Uriah Heep Sage Gateshead 8 October 2022

HEEP JOHNThis was a special, emotional evening for a number of reasons. First, and most importantly, my friend John came over from the States for a short trip with his wife, Susan, to see family and friends. Now John and I have been friends for many years and one of the first bands we went to see together at Newcastle City Hall in 1971 or 1972 was, none other, than Uriah Heep. So it was great to see John again, for real rather than virtually (which we do regularly and often), after many, many years. And to share Uriah Heep together in concert was something special. And this was their 50th anniversary tour although it had been postponed for three years because of Covid! To think that we were seeing one of our favourite bands together some 50 years or more later just seems incredible!

HEEPTIXNow as it was their 50th anniversary tour, Heep had chosen to do something quite different. The concert was in two parts, the first being an acoustic set, something I have never seen them do before. I arrived with my carer, Jan, in plenty of time to meet up with John before the show, swap stories and generally catch up on things. Then came showtime. The night opened with a video screen showing many other famous classic heavy bands, and artists, congratulating Uriah Heep on their 50th anniversary: Alice Cooper, Francis Rossi, Pete Agnew of Nazareth, Paul Stanley of Kiss, Deep Purple, Blue Oyster Cult, Vanilla Fudge and many others. Now the only original, and surviving member of Uriah Heep is guitarist Mick Box who looks just great, really fit, lovely pure white long hair, and plays guitar just as he always did.

HEEP SHIRTThe rest of the band have joined some time along the way, the singer Bernie Shaw has been a member for many years and does a great job of singing those classic, almost operatic, tracks from the 70s and onward. The other members also are great musicians: Phil Lanzon on keyboards, who joined at the same time as Bernie in 1986, Russell Gilbrook on drums and Dave Rimmer on bass, both of whom joined more recently.

HEEP1The acoustic set comprised several songs which were unfamiliar to me, some which were old favourites and lend themselves to acoustic treatment such as “The Wizard” and closing number “Lady in Black”. A surprise and great track from the first album, which John and I agreed we had never seen them play before, the haunting “Come Away Melinda” (also made famous by the great Tim Rose). A very pleasant change and surprise. Excellent for starters.

During the interval I had another chance to catch up with John (we bought tickets separately, at different times and hence were not seated together), another Guinness, and John and I both agreed the acoustic set was different yet excellent. We saw a very different side of the band.

HEEP3After a short break the band were back for the electric set, more in their usual format. To open the second set the video screen displayed images of all the past members, too many to mention. Members I would highlight for various reasons are keyboard player and writer of many of those classic songs, the late Ken Hensley; he of the magnificent operatic voice from the classic line-up, the late, great front man David Byron; surprisingly to me, local Sunderland hero (now a long-term member of Elton John’s band) drummer Nigel Olsson (who played on two tracks of the debut album); John Lawton who became singer after David Byron left and did a great job; former Spider from Mars, and also a member of Wishbone Ash at one point, the late great bass player, Trevor Bolder; another sadly passed bassist from the classic years Gary Thain and long-time more recently passed drummer Lee Kerslake.

HEEP7In a similar way to the acoustic set, the band played old and new songs, some familiar, some new to me. Some which I absolutely love: the very atmospheric, operatic “Sunrise”, the rocking “Stealin'” and the great rock ‘n’ roll of “Sweet Lorraine”. Closing song “July Morning” is, as it always was, the closest Uriah Heep get to a ballad and just wonderful. Other familiar tracks were “Traveller in Time” and “Free ‘n’ Easy”. For the encore Mick Box took us right back to the start and the very basic, heavy metal riff of “Gypsy”. So simple and yet so great and just pure genius! The final song was another great rocker “Easy Livin'”. Congratulations to the band on 50+ great years. Long may they continue.

HEEP8I met up with John on the way out. We both agreed that the show was excellent in every way. By the way, thanks to Jan for her photography and she is now a Uriah Heep fan! And thanks to John for a picture of his T-shirt!


Acoustic set: Circus; Tales; Free Me; Come Away Melinda; Confession / Rain; The Wizard / Paradise / Circle of Hands; Lady in Black.

Electric set: Against the Odds; The Hanging Tree; Traveller in Time; Between Two Worlds; Stealin’; Too HEEP2Scared to Run; Rainbow Demon; What Kind of God; Sunrise; Sweet Lorraine; Free ‘n’ Easy; July Morning.

Encore: Gypsy; Easy Livin’

Leo Sayer Whitley Bay Playhouse 6 October 2022

Leo Sayer is a very underrated songwriter, singer and artist. I remember seeing him in the early days at LEOTIXNewcastle City Hall during the 1970s, several times. Sometime during the 1980s I began to lose faith in him, and started to view him (quite wrongly, on reflection) as a middle-of-the-road artist. But he was always much more than that. I used to play and play his first album Silverbird which contained such classic tracks as “The Dancer” and “Drop Back”. And then, of course, he wrote a lot of songs which were taken up by Roger Daltrey on his self titled album, including “Giving It All Away”. His performance as the Pierrot for “The Show Must Go on” is etched in everyone’s mind. And I love the song “Moonlighting”. The guy was a great storyteller back in the day.

LEO3Over the years Leo has suffered financial difficulties as a result of mismanagement by the late great Adam Faith (now there’s someone I would have loved to see in concert) and now live in Australia. But he is back, here in the UK, touring middle -sized venues on his 50th anniversary tour (is it really 50 years?); back where he belongs, on stage singing those songs. And sing them he does. He looks great, particularly for his 74 years which he is proud to mention, and his voice is really strong.

LEOPROGThe Whitley Bay Playhouse website proudly advertised the show thus: “British music legend Leo Sayer will be touring the UK in 2022 celebrating his 50th anniversary in music. With this performance, Leo and his band bring boundless energy, exuberance and a hit packed show to some of his favourite venues across the country. Known the world over for his army of hits which include Thunder In My Heart, Moonlighting, One Man Band, I Can’t Stop Loving You, More Than I Can Say, Have You Ever Been in Love, The Show Must Go On and the transatlantic number ones, When I Need You and You Make Me Feel Like Dancing. This is a hit packed, high energy evening not to miss!”

LEO4The concert comprises two sets with an interval. He starts off going right back to the beginning with “The Show Must go on” followed by more classic hits: “One Man Band” and “Moonlighting”. Then he does a mix of songs; some containing great blues harmonica and other classic Leo hits. You forget how many chart hits this man had. Set 2 starts with “Thunder in My Heart” and also includes two Beatles songs from his latest album “Eleanor Rigby” and “Across the Universe”. He concludes with a small selection of songs from the Daltrey album including closing track “Giving it all Away”.

A great concert by a great artist who deserves much more recognition. Perhaps his time is returning. I hope so. I remain a fan and I am proud to say so.

LEO1Many thanks to Jackie for the photography.

Setlist: Set 1: The Show Must Go On; One Man Band; Moonlighting; Train; Dancing the Night Away; Raining in My Heart; Have You Ever Been in Love; Bedsitter Land; I Can’t Stop Loving You (Though I Try).

Set 2: Thunder in My Heart; More Than I Can Say; Eleanor Rigby; Across the Universe; You Make Me Feel Like Dancing; When I Need You; Long Tall Glasses (I Can Dance); How Much Love; It’s a Hard Life; Giving It All Away.

Don McLean Sage Gateshead 24 September 2022


don tixThe great song “American Pie” is etched in my memory for reasons, which sleep after time I will explain below. Don McLean bills himself as “The American Troubadour” and this performance at the magnificent Sage concert hall demonstrated just how well he deserves that title. The Sage announced the concert as below:

“The American Troubadour has had Top 20 singles worldwide with American Pie, Vincent, Cryin, And I Love You So, Wonderful Baby, Since I Don’t Have you, It’s Just The Sun & If We Try . He is an inductee of the Grammy Hall Of Fame, Songwriters Hall of Fame and is a recipient of a BBC Lifetime achievement award. This year he was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which can be found in front of The Pie Hole Bakery, between Hollywood and Vine.

don4American Pie was recorded in May 1971 and a month later received its first radio airplay.  Thirty years later, it was voted number 5 in a poll of the 365 “Songs of the Century” compiled by the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment for the Arts. Issued as a double A-side single in November 1971 and charted within a month. Interest from the media and public sent the single to #1 in the USA and Don to international superstardom. Every line of the song was analysed time and time again to find the real meaning. Don refused to sanction any of the many interpretations, so adding to its mystery” (Sage Gateshead website).

So why is “American Pie” so important to me? Roll back 50 years and the Lincoln Festival in May 1972. I was 15 years old and this was my first pop festival. I was so excited going along to a festival at such a tender age. I went with a couple of schoolfriends and we met up with a bunch of lads (“boys” as we called ourselves) from Sunderland. We built a festival base out of bales of hay which we slept in, danced on and generally had a great time around after hippie throughout the weekend. The reference to “boys” is quite important. “Boys” were cool, and as in the words of the David Bowie song “Boys Keep Swinging”… “Boys always work it out!”. There are other references to “boys” in the literature and songs such as the Thin Lizzy hit “The Boys Are Back in Town”. For me being a boy meant knowing which concerts and festivals to be seen at and being a cross between a mod, hippie, “a face” and young man about town. However I always felt a little bit of an impostor and not a real “boy”. I never really hung out with the boys and just hooked up with them on certain key occasions, particularly at festivals. Anyway for this weekend I was a trainee boy and proud to be so.

lincolnprogThe Lincoln Festival had a magnificent lineup with Rod Stewart and the Faces, the Beach boys, Rory Gallagher, Humble Pie (now Steve Marriot was definitely a boy), Genesis, Strawbs, Status Quo, Joe Cocker, Monty Python!, Stone The Crows with Maggie Bell, Lindisfarne, Nazareth, Atomic Rooster, Slade and many others. Anyway, appearing on the Sunday afternoon, as I recall, was a guy called Don Maclean sandwiched between excellent performances by Status Quo (who were busy transitioning from a pop band to the number one boogie machine) and the magnificent Humble Pie (with Steve Marriot excelling himself as a great soul and blues singer “my skin is white, but my soul is black”). “American Pie” had just been in the UK singles chart and was, by then, a global hit with its very enigmatic lyrics, which we all know now are loosely based around the death of Buddy Holly, a hero of Don McLean. The festival had been plagued by showers of torrential rain but, just at the point Don started singing “American Pie” the rain stopped and the sun came out. It was a truly magical moment and we all stood up (the boys singing and dancing on the top of our hay barn). From that point on I was a fan and I went to see Don McLean several times after that at Newcastle City Hall. He went on to have many other hits including the beautiful “Vincent” about Vincent Van Gough.

don2So roll forward 50 years and my carer Jan and I are seated at the back of the Sage waiting to see Don McLean. This was Jan’s first Don McLean concert and for me, it was probably around 40 years since I last saw him. I lost touch with him, sadly, along the way. Support act was Elles Bailey who won the crowd over with an excellent set of Americana tunes. Don came on stage with acoustic guitar and took us through a set that you would expect from an American Troubadour. A mixture of his own classic songs, traditional American folk and crooner songs; some of which were familiar to me, others less so. I had forgotten “Castles in the Air” and it was great to hear his version of songs such as “Deep in the Heart of Texas” and “I’m Gonna Sit Right down and Write Myself a Letter”. Excellent. He looked well and was in fine voice. He finished, of course, with “American Pie”. We all sang along again and the words seemed just as touching, powerful and enigmatic as they ever did. For a moment, in my mind, I was back on the hay barn, with the boys. Soon it was all over and we left the hall humming and singing “American Pie” which has earned its place in rock ‘n’ roll mythology. The troubadour returned to the road, with a handful of songs, and one particular piece of magic which touches the hearts and souls of people around the world. Don told us that he was going to cut back on touring and will only visit a handful of places in the future; however to our delight, he announced that he loved the Sage concert hall and would include it on his shorter touring schedule in the future. Great news. Happy days.

don3Thanks to Jan for her photographic skills.

Setlist (something like this, partly from memory, the order may be wrong!): Lotta Lovin’; Botanical Gardens; The Lucky Guy; Crossroads; Tulsa Time / Deep In the Heart of Texas; Prime Time; Winterwood; Empty Chairs; Castles in the Air; Choose to Pay; I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town; Mountains o’ Mourne; I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter; And I Love You So; American Boys; Vincent; Midnight Special; American Pie

Steve Hackett Sage Gateshead 22 September 2022

HACKETTIXIt has been some time since I saw in York, on which occasion he played a great selection of early Genesis classics. Now I much prefered Genesis when the great Peter Gabriel fronted the band. I have many happy memories of seeing Genesis. The first time I saw them was at Newcastle City Hall where they were bottom of the bill on a CHACKET 1harisma package tour featuring Van Der Graaf Generator, Lindisfarne and then Genesis. After that I saw them several times within a year during the period 1971 and 1972 including performances at the Reading Festival, the Lincoln Festival and Sunderland Locarno supporting Mott the Hoople! I foolishly missed the Foxtrot tour because I had seen the band so many times. I remember my friend Ian went along to see them at the City Hall and came back raving about the gig and Gabriel wearing a fox mask! Is it really 50 years since the release of Foxtrot? I then saw them at Newcastle City Hall supporting Lindisfarne, the Reading Festival again at the time “I Know What I like” was hitting the charts, and finally on the Lamb Lies down on Broadway tour. The next time I saw Genesis Phil Collins was front man on the Trick of the Tail tour at Glasgow Apollo. All of those shows were magnificent. Steve Hackett left the band around that time and I saw the And Then There Were Three tour at Knebworth, supported by Jefferson Starship. Happy days.

HACKET4Steve Hackett was an integral part of the band throughout those days, sitting quietly on a stool, weaving magical music from his Gibson Les Paul. I also saw Steve on a couple of solo tours at Newcastle City Hall and was quite impressed by his own material.

I have foolishly missed Steve Hackett the last couple of times he has played the north-east. I have promised myself not to do so again and to see him every time he plays close by in the future. It was great to run into some old friends, the aforementioned Ian, our mutual friend another Ian and Peter. We chatted about old gig experiences and very happy times. I also ran into a friend from my blog community. A great night already!

The concert comprised two sets. The first was a selection of Steve Hackett solo material. I recognised some of the songs, but many seemed new to me. I enjoyed them much more than I expected. And Steve stood up throughout the performance! Very much the front man with an excellent band supporting him. The second half comprised the entire Foxtrot album, HACKET3starting with the wonderful “Watcher of the Skies” and finishing with the magnificent, multifaceted “Supper’s Ready”. I had forgotten just how great the album was; particularly the opening track and the closing epic. Great credit must be given to vocalist Nad Sylvan who brings the songs to life without totally recreating Peter Gabriel. The guy has his own style, flowing locks and some wonderful elements of showmanship which hark back to the Gabriel days such as the red light eyes at certain points in the songs. Magical. Yet, Steve Hackett remains the front man, reminding us of how much the band and their music was down to him at the time. The encore comprises “Firth of Frith” from the Selling England by the Pound album and ends with another song I recognise from the Trick of the Tail album: “Los Endos”.

HACKETPROGA great night with a great musician to whom prog rock fans (such as me!) and Genesis owe a lot. I bought a programme and a signed copy of Steve’s autobiography! Happy days really are here again!

HACKETBOOKSet 1: Hackett Highlights: Ace of Wands; The Devil’s Cathedral; Spectral Mornings; Every Day; A Tower Struck Down; Camino Royale; Shadow of the Hierophant.

Set 2: Foxtrot: Watcher of the Skies; Time Table; Get ’em Out by Friday; Can-Utility and the Coastliners; Horizons; Supper’s Ready. Encore: Firth of Frith; Myopia / Slogans / Los Endos.

Lindisfarne Pavilion Theatre Yarm 17 September 2022

lindistixLindisfarne have an intriguing and somewhat confusing history. There are, in practice, currently two versions of the band touring at the moment. The first, the Lindisfarne Story, comprises founding drummer Ray Laidlaw along with later vocalist and long-term friend of the band, Billy Mitchell who tour as a duo telling stories and singing acoustic versions of the Lindisfarne repertoire. I was lucky enough to see them quite recently at Durham Gala Theatre and have reported separately on that concert.

LINDIS5The second version of Lindisfarne is a fully electric band which tours the country playing all of the well-known songs that Lindisfarne are so famous for. Until a few years ago this band was fronted by Ray Jackson, former front man, singer and harmonica player who has now retired to focus upon his other passion, drawing and painting. I recently purchased a signed print of his “Fog on the Tyne” work, which  is excellent! This version of the band is now fronted by original member Rod Clements and features past members of Lindisfarne. It was this, electric version, of Lindisfarne that I was seeing in Yarm.

The following extract from the Pavilion Theatre‘s website summarises the bands history thus:

“LINDISFARNE emerged from Tyneside in the 1970s and quickly carved out a unique place for themselves as one of British rock’s most original bands. Their pioneering sound, combining acoustic instruments like mandolin and fiddle with their electric blues roots, proved the perfect medium to deliver the catchy, memorable songs provided by the band’s resident writers Alan Hull and Rod Clements.

LINDIS3Their first hit, the Clements-penned “Meet Me on the Corner”, paved the way for their classic Fog on the Tyne to become the UK’s top-selling album of 1972. LINDISFARNE’s unforgettable songs, powerful live performances and unpretentious style led to worldwide success and an enviable reputation as festival favourites, and the annual Christmas concerts they presented in their native Newcastle became the stuff of legend.

The original band finally called it a day in 2003, but now LINDISFARNE are back with a classic five-piece line up of long-time members fronted by original founder-member Rod Clements (vocals, mandolin, fiddle, slide guitar) and Alan Hull’s son-in-law Dave Hull-Denholm (vocals, guitars). “ Other members are: Steve Daggett (vocals, keyboards, acoustic guitar and harmonica) who has been in the band since 1986; Ian Thomson (electric and double bass) a member since 1995 and Paul Smith (drums) who joined more recently in 2021.”

“With a repertoire of much-loved songs like “Meet Me on the Corner”, “Fog on the Tyne”, “Lady Eleanor” and “Run for Home. “…

The Princess Alexandra Auditorium is a stunning venue on the Yarm School site. “A visit to the Auditorium is memorable, with beautiful views of the River Tees”. And memorable, indeed, it is. This beautiful venue is hidden behind Yarm school and has been open for 10 years. It really is a stunning venue and I am surprised that I have never heard of it before.

LINDIS 1We had great seats in the front row and got there just in time to see Lindisfarne (no support act) begin the proceedings with old favourite “No Time to Lose”. The concert was in two sets with a short interval between them. What can I say! The new (-ish) band play all the old favourites and do them 100% justice. Rod Clements is a quiet yet charismatic front man who introduces many of the songs. Dave Hull-Denholm performs his father-in-law’s songs with the reverence they deserve and his vocals sound very much like Alan Hull. Steve Daggett sings quite a few of the songs and again does justice to the Lindisfarne repertoire. So in the first set we get great tunes such as the enigmatic, melodic early classic “Lady Eleanor”. This song always intrigues me. The lyric “in came Roderick Usher with the lady Eleanor” is not quite true to the Edgar Allan Poe tail “The Fall of the House of Usher”. The lady in question is actually Madeline not Eleanor. I wonder why they use that particular poetic licence? Other favourites are “Road to Kingdom Come” and, closing the first set, “January Song”.

LINDIS 2The second set begins with another great Lindisfarne classic “Alright on the Night”. Soon we get a wonderful, atmospheric performance of the much underrated “Dingley Dell”. This brings back lovely memories of seeing Lindisfarne at Newcastle City Hall on the Dingley Dell tour. I went both nights as there were different supports each night and I was a fan of each band: Stackridge and Genesis! Happy days. Then, my particular favourite which still makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck: Dave performing “Winter Song”. Soon we are into the hits: “We can Swing Together”, “Fog on the Tyne” and “Meet me on the Corner”, followed by the massive hit Lindisfarne reunion song “Run for Home”. And the closer, yes it had to be “Clear White Light”. I am transported back to the first time I saw Lindisfarne in the City Hall sandwiched between headliner Van der Graaf Generator and new up-and-coming band Genesis. All for 25p as I recall! Happy days

A great night spent with a great local band. Wonderful. The taxi takes around one hour to get me back home and soon I am in my bed thinking how wonderful Lindisfarne remain.

LINDISFLYEROn the way out we are given a flyer for the Newcastle City Hall Lindisfarne Christmas concert, following the tradition of many years. I went to what I think was the 1st Christmas concert at Newcastle City Hall in 1971. Sadly I am unable to attend this year as I will be seeing Rod Stewart at Newcastle Arena on the same night. Such dilemmas always annoy me and sent to try me! This was one of the reasons I made the trip to Yarm to see Lindisfarne. Many thanks to carer Jan for taking the photos. No merchandise to buy this evening.

So I am left with the question: who provides the better evening; the Lindisfarne Story or Lindisfarne? A question which is of course impossible to answer. They are both excellent bands who both hold a rightful place in the history and legacy of Tyneside’s greatest band. We should celebrate that we have two opportunities to hear and sing along with, those great classic songs that are such an important part of my youth.

Setlist: Set 1: No Time to Lose; Turn a Deaf Ear; Scarecrow Song; Song for a Windmill; Lady Eleanor; All Fall Down; Anyway the Wind Blows; Marshall Riley’s Army; Road to Kingdom Come; 100 Miles to Liverpool; January Song.

Set 2: Alright on the Night; Together Forever; Dingly Dell; Songbook; Winter Song; Numbers (Travelling Band); We Can Swing Together; Fog on the Tyne; Meet Me on the Corner; Run for Home; Clear White Light.

Justin Hayward Darlington Hippodrome 13 September 2022

justin7Well, the last time I was at Darlington Hippodrome, it was called Darlington Civic Theatre and the performance was by none other than the Chuckle Brothers (Laura was a big fan at the time). I remember, I think it was on another occasion we saw the Chuckle Brothers at Newcastle Tyne Theatre, the late great lovely Barry Chuckle sang “Tell Laura I Love Her” to Laura as he signed her programme; which we both found quite funny and also quite touching! But that’s a story for another day.

justin4The Civic Theatre has morphed into the Hippodrome after some refurbishment which has entailed the construction of a new entrance, bar and restaurant which has lots of glass and is lovely. The old theatre remains as it was, still maintaining the lovely vintage red chairs, boxes and balconies as it did back in the day of the musical. Wonderful.

justin6But tonight was a night full of nostalgia in the company of the great Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues. Justin has toured a few times recently and I meant to catch up with him but for some reason or other never managed to. Anyway I put that right the other evening and shared a great night with the man who is in many ways the voice of the Moody Blues.

Given the passing of the only original member drummer Graeme Edge, and Justin and John Lodge each performing their own solo tours, it seems the Moody Blues no longer exist. So, experiencing Justin Hayward in performance is the closest we are likely to get to a full Moody Blues concert. We had a great view in the third row of the stalls, and the sound was perfect.

justin 1 - CopyOpening the show, with a short set of three or four songs was Mike Dawes, a simply amazing guitarist. Imagine this: he played the bass parts with his left thumb on the lower strings, the melody in chords with his left fingers, the lead guitar parts with his right hand plucking the strings and hitting the frets to create harmonics, and his elbow hitting the guitar to produce rhythmic drum sounds. All of this while he jumped around on stage. Redefining the concept of the one-man band. Unlike anything I have seen before. The guy took a short break and then reappeared as part of Justin’s band. The rest of the bad was an excellent flautist and another lady playing keyboards and providing accompanying vocals. During the short interval I took the chance to buy a nice cool Guinness, and a couple of programmes and signed posters for my friend John and I.

JUSTIN POSTER - CopyThe set consisted of a mix of Justin’s solo material and Moody Blues songs, some very familiar and some less so. Justin talked quite a lot to the audience, explaining the background to each track. After a couple of songs we were into the beautiful “Tuesday Afternoon”, one of my favourite Moody Blues tunes, from the magnificent Days of Future Passed. This was followed by more lovely melodic songs and then another favourite “The Voice” and “Forever Autumn” from Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds. This was soon followed by the classic “Question” (I still recall the Moody Blues playing this on Top of the Pops) and closing the show was (what else could it be) “Nights in White Satin”. Justin’s voice is as strong and beautiful as it ever was. The encore consisted of three songs including two more of my favourites “The Story in Your Eyes” and “I Know You’re out There Somewhere”. A great night with a great voice and a great man. Excellent. Happy days.

JUSTIN PROG - CopySetlist: The Eastern Sun; Driftwood; Tuesday Afternoon; The Actor; Hope and Pray; The Western Sky; The Voice;    Living for Love; Forever Autumn; Never Comes the Day; Your Wildest Dreams; Question; Nights in White Satin;     Encore: The Story in Your Eyes; I Know You’re Out There Somewhere; I Just Don’t Care.

It was great to see a friend from the blog who came up to say hello!

Sweet Dreams are Made of This: My Life in Music – An Evening with Dave Stewart Sunderland Firestation 9 September 2022

DAVE S TIXThis was a special evening to celebrate Dave Stewart’s 70th birthday. It was also a homecoming gig at a new venue, the recently constructed Sunderland Firestation, which is on the site of the old main fire station, next to Sunderland Empire Theatre. The venue proudly advertised the concert on its website: “We are delighted and excited to welcome Sunderland legend Dave Stewart to The Fire Station for this very special “Evening with” type event where Dave will tell the story of his life in music. Expect conversation, live music, film and much more in this especially curated event where Dave will share his experiences from his earliest musical influences growing up in Sunderland, through his stratospheric success with Annie Lennox and Eurythmics, fascinate us with stories about his many collaborations with among others, U2, Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, Stevie Nicks, Daryl Hall, Gwen Stefani, Katy Perry, through to the release of his most recent album, the brilliant and epic Ebony McQueen and the subsequent film due to be released about his life growing up in Sunderland.”

dave s cover bookThe concert sold out almost immediately (the venue is relatively small holding only a few hundred people) and I was lucky enough to get tickets. The show was full of lots of reminiscences for me personally. First up, it was opened by old friend Malcolm Gerrie, who hails from Sunderland (Peterlee actually) and who taught at Ryhope school, where he produced school performances of The Who’s rock opera Tommy and the David Essex film Stardust. I remember many chats with Malcolm in the past. Once he told me how he went to see Led Zeppelin (possibly then called the New Yardbirds) at local venue the Peterlee Argus Butterfly, a concert that was attended by a small number of people. I was so jealous! His early experiences led to him producing the local TV show The Tube and directing many TV shows since then.

Malcolm explained how a young long-haired guy used to come into the local clothes shop, Sergeant Peppers, and sit and sing his songs. The young guy was, of course, none other than Dave Stewart. My late wife, Marie, used to manage her mother’s clothing factory which made all of the clothes for the aforementioned Sergeant Peppers. Malcolm explained how he got a phone call a few days prior to the show from Dave asking him to come over and introduce him. How could he decline such a request from an old friend? Of course, he didn’t, and was proud and pleased to be able to do so.

Dave_Stewart_(6424621779)After Malcolm’s introduction, Dave Stewart came on to further explain how he used to also shop at local fashion shop West One, where he would get custom-made leather jackets! He then reminisced about his folkrock band Longdancer, who went on to get a record deal with Rocket Records, Elton John’s label. He explained how he joined The Tourists with a lady called Annie Lennox and another Sunderland musician Pete Coombs who wrote the songs for the band. Surprisingly, Dave and Annie did not compose together until they formed the Eurythmics.

I have lots of fond memories of seeing Dave Stewart in many incarnations. First, in aforementioned folk rock band Longdancer at Sunderland Locarno in the early 1970s. Then, some years on, with Annie Lennox in the Tourists again at Sunderland Locarno, at Newcastle City Hall and at the Reading Festival. Further on in his career, I was lucky enough to see Eurythmics perform at Newcastle City Hall. I also recall seeing Dave Stewart join Fergal Sharkey on stage for an encore at Newcastle City Hall, on Fergal’s first solo tour after leaving the Undertones. I saw Dave Stewart at Sunderland Empire at another homecoming concert and with Ringo Starr at the opening of the Capital of Culture in Liverpool, which was also the opening concert at the new venue, Liverpool Arena (all reported on my blog).

dave sign pageDave has done pretty well for a lad from Sunderland. He has sold in excess of 100 million albums worldwide. He has also played with some of the biggest names in the business. It is great that he remembers his roots, and this return home concert was much anticipated by the people of Sunderland.

No photography was allowed at the show, so I have illustrated this entry with a picture of his recent autobiography, which is also the name of this concert, and which I purchased a signed copy at the aforementioned Sunderland Empire concert. The photo of Dave Stewart is courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Eva Rinaldi. Dave took this through his entire career showing video footage of him composing a song over the phone with Bono, singing with Mick Jagger, and other famous collaborations. He is an amazingly accomplished guy, and has collaborated with stars including the late Tom Petty and Bob Dylan. This was intertwined with performances of some of his best-known songs by his magnificent band including a vocalist who sang the Annie Lennox parts of the Eurythmics songs perfectly. At one point a sax player appeared from the back of the audience and she walked directly beside us, then towards and up onto the stage playing the saxophone part of one of the songs. Similarly the drummer walked down from the audience to the stage clicking his drumsticks together before taking up the drum stool. Fantastic. By the end of the concert and “Sweet Dreams” everyone was up and singing and dancing along. A great evening with a local hero. You can read a full review of the show here. Review: Dave Stewart at The Fire Station – Cultured North East

Setlist: Ebony Says; Missionary Man; Ebony Mcqueen; There Must Be an Angel (Playing With My Heart); Lily Was Here; Jack of All Trades; When Tomorrow Comes; I Saved the World Today; Here Comes the Rain Again; Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)

ABBA: Voyage The ABBA arena London 1 September 2022

abba 1Apologies for the break in transmission which I felt appropriate during the time of mourning for our Queen and the transition to King Charles.

How do you explain the inexplicable? Did I really see what I thought I did a couple of weeks ago in London? This was an experience like no other and one that has to be seen to be believed.

“Blending cutting-edge technology, spectacular lighting, and some of the most beloved songs ever written, ABBA take to the stage in a whole new way. In a stunning, purpose-built arena, one of the most popular groups in history appear as digital avatars in a ‘ground-breaking’ (Metro) concert that really ‘needs to be seen to be believed” (BBC).

I saw ABBA in concert, once only, in 1979 at Stafford Bingley Hall which was an old cattle market. It smelt of cattle and sheep and I swear that I saw bits of straw on the floor. I went there twice, once to see The Who (the first concert there as I recall), and once to see ABBA. For The Who concert it was standing everywhere; for ABBA it was set out with plastic chairs across the floor. My friend Davey and I were seated quite close to the front and ABBA were, as you would expect, sensational. They were at the height of their success and sang all the hits. I have reviewed the concert on my blog elsewhere (enter ABBA in the search box).

abba 2Now going to a concert these days takes some organisation. There are quite a lot of logistics involved including booking assistance on the train to make sure that a friendly guy appears with a ramp to get me on and off the train. On this occasion three carers accompanied me, all of us excited at the experience. We travelled direct from Sunderland to London via the lovely Grand Central service. The guy with the ramp appeared like magic both there and back on the journey. Once at King’s Cross we checked in to a Premier Inn which is directly opposite the station. After a quick rest we were off to the ABBA arena via a fast train from St Pancras to Stratford International and then a Docklands Light Railway (DLR) to Pudding Mill Lane station. Again, this all worked well with passenger assistance helping me out with a ramp without any pre-warning on the fast train. The DLR is similar to a tube train and I can easily navigate my wheelchair straight on. All no problem. Excellent! The ABBA arena is then a short walk over the road.

abba progOnce we got inside I bought some merchandise including a couple of programmes for my friend John and I, and some badges for my daughter. We picked up our drinks and then took our seats in the arena. What happened next was a revelation. Somehow, using magical technology, the ABBA people have managed, using avatars, to recreate the four members of the group just as they were in 1979. All four are there in front of us singing the hits. You can get a feel for the show from the link contained in this review in the Guardian. Lights and mirrors appear from the ceiling, rotating, and moving screens display the group while they lead the songs from the back of the stage. An excellent band accompanies them. Each member speaks to us, their faces appearing exactly as they looked “back in the day”. Unbelievable.

The set list is everything you could wish for. After a couple of songs I didn’t recognise we are into the hits: “SOS”, “Knowing Me, Knowing You”, “Fernando” and so it goes on. One of my favourites “Eagle” is accompanied by a computer-generated video of a young boy marvelling at an eagle flying “high in the sky”. The hits just keep coming. For “Waterloo” they choose to show footage of the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest which they won and took place in the UK, in Brighton. I don’t mind admitting I had tears in my eyes at this point. Everything was perfectly recreated. They close with “Thank You for the Music” and “Dancing Queen”. By this point I am melting down; I find the whole experience highly emotional. It takes me back to a time when things were very different and when ABBA were wonderful. And tonight they are abba 3wonderful again. By now the girls are clapping and dancing, as is the entire arena. Finally we are treated to an encore of “The Winner Takes It All”. Then another piece of magic happens. The avatars become the group as they are now. They come to the front of the stage and thank us for coming along to the show.

Then we are out into the dark night and the journey back to the hotel via DLR and the fast train all work smoothly. We stop off for some supper of burgers/hot dogs and chips in Five Guys at King’s Cross. Then I am soon back in bed, the whole experience swirling round in my head, not believing what I have just experienced.

So is this the future of rock concerts? Will this technology enable us to see The Beatles in concert? It opens up all sorts of possibilities. Will my grandchildren be treated to avatars recreating the Rolling Stones, The Who, Fleetwood Mac, Eagles, Bob Dylan; the list goes on as do the possibilities. Will arena shows based on virtual reality replace tribute bands in the future? The technology is there now and proven to work. After its very significant run of shows in London the ABBA arena will grace major cities around the world. This show could go on for ever, treating fans to a glimpse of the past and bringing history back to life.

The next morning we have some breakfast, and then we are up and back on our train to Sunderland. All works well. And “a good time was had by all”, to coin a well-known phrase! My trip back to 1979 was pure magic and if you get the chance please go and see the show. It is as good as everything you read about it. Happy days!

Setlist: The Visitors; Hole In Your Soul; SOS; Knowing Me, Knowing You; Chiquitita; Fernando; Mamma Mia; Does Your Mother Know?; Eagle; Lay All Your Love On Me; Summer Night City; Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight); Voulez-Vous; When All Is Said And Done; Don’t Shut Me Down; I Still Have Faith In You; Waterloo; Thank You For The Music; Dancing Queen.

Encore: The Winner Takes It All

Colosseum York Crescent 27 August 2022

coltixLast night I spent an evening in the company of 1960s legendary jazz rock band Colosseum. This was quite an adventure actually, involving taking two carers for safety, Elaine and Jan, and a taxi to Durham station then the train to York station and a short walk to the venue, the Crescent. The train journey involved a guy turning up with a ramp to get me on the train at Durham and another guy at the other end to get me off the train. All worked seamlessly. The girl who got me on the train at Durham just before 7 PM said she would be waiting for me around midnight when we returned.

col4The Crescent is a lovely venue. It was a working men’s club, dating back to the 1920s. There is a great picture of the house band from those days on display in the entrance. We took a nice photograph of the picture. The Crescent has a friendly feel about it and it is great to be able to see a band up close in a small venue. It is a short 10 minutes walk from York station which we negotiated quite well, particularly over some cobbled streets which my wheelchair and I do not take well to! It holds around 250 people and was unreserved seating for the evening. When we arrived around 8 PM the venue was quite full but we managed to find a couple of seats for Elaine and Jan at the end of the second row and I took my place alongside them. We were informed that the band would be taking the stage at 8:30 PM and would play two sets with a short interval.

col3Now this was the 1969 incarnation of Colosseum (or as close to it as possible) but of course the founder, leader, the late great Jon Hiseman passed away some years ago, as did very recently, his wife Barbara Thompson who also played saxophone and wind instruments with the band. So the line-up consisted of, from the 1969 band, the great man himself Chris Farlowe on vocals and Clem Clempson on guitar. Also in the band today is bassist Mark Clarke, who joined in 1970. So three members from an early line up of the band is pretty good for me! Chris Farlowe is, of course, of “Out of Time” fame and Clem Clempson was a member of the great Humble Pie alongside Steve Mariott. Colosseum were a legendary 1960s jazz rock outfit. Sadly I never saw the 1960s band but I did see Colosseum II , which featured Gary Moore alongside Don Airey (now Deep Purple and from my hometown Sunderland).

I was really looking forward to this concert and to experiencing some 60s jazz rock. The website of the Crescent stated: “The progressive rock group will feature original members including legendary lead singer Chris Farlowe, alongside lead guitarist Clem Clempson and bass player and vocalist Mark Clarke. But it will also introduce exciting new musicians Nick Steed (keyboards), Kim Nishikawara (saxophones) and Malcolm Mortimore (drums).”

col2The website continued: “Colosseum came to fame in 1969 when the band led by legendary drummer Jon Hiseman released its debut album Those Who Are About To Die Salute You. The band soon caused a sensation with their powerful blend of rock, jazz and classical music. Their appearances at major rock festivals drew huge crowds and fans flocked to concerts as they performed epic works like the “Valentyne Suite” and “Lost Angeles”. More best selling studio albums followed, notably Valentyne Suite (1969) and The Daughter of Time is Truth (1970). Changes in personnel saw the arrival of the soulful Chris Farlowe, famed for his Sixties chart hit ‘Out Of Time’ and Clem Clempson, the young blues guitar virtuoso and vocalist and bass player Mark Clarke.”

The first set consisted of quite a few songs from their new album Restoration and some more familiar classic Colosseum material including, the late great Jack Bruce’s “Rope Ladder to the Moon” and closing for the interval with the fantastic instrumental piece, and title track of their second album, “Valentyne Suite”. Chris Farlowe has a voice which is as soulful, powerful and strong as ever. He is amazing for an 81-year-old gentleman. He demonstrates a wide vocal range in some of the more jazzy pieces. Chris did take a rest during some of the instrumental pieces, but hey, he certainly deserved it as his performance was flawless. Clempson remains an expert guitarist and the rest of the band are also all great musicians and each took a solo, demonstrating their virtuosity. Bass player Mark Clarke took the vocals on some of the songs and also demonstrates a powerful voice.

col 6After a short interval, just giving me time for another Guinness (just a half this time making a pint and half in total: very adventurous for me on an evening!), the band returned and treated us to more new and old Colosseum tracks. They began with a surprise. Clem Clempson started playing the introduction to “Out Of Time” and Chris joined in, as did the crowd. Chris told us “this is the first time, and will probably be the last that Colosseum perform that song!” Clem continued to tempt by playing the introduction to “Handbags and Gladrags” but Chris wouldn’t be drawn and they moved on to “proper” Colosseum material. This included the late great Graham Bond’s song “Walking in the Park” and Chris returning to the blues for “Stormy Monday”. In order to catch our train home we had to leave during the latter song. Checking the set list for the London show it looks like we missed the epic instrumental “Lost Angeles” and an encore of Jack Bruce’s” Theme from Imaginary Western”, a particular favourite of mine. Sad but train times had the better of us.

We got to the train station on time and the guy with the ramp was waiting on platform 11 to help me onto the train. There were some Saturday night revellers in the station, a little worse for wear, but not causing any trouble. There are always rail police on watch to ensure the crowds don’t get too rowdy! We were soon back at Durham station where the lady, true to her word, was waiting to assist me off the train. Then it was back into the taxi, off home and the two ladies helped me back into bed. It was around 1 AM and I was quite tired; but it had been a great evening, in a great venue, with a great band!

Setlist: Set 1: No Pleasin’; Story of the Blues; Need Somebody; Rope Ladder to the Moon (Jack Bruce); Hesitation; Valentyne Suite; Set 2: Segment of Out Of Time; intro to Handbags and Gladrags; First in Line; Walking in the Park (The Graham Bond Organisation); Tonight; A Cowboy’s Song; Stormy Monday Blues (T‐Bone Walker); Lost Angeles; Encore: Theme for an Imaginary Western (Jack Bruce)

The First Orgone Tour: Kala, Kingdom Come? and Ange Sunderland Locarno 13 April1973

kala2A strange one this, and a bit of a mystery. I saw this advert, which is a cutting from Melody Maker, for sale on eBay. As it was for a concert which I have vague memories of attending I could not resist buying it. The advert is for The First Orgone Tour and featured a date at Sunderland Locarno, a ballroom which I frequented almost every week at the time. Now Kala were a spin-off from the band Quintessence, who played Indian influenced progressive rock and of whom I was a big fan at the time. I’m not quite sure whether I actually ever got to see Quintessence, I have vague memories of seeing them at the Locarno but can’t be sure. I also almost saw them at the Reading festival in 1972, where they were second on the bill to Ten Years After on the Sunday night. However, the proceedings ran late and Quintessence were forced to play after Ten Years After to allow Alvin Lee and his band to headline at a decent time (I think there may have been a stage curfew of midnight or so). Quintessence came on stage after a great performance by Ten Years After, but because it was so late I’m not certain that they were actually allowed to perform. I had to rush off for my train back to London as I recall. Anyway I had the Quintessence album In Blissful Company and loved the tracks “Notting Hill Gate” (“Things look great in Notting Hill Gate”) and “Pearl and Bird”. Happy days.
Now Kingdom Come were, of course, my hero Arthur Brown’s post Crazy World band. I recall seeing a simply magnificent performance by Kingdom Come at Sunderland Polytechnic around the same time as this gig which featured Arthur being crucified on a massive cross and a Brain running around the ballroom floor chasing the Pope (it had to be seen to be believed!) I am certain if Arthur Brown and his mad company had supported the aforementioned Kala I would have remembered it. I do recall seeing Kala and they were led by Raja Ram from Quintessence and performed a similarly Indian influenced form of prog rock, featuring lots of flute and were pretty great.

I found this about Kala: “Although Quintessence played many hundred of concerts and festivals all over Europe, they never made it to the United States. Although a concert at New York’s Carnegie Hall was already lined up in early 1972, they didn’t make it because Shiva and Maha Dev were asked to leave the band by Raja Ram in spring 1972. Shiva and Maha Dev went on to form the short-lived outfit called Kala. With ego clashes and problems on many frontiers, Kala quickly folded and Quintessence, now trying to make it the body without a head, and bereft of a sense of purpose, direction and being victims of the changing times, played on into the eighties, then slowly drifted into limbo.” http://www.acidvisions.com/musiccatalog/k/kala/index.html

I looked up Orgone and found this (isn’t Wikipedia wonderful): Orgone is a pseudoscientific concept variously described as an esoteric energy or hypothetical universal life force. Pretty hippie stuff, which just matches the mood of the time exactly.

First on the bill that night were a French band, about which I found this: Ange (English: Angel) is a French progressive rock band formed in September 1969 by the Décamps brothers, Francis (keyboards) and Christian (vocals, accordion, acoustic guitar and keyboards). Since its inception the band’s music has been inspired by medieval texts and fantasy. Again, pretty fitting for the time, and it seems the band still exist. Sadly, I have little recollection of seeing them that night.

So, an evening full of mystery and Indian influenced progressive rock hippie music. Very much of its time. Happy days. Wish I had a better memory and that I had kept a diary.