Hailing from the North East are Rob Heron & The Tea Pad Orchestra, a band of whom I've heard but hadn't yet encountered. Formed in Newcastle in 2010 and led by Penrith native, now Heaton-based, Rob, the band includes members from across the UK, as far afield as Cumbria, Warwickshire and Orkney. Their debut album, Money Isn't Everything, was released in 2012 and since then they have toured extensively, both here and abroad and built up a loyal fan base, which was out in force tonight at Sage.
They are a five piece band featuring a diverse range of instruments; multiple guitars, mandolin, harmonica, accordion, trumpet, double bass and percussion. Delivering one of the most eclectic and quirky sounds I've heard, the band effortlessly fuses elements of Western Swing, Gypsy Jazz, Hokum Blues, Ragtime, Cajun and Country. Indeed, multiple sounds are evident in any one song. Their individual an combined musical talent is unquestionable; perhaps no surprise, when you learn that they all earned their folk degrees at Sage Gateshead.
Songs featured were from across their musical catalogue (Money isn't Everything, Honest Man, Something Blue and Talk About the Weather) all featuring an uptempo sound, which certainly had toes tapping. Some local history was told in the form of The Great Fire of Byker, about a real life event at a Byker Scrapyard. Small Town Blues draws on Rob's experiences growing up in Byker and living in Heaton. Very popular were Drinking Coffee Blues and Hot Bath. Standout tracks included Crazy Country Fool and Cats and Chickens High Speed. However, for me, there were two which I found most compelling, for different reasons. Freight Train showed their musical prowess as they built he sound up to something which for a moment made us think there was a train in the room. Flat Tonic Water, lyrically, was by far their strongest song, with just a touch of irony and humour.
The banter with the audience was great although at times I found the political talk overbearing. Overall, whilst I have to admit that I don't think I'd play their albums, they certainly have great potential as a live act, particularly, I feel, on the festival circuit.
Support came from Chloe Chadwick who, A few short years ago, I had the pleasure of seeing her perform on the Americana UK stage at the SummerTyne festival at Sage Gateshead. Since then, I have had the privilege of seeing her perform numerous times, watching her go from strength to strength. Tonight marked her Sage 2 debut, soon to be followed by the release of her debut album, Dustbowl Jukebox. She was visibly raring to go, with an infectious smile that remained for her whole set.
Backed by Mark Bushell on guitar and Chris Groom on keyboard and ace harmony vocals, Chloe, who is originally from Staffordshire, but has called Newcastle home for the past few years, owned the space from the moment she launched into Stranger's World. From the outset, her vocals were the best I've ever heard them. The upbeat, feel good song, Feels Like Home, echoes her love of the place she now calls home. Introducing Don't be Shy, she talked in depth about the roots of the song, showing a whole new level of confidence, helped I'm sure by her recent Women in Song events with Celia Bryce. She had a relaxed banter with the audience, including jokes about local delicacies she has discovered as well as telling us about her dad, who was present; how he had taught her to play the guitar and introduced her to a wide range of music. She then went on to tell us that Big River, from her upcoming album, was his favourite, before touchingly dedicating it to him for Father's Day. The song is beautiful and showcases the gentler side of her vocal. Lyrically, it is very clever with multiple possible meanings, depending upon the audience. With very genuine thanks to what had been a mesmerised audience, Chloe launched into her new single, Love Will Find a Way. Without a doubt, the best she has ever sounded and what an incredible way to bring her Sage 2 debut to a climax. The power in her voice was unquestionable. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up and I knew she belongs on that stage as a headline act, like all of the incredibly talented performers who have walked that walk before her. I suspect from the applause and cheers that I was not alone. We all knew we had just experienced something very special. Watch this space…
NB. Both acts have tour dates coming up which can be found on their websites. On 30th June, Chloe has hare album release party at Think Tank in Newcastle. Not to be missed!
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