Music city’s Striking Matches have now made several journeys to Tyneside in recent years, with multiple appearances at the majestic Sage Gateshead.
It’s been just over a year since the band’s last show in the region where they performed alongside both Sam Palladio and Sarah Darling to close out the bill at the 2018 SummerTyne Americana Festival.
However, this time around, it’s a much more intimate affair at Newcastle’s favourite watering hole The Cluny. And this show has long since been sold out. The venue is packed to the proverbial rafters for this rare up close and personal show with the Striking Matches.
Earlier this week the duo released their latest single Monster. A perfectly fitting title for this time of the year. Of course, many bands have released Christmas songs but not so many go for a Halloween record. Now, this track is not your textbook SM song, but they’ve gone and flexed their creative muscles and the result is astounding.
Monster forms part of a trilogy of EPs which the band are releasing between 2019/2020. But despite this, the track is maybe a bit too fresh for live consumption and remains off the setlist tonight.
As the pair takes to the stage they open with the incredibly infectious Retrograde, along with a rather funky airing of Medicine and the harmonious Shameless following suit.
The stage chemistry and guitar partnership between Justin and Sarah is simply a joy to watch from the off. Zimmerman’s fiery slide guitar play lights up the stage all night long. Particularly during tracks such as Liar.
But the pair are not just talented guitarists but they are also simultaneously working percussion. Justin with a kick drum and Sarah with a tambourine attached to a kick pedal. The latter being a challenge when rocking out in spiky high heels.
The pair are often typecast as a country band but to be fair they are so much more than that. Their genre-defying sound blurs the lines between country, blues, rock and pop to great effect. And their vast musical palette is fully represented this evening.
Tracks like their 90s pop take on Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up along with their foot-stomping blues take on Robert Johnson’s Crossroads being a testament to this. Of course, the band’s debut record was produced by legendary bluesman T Bone Burnett.
However, one of the many highlights of the set came with the duo’s take on George Harrison’s While My Guitar Gently Weeps. Performed acoustically and featuring some magical twin part guitar harmonies it leaves the crowd speechless.
Of course, the group had as many as nine of their tracks featured on the TV show Nashville which in turn opened many doors for Striking Matches. And towards the latter stages of the show, the crowd is treated to spellbinding performances of both When The Right One Comes Along and the incredibly catchy Leaving Without Your Love.
To see such a talented and well-regarded duo such as Striking Matches perform in such an up-close and personal setting as The Cluny is a rare treat indeed. Inevitably on the band’s return to Newcastle, they will be playing much bigger venues than this.
During tonight’s encore, the pair were so overwhelmed with the response that they had received that they gave a tour debut to their take on Elvis Presley’s Can’t Help Falling In Love With You. Based on tonight’s response the Newcastle audience would wholeheartedly agree that the feeling is mutual.