KT TUNSTALL | LAUREL | 11.03.2019 |  Gateshead Sage | REVIEW and PHOTOS

KT TUNSTALL | LAUREL | 11.03.2019 | Gateshead Sage | REVIEW and PHOTOS

KT Tunstall and Laurel – 11th March 2019 – Gateshead Sage

Review and photos by Victoria Wai (Victoria Wai)

What I absolutely love about both the support act and headliner on this night is that there are no airs and graces but pure passion and appreciation of being able to do what they do for an audience that has gathered, who are also just as appreciative of what they see before them. With each drop of the ‘f-bomb’ it is done so with so much love.

Laurel is starting to make a name for herself and has been touring the more intimate venues for a few years. She admits that she is a huge fan of headliner KT Tunstall and is thriving on every moment given to her. The last three times I have seen her the crowds have been somewhat rowdier but the Sage crowd is quite a contrast that the first ‘f-bomb’ of the night is dropped as she is amazed by the attentiveness. The only time it gets really loud is when she and her band shout the ‘yeah’ bit in Lovesick.

Laurel has an instant connection with the crowd that when she introduces South Coast someone asks where she is from. Jokingly her instant reply is ‘the south coast,’ but then she says Plymouth and the crowd cheer which is some feat as this gig is in the North East. The volume is tripled as she introduces the last song Adored as the audience want her to stay a longer. Showing their appreciation at the interval there is a never ending queue for her at the merch stand.

KT Tunstall – 11th March 2019 – Gateshead Sage

A booming ‘Hey Micky’ comes as the room darkens then appears the lady of the night KT Tunstall and with a quick hello the members of her band join her to open with the song that is wrote on her white guitar, Uummannaq Song. She narrates that we are in a Sage shaped space ship travelling to the furthest side of the world before starting ‘Other Side Of The World.’ Tunstall is quite clever like this and we get these soundbites throughout the night that lead into her songs. There is also a personal connection in that she talks of the rivers of “Gateshead and surrounding areas” reminding her of home as well as those “clear blue skies then stepping out and it’s like fuuuccckkk!” She maybe LA based now, but she still talks like a true Scot.

There is so much energy in the air and true or not the band slip off twice for their ‘beer break’ and Tunstall is on the stage alone, just her with a guitar, a loop pedal and a tambourine then later a harmonica. She says most people probably spent their hard on cash to see her because of the song that has now become a ‘karaoke classic’ that she couldn’t be more proud of as she can now buy a few rounds of drink. The way she plays Black Horse And The Cherry Tree is one of those special moments where it feel like it is just you and her in the room even when the room is clapping along leading into the band coming back and a mash-up huge loud mash up with the classic hit Black Betty is played.

Although Tunstall has a stellar back catalogue we also get some from her latest release Wax with Little Red Thread being a personal favourite on the night visually. We get back-to-back of The Night That Bowie Died, Dark Side Of Me and The Mountain as she asks for us all to just get lost in the music. Besides the claps in between each song the room obliges and is still as we let her do her thing. What a moment. But being KT Tunstall we go out on a with the heavy rockier song ‘The Healer’ before she is off and the crowd call for her back.

The crowd is rewarded with ‘Invisible Empire’ and a rendition of Tom Petty’s ‘Won’t Back Down,’ which makes the room still and silent once again and it is such a beautiful moment. I could watch and listen to Tunstall perform this way all night but her vibrant soul is also something to be witnessed and it probably couldn’t be more fitting that the night ends with ‘Suddenly I See’ and those that were sitting before that were invited to stand earlier in the night were right up on their feet with everybody else in the room. If only Sage had room for those big streamers this was the moment for them as the band leave the stage and Tunstall runs and hand slaps those at the front with a big shout of “we totally love ya.” That feeling is echoed back to her as the venue empties.

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SIGRID | GEORGE EZRA | 07.03.2019 | Newcastle Arena | REVIEW

SIGRID | GEORGE EZRA | 07.03.2019 | Newcastle Arena | REVIEW

Sigrid and George Ezra – 7th March 2019 – Newcastle Utilita Arena

Review by Victoria Wai (Victoria Wai)

Fresh off the release of her debut album and kicking off the arena tour for George Ezra, we really did get a SUCKER PUNCH on the opening night at Newcastle Arena with Sigrid.

With her band dressed in black, Scandi-Pop sensation Sigrid is plainly dressed in blue jeans and a white t-shirt but her performance was far from plain. With the majority of the SOLD OUT crowd already filling out the venue there is a loud roar as she greets them with a ‘what’s up?’ And into the title track of her debut album which just so happens to be released at midnight after this show She announces this third song into the set and the crowd erupt with just as much excitement as she goes into the Madonna like opening of Don’t Feel Like Crying. After this performance I’d be surprised if half if not more didn’t wait up til midnight to stream its release as they were bouncing in the floor area just as much as she was running from one end of the stage to the other and taking every opportunity to take to the little square platforms that are also on the stage too.

Her energy is infectious. She seems to wear a constant smile throughout her whole set and that is also infectious. Whether you were familiar with Sigrid before seeing her open for George Ezra or not, you cannot help but be put under her spell. Her tunes are catchy enough to have you bopping around which the crowd on the floor do and with an artist like Sigrid it is a great experience to be able to watch her enjoy every second performing for us.

She runs through a strong half-hour set which includes EP songs that have made the album such as Schedules and Don’t Kill My Vibe. Both these actually show there are quite a lot of Sigrid fans in attendance and they sure were getting value for money as although she was the support act of the night it felt like it could have been her own headline show. She rounds up her set in style as the whole seating audience is on their feet and most of them are singing along to her recent hit Strangers, which is electrifying.

George Ezra himself puts on a stunning show. There is a curtain hiding his staging as Sigrid performs but as showtime comes it drops to full on screams to reveal a ‘big room’ complete with huge windows, potted plants and even a gramophone player. I have always been impressed with Ezra’s voice but I have never really been set alight with his live performances from what I’ve seen on television but I was proved well and truly wrong with this opening night of his headline sell out arena tour. His storytelling between numbers is hilarious and he even gives us some dance moves. His backing band are just as pumped as he is and jump around as much as they could too. The brass section are a real talking point of the night and they also lend themselves to some stunning backing vocals. We are given songs from both his first album and his second album and landscapes of sunsets and sunrises and even a blood moon come through the ‘windows’ and we are event treated to a bit of a carnival feel.

So, if like myself you think, “that George Ezra, well he can sing like and has catchy tunes but not much else,” be prepared to have your mind changed as this night, with both Sigrid and Ezra is close to what a perfect big production show is. The atmosphere was amazing as both artists and their bands gave us electrifying performances and I am now very gutted I missed out on Ezra’s more intimate show at the Newcastle Academy at the end of last year but luckily I can still catch Sigrid when she comes in November at the end of this year.

KATHRYN JOSEPH | SHHE | 26.02.2019 | Gateshead Sage | REVIEW and PHOTOS

KATHRYN JOSEPH | SHHE | 26.02.2019 | Gateshead Sage | REVIEW and PHOTOS

Kathryn Joseph | Shhe – 26th February 2019 – Gateshead Sage

Review and photos by Victoria Wai (Victoria Wai)

“I’m still at the stage in my head where I can’t believe anyone would pay to listen to this shit!” Well, Kathryn Joseph believe it as being there to listen and watch her night at the Sage was one of the most beautiful things to witness, even with a lot of expletives! Saying that, the amount of times ‘fuck’ did come up actually made not only the performance more real but also made Joseph more real too, as there are many times you can put those whose music you admire on a pedestal and many times they ‘go to script.’ With Kathryn Joseph it really was what you see is what you get and it was, not sure if ‘adorable’ is the right word but I am going with it!

Before Joseph’s set we are welcomed by SHHE. I finally managed to search for her on the world wide web a few hours before the show and there was only one song I could find. Eyes Shut literally stopped me in my tracks and made me more excited of the night ahead and she did not disappoint. SHHE is very minimalistic but very powerful in the sense that I was pretty breathless watching her. So dreamy it was captivating that it sure silenced us all.

As soon as Joseph steps onto stage it feels like an open dialogue, or maybe monologue, as the audience are still and silent throughout most of the show, though she has us laughing through most of the night to the commentary she has to most of the songs. There are some sad moments too and to have the audience let it all be about Joseph was perfect.

We are given, I believe the whole of her new album, From When I Wake The Want Is, in its entirety and there are a few dedications to audience members, namely the musician Kathryn Williams who is there this night, is the song And You Survived. Not related to the song, but we are told a hilarious story of a Twitter live feed from Williams being an overnight guest at Josephs’ or was it more of a kidnapping! A dedication also goes to her support SHHE with Mountain where she says that although it’s been great having her on the tour it is also a regret as every night she has to follow her beautiful set. There is a wonderful feeling of gratitude from Joseph to these artists and what I noticed during SHHE’s set was that Joseph was there for its entirety. SHHE echoed this and was there throughout the whole of Josephs set.

Gratitude is what Joseph has. Two songs we are given this night, There Is No God But You and The Weary from her 2015 album, Bones You Have Thrown Me And Blood I’ve Spilled, could set you on the edge of tears for the subject matter of people going through battles of illness and loss and being worse off than yourself. The way she performs them, in fact the way she performed the whole evening was like you were in a room listening to her sing only to you. To watch her, to listen to her and to be at a live show of Kathryn Joseph is a pretty special experience. These words I write will never do it justice. It’s just a brief summary.

It was a night of joy, sadness, laughs, engagement and a huge shout out to her single Weight being at number 8 in the official singles chart. Joseph has been around a for a while, she came to my attention through ‘new artists’ coming onto the scene posting admiringly social media posts and I am so glad this happened as I do not think I could experience another night like this, unless it is another night with Kathryn Joseph. In my own selfish way though, although the night in terms of lights and set were simple and perfect, a bit of smoke could have added to the ambience (and photographs) and lost me to the night completely. Saying that, Joseph had my emotions from the second she stepped onto the stage to the moment she left.

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CHVRCHES | LET’S EAT GRANDMA | 19.02.2019 | Newcastle O2 Academy | REVIEW and PHOTOS

CHVRCHES | LET’S EAT GRANDMA | 19.02.2019 | Newcastle O2 Academy | REVIEW and PHOTOS

Chvrches and Let’s Eat Grandma – 19th February 2019 – Newcastle O2 Academy

Review and photos by Victoria Wai (Victoria Wai)

It seems whatever music you’re into, the mere mention of Chvrches stirs up excitement that tonight and the last two times they played Newcastle they have SOLD OUT the O2 Academy, with those who love metal, indie and electro-pop, that it is a wonder that they didn’t add the Arena for this date as looking at the tour for their release Love Is Dead the bigger venue could have easily been close to selling out too.

Let’s Eat Grandma entertained a pretty full Academy with their psychedelic sludge pop combined with choreographed dance moves you simply couldn’t keep your eyes off as they swapped from synths, guitars, sax, keys and even recorder whilst jumping about the stage…and even off it at one point that the pink wig fell from Jenny’s head making Rosa keeping check on hers. A brilliant opener for what was to come as whether it was stage presence and/or simply the music Let’s Eat Grandma definitely got our attention.

Excitement and every gap filled as Get Out opened the night and electrified the packed crowd. The pulsating Bury It followed with frontwoman Lauren Mayberry running about the stage stopping to grab the mic stand and lunging it into the air when not singing into it. Throughout the night there is a great mix of songs from all their albums with Graffiti getting the biggest shouts screams from the latest Love Is Dead.

Although Mayberry is seen as the face of Chvrches, other band members Iain Cook and Martin Doherty (and silent fourth member drummer Jonny Scott) equally do their parts and there is a great engagement not only between them on stage but it reflects to the audience. Doherty gets the chance to take the spotlight as he leads on God’s Plan and Under The Tide as Mayberry slips into his place and from this point on when not on the keys and with his guitar, Doherty gets out on that stage and jumps around just as much as Mayberry. There’s even a few moments for Cook too. Their energy is infectious and the crowd are with them every second. They even get on a personal level interacting about the football and the horse incident and the (good) old days of visiting MetroLand and even being on a hen do in Newcastle.  Those visiting Newcastle from out of town are thoroughly engaged in this conversation too.

Really Gone is the moment that Mayberry catches a break and sits down, Scott emerges briefly too and joins in on guitar. After a back-to-back whammy of possibly their biggest hits; Recover, Leave A Trace and Clearest Blue the band return from a brief encore and Mayberry stuns us with an a-cappella opening to Mother We Share; half the crowd are awed in silence and the other half sing along before it kicks into all its glory. With a very heartfelt thanks and the amazement of Mayberry spotting Chvrches tee-shirts from their early days to present, they end with Never Say Die and to hear and see the crowd joining in with the chorus loud and clear with their hands up really was one of those moments you live for at a live gig.

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WHITE LIES and BONIFACE | 04.02.2019 | Newcastle Boiler Shop | REVIEW and PHOTOS

WHITE LIES and BONIFACE | 04.02.2019 | Newcastle Boiler Shop | REVIEW and PHOTOS

White Lies and Boniface – 4th February 2019 – Newcastle Boiler Shop

Review and photos by Victoria Wai (Victoria Wai)

I was sat in a pub, around the corner from the venue before doors opened, there were many getting in high spirits with their VIP upgrade lanyards and T-shirts emblazoned with White Lies. There was an excitement brewing. We were celebrating White Lies fifth studio album and their tenth year in the industry. One fan really was in the spirits as he was covered head to toe in the merch stand!

Boniface - 4th Feb 2019 - Newcastle Boiler Shop
Boniface – 4th Feb 2019 – Newcastle Boiler Shop

Canadian quartet Boniface fronted by Micah Visser welcomed the early gig-goers, which there were quite a number of, giving us ‘indie sensibility and making it glisten.’ The two members on synths/keys with guitars were very eye-catching as they bounced around in their spots while Micah does mainly the static lead singer holding mic pose with added guitar and coming to life from time to time and at one point joining in on the keys. A very energetic performance and a choice support band.

Excitement and intoxication filled the packed Boiler Shop as the band stepped on stage and with the first glance of them chants of “Harry” came as opening track from their latest release starts and a singalong from the get-go to Time To Give. Harry McVeigh is a great frontman and genuinely seems pleased to be back in Newcastle as at every opportunity he is beaming with arms raised and gives the city a huge shout-out more than I have ever heard any band when interacting with a crowd.

There is a great mix of material from the new album ‘Five’ but songs from the back catalogue are greatly received too with the thumping Farewell To The Fairground being first up and when Harry asks the crowd to sing back they do it with so much passion, that you wouldn’t quite believe we are in a 1000 capacity venue. The sound is loud and the lights go from static blues, reds then bursts of other colours and strobes, which adds to the excitement of the night. As the night goes on many gig-goers try their best to get to where people had already taken the prime spots but those in them were not going to let them go without a fight. Luckily none of that happened as the majority just wanted to live this experience with other gig goers.

The chants for Harry come and go throughout the night but the other members are just as energetic with Charles Cave on bass and backing vocals and thumping out the energy on drums is Jack Brown. On this tour, the three-piece become a four with Tommy Bowen letting his fingers do the magic on the keys. But Harry’s charisma really does steal the show and at every opportunity his arms are up in the air as if to say, ‘let me embrace every single moment of this night just as much as you are,’ especially with the tenth anniversary of their first release and as he mentions this the crowd erupt. It’s a very nostalgic moment for the majority of the room as they remember how old they were when Unfinished Business hit the airwaves and they jump having the time of their lives. This feeling stays for the stand out track on the new album, Tokyo, and Harry feels this and is literally thumping his fist on his chest as the crowd get rowdier.

The whole night is full of energy. You wonder when you are going to catch your breath but that comes when Harry returns solo for the encore and sits behind the keyboard to play Change from the Big TV album and it is the quietest the crowd becomes. What a moment. But of course the night could not end like that and we are treated to the anthemic To Lose My Life and the loudest I hear Charles’ vocals. It’s good to have these guys back and being ever so humble. Ten years you say. Here’s to another ten.

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THE HOWL AND THE HUM and SAUVAGE | 24.01.2019 | Newcastle Cluny | REVIEW

THE HOWL AND THE HUM and SAUVAGE | 24.01.2019 | Newcastle Cluny | REVIEW

The Howl And The Hum and Sauvage – 24th January 2019 – Newcastle Cluny

Review by Victoria Wai (Victoria Wai)

Has a band ever captured your attention purely because their name interested you? I know there have been bands that caught people’s eye because of this, even before you’ve heard the music; The Howl And The Hum are one of those bands. I caught their set at last year’s Twisterella Festival in Middlesbrough and they simply stunned me into silence. Their headline show at Newcastle’s The Cluny was a whole different affair to that show a few months prior but equally as entertaining.

Sauvage. Photo by Victoria Wai

Support of the night came from Newcastle quartet Sauvage, who sometimes go the other way with their namesake especially due to Johnny Depp and unfortunately not by the French translation of ‘wild!’ But don’t let that name get to you, they bought a solid half-hour set for the early gig goers with a mix of indie and psych sides. Each member had their own energy and you didn’t quite know who to focus your attention on. I heard a few murmurs of people in the crowd who had seen them before saying that was the best they have ever seen them play. I put my hands up as one of them. I don’t know what has happened over the past few months but something is definitely working for the better.

As with most headline acts those milling at the back soon came forward as The Howl And The Hum were ready to start. We were the hum waiting for the howl!

A few months ago I saw these guys play, it was dark and intense. The same came tonight, in the upgraded Cluny from Cluny 2, but there were a lot more stories to be told and not only through their music. Unlike the support act, The Howl And The Hum definitely had a ‘star’ of the band and that came from frontman Sam Griffiths. I mean most bands do have THAT frontman and he delivers. Not taking anything away from the other three members Bradley Blackwell, Conor Hirons and Jack Williams as the band is greater than the sum of its parts.

Hip swerving Sam guides us through a tight 45 minute set of atmospheric alt-rock as he tells us many of the songs are about possessions from sharks to bus tickets. It definitely had the crowd that bit more intrigued than if we were given a straight-up performance of their music and the usual patter you get from stage to crowd. The melodic sounds then big thumping bass and guitars mould into a very entertaining set that the crowd were thoroughly into.

‘Don’t Shoot The Storm’ is a song about not shooting bullets into a hurricane. Sam on top of his impressive ‘woo’s’ also gives us some great dance moves to participate with. Strangely the song that came about staring at the back of a Megabus while in a Fiat Punto, ‘Sweet Fading Silver,’ captivates the audience and sends a roar through the room but personally ‘Portrait I’ and ‘Godmanchester Chinese Bridge,’ were personal highlights to a highly entertaining night that I walk away with The Howl And The Hum as a musical possession to press play to every now and then.

JOHN PAUL WHITE and LYLA FOY | 27.01.2019 | Gateshead Sage | REVIEW and PHOTOS

JOHN PAUL WHITE and LYLA FOY | 27.01.2019 | Gateshead Sage | REVIEW and PHOTOS

John Paul White and Lyla Foy – 27th January 2019 – Gateshead Sage

Review and photos by Victoria Wai (Victoria Wai)

John Paul White
John Paul White – 27th January 2019 – Gateshead Sage

John Paul White, a musician in his own right, but also known for his part in the musical duo The Civil Wars returned to Gateshead Sage for the third time and first time as a solo act. We were in for a stripped back acoustic treat and the audience could not have been any more appreciative.

Arkansas Dave kicked off the night interestingly in a different room to where the rest of the performances were held. Bringing a livelier and louder affair to the Northern Rock Hall. On hearing and seeing what was happening it made sense. Arkansas Dave had a full band with him and they belted out big sounds that had the room stomping their feet, which was a huge contrast to the next few hours ahead.

Lyla Foy - 27th January 2019 - Gateshead Sage
Lyla Foy – 27th January 2019 – Gateshead Sage

Lyla Foy was the main support for this whole tour with John Paul White and the audience gathered over to Hall 2 for the rest of the night. For those familiar with Lyla, what normally backs her music on stage is an electric guitar and keyboards, though as she took to the stage what was before us was a small keyboard and an acoustic guitar. If this was your first time seeing this ‘sub-pop’ artist then this was just as new for you as it was for those familiar with her material and it was, in simple terms, stunningly breathtaking. I have seen Lyla a number of times but this night it was like a whole new Lyla Foy was forming in front of me and the audience were also on her side that unless prompted to talk they were hanging on to her every word until her last note.

With a very quick changeover of ten minutes the audience gave a rapturous applause as John Paul White stepped onto the stage to kick off the night with new song, ‘I Wish I Could Write You A Song’. He stands centre stage throughout the night with just his guitar, he needs nothing more to make this show any more powerful than it is. The crowd is silent and there are a few tears being wiped from the outset, probably just as much as his kids felt when he sings of his love/hate relationship being on the road away from them with ‘The Long Way Home.’ As if the night could not make you tearier, he then performs ‘James’ which was inspired by Glen Campbell but written for his father.

He tells us of his upcoming release which is, he jokes, is of course called ‘The Hurting Kind,’ which sends a laugh throughout the audience. That is what is noticeable with John Paul. He can break our hearts and have us crying with his deliverance but he then comforts us in between the songs with this chat that has us laughing. What a character he is. He also later quips that a request came in for ‘Hey Jude,’ and you could ‘feel the pain’ from the audience but luckily it was a joke and he actually gives us a cover of the Dan Seals, ‘Everything That Glitters Is Not Gold,’ which also subconsciously made him the artist he is today rather than the rocker he dreamed of being. Another cover comes at the end of the night with ‘Can’t Get You Outta My Head,’ from his favourite band ELO which gets a nod of approval from the crowd and a rapturous applause once again and with a few screams leads for him to return to the stage for a finale with ‘This Life,’ a special kind of John Paul White love song.

John Paul White gave us everything and the audience of Sage 2 could not have been more perfect. In fact, he says we are “so sweet and quiet, (and does) not take it for granted…it’s actually quite terrifying.” As a gig-goer, when I am at these kind of gigs, this is all I could ever want. Though there was one thing missing for me personally. John Paul gave his support act Lyla Foy a shout out as they happen to duet on a song on her latest album, Bigger Brighter, called ‘Bring Flowers’. I am unsure how many people knew of this prior to the gig, but I knew and when it was mentioned I thought we were going to see it brought to life with both of them on stage but it wasn’t to be. It would have been a perfect addition to a perfect night, so maybe one day it will be.

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ANOTHER SKY | BETH MACARI | TALK LIKE TIGERS | 19.01.2019 | Gateshead Sage | REVIEW and PHOTOS

ANOTHER SKY | BETH MACARI | TALK LIKE TIGERS | 19.01.2019 | Gateshead Sage | REVIEW and PHOTOS

 ‘New Year New Artists’ with Another Sky, Beth Macari, Talk Like Tigers, Nick Roberts – 19th January 2019 – Gateshead Sage

Review and photos by Victoria Wai (Victoria Wai)

Sage Gateshead hosted ‘New Year New Artists’ from 17th-20th January to celebrate, ‘the UK’s most exciting contemporary musicians,’ from folk, classical, jazz, world music and indie, with Blank Slate covering the Saturday night programme that was hosted by BBC Introducing North East.

A wonderful noticeable thing of the night, is that the three acts: Talk Like Tigers with their electro-pop, Beth Macari with her funk-soul vibes and Another Sky with their dark, cinematic sounds, helped to pull in an audience of varying age proving that music really does bring people together, as throughout all three acts the majority of the audience remained.

Nick Roberts, presenter of BBC Introducing North East provided tracks to warm us up and entertained between sets. Some did wonder if he was presenting his show on BBC Newcastle at the same time as it was a noticeably North East soundtrack.

Twin duo Talk Like Tigers opened the night, harmonising tightly over electro pulsating beats from their simple set-up and slightly choreographed moves. They are very sleek and engaging throughout with their catchy numbers that have the crowd dancing, even to slightly darker sounding sounds.

Beth Macari has a powerful voice, backed by a funky band. I have seen Beth in the past and it was apparent that there was something there, but it has been a while since I have seen her perform live and tonight, I was left with my mouth on the floor as it seems she has gone from a solid 8 to a 12/10 in my books. She has a charisma that matches her music and her band is just as engaging. If you want to dance and be blown away a night with Beth Macari could do it.

Headliners of the night were London four-piece Another Sky with bassist Naomi being the North East connection. They first came to my attention when they supported Laurel on her tour late last Summer. Catrin’s voice has won critical acclaim and that is what captured me first. I almost likened them to a dark and heavier version of London Grammar, who I love but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Yes, that voice is deep like Hannah Reids and the music is atmospheric but that is where the comparison ends…that is if anyone has ever found that comparison bar me!

Another Sky then took a leap forward with an appearance on Later with Jools Holland, which seems is why many of the audience were there on this night. Of the three acts Another Sky’s set seemed more intense but in a different way of that term as many of the audience actually stood further back from the stage to get a fuller scope of every band member. They have an energy I cannot quite describe yet but every member is remarkable. Stereotypically, many people want to be up close to musicians in this environment – Another Sky had us wanting to feel the atmosphere of the whole room that people were moving their bodies in the shadows and the back actually became more cramped than the front! It was a case of you had to be there. It might have been a one-off and I am glad I witnessed it. Dark, intense and atmospheric might be the way I could describe Another Sky. However, whatever, I say put them on your ‘ones to watch’ list.

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Victoria Wai 2018 music roundup – FEATURE

Victoria Wai 2018 music roundup – FEATURE

Victoria Wai selects her highlights of 2018!

Top gigs of 2018

Trying to split my gigs of the year to gig-photos of the year was pretty difficult I’ve gone with my gigs of the year with my favourite photos of those gigs (in order of performance).

BRYDE – O’MEARA, LONDON (1st May)

Bryde headlined London’s O’Meara back in May. It slowly filled up but by the time Bryde and her band took to the stage there was hardly any room to move. Fans were out in full force and the ones at the front were singing along admiringly to every word. It was a hot and sweaty affair and the atmosphere was more than perfect.

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ANNA CALVI – BOILER SHOP, NEWCASTLE (3rd Oct)

As lights went down, I dreaded this gig as a photographer, as red light filled the room as did a lot of smoke. For many photographers this is their worst nightmare. I actually love red light but certain reds are not great with photographic technology but the buzz in the room or something clicked and it ended up being one of the best gigs I’ve photographed. Just wish I could have captured the whole night as Anna OWNED that stage outright.

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ARCANE ROOTS with Bryde – THINK TANK, NEWCASTLE (22nd Oct)

I have photographed this venue a few times but when Arcane Roots headlined in October there was something different. They brought in their own lighting rig which definitely gave the venue an extra edge. This was the penultimate night to Arcane Roots farewell gig and many AR friends had gathered. There was something special in the air and even the support act Bryde was given a special reception from the crowd. By the time AR came to the stage the atmosphere was like nothing I had experienced in this venue. Smoke and blue lights were the main effects and we were all in awe of the performance we were given.

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LORD HURON with Malena Zavala – SAGE, GATESHEAD (28th Oct)

Lord Huron only came to my attention because I was familiar with the support act Malena Zavala and it was a blessing to see not only her on that stage as both acts were magical on that stage. The acoustics, the lights, the smoke, the crowd – everything that happened under that roof that night was pure magic and it is hard to describe. It was a case of ‘you had to be there.’

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ESTRONS – THINK TANK, NEWCASTLE (3rd Nov)

When hype is so big before I get myself familiar with musicians I generally shy away for a bit and let the dust settle a bit but something told me I had to see what Estrons were about and all I can say of this is do BELIEVE THE HYPE. There was so much energy from the get-go and the crowd fed off it and sometimes being amongst a crowd ready to mosh can be a scary experience (especially with camera kit) but I wanted to be amongst it on this night. Seriously, if you are not familiar with Estrons either it could be one of the best things you witness live.

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PAUL SMITH – MOTH CLUB, LONDON  (28th Nov)

I wasn’t meant to be at this gig but the other gig I was meant to attend fell through but it was the best thing that could have happened. I’ve heard of Maximo Park, the band that Paul Smith headlines, and have seen them a few times but nothing quite prepared me for this. Fans had gathered in high spirits and we were even treated to a lovely support slot by Kathryn Williams. Paul Smith and his band ran through songs from all of Smith’s solo material and we were even treated to Maximo Park songs in the encore. I went in with an open mind and left more than impressed as that was a stellar performance that it didn’t matter I was cutting it close for the last tube!

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THE WANDERING HEARTS – RIVERSIDE, NEWCASTLE (3rd Dec)

There was a different vibe at the Riverside that I have not felt for a while and it was definitely down to The Wandering Hearts. A few familiar faces were in the crowd from a previous festival performance in the area and other friends had gathered as they had recently heard them harmonise on the radio. Spirits were high – singalongs in the right places and silence as the harmonies washed over us and warmed the venue and the dreary night up outside. I saw ‘part one’ of the Wild Silence tour back in March in London. The difference in a few months is that the backing band had been stripped down and if I am honest it actually worked a lot better. I have witnessed The Wandering Hearts in student bars, at festivals and a few other amazing venues in England and they can set any venue alight with their harmonies and personalities.

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SNOW PATROL – METRO ARENA, NEWCASTLE (5th Dec)

Lights, lights and lights. That is all you need to know about a Snow Patrol gig. Showtime came and the Arena was fuelled in excitement. The visuals that appeared on the screen, stage and around the Arena was a spectacle and the band fronted by Gary Lightbody gave their all. You could feel the excitement from the five piece and the crowd sang back the big anthems giving you goosebumps. Nothing could be faulted even when Gary’s falsetto couldn’t quite be reached – in fact it made it more of a show.

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CLOVES –  ISLINGTON ASSEMBLY HALL, LONDON (11th Dec)

There is something spectacular about Islington Assembly Hall and it suited Cloves to a tee! Thankfully the acoustics in this beautiful venue were amazing and the sound engineers were on form as a few people were a bit too highly intoxicated. I’ve got nothing against people having a good time, that’s why I go to gigs and besides ‘niggles’ on reflection this was one of the best gigs I have ever attended. Wherever you stood, if you had Cloves in your view you could feel the emotion in her voice. If you didn’t have her in your view you could feel the emotion. It was a simple set but it was a stunning set.

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ALL SAINTS – O2 ACADEMY, NEWCASTLE (12th Dec)

A night of nostalgia is what this night was. Memories of my late teen years and a university exchange that took me to San Francisco came flooding back. You definitely need the right crowd and the right sound under the rood of the o2 in Newcastle and this night proved that most things were right with All Saints. Most of the back catalogue hits were performed as well as new ones. Even the cheesiest of crowd participation came with Never Ever but it worked. The staging was simple and the backing band were on point and Shaz, Nic, Nat and Mel had crowd interaction on point filling fans hearts with joy and a night to remember.

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Top albums of 2018

I left my Albums of 2018 to the last minute as I wanted to let the year run its course rather than a surprise addition in the week before Christmas as you just never know what surprises may crop up. Most of the albums that stood out to me this year were debut albums – so much talent creeping through giving the ‘big names’ a run for their money.

It was hard selecting who would take the top spot, so the best way for me to do this is to list them in order of their release:

THE WANDERING HEARTS – WILD SILENCE:

A whirlwind of a story of how Tim, Tara, AJ and Chess came to be The Wandering Hearts and the story led to this fine debut of an album back in February. Compared to Fleetwood Mac and The Civil Wars and dubbed into the Americana genre, this foursome bring harmonies that tug on the heartstrings and lyrics of love to ‘chasing down the thunder…trying to find a spark.’ Wild Silence is a fine debut album that has seen them wow crowds in the UK to Nashville and Memphis and winning the The Americana Music Association UK ‘Bob Harris Emerging Artist Award.’ Look out 2019 The Wandering Hearts are ready for the world.

MARTHA FFION – SUNDAY BEST:

Her dreamy vocals and poetic lyrics for this release in March lived up to the 2016 release of Wallflower that first got me hooked on Martha Ffion. I had literally turned on the radio and was hunting down who Martha was and have followed her music closely. I admitted to her that ‘her music wasn’t something that I normally listen to but there was something that drew me to her.’ Sunday Best revisits some of her early stuff and some of it like No Applause is heavier in sound but it works. Two years after discovering Martha and listening to the album for the hundredth or so time something clicked in my brain that makes me feel her vocals are on the level of Nina Persson of The Cardigans whether that will swing it for you or not as this album still is amazing because of Martha Ffion.

BRYDE – LIKE AN ISLAND:

Bryde missed my radar until her second release EP2 in 2016 and as soon as heard Wait I was hooked. I then got to see her live in November of that year in a basement bar. Just a girl with a guitar and an attentive crowd. I got to see and hear the mellow tracks to the full-blown angst. Her debut album Like An Island is this with added band on most tracks, which is how she performs now and then too. Like An Island is raw and emotional with lyrics that can cut deep, like a friend giving you a reality check.  Play the album anywhere and go see some of the tracks performed live. Just get some of Bryde’s music in your life as it ‘feels like euphoria.’

MALENA ZAVALA – ALISO:

Dreamy and mellow is how I would describe Malena Zavala’s debut. One to put on your ultimate chill-out lists but it is more complex than that. It captures and hypnotises your soul as delicate vocals pull you into the lush melodies of a dreamscape. Aliso as an album is somewhat psychedelic in places and is only a taster of what Malena can do and seeing her live a few times over this past year and a half there is definitely more to come but until then loop this as many times as you can and lose yourself.

LAUREL – DOGVIOLET:

That streaming site put Laurel on my radar. I finally caught her live as a support act then on her second Newcastle visit, which is where I picked up her debut Dogviolet – so not only did I get to see the album performed before my very eyes but I ended up taking the album home with me and it stayed with me and in the car for some time. It is the perfect driving soundtrack. We were coming into the dark autumn nights by the time Dogviolet came into my hands but it felt like I could have been driving along the West Coast of California as it has that California sound to me and her vocals definitely lend itself to that.

LYLA FOY – BIGGER BRIGHTER:

I was surprised when Lyla Foy brought out Bigger Brighter as I kept seeing her as part of other bands so when I saw this released I knew it had to be put in my record collection and my only non-debut album of 2018 to make this list! There is something about the way she harmonises with her delicate touch over the lyrics that are somewhat in the mystical fantasy world almost Stevie Nicks like. Over the few years I’ve been following Lyla’s work it has ever occurred to me until this album, or maybe it is just in this album, that she has elements of Kate Bush in her music too. But strip away these comparisons and make room for this in your collection especially We’re Different, Bigger Brighter, With The Night and thumping Try My Heart.

CLOVES – ONE BIG NOTHING:

Everybody’s Son was released in 2015 on the EP XIII. It is one of my all-time fave songs. It is minimalistic and shows off Cloves vocal ability. Cloves has been making her name quietly – a few showcases here and there and a tour with Michael Kiwanuka in the States then her album was released – in the UK it came on the 28th September. This was probably my most anticipated album of the year and it was a wait worth waiting for. When I first heard California Numb I was a little disappointed as it didn’t have that XIII feel that I totally fell for so on hearing California Numb for the first time it took me by surprise. I then started from scratch and it made me realise that having Don’t You Wait and Frail Love alongside these harder hitting tracks just shows how versatile Cloves can be and she does it with so much conviction. One Big Nothing is an emotional rollercoaster of an album. Her vocals add that extra bonus to what is being delivered. There is something in her voice that I cannot really describe but it is SOMETHING. I recently saw her headline and of that show I wrote, ‘it is REAL, it is LIFE.’ This is the album too. This is what makes it the stand out ‘album of the year,’ for me but all the other albums in my list are so strong too that now and then I let it become ‘best with the best.’

MIDDLE KIDS – LOST FRIENDS:

Middle Kids came out of nowhere for me. They were put on a list of gigs we could photograph/review. I had already had a lot on so needed a break then someone I followed since last summer was billed as a support act so days before the gig I got back on the list to photograph and review the show and listened to their music on that streaming site and kicked myself for not getting to hear of Middle Kids sooner. Lost Friends has a deeper feel to the sounds that has your feet tapping. In fact, those lyrics are deep and if you let yourself open to listening to the lyrics and then feel the emotions with the music on top you realise the true potential of Middle Kids. Lost Friends feels classic and timeless too and a top addition into my Best Of 2018.

ALL SAINTS | 12.12.2018 | Newcastle O2 Academy | REVIEW and PHOTOS

ALL SAINTS | 12.12.2018 | Newcastle O2 Academy | REVIEW and PHOTOS

All Saints – 12th December 2018 – Newcastle O2 Academy

Review and photos by Victoria Wai (Victoria Wai)

After their ‘comeback’ album Red Flag in 2016, the excitement following 1990s girl group All Saints has gone from strength to strength and another album followed in the Summer of 2018 titled Testament with a tour following. It was not only a night of nostalgia but also a night proving that there is more to Shaznay Lewis, Nicole Appleton, Natalie Appleton and Melanie Blatt as they rounded off the tour at Newcastle’s o2 Academy.

As the introduction kicked in the atmosphere was intense. People milling by the bar literally pushed to the barrier as we were given a mini megamix intro as all four ladies stepped onto the stage following the band kicking off with the flirtatious Bootie Call. From the get-go you could see they were all on a high as much as the audience. The night called for us all to have a great time and that we did; from the die-hard fans to those reliving their youth.

It was a great mix of songs. They proved just how strong they were vocally especially with all the jumping around on top of their choreographed moves. What was admirable was watching them up there having the best time. It’s been highly documented of that famous feud and for fans like myself, we are so grateful that their friendship stood the test of time, that when their first single, I Know Where It’s At, makes the setlist the Academy erupts as “everybody wants to hang out at (their) party.” But at every party, you do need to catch your breath and latest single, After All, brings us back down and maybe on the verge of tears.

All Saints really do not get the credit they deserve as vocalists and songwriters, namely Shaznay Lewis. Listening to their music is one thing but when you get to see people perform the music that resonates with you, it is a feeling that really cannot be described. That is a true testament to these ladies and proves that there is room for them to be constantly relevant to the music industry.

Another great thing about seeing All Saints perform live is that (to most people who only know the singles) it could be said that Shaznay and Melanie are the ‘lead vocalists’ with Natalie doing her share and Nicole gets the ‘speaky’ part in that famous song. But this could not be further from the truth and it is great to see them ALL do their part. Collectively their harmonies blend brilliantly; individually they are just as perfect.

Bonus for the die-hards is the medley of ‘never before played live’ songs with All Hooked Up, Alone and Take The Key. I have said die-hards a few times but I believe 90% in attendance definitely knew the words to these album tracks. I think as an artist, it must be a great feeling when people sing back the words you wrote and for the fans there is a connection when you get those few moments of singing together.

Pure Shores peaks the night and it is party atmosphere in full swing. In the past, this song has been the finale of the night. It’s hard to describe the feeling but it really keeps you on a high that you cannot come down from. Things are a bit different for me personally this night, as a merry fan seemed to love it as much as me, that he pushes in the tiniest of gaps and tries to elbow my shoulder to discomfort so I move. Not the thing I want to write in a review but sometimes it needs to be said and there is no need for people to do this, especially when they tower in height over you. Pure Shores IS my song and nothing was going to spoil this moment for me, so a huge credit to the security who saw this and for letting me hold onto ‘my moment,’ and having the encore to enjoy. And what an encore. From the epic Love Lasts Forever to a hip-hop break, then into one of the biggest crowd participation moments ever with Never Ever. Yes, ‘a few questions that I need to know,’ is how can Shaznay, Natalie, Nicole and Melanie top this? Well, there are more chapters to be written about this Glorious story and I have all the Black Coffee’s ready for it!

PHOTO GALLERY
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Images Copyright Victoria Wai. For permission to use these images please contact victoriawai.co.uk


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