Callaghan, Ward Thomas and Striking Matches
Sage, Gateshead – 22nd July, 2016.
The opening night of the 11th SummerTyne Americana festival at Sage, Gateshead, Hall 1 was a triple-bill of the best of New Country music.
Being quite new to the Americana music scene, Callaghan was a new name to me; but a very welcome one. Many people still had not arrived to take their places when Callaghan (singer-songwriter from London; but now a resident of Atlanta, Georgia) arrived on stage with a guitarist accompanist; but those that did were thoroughly entertained with a set made up of up-tempo and mellow tunes; often with accompanying and engaging back-stories. We are also given a taste to her Acoustic Coffee House album that was recorded in one 16-hour day which includes a cover of ‘Stand By Me’ by Ben E. King. To keep with the positive vibes especially ‘in all the madness of the world,” Callaghan closed her set with ‘We Don’t Have To Change The World,’ but she has changed mine that I will be keeping a close eye on this name.
Next on the triple bill were twin sisters Ward Thomas who have recently been taking the UK music country scene by storm. I was introduced to them through a friend and immediately took to them; so was pretty excited to see them in play live; considering I missed them playing the Jumping Hot Club stage last year.
Sisters, Catherine and Lizzy, stormed the Sage with their backing band and up-tempo tunes that definitely had those in the pit dancing along. Catherine played guitar throughout most of the set and by the fourth number, Lizzy took up the keyboards, showcasing even more of their talents. Then for Good & Right they both played guitars for this rockier number, which was also echoed by the audience response. Ward Thomas are amazing fronting the band; but it was nice when the band left the stage and we were left with just Catherine and Lizzy capturing the audience in the palm of their hands with Safe. There was not much talk between the songs; but when the songs came the crowd responded with lots of dancing in the open floor space and huge nods of approval especially with talk of new material. Ward Thomas’s exciting hour closed with the biggest and bounciest number of the night; Ugly to rapturous applause.
It was at last years SummerTyne that I first heard of Striking Matches when The Shires covered them in their headline slot; and it was with that one song I needed to know who Striking Matches were. Unfortunately I missed out when they played The Sage for their own show last year, so tonight I was in for a treat. The excitement was brewing in the Hall with hardly an empty space as lights went down. Striking Matches, Sarah and Justin bring lots of high energy to the stage from the get-go and the whole room fed on it. There were a lot of prolonged guitar solos, best of all in ‘Raining’ and I was in awe. Subsequently I have forgottan most of the show because I was simply blown away by their performance. Thankfully, I did have a pen and paper to hand and now notice that there was a great audience interaction from both Sarah and Justin; even if some of it was a bit strained by their jet lag, as we are told they had literally stepped off the plane from Nashville that morning. As the pair tuned their guitars, they gave a fun commentary as they raced to be first finished. Justin won and took us into Never Gonna Love Again, which is a pretty slow song but played with such intensity that towards the end, Sarah ended up breaking a nail…which she tells us is better than breaking a shoe, like she did on their last visit.
A personal highlight, especially as I was wearing a Fleetwood Mac t-shirt was when Justin asked the crowd to sing along and with Never Going Back Again. Justin and Sarah gave Lindsay Buckingham a run for his money with their sting plucking; and it’s not often I will give a huge nod to covers of Fleetwood Mac songs but Striking Matches are definitely getting a huge one for this adaptation.
With Hall 1 buzzing, I think Sarah and Justin lost track of time, as they ran very close to curfew before exiting the stage for a very short encore. The room was now at their loudest when they return with the song that introduced me to Striking Matches, ‘I Ain’t Leaving Without Your Love.’
Even with the chance of my bus arriving in minutes I could not leave without my love being firmly cemented with Striking Matches too.