Sage Music Centre Gateshead
22 June 2014
It was only because there was nothing else on TV one fateful Friday evening in 2011 that I was first introduced to Vintage Trouble. Their name meant absolutely nothing to me as Jools Holland introduced them; but within 20 seconds my jaw dropped and my tongue lolled out like a Hanna-Barbera cartoon character, and three and a half minutes later it was still on the carpet after witnessing the finest crash, bang, wallop Classic Rhythm, Blues, Rock and Roll fronted by a Soul-man with ants in his pants, in the World that I’d ever witness.
A couple of weeks later I was smuggled into a completely Sold Out Cluny in Newcastle to review a show that has gone down in North East Music history and is now in my Top 5 of all time.
Three years later I’ve now seen them four times in gradually larger venues, culminating with tonight’s 1500 capacity Sage Hall 1; which had removed the first 15 rows of seats (and lowered the actual floor) to accommodate dancers.
Legendary Northern Soul DJ Tony Fiddes was the support act, playing a cool mix of Soul and Blues that had the growing crowd of all ages dancing like it was 1999 and perfectly set the mood.
As always the Sage runs with Military precision and Vintage Trouble came out of the shadows like Usain Bolt on steroids with singer Ty Taylor wearing a scarlet dinner jacket and dancing like a Dervish as he extolled the crowd to ‘put your hands in the air and say – YEAH!’ during ‘Strike Your Light.’ Which everyone did like acolytes.
The song about Taylor’s parents courtship; ‘Nancy Lee’ followed and this arrangement was lot slower and funkier than I remembered from previous concerts.; as was the adaptation of ‘Gracefully’ turned the Sage concert hall into a veritable Gospel meeting for four minutes.
We were only three songs in and already they’d blown nearly every other band I’ve seen this year out of the water!
Still without an actual new album to promote VT performed a couple of new songs; ‘Lo & Behold’ from the Swing House Acoustic Sessions EP which was available on the night; was a slow Memphis Gumbo of a song and C’mon C’mon a trademark punchy drum driven number.
Something that I thought was a bit of filler on their début album, THE BOMB SHELTER SESSIONS; ‘Pelvis Pusher’ has taken on a life of its own when played live; with Taylor being very mischievous and suggestive with the mic stand and its trailing lead while hollering out “1,2.3…..push your pelvis to me!” Much to the delight of a lot of ladies (and a couple of men!).
After about forty five minutes the electric guitars were exchanged for acoustic ones and drummer Richard Danielson joined the others in stage centre with only a cymbal and a snare drum for a few slow songs that featured on the new EP.
First up was the normally fast and very furious protest song ‘Not Alright With Me’ which took on a whole new perspective when played like this. By the time it ended Ty Taylor was nearly contorted into a foetal position on his stool; such was the emotion he was embroiled in.
I thoroughly enjoyed the acoustic slot; especially ‘Blues Hand Me Down,’ but at five songs long it was at least two songs too many, even if the song that followed it, ‘Total Strangers’ with a noisy “na, nanana, nana, na” audience participation chorus was priceless and really got the party started; turning Sage Gateshead into the Apollo Harlem for a few minutes as fans; old and young, streamed into the aisles to dance to their hearts content.
At this stage I turned to my son who was making his first visit to the venue and sarcastically whispered, “Do you still think the Sage is too sterile for Rock music?” Which is a common misconception in the region, he shrugged his shoulders and grinned in response.
Tonight, the love song ‘Still and Always Will,’ took on an almost theatrical quality as Taylor mimicked Sammy Davis Jr. by alternating spinning around on his heals then dropping to his knees before thrusting the mic to the audience for a wonderful call and response session. This is showbiz at its absolute finest my friends.
Much like a Dolly Parton concert I’d attended the previous week, I managed to get my blood boiling during the slow and intimate ‘Another Mans Words’ because the people directly behind me, and many others decided to take the opportunity to loudly express their wonderment at the bands performance over something you needed to concentrate on. Aaaaaaggghh!
During the finale ‘Run Like a River’ Taylor slid off stage into the dancing area without missing a note then hi-fived his way around the large hall; finally appearing in the balcony where he serenaded us for another minute; before running back around the Sage as the band played on, and finished the song centre stage, before thanking the world and his wife (and the Troublemakers) for supporting them. I was seriously impressed.
As the band left the stage the delirious audience genuinely demanded MORE and surprise, surprise Vintage Trouble did re-appear and opened with a passionate and funkalicious ‘Nobody Told Me’ which showcased Taylor’s incredible vocal range.
The evening ended two hours after the start with a rip-roaring ‘Blues Hand Me Down’ which had been played acoustically earlier; but this version nearly blew the lid off the venue as the diminutive singer yelped, squealed and danced like a whirling dervish again, while the band played their hearts out.
After doing a group bow all four members climbed down into the audience and while they were later guided along the side aisle they were constantly congratulated as if they were conquering heroes returning from battle. In reality this was the quickest (and coolest) way of getting them to the downstairs merchandise area before the fans!