The second half of the year started with Eels at Newcastle Academy. Another first for me and they didn’t disappoint. They looked the part, suited booted and wearing shades and cooked up a storm. A stunning version of Sly and The Family Stones Hot Fun In The Summertime seemed perfect for a balmy July evening.
The following night I was across the river Tyne to see Bright Eyes at The Sage Gateshead. They were supported by Jenny & Johnny who with Sleepingdog might just take the award for the best support act of 2011. Bright Eyes or Conor Oberst were brilliant, I was expecting a dark couple of hours what I got was a gut really confident in his own abilities playing with the crowd and pushing the band to the limit. Amazing and unexpected.
So then on to my Birthday. Part of the Americana Festival at The Sage Gateshead Lyle Lovett was booked to play on the 24th July. I say booked to play as I have had tickets to see Lovett twice before and both times he has cancelled so I wasn’t building my hopes up. Well he did turn up this time and I’m glad he did. Although billed as an acoustic show he still brought an 8 piece band and made my wish he hadn’t cancelled the other 2 shows, cool and confident he delivered a great set, and stories in between songs that just made you want the night to go on and on.
Next up were The Low Anthem and my second visit to Gateshead Old Town Hall. They didn’t come on until 10pm and only played for an hour but want we did get was wonderful. Some very old instruments and an amazing trick with 2 mobile phones made this a great night. I the pub beforehand I was commenting on some weirdly dressed guys having a meal next to us. I realised when the band came on that weird looking bunch were actually the band!!
Next up was my first of 2 trips to Edinburgh, this time to see The National. The Corn Exchange is a nice sized venue and I had been excited about seeing The National for the first time. A great crowd were delivered a great performance from the band, which are at the moment on top of their game. Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks played without any microphones was amazing and a moment when the singer put his head through the ceiling had to be seen to be understood!
Back on home ground to see David Ford opened my account for September. My third fail of the year as I have seen Ford on a number of times before. He never disappoints and assisted by Velvet Hands Arnold and Piss Whisky 1 hour 40 minutes skipped by. A class act live.
Next up in September is a new venue in Newcastle for me The Hoochie Coochie Bar. I luxury bar that appears to be trying to make a name for itself bringing in 80’s soul artists (think Omar, Brand New Heavies etc) Although most of the artists are not to my taste, Skip McDonald caught my eye. Skip played guitar most of the Grand Master Flash huge hits of the 80’s but I know him as the main man behind Little Axe a amazing Blues Fusion band, mixing blues with drum beats loops and elements on dup to make an amazing sound, so the opportunity to see this guy up close and personal cannot be missed.....or so I thought! Playing on his own with a loop he played just over an hour of rambling songs that didn’t seem to have much structure and at points even made up. There were some beautiful moments of clarity which hinted of what might have been but overall it was a disappointment.
My 4th and final fail of the year as I turned up to see Danny and The Champions of The World. I have lost track of how many times I have seen Danny Wilson (the man behind The Champs) whether with Grand Drive, solo or with The Champs and he never fails to deliver. With a full band he rattled through most of the new Hearts and Arrows album and still held the audience in the palm of his hand. Danny wears his influences of Springsteen and Tom Petty on his sleeve and fans of these artists could do worse than look Danny and The champs up.
October turned out to be a busy month starting with Bombay Bicycle Club at Newcastle Academy. 3 albums in this band grow and grow. They arrived with a confident air and delivered a high energy set culled from all 3 albums. No Leaving Blues which was a disappointment to me, but to be honest it wouldn’t have fitted into tonight set. This band are on the ascendancy and will be playing much bigger venues than this very soon.
The next night I turned up at The Cluny 2 to see one of my favourite artists Karima Francis if you follow me on Twitter you’ll know how much I like this girl, she has an amazing voice that deserves to be heard by a bigger audience. Although I have seen Karima before it was part of a festival so I don’t count this as a fail. We were treated to an amazing night in a tiny venue (maybe a 100 people) where most of the audience knew most of the words. A proud moment came prior to the last song of the night when Karima asked whether I was at the gig, and thanked me for all the promotion I do for her on Twitter! Never had a shout out at a gig before!
So 4 nights later I turned up at Newcastle Riverside (another new venue for me) to see Benjamin Francis Leftwich, I was expecting a lot as the media had made a massive fuss about BFL so I was somewhat disappointed to get 40 minutes of lukewarm songs and a fairly poor cover of Springsteen’s Highway Patrolman. The crowd went mad which amazed me but could only make me think how fickle the music industry is after seeing Karima a few days before a far better artist who so few people know about.
So on to maybe my most anticipated gig of the year. Bon Iver in Edinburgh. The venue Usher Hall was amazing and although our seats were virtually on the ceiling (I kid you not) the gig was simply amazing. The audience was incredible the performance was spellbinding. There were some amazing moments and the ovation the band they got at the end had to been seen to be believed. Awesome.
So my last gig of October and I head Newcastle City Hall for what will be my most emotional gig of the year. Glen Campbell is touring for the final time as he is now suffering with Alziemers so I couldn’t miss the last opportunity to hear Wichita Lineman sung by the man who made it famous. The support Instant People who are made up of 3 of Campbell’s siblings were brilliant and then acted as Glen’s band. I can’t pretend that this will go down as one of Campbell’s best live performances but nobody was complaining. At times he was a little confused and his guitar playing was painful at times but Galveston, Southern Nights, Rhinestone Cowboy and the wonderful Wichita Lineman were dispatched beautifully and the material from the new album Ghost On The Canvas proved that Campbell still has something to offer. A special night.
November started with Lanterns On The Lake a North East band on the rise. A sold out Sage (Hall 2) were treat to an amazing performance as their debut album Gracious Tide, Take Me Home in its entirety. Stand out tracks for me If I’ve Been Unkind and Kingdom were spellbinding. Watch out for these guys in 2012 it could be their year.
I was really looking forward to seeing Turin Brakes a band I have loved since The Optimist album but have never bothered to see live, so it’s with a deep sign that I say something was missing from this gig. Maybe it was me as others that were there really enjoyed it. There was something missing for me, the band seemed to rattle through The Optimist Album (yes it was one of those tours) and then returned for an encore of other ‘hits’. An ok gig nothing wrong with it but not what I was hoping for.
December opened with a trip to Manchester to see Swedish shoe gazers I Break Horses, a meet up with Twitter buddies, Phil, Kirstan and Justine made this trip all the sweeter. The gig was great (at The Soup Kitchen) for a band that seemed confident and assured even though their debut album has just been released.
So my last gig of the year Aloe Blacc at Newcastle Academy, it started badly for me when in noticed that Aloe would be coming to the merch desk after the gig (this is a good thing) however it would cost £10 for a photo and an autograph! The support was a young Australian girl dancing to the music of a DJ, poor doesn’t describe this. So I was needing Aloe to pull this night back with a greatest performance and unfortunately it didn’t happen. The band tried too hard and really were not that tight and the whole thing just didn’t work for me. I left early before he had even sang I Need A Dollar and my final gig of the year was over.....
Aloe Blacc should have been my last gig of the year I had a ticket to see Malcolm Middleton but sadly forgot so missed it.