have just put one line on a post it note and attached it to the front of the vinyl – “number it out of 20 here please”.  Instead, I wrote a long note!  Why I thought they would read the full note or remember the twitter exchange, I don’t know!  So, post gig, I picked up the bag  of sleeves, thanked Eliza and trotted out.  My wife encouraged me to have a look before we headed home.  The band had signed the sleeve again – this time on the back – but hadn’t numbered it.  I went back into the venue and Eliza was so patient with me.  She went off and came back with it numbered.  The band had already generously signed all of the sleeves of 7 other LPs and The Door EP 7″.  I’m hugely grateful to them.  A top band, top tunes, top albums and top blokes.  Yep, I just used the word top 4 times in a row.  I’m just that cool, as this whole episode indicates!

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The ridiculously long instructions!
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The brilliantly signed sleeves!

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Franz Ferdinand @ O2 Academy, Newcastle

A quality evening with Franz Ferdinand & Albert Hammond Jr.

I saw Franz Ferdinand 3 times within 13 months back in 2004/05 (& Ste caught 2 of those).  I hadn’t seen them since.  No particular reason.  Perhaps my interest waned after album no. 2, perhaps I was just going to less gigs or trying not to see the same bands on repeat?  Whatever the reason, it was a 13 year gap.  It was worth the wait.

Just Ste and I at this one, so we ate pizzas at home with a couple of beers.  A quick taxi ride into Toon and we headed straight to the venue.  The beers inside the O2 are inevitably poor and expensive.  I think we consumed a couple of pints of San Miguel (or something similar) and a massive oversized 2 pint pot full of Carlsberg Export.  It was cold, wet and alcoholic. £20+ lighter (each) for the privilege we initially shivered on a cold night in the venue, but it soon warmed up as the support act took the stage.

Albert Hammond Jr. of The Strokes fame was the support act.  I’d never bothered with his solo stuff prior to learning he was the support.  The new stuff sounded decent and it was an enjoyable set which lasted a surprisingly long time.  At the time of writing, no-one has put up a set list, but it must have been 10 songs or so.  Decent stuff.  Could be the closest I’ll ever come to seeing The Strokes?  I hope not.

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Franz Ferdinand

The main act took the stage an proceeded to deliver an awesome set.  A great mix of new and old tunes, drawing heavily from the new album (8 played from Always Ascending) and the debut album (5 played from Franz Ferdinand) with a handful from the rest (3 from Tonight: Franz Ferdinand, 2 from You Could Have Been So Much Better and just 1 from Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action).  Alex Kapranos was an excellent frontman throughout the gig, holding the attention of the crowd and getting them involved at will.  I realised early in the gig that there had been a line up change that I wasn’t previously aware of.  Guitarist, Nick McCarthy apparently left in 2016 and Dino Bardot and Julian Corrie joining.  The guitar sound on the early songs didn’t quite sound as angular as previous (if I’m being picky), but that was a tiny issue in a great set.

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Highlights for me were; Do You Want To, Michael, Take Me Out, Ulysses, Alway Ascending, Jacquline, This Fire and Lucid Dreams.  Amazingly the whole gig was wrapped up by 10.05pm…presumably for a club night at the O2.

Franz Ferdinand Setlist O2 Academy Newcastle, Newcastle, England 2018, Always Ascending

Albert Hammond, Jr. Setlist O2 Academy Newcastle, Newcastle, England 2018

Post Script: we headed to Tilleys Bar straight after the gig.  We had a few too many real ales, played a pub quiz machine (pop music) which we failed to win and talked endlessly about music, vinyls, CDs and other forensically analysed issues.  I fell asleep in the taxi on the way home and Ste was partied out for most of the next morning, prior to heading to a record fair.  It was a top night!!

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John Bramwell @ The Sage 2, Gateshead

The final gig of 2017 saw the former I Am Kloot frontman in fine form

The final gig of 2017 fell to John Bramwell.  It was a fairly last minute choice as Andrew, Ste & I couldn’t all make a gig on the same day in December.  Ste & I went to this one without Andrew which was a shame.

I wasn’t hugely familiar with much I Am Kloot or John Bramwell solo stage prior to the gig, but I immersed myself via Spotify for a week or two.  I’d listened to the Sky At Night album before but really only knew a few tracks before seeing IAK at Glastonbury several years ago.  I / we didn’t really know what to expect from this gig.  The summary was that it was great.  John Bramwell was very funny and ambled his way through a very pleasing and long set.

John Bramwell Setlist The Sage, Gateshead, England 2017

Support came in the form of Dave Fidler (also playing in the “band” sections of the JB set).  He did a really enjoyable set too.

The JB set was 25 tracks in length, stuffed full of I Am Kloot tunes as well as solo tracks.  The encore was pretty awesome.  I’m writing this a month or so after the gig and so can’t remember specifics to note, so this will be a sparse review.

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Food was at the Head of Steam in the opposite side of the Tyne (fish & chorizo pie for me and fish & chips for Ste), washed down with a pint of Bitter & Twisted.

Pumarosa @ The Cluny, Newcastle

Priestess, you dance, you dance, you dance…

It would appear that this was the final gig of the year with all three of us in attendance.  We managed 10 as a threesome (threesome+ at times) this year which isn’t bad going.  This was, ridiculously, my 24 gig of the year with at least one more still to come.

What was it like? Pumarosa were really good.  Ste & I caught them at Glastonbury earlier this year, but didn’t know much about them then.  They were good that night, but tonight was quality.  I’d been giving the album quite a hammering of late and that helped to ensure I was familiar with virtually all of the set.  Isabel Munoz-Newsome fronts the band and seemed to be having a great time all night and this always improves my enjoyment of a show.  She was a very engaging stage presence with a great dancing style and gorgeous vocals.

They came on stage promptly at 9.30 and breezed through a set which consisted of the entirety of debut album, The Witch, with an added cover.

Dragonfly, Lions Den & Priestess were all highlights for me, but highlights in a set full of them.  The album is most definitely in my top 20 of the year, and is likely to be a vinyl purchase at some point in the new year.

Pumarosa Setlist The Cluny, Newcastle, England 2017, The Witch

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What about the support act?  I’ve honestly never seen anything like it.  Vïsta was his name.  Just one guy on stage with a computer.  When we arrived in, he was essentially running on the spot in sports gear singing along to a backing track.  My initial reaction was intense amusement and at one point I was crying laughing.  When we decided to stay, after watching him drawing on his t-shirt (which subsequently went up for sale?), it actually became a pretty compelling watch.  It could certainly be considered the most unique and interesting support of the year.  As he noted, it’s Vïsta, with a double dot on the i (this was what he was demonstrating on his t-shirt), if you want to check him out.  Probably worth it.

What about food and drink?  We normally just have food in The Cluny, but decided to venture elsewhere.  Just up the road as it happens.  Arch 2 brewpub & burger kitchen.  Burger and a beer for £6.50.  Andrew and I had an awesome Wolf Blonde and Ste had a Southern Cross.  The burger was excellent to go with the excellent pint.  Unfortunately it was a bit chilly and we noted that this probably should be a summer venue.  Slightly hungry still after just a burger we decided to head to the Cluny for pudding  Waffle and ice cream.  Sounds good, only the waffle was disappointingly cold and tough work.  We smashed it though and washed it down with a hot coffee (ice cold coke for Andrew – crazy Kid).

If you don’t know Pumarosa then check out the album, or start on Priestess.  I think you’ll be pleasantly impressed.

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Wolf Alice @ O2 Academy, Newcastle

Wolf Alice: Beautifully Unconventional

Wolf Alice have become one of my favourite bands from the last few years.  Don’t Delete The Kisses is one of the best songs of 2017 and I picked up the green vinyl edition of Visions Of A Life without hearing much of it.  We bought tickets for this one well in advance of the gig and it didn’t disappoint.

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When I left the gig the main thought in my mind was:

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Wolf Alice, do ethereal quiet to jaw dropping shout loud banshee screaming within the blink of an eye and it’s incredible to behold.  I probably generally prefer their more ethereal sounds, but it’s all quality.

The setlist went something like this:

Wolf Alice Setlist O2 Academy Newcastle, Newcastle, England 2017, Visions of a Life

We had seats on the balcony for the night and that meant the photos weren’t great, but the crowd looked a little insane below, so was pleased to have a seat!  I think I’ve possibly got to that age where a seat feels more civilised.

There were loads of set highlights but I can’t look far beyond the “singles”.  The mirrorball brought another sparkling element to the beauty of Don’t Delete

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The lighting at gigs these days is getting very impressive.  At times dazzling, but always unique from show to show.  This was now different with a three tier light going in straight lines across the stage.  Visually spectacular in a small venue.

 

There wasn’t a huge amount of dialogue between band and audience, but that didn’t matter.  A large volume of the crowd knew every word and sang along throughout.  Some dodgy timed handclaps from the audience did little to diminish the quality of encore opener, Blush and following Giant Peach we all went home happy.  Ears ringing.  But happy.

There’s some better photos of the gig on the O2 academy page here.

What were the support acts like?  I really enjoyed them both.  Superfood probably edged it for me.  Sunflower Bean, from New York (as the lead singer mentioned numerous times) were also good though.

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Superfood
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Sunflower Bean

Who was there?  Ste & I for the whole night.  Andrew joined us a couple of songs into Superfood’s set and so there wasn’t too much opportunity to catch up.  For the gig itself we were also joined by one of Ste’s friends.

Food was from coop again.  It’s always good (as is the beer), but perhaps we should be more original when we go to the O2?

 

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

Two stunning evenings in the company of Tom McRae

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