Patty Griffin & Frankie Lee
January 15th 2016
As a big fan of Patty Griffin, Guest Reviewer John Jobling was originally meant to be here on our behalf tonight; but a family illness meant he couldn’t attend; but because Frankie Lee was the opening act it was no hardship for me to attend my first gig of the year, myself.
As expected the concert began with military precision on the stroke of 8pm with a slightly over-awed looking Frankie Lee making his way through the shadows onto the centre of the stage.
With no introduction he launched into a spellbinding East Side Blues; featuring the first searing harmonica solo of the evening.
It took another couple of songs from his debut album to relax; and when he did he told a funny and self-depreciating story of asking directions to his hotel, earlier in the day. The icy cold journey across the Tyne Bridge to a ‘scary hotel’ brought smiles and chuckles from the audience and artist too.
The following song, Buffalo was a lot more Dylanesque than I remembered from its original appearance as the b-side of his 2015 single. Very reminiscent of His Bobness’s earliest recordings; the song immediately won him 500 new fans.
With only forty minutes to showcase his album, Lee kept the chat to a minimum and let the songs speak for themselves; and that was a wise move as his songs really are worth listening to; especially High and Dry which closed his set.
During the break, I was part of and also overheard several very complimentary conversations about the young singer-songwriter; with many hoping to see him return in the Summer, but as a headliner.
After the de-riguer break, a noisily excited crowd made their way back into Hall II to see the legendary Patty Griffin.
Me? Less excited. No particular reason why; but Patty Griffin passed me by until her 2015 album Servant of Love; which I liked a lot; but I was lead to believe wasn’t representative.
With a lovely smile on her face she opened the show with an opulent Gospellish song; Move On Up (In Glory) really showcasing her crystal clear voice.
Next up was There Isn’t One Way; about her Catholic upbringing and the band whipped up an instant storm;with plenty of boom-boom bass and drums plus some really awesome ragged guitar. Two songs in; and Patty had already spun my head in two different directions.
Unlike most Americana singer-songwriters Patty Griffin went onto prove she certainly wasn’t the average ‘one-trick pony,’ with the lovely Useless Desires having a Celtic feel to it; but the title track of that recent album, The Servant of Love being played on a Steinway piano being almost Classical, but with Jazz undertones.
Much like Frankie Lee earlier, Patty Griffin appeared very aware of tonight’s time restraints, so she too kept the chat and introductions to a minimum; although she did tell a funny story about her less than warm dressing room; and also admitting to loving coming to Tyneside because it’s where her favourite singer comes from – Brian Johnson. Who knew this purveyor of delicate songs would be an AC/DC fan?
A nice touch afterwards was when she changed the opening line to Be Careful from ‘All the girls in the Paris Light’ to ‘All The Girls in the Gateshead Light’ which received a huge cheer from the partisan crowd.
Apart from her songs and fabulous voice ,which very quickly won me over; I was really, really impressed by Patty’s intricate and delicate guitar picking; which was especially impressive when she was sharing a stage with Dave Pulkington.
The show eventually came to a close with a rather lovely rendition of Truth #2; which had everyone around me smiling and whispering the lyrics along with her; and gave a well deserved standing ovation when it ended.
Okay; it was no surprise when the singer returned for an ‘encore’ (why do we still go through with this charade?) but return she did; and treat us to a delightful solo rendition of Icicles; which seemed an apt choice on this freezing night; before being rejoined by the band again; for another Gospel song to bookend the evening; Heavenly Day.
Although initially unsure what to expect; I thoroughly enjoyed the concert from start to finish; with Frankie Lee being a ‘star in the making’ and Patty Griffin showing why she’s been at the top of her game for…..well; let’s not give too many clues as to how old Patty Griffin is. She did tell us; but I’d never have believed it 😉
Patty Griffin photo-set http://www.harrisonaphotos.co.uk/Music/Patty-Griffin/
Frankie Lee photo-set http://www.harrisonaphotos.co.uk/Music/Frankie-Lee/