As a young lad growing up on Wearside Dave Stewart dreamed of playing for Sunderland AFC. However, following a sporting injury at a young age Stewart turned his hand and his passion towards the guitar, and subsequently never looked back.
As a child, Stewart would frequent the Sunderland Empire Theatre and holds fond memories of his time growing up in the city. Whilst cutting his teeth as a musician, Stewart would perform Bob Dylan songs in local pubs like The Rose and Crown and The Londonderry.
Fast forward to 2017 and Dave Stewart is celebrating his landmark 65th birthday, and subsequently this weekend he made an emotional return to the North East of England to celebrate this milestone in his life and career. This being Stewart’s first ever performance at the theatre which holds such a dear place in his heart.
Dave Stewart has had a long and successful career in the music industry, having sold in excess of 100 million albums worldwide. However, it wasn’t always easy, he remembers where he came from and his days as a struggling musician.
Showing his solidarity and support towards the North East music scene, Stewart handpicked several of the region’s rising stars to open the show. Local eight piece outfit Picnic kicked off the proceedings with their enchanting brand of indie-pop before Lilliput added a short psychedelic rock tinged set to the proceedings.
The precursor to the main event was rounded out by a superb set from Social Room. This six piece hailing from Seaham showed no signs of being daunted by the occasion and exuded confidence and swagger reminiscent of early Kasabian in places, they are one to watch out for indeed.
Stewart produced The Lake Poets debut album out in Nashville, and rather fittingly Marty Longstaff performed the number he penned about his fondness for his hometown aptly titled “City By The Sea”.
Taking to the Sunderland Empire stage, Stewart was joined by his uber talented Nashville band and collectively they gave the Sunderland audience a taste of Music City with a trio of numbers from The Blackbird Diaries. This came in the shape of “So Long Ago”, “Beast Called Fame” and “Magic In The Blues”.
Throughout the course of the two-hour musical extravaganza, Stewart invited a whole host of his friends and compatriots to share the stage with him who each, in turn, brought to life tracks from his expansive songbook. All night long the stage was exploding with talent. Stewart has a reputation for bringing musicians together, he doesn’t get called ‘The Ringmaster’ for nothing,
Between each number Stewart nostalgically reminisced with witty tales a plenty. He told the story of how he once attempted to chat up a mannequin in the Binns department store window following a heavy night on the town, much to the audience’s amusement.
Having performed with Social Room earlier in the evening, the band’s frontman Matty Smith returned to the stage to put his stamp on Stewart’s award winning composition with Mick Jagger “Old Habits Die Hard”.
American singer/songwriter Diane Birch, who also featured on Dave Stewart’s new album Nashville Sessions – The Duets, Vol. 1 took her position behind the piano and delivered spellbinding renditions of “All Messed Up” and The Eurythmics classic “There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart)”.
Razorlight’s Johnny Borrell joined Stewart onstage for “Don’t Come Around Here No More”, a number which he penned with his friend and musical great Tom Petty about a romantic encounter with Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks.
However, it was the collaboration with the Easington Colliery Brass Band which was prominent throughout the show. Filling the stage and the room with their collective sound and presence the ensemble performed Stewart’s heartfelt composition about Sunderland simply titled “This Little Town”.
The Lake Poet’s Marty Longstaff joined the troupe for Stewart’s favourite Eurythmics song “When The Day Goes Down” and did it justice, it was truly a spectacle to behold.
The fans up in the dress circle got an up close and personal experience with Dave Stewart as he even played on from the balcony at one point.
The audience inside the Sunderland Empire in places was reminiscent of a Saturday afternoon football crowd at the neighbouring Stadium of Light. Chants of “He’s one of our own, oh Davey Stewart he’s one of our own” resonated throughout the theatre.
The night was brought to a close with a fitting finale of “Sweet Dreams” with all of the musical guests accompanying Stewart on the song, the whole room was up on their feet.
This show was a true testament to Dave Stewart’s creativity, roots and his musical heritage. Whilst many would look at 65 as a time to put their feet up, maybe even retire, Dave Stewart continues to flex his artistic muscles whilst at the same time showing no signs of slowing down.
He may have been living Stateside for many years, but the Wearside faithful still welcomed Dave Stewart with open arms. You can take a man out of Sunderland, but you can’t take Sunderland out of the man.
Event Date: 10-Sept-2017