Now in its 12th year, the annual SummerTyne Americana Festival at the Sage Gateshead continues to get bigger and better every year.
Mother Nature may not have been entirely co-operating this weekend, but whilst taking inspiration from the festival’s chart topping Friday night headliners “We can build our own Nashville underneath these grey skies”, and that’s exactly what was done.
The weather didn’t stop music lovers from arriving in their droves as they spread out across the several stages hosted over the festival site to witness the extensive array of artists from across the entire Americana and roots music spectrum. There really was something there for everybody.
Having performed in every room of this venue, including a headline appearance in 2015 and a visit at the tail end of last year in support of their sophomore album, The Shires made a welcome return to the North East of England.
SummerTyne has acted as a springboard for many aspiring artists over the years. The Shires reminisce about performing on the festival’s concourse stage to a crowd of roughly twenty-five people just a few years back, only this time around the UK’s leading country act has sold out Hall One at the Sage Gateshead yet again.
The Shires deliver a lively set largely taken from their first two albums Brave and My Universe respectively. The likes of “Beats to Your Rhythm”, the up tempo “Jekyll and Hyde” and a heartfelt rendition of “Daddy’s Little Girl” really stand out in their set.
The duo’s stunning vocal harmonies and infectious numbers coupled with their commanding presence over the room puts The Shires in a league of their own. With three sell out shows in this huge concert hall in such a short period of time, an arena tour must surely be just around the corner for the Bedfordshire based outfit? Only time will tell.
Crissie and Ben bring their main set to a close with “Tonight”, and leave the audience singing the song’s chorus long until the pair returns to the stage for a duly deserved encore.
The Shires take the opportunity to give a live debut to their sublime cover of U2’s “With or Without You” which is enough to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. They bring the night to a close with their patriotic tribute to home “Made In England” and the country anthem “A Thousand Hallelujahs”.
This year’s SummerTyne Festival not only showcased the established acts and musical legends, but also the next generation of roots artists who performed side by side the greats. The young twelve piece Stax Academy Review wowed festival goers over the course of the weekend with three high energy performances that encapsulated the magic of soul greats like Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Carla Thomas and Booker T and the MG’s.
On Saturday evening, this uber talented troupe also opened for their proud grandfather like figure and Stax legend William Bell in Hall One. At 78 years old, Bell delivered a career spanning performance which highlighted both his Grammy Award winning latest album This Is Where I Live, along with greatest hits from his extensive career such as “Private Number”, “You Don’t Miss Your Water” and an extended jam of his signature number “Born Under A Bad Sign”. The latter of which being a track that has been covered and made famous by the likes of Albert King, Cream, Jimi Hendrix and even Homer Simpson, to name but a few.
Continuing along the theme of the next generation, two of country’s famous families made an appearance on Friday evening. Glenn Campbell’s daughter and banjo player Ashley Campbell captivated Hall Two whilst brothers Ben and Noel Haggard performed alongside two of their late father’s band The Strangers.
Over the course of the three-day event, the Americana Association UK along with the Jumpin’ Hot Club hosted the cream of the roots music scene. Wandering between the concourse and outdoor stages the crowds witnessed impressive sets from up and coming British country acts like Laura Oakes, Paul Carella, Dannii Nicholls, Dexeter, Chloe Chadwick and Hayley McKay who performed alongside the likes of Californian soulful blues man Earl Thomas, southern rockers Fargo Railroad Company and Seattle’s alt rock quartet Massy Ferguson, to name but a few.
Sunday afternoon was the perfect time for a Soulful Blues brunch as powerhouse vocalists Lisa Mills and Jo Harman shared the stage in Hall Two.
Mills’ passionate solo performance took the Sage Gateshead faithful to church whilst showcasing her deeply personal latest offering Mama’s Juke Book. Lisa’s incredible voice filled the room. She made her vocal performance seem effortless whilst simultaneously demonstrating her phenomenal range.
Lisa holds nothing back during her Gospel soaked take on Connie Smith’s “You and Your Sweet Love” and Etta James’ “At Last”, which are each performed a capella. Whilst singing through her smile, Lisa’s happiness is infectious, and it permeates into the crowd. Mills closed her set with a traditional American Gospel number “This Train Is Bound For Glory”, which had the crowd clapping along throughout.
Unlike Mills who has played at the festival several times prior, Jo Harman made her debut at SummerTyne this year. Jo delivered a stripped back set, performing as part of a trio leaving her full band behind, with accompaniment only a Steinway piano and electric guitar.
Harman recently recorded her latest album People We Become in Nashville, and her genre-defying sound which encompasses all aspects of Americana music seems perfectly fitting for the festival. Jo performed a whole host of beautifully arranged ballads, whilst demonstrating just exactly why her incredible voice has rendered so many admirers including BBC Radio 2’s Huey Morgan speechless.
Californian based alt rock troubadour Chuck Prophet closed out the festival with probably the liveliest set of the weekend; the atmosphere inside of Hall Two was electric. The crowd sung along to fan favourite’s like “Temple Beautiful”, “You Did (Bomp Shooby Dooby Bomb)” and “In The Mausoleum” from Chuck’s latest record Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins. Each track is interspersed with witty banter from Prophet, which kept the audience entertained throughout his almost two-hour show.
As a baseball fan and proud San Franciscan, Prophet closed out his career spanning main set with “Willie Mays Is Up At Bat”, leaving the stage to standing ovation.
Once again, SummerTyne at the Sage Gateshead did not disappoint, having firmly established itself as one of the highlights of the UK’s summer festival season. We can hardly wait for next year already.
Event Date: 21st/23rd-July-2017