Posts Tagged ‘americana’

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

Crosby, Stills & Nash Gateshead Sage October 15th 2013

Crosby, Stills & Nash Gateshead Sage October 15th 2013
csntix The past 10 years has seen several visits to the UK by Crosby and Nash, and CS&N, after many years of not visiting this country. This is the fourth time that I’ve seen C&N or CS&N in the last ten years, as well as solo shows by Stephen Stills and Neil Young. This year’s tour features Crosby, Stills and Nash who played to a packed Sage concert hall in Gateshead last night. Laura decided to join me this time. She’s not a fan, but is familiar with some of their songs, largely as a result of hearing me play them. The show was almost three hours, with an interval and featured all of the classic CS&N tracks, with some solo material and some new songs. The harmonies were, as always, still beautiful.
csnprog From the programme: “Welcome to our world of music. All our lives we’ve been focussed on touching your hearts and hopefully having you think abut the crazy world we still live in….whether it’s a love song or a subject of vital importance, it’s essential for us to communicate with you and make you a part of our lives. Hopefully our music will help you feel less lonely, less crazy and perhaps, inspire you to do something positive about your life and the lives of others. Time, family and friends are our only true currency and we have to recognise that all of us together, can make a difference and help make the world a better place for ourselves and our children. Rock on!” Still old hippies at heart, and still out there playing for us, and doing a pretty damn good job of it too.
The set list included (from memory; I have definitely missed some): Carry On/Questions; Marrakesh Express; Long Time Gone; Southern Cross; Lay Me Down; Bluebird; Love the One You’re With. Interval. Helplessly Hoping; Golden Days; Treetop Flyer; What Are Their Names; Guinnevere; Just a Song Before I Go; Burning for the Buddha; Our House; Teach Your Children; Almost Cut My Hair; Wooden Ships. Encore: Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.

Little Feat Newcastle City Hall 1977

Little Feat Newcastle City Hall 1977
feattixLittle Feat played two nights at Newcastle City in 1977, as part of a UK tour. I attended the first concert. There was no support act. The line-up of the band at the time was the late great Lowell George on vocals and guitar, Paul Barrere on guitar, Richie Hayward on drums, Bill Payne on keyboards, Sam Clayton on percussion and Kenny Gradney on bass. Feat were also accompanied for the tour by the Tower of Power horn section. The tour was to promote their sixth studio album Time Loves A Hero. I’d seen Little Feat previously when they supported The Who at their 1976 Charlton concert, but can’t pretend that I was a massive fan; although they were undoubtedly a fine band. To my shame I never took the trouble to listen to much of their stuff. This was still the case when I went to see them with my friend Ian in 1977, so most of the set was new to me. I did of course recognise Dixie Chicken, and enjoyed the concert. This was the band at the peak of their powers, and the show certainly showed off their excellent musicianship. featprog I saw similarities to the Grateful Dead show that I attended at the same venue a few years earlier; lots of jamming, top class playing, and quite laid back southern rock. I really should have invested the time to get to know their material before I went to see them. From the tour programme: “Little Feat. Six albums strong, turning the fine edge of their music into a resiliency that has been able to withstand countless setbacks. Little Feat, finally at the juncture of in their colourful history where they’re able to have their cake and eat it too. Little Feat on the heels of Time Loves a Hero. It’s been six years of hard rock’n’roll labour but its obviously been worth it, from the beginning”. Lowell George sadly died of a heart attack in 1979. I saw the latest version of Little Feat at the Sage a year or so ago. Setlist: Walkin’ All Night; Fat Man in the Bathtub; Red Streamliner; Oh Atlanta; Day at the Dog Races; All That You Dream; Mercenary Territory; On Your Way Down; Skin It Back; Old Folks Boogie; Rock and Roll Doctor; Cold Cold Cold; Dixie Chicken; Tripe Face Boogie.

George Hatcher Sunderland Polytechnic Wearmouth Hall 1976

George Hatcher Sunderland Polytechnic Wearmouth Hall 1976
georgeh George Hatcher and his band gigged quite a lot in the UK during the late 70s. I remember seeing them at this gig at Sunderland Poly Students Union, and also at the Reading festival in 1977 and supporting Dr Feelgood. My recollections are of a pretty hot southern rock band, who released a clutch of albums: Dr Run, Talking Turkey, and Rich Girl during the years 1976 to 1978. Although George is American he formed the band in the UK in the midst of punk and the NWOBHM, and did surprisingly well touring the UK and Europe, particularly given the musical climate at the time. The George Hatcher Band of that time consisted of George himself on vocals; John Thomas, guitar; Terry Slade, drummer; Steve wrenn, keyboards; Harris Jannou Bass; and Phillip Swan, guitar. They toured a lot; supporting AC/DC, Ted Nugent, The Kinks, Dr. Feelgood, and Supertramp along the way. In 1982 George returned to the USA and has toured there since, with some considerable success. I checked the George Hatcher band out, and they are still going strong, although the line-up has changed over the years, with only George remaining from the 70s. Its about time he returned to the UK for a tour.

Georgia Satellites Newcastle Mayfair 1990

Georgia Satellites Newcastle Mayfair 1990
georgiasats ROCK N ROLL!!!! The Georgia Satellites came as a breath of fresh air at the end of the 80s. They blended southern rock with old fashioned good-time rock n roll, and did it loud and fast with style. Their set was a mix of their own tunes, classic rock songs and some rock n roll standards. I remember this gig as loud, fast, and lots of fun. Their “hit” song was “Keep your hands to yourself” and they did a great version of “Hippy Hippy Shake”. I found a published setlist from 1989, which I would think gives an indication of what the band will have played at the Mayfair: I Dunno; Battleship Chains; Highway 61; Shake That Thing; Crazy; Don’t Pass Me By; The Myth Of Love; All Over But The Cryin’; Dan Takes Five; Another Chance; Bring Down The Hammer; Games People Play; Can’t Stand The Pain; Keep Your Hands To Yourself; Hippy Hippy Shake; Railroad Steel.

Eagles Glasgow Apollo Sunday 1 May 1977

This was the Hotel California tour and The Eagles were returning to the UK as a massive sell out act. I’d seen them twice before, once supporting Neil Young at Newcastle City Hall in the early 70s, and secondly on a bill with Elton John and The Beach Boys on a long hot day at Wembley Stadium. They were great on both occasions so I was looking forward to seeing them as a headline act. Their UK tour took in a few dates, and the nearest was in the wonderful, and sadly missed, Glasgow Apollo. They played two nights, Saturday and Sunday and we went to the second of the two gigs. I drove up with my mate Ian, and we were both excited about seeing The Eagles. We had seats reasonably close to the front, but not too close, as the Apollo stage was very high and the view from the first few rows sometimes wasn’t great and you were guaranteed to leave with a stiff neck. According to the ticket support came from Dan Fogelberg, although I believe this was changed and the actual support was Valerie Carter. A published setlist (from the Apollo website) shows them opening with Hotel California, which would now seem a strange choice for a first song, but the album was new at the time and therefore not well known at all. My memories are of a great concert, and of the band returning for an encore wearing kilts and accompanied by a lone Scottish piper. We drove home through the night playing a cassette of the Hotel California album, constantly rewinding and replaying the title track. Great memories of a great band in a legendary venue. Setlist: Hotel California; Take it easy; Life in the fast lane; Take it to the limit; New kid in town; Victim of love; James Dean; Witchy woman; Lyin’ eyes; One of these nights; Doolin’ Dalton; Desperado; Best of my love; Already gone; Rocky mountain way; Turn to stone

Crosby & Nash in Gateshead; and Crosby, Stills & Nash in Manchester 2005

Crosby & Nash in Gateshead; and Crosby, Stills & Nash in Manchester 2005
If you had asked me 10 years ago, I would have said that we wouldn’t see Crosby, Stills and Nash back in the UK. It seemed so long since they toured over here. I had my memories of the great CSNY gig at Wembley Stadium in 1974, and figured that would be the one and only time I saw that great band, or CSN, live in concert. However, I would have been wrong. The past 7 years has seen a few visits to the UK by Crosby and Nash, and CSN. The first news of this was that Crosby and Nash were to tour Europe in early 2005. The first concert to be announced was set for the Royal Festival Hall London in February 2005. I bought tickets straight away for Marie and I to go to that show; however within a week or so, a gig was added at The Sage Gateshead, a venue which is local to us. So I bought tickets for the Sage gig and sold our tickets for London (ebay comes in handy a lot these days). We had good seats for the Sage concert, and ran into lots of old friends there. The show started with Military Madness, and took us through all of those great songs, with those exquisite harmonies; as beautiful as ever. A month or so later, further UK dates were announced, this time with Stephen Stills as part of the line up. I couldn’t resist a chance to see CSN so bought tickets for the Manchester Arena concert. David came along with me and we both enjoyed it. These were two great gigs; these guys are responsible for some of the best music of the last 40 years. I’ve loved them since I heard Marrakesh Express on the radio in the late 60s.
The set list for Crosby and Nash gig was something like this: Military Madness; Marrakesh Express; Long Time Gone; Lay Me Down; In My Dreams; Broken Bird; Pre-Road Downs; Page 43; Jesus of Rio; They Want It All; Orleans / Cathedral; Déjà Vu; Live On (The Wall); Guinnevere; Milky Way Tonight; Puppeteer; Just a Song Before I Go; Delta; Don’t Dig Here; Wasted on the Way; To the Last Whale…A. Critical Mass B. Wind on the Water; Wooden Ships; Our House; Almost Cut My Hair. Encore: Teach Your Children.
The setlist for the CSNY gig was something like this: Part 1: Carry On; Marrakesh Express; Acadienne; Long Time Gone; Jesus of Rio; They Want It All; Guinnevere; Ole Man Trouble; Military Madness; In My Dreams; Feed the People; Déjà Vu. Part 2: Southern Cross; Helplessly Hoping; Lay Me Down; Milky Way Tonight; Spanish Suite; Don’t Dig Here; Love the One You’re With; Almost Cut My Hair; Chicago; Wooden Ships; Woodstock; Teach Your Children

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young Wembley Stadium 1974

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young Wembley Stadium 1974
Special guests: Joni Mitchell, The Band, Jesse Colin Young
Looking back this was a very strong line-up and a truly historic gig, although I’m not sure I realised it at the time. A group of us went down to London by train, primarily to see CSN&Y. To be honest ( and to my shame) I had little interest in seeing the other acts on the bill. This gig was very much a coming together of the long hairs; everyone there to see a cluster of west coast superstars who rarely appeared in the UK. The weather was good, a hot late summer day, and the vibe friendly and laid back. I remember running into loads of people from the North East. We had tickets for the stands, and couldn’t get down on the pitch which was frustrating. My mates and I spent some time next to the back stage area, star spotting. We saw (I think; from a bad….memory) members of the Moody Blues, The Faces, Led Zeppelin and Marc Bolan. My mate Don and I ran into Robert Plant in the gents, and we chatted to him; Don offered Plant a drink from his bottle of beer, Plant took a swig to Don’s delight (he swore he would keep the bottle for ever!). We arrived early and saw all the bands; I wish I’d taken more notice of their sets than I did. Jesse Colin Young’s “Darkness, Darkness” is now one of my favourite songs, but I remember nothing of what he played that day. I remember that the Band played a solid set including “The Weight”, “Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, and “Cripple Creek”. Joni Mitchell’s set was part solo on acoustic guitar or piano, and part accompanied by Tom Scott’s L.A. Express. Her album at the time was Court and Spark, and she played tracks from that lp plus favourites such as “Woodstock”, “Big Yellow Taxi” and “This Flight Tonight”. She is another artist who I really appreciate now; much more so than I did back then in the day. CSN&Y played a long set of around four (!) hours. They were just amazing; incredible harmonies, great musicianship. There were times when it dragged a little for me, as the set included a lot of songs which were unfamiliar to me. However, before too long another classic would come along, the harmonies would be spot on, and the guitar duels would spark off again. My enduring memories are of the start and end of their set. They started with an extended version of “Love the one you’re with” and the place went crazy. My last memory is of standing on a wooden bench, such as the seats were in the Wembley stands in those days, singing the chorus of “Ohio”, with 72,000 other people. Days don’t come any better. Where did the years go?
CSNY setlist: Love the One You’re With; Wooden Ships; Immigration Man; Helpless; Military Madness; Johnny’s Garden; Traces; Almost Cut My Hair; Teach Your Children; Only Love Can Break Your Heart; The Lee Shore; Time After Time; It’s All Right; Another Sleep Song; Our House; Hawaiian Sunrise; Star of Bethlehem; Love Art Blues; Old Man; Change Partners; Blackbird; Myth of Sisyphus; Word Game; Suite: Judy Blue Eyes; Déjà Vu; First Things First; Don’t Be Denied; Black Queen; Pushed It Over the End; Pre-Road Downs; Carry On; Ohio

America and Poco Newcastle Odeon 1975

America and Poco Newcastle Odeon 1975
This was a pretty cool line up, and was my fist time seeing both bands. I knew a lot of stuff by America, but nothing by Poco. I went along with my friend Ian, as I recall. America had previously toured as support for Family in 1971, but the gig was the same night as Led Zeppelin played Sunderland Locarno (theres a gig I must report on), so I didn’t go. So when they returned to Newcastle for this gig at the Odeon I made sure that I attended. The Odeon is now sadly closed, but was an important venue for gigs in the North East in the early 70s. It was a little bigger than the City Hall, with a capacity of around 3,000, and I saw a few bands play there: Humble Pie, King Crimson, Black Sabbath, ELP, The Faces and The Who come straight to mind. BY the mid 70s it had sadly been converted to a multi-screen cinema, and the capacity reduced. I am pretty sure that this was the case for this gig. I recall both bands being really good that night. Typical America set list from 1975: Tin Man; Muskrat Love; Baby It’s Up to You; Moon Song; Old Man Took; To Each His Own; Lonely People; I Need You; Don’t Cross The River; Ventura Highway; Only In Your Heart; Woman Tonight; The Story of a Teenager; Half a Man; Company; Hollywood; Sister Golden Hair; Encore: Sandman; A Horse With No Name. I also googled and found a Poco setlist from 1974: Blue Water; Fool’s Gold; Rocky Mt. Breakdown; Bad Weather; Hoedown; Railroad Days; Ride the Country; Faith in the Families; Angel; Drivin’ Wheel; I Guess You Made It; Restrain; A Right Along; C’Mon. My friend John, who was also at this gig, has just emailed me to remind me that America/Poco played “Don’t Cross the River if you can’t swim the tide” with both bands on stage as the final number.