The Venue: The ‘Cluny 2’ The Cause: ‘Save the City Hall CD Launch/Protest gig” The talent: OVERWHELMING!

OK, this is a music revue so I’ll get the politics over quickly. In my part of the world, Newcastle City Council plans to scrap its entire arts budget of £90 million, and as part of that myopia, close the City Hall – a venue with an exceptional musical history. In its time the stage here has been guest to everyone, Beatles, Bowie, Bob (Dylan). It’s an enduring part of our culture and one of the few venues we haven’t  already lost.

I’m not one for Sunday afternoon gigs, watching or playing – it takes a lot to warm up the audience and create any kind of atmosphere. But today was somewhat different. While the building crowd froze outside, the stage was host to yet another TV crew and last minute interviews were set in place. This gig, and the cause, is all over local TV and the press up here. There was a sense that we were in for something big, an alignment of stars previously unseen and perhaps only available once in a lifetime.

First to take to the stage was ex-Lindisfarne member, Steve Daggett. The man who wrote the main track on the CD this gig is promoting – and not Billy Bragg – as current standards of TV journalism would have you believe. Billy, is on there, but he wouldn’t want credit for another man’s material. Steve was in great voice and led us into a solid set of acoustic numbers, name checking the late Alan Hull (another Lindisfarne luminary) and playing some of his material. Steve kicked in a stomp box towards the end of his set and the Cluny rumbled to its fervent growl.

Next, we had Martin Craig’s set. I have to admit here that I know this cat. He’s was one of the original ‘Sabre Jets’, an outstanding Rock n Roll outfit that retained its popularity right though the phlegm-encrusted days of Punk. They were a force to be reckoned with – and I say this from personal experience as my band supported them on quite a few occasions and they never failed to impress. Punks clapped to this band – with no guilt or shame. Martin may have a heart in Rock n Roll, but his soul is ‘New Wave’. He hates social injustice with a passion – and has spent his life campaigning against it. Today, he decided to make this show a set of protest songs – and he was right on the money. Martin’s lyrical imagery is up there with the best. With nasty little barbs that stick in the mind – long after the last chord has faded. Aided simply by an acoustic guitar, his vocal, ideas  and ardent rhythm hand, he held the stage for an unforgettable set. Check him out.

Martin was followed by Paul Liddell, an artist that I’d previously not heard of – and I’m kicking myself for that alone. Paul had a pedal board set out before him – don’t we all these days – but his mastery over it – and his original execution – was blistering. Again, a mostly acoustic set, but the sound canvass he produced was magnificent. If he’d had a full orchestra next to him – it would not have sounded any better. With almost no effort, he ran through a collection of his recent material – each song replete with hooks and depths rarely heard in today’s charts. He used a full range of e-Bow’s and stomp box’s to enhance his sounds – but if the songs hadn’t been uniformly excellent – this would have mattered little. He also utilised a great command of rhythmical slaps and thuds to his acoustic, powering on his songs to absolute triumph. And, damn it, he has a great voice too. I hate the guy already. If Paul Liddell is in your neighbourhood – don’t fail to catch him. I promise you, you won’t be disappointed. And once you’ve heard “Ghost Car”, you’re going to want to own a copy of it.

Final band of the night: ‘Prelude.’ The band that’s probably most famous for its worldwide chart success with a beautiful ‘a cappella’ version of Neil Young’s “After The Goldrush.”  And again, the organizers have played a brilliant hand. There was already a very friendly and responsive mood amongst the crowd, won over by so many talented performers. But how was anyone going to follow the giant, all-encompassing sound canvass of Paul Liddell? Well ‘Prelude’ did! They slipped in, like a Trojan horse between the unsuspecting gates, and took us to further heights.  Paul Hooper – from the Sixties band ‘The Fortunes’ joined them onstage to thump out a rhythm sans drum kit – powering the show to an epic conclusion.”These guys fit like a glove. Their harmonies are dazzling – with no FX – no safety net. Irene Hume’s vocals rush upward into the stratosphere – melodic, soulful and 100% honest,  cresting between Brian Hume and Ian Vardy’s enveloping counter point. I doubt these guys have ever just ‘gone through the motions’ live. They mean every note. Brian’s guitar figures are effortlessly sharp and equally emotive, held firmly together by Ian’s deft rhythmic chops. The crowd loved them immediately. And their song choices served them well.  A stirring cover of Neil Young’s ‘Heart of Gold’ and a striking rendition of ‘Platinum Blonde’.

It’s early January, and I doubt that I’ll see a better gig this year. I don’t know whether to feel good about that – or depressed. But live music is still flourishing out there despite all attempts to turn it into a TV show Variety act, freak show. So do the world a favour. Support the arts. See a live band. And if you like someone’s music enough to download it, don’t – unless you pay.

Jeff Jinx – out.

Independent Music News


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