Shields – Sage Gateshead


Sage Gateshead
26th February 2016

Not normally my type of music, I was really impressed and smitten with the debut album by North East band Shields ‘How Can We Fix This? When I received it a few weeks ago;
so was really looking forward to the actual launch at Sage Gateshead on Friday.
After arriving early (for once), I sat ‘people watching’ in the foyer and was surprised at the eclectic mix of people filing in. A predominantly ‘young’ crowd, there were the obligatory hipsters with big bushy beards and bobble hats; students in their Vans t-shirts, raggedy jeans and Converse; but just as many ‘normal’ music fans of all ages and more importantly about 3 dozen assorted children. Yes; real children aged between about 8 and 15; probably seeing their first ever live music concert; and I eventually came to the conclusion that I was easily as old if not older than the band’s Grandparents!

sage gateshead
The evening started with a band called The Great Curve; an impressive 5 piece made up from ex-members of local bands; some of which I’d actually heard of.
With a twinkle in their eyes, a throbbing bass and some seriously choppy guitars the band got the party started with a very intense song called Carried Away. Their half hour flew by; as the Hall filled up and several of the kids excitedly danced in front of the stage to the broodily Electro-Indie on offer; most memorably their latest single Vape Your Last Vape.
A really impressive start from a band just starting out; and appeared to tick all the boxes for a lot of the fans in the bar at the intermission.

joy atlas
Next up was Joy Atlas; a four piece with no bass, but a guitar, drums and a really impressive set of keyboards; all revolving around a young female singer that I instantly recognised but couldn’t name. Much like The Great Curve they too were promoting an EP; but theirs would best be described as Electronica-Melancholia.
It wasn’t until today that I found the name of the singer – Beccy Owen! Of course it was; but the last time I saw her she was a Folkie singer-songwriter; but tonight it sounded like she’d grown into her voice (a smooth mix between Debbie Harry and Enja) and she’d surrounded herself with some musicians really sympathetic to her sensational sound.
With songs like Stop This Vanity and Attitude, which closed their set I’m sure you will here a lot more from this band.
By the time Shields took to the stage the House Full sign had gone up; and there was a tangible sense of excitement in the room. As I understand it Shields have been on the circuit for a couple of years now; and while all the members hold down day jobs; still play two or three gigs a week; honing their skills in the old fashioned way.
That hard work has really paid off; as the five piece are as tight as a badgers bum; with a drummer keeping time like a Swiss watch as the three of the other members switched between bass, guitars, electric piano and Moog Synthesizer with the greatest of ease; and in Luke and Tom they have two singers that compliment each other like sausage and mash.
At times they had three guitars squealing like the finest Rock bands and others they had more whoops, whizzes and wackiness than someone like Sparks or Eels….I liked it a lot!
The new album was played in its entirety and enhanced by a few older songs for the ‘fans who’ve been with us from the start.’ and judging by the cheers that greeted those songs; that was a lot of people.
Just when I thought I had my finger on their pulse they threw a curve ball by sliding in a couple songs with a light Reggae beat; a bit like Police in their early (cool) days. One of these songs; Where’s The Evidence was one of my highlights of the evening; but their first single Face to Face nearly took the roof off the building.
From the album the title track Howcanwefixthis and Come Unstuck were both excellent and had a bigger sound than on record.
The set came to a close with the latest single, Alive which absolutely rocked my socks off!
Of course we had the obligatory encores and the mood got racked up beyond belief with Eyes on the Road and ended with a song I didn’t recognise but loved anyway (possibly a new song).
I can’t finish without mentioning the phenomenal light show. I’ve seen a lot of Rock gigs over the years and many have had huge light shows; but tonight they threw nearly everything bar the kitchen sink into it and every song had their own theme; one better than another. I guess this won’t be the case at every future gig; but because tonight was such a big deal in front of friends and family they really pushed the boat out; and it was worth every penny.
What a great way to close a very difficult week.

# Postscript

As I said at the beginning there were a lot of children at the concert tonight; presumably extended members of Shields’ families; but also plenty aged between 10ish and 15 there under their own steam alongside parent/chaperons. While all behaved impeccably well during the concert; one in particular caught my attention.

When I was photographing The Great Curve he was positioned right at the front with his Dad and had a look of excitement on his cherubic face; the like of which I hadn’t seen in a long time. As the evening progressed he didn’t give an inch; maintaining his position at the front; even when some stood in front of him; causing his Dad to tap one on the shoulder. Embarrassed they instantly moved to the side; allowing the lad an unhindered view and enough room to dance; which he did with vigor.

At the end of the evening I followed the pair to the car park; watching the boy virtually skipping with delight as he re-lived the previous couple of hours to his Dad; but the highlight came when the Dad phoned home and put the boy on to speak to his Mam. “It was brilliant!” He panted; “Honestly….it was the best night of my life….ever!”

I’m a cynical old fart; but I have to confess to having a tear in my eye on the car journey home; as I recalled how much music can genuinely touch people.


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