Bob Fox and Billy Mitchell
We were delighted that our first gig in nearly two years featured our good friends Bob Fox and Billy Mitchell, and we were not disappointed as they played their first live gig together in 20 months.
They opened with Billy's Jack the Lad classic Rockin' Chair and proceede to alternate with one from Billy followed by one of Bob's. Bonny Gateshead lass followed before the title track from Billy's ode to the mining communitys of the North East The Devils Ground. Traditional dandling song When the Boat Comes In was next up, followed by Shiftin' to the Toon, The Sheilra Flood (complete with enthusiastic audience rowing) and then the magnificent Big River.
After refreshment and lubrication the second half commenced with one of Billy's Lindisfarne songs Born at the Right Time, followed by great audience singing on The Galway Shawl. The achingly sad Collier Laddies Wife was a particular highlight, followed by the ode to mining boots The Pitmen and the Blacking, the fiendishly difficult Sally Wheatley, Lindisfarne's Old Peculiar Feeling and set closer The Rambling Rover.
They returned to play a beautiful Monday Monday before leaving to rapturous applause.
A fabulous evening of humour, pathos and fantastic musicianship, it was the perfect antidote to the covid blues and a testament to the life affirming power of live music.
Gary Stewart's Graceland
Gary Stewart's Graceland brought our much curtailed 2021 season to an end with a simply magnificent performance that drew a rapturous reception from a highly appreciative audience.
The evening opened with Gary performing a number of his solo compositions. Each told a story and demonstrated his own considerable song writing abilities and guitar playing skills. These songs included Wakng of the Kraken, Tailspin, Sailors and Tailors, and the lovely Lost Now Found, title track off his latest album, recorded during the Covid restrictions.
Following a short interval it was time for the main event, a performance of the seminal Graceland album by Gary and his magnificent band consisting of Sam Lawrence, vocals, guitar, accordion and whistle; Rich Huxley, guitar and vocals; Kirsty Bowers, trumpet, flugelhorn and vocals; Danny Laycock, bass; Isaac Heyward, drums; Graham Butcher, percussion, and, of course, Gary Stewart, guitar and vocals. Opening with a joyous rendition of The Boy in the Bubble the band proceeded to play the album in its entirety. The hits just kept on coming; Graceland, I Know What I Know, Gumboots, Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes. Every one a classic. What was especially pleasing was that the 'lesser known' songs like That was your Mother and All Around the World, were played with just as much skill and gusto as the really well known songs like You can call me Al which closed the set. The audience loved it, many of them dancing throughout the show, and the standing ovation was prolonged and well deserved.
Returning to the stage they proceeded to encore with a choice selection of Paul Simon classics; the Obvious Child, Duncan, a fabulous Mother and Child Reunion, the Sound of Silence and then to cap it all, a rousing version of the Boxer, which had full and vociferous audience participation.
What a night. What a stunning performance by a fabulously multi-talented group of musicians and what a way to finish 2021. Wonderful!