This was the second of four free Sunday afternoons of live music, as part of South Tyneside's annual summer festival.
The park was packed, with announcements soon after the gates opened that if you left the park, you wouldn't get back in. As such, there was a great atmosphere, with people both enjoying their own picnics and the food and drink on offer from a variety of stalls.
Compering proceedings was BBC Newcastle Radio's mid morning presenter, Anna Foster, who added humour to her banter before and between acts, as well as getting everyone warmed up with practices of their 'La La Las," ready for The Proclaimers set!
Opening events was a local performer, Beth McCary, new to me, although she has made it to number 18 on the iTunes singer songwriter chart with her recent single, Heartstrings. She has been playing festivals worldwide, as well as recording in Norway. Accompanied by a great guitarist, Jimmy Savage, she demonstrated a powerful jazz soul vocal as she delivered her own songs,such as Heartstrings and Voodoo. She ended with her own version of The Time of My Life, from the Dirty Dancing Soundtrack, saying she hoped we would all have the time of our lives. I had never heard it stripped back, but it worked well and got people singing along.
My only issue would be that from most angles the position of the cameraman for the big screen obliterates a good part of the stage; I'm sure this can be easily addressed.
A quick stage change saw legendary local folk band. Lindisfarne take their place. There was very little evidence of Fog on The Tyne as they began their set, but plenty of Sun on the Tyne! I am almost ashamed to admit that I have never actually seen them play live before. However, it is more than safe to say that I will be seeing them again! They immediately had everyone clapping and singing along with them as they took us through a range of their materials.Marshall Riley's Army, written by founder member Alan Hull, is a brilliantly written story of, as they put it, "the men from up the road in Jarrow, who marched for their right to work." Having a Party Today, seemed an apt choice for the occasion and You Need Me and We Can Swing Together, got everyone in the sing along mood ready for Meet Me On The Corner, which prompted a longer rendition after we were praised for our singing and asked if we wanted more.
Everyone knew what was coming with the introduction, " This is a song about a river. It's our river, it's your river..." Everyone was singing at full volume about Fog on The Tyne, which with those words, they somehow made ours. I felt quite emotional, hearing that song live after all these years, so close to home, so near the river it speaks of. Another personal favourite, Running Man, created an electric atmosphere inside the park, which all to soon came to an end. The cheering and clapping prompted them to agree to Anna's request on our behalf for one more and for the encore we were asked Do You Believe. Looking around, it was really quite special seeing the range of ages enjoying the music of a band that has been around so long, yet has such a timeless sound, with stunning vocals and wonderful musicianship. Alan Hull would be proud.
A longer stage change followed,before which Anna accurately described the headline act, The Proclaimers, as "..the soundtrack to our lives." Never was this more apparent than watching them live. Their recent musical/ film, Sunshine on Leith, cleverly incorporated a number of their songs against a story backdrop. Hearing them like this, it struck me that they work just as well as stand alone songs, as songs such as Could Be Tomorrow, Over and Done With, Should've Been Loved, I Wanna Spend My Life With You and a beautiful version of Misty Blue, told their own stories, coming from the people who wrote them.
Their harmonies are exquisite and their band flawless, providing music in the form of pedal steel, bass and acoustic guitars, drums and keyboards, which complemented perfectly but never overpowered their vocals.
More classic hits in came in the form of Cap In Hand and Spinning Around In The Air, as the pair told us how great it was to be in South Shields. As they spoke of how much fun they were having, they came across as very genuine. You couldn't not warm to them as people as well as musicians.
The biggest highlights, of course, came in the form of I'm On My Way, Letter From America and I Would Walk 500 miles, by which time the buzz in the air was incredible. I suspect by the latter Bents Park saw the greatest sea of arms in the air it has ever known. The performances were fantastic and everyone was loudly singing the words back to them on stage, dancing along for all they were worth.
Asked for an encore. They rocked the park with Cabanic Blues and all too soon it was over.
They were introduced as the soundtrack to our lives; they have certainly become part of the soundtrack to our summer and made memories that will last long beyond the Sunshine on Shields they shared with us, literally and metaphorically.
Thank you Proclaimers, Lindisfarne and South Tyneside Council; when can we have them back?
There are only so many hours in a day and only so many gigs we can get to. We'd really like to expand our national coverage of the live scene as it remains the life blood of music.
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