Steve Pledger's On Trust Events initiative held its launch in a packed Community Centre in Annfield Plain, in County Durham. For those of you who haven't read our recent interview with Steve about the new initiative, On Trust Events takes away a significant obstacle for people looking to attend live music events - the fixed ticket price. These events are all about ensuring that anybody can come along and enjoy live music whatever their financial circumstances. On the surface this is little more than utilising the kind of pay as you feel donations you see a lot in pubs, at house gigs, and plenty of other venues. On Trust is all about getting into the poorer areas of the country, and giving an opportunity to people who usually cannot afford to get out to gigs.
Having moved from the relatively affluent Somerset up to Annfield Plain a couple of years ago, this was very much a local gig. Steve had worked with passionate local councillor Joan Nicholson and the local food bank to set up the launch, and it really was the perfect location. The Community Centre is a very intimate space, and at times the launch had the feel of a house gig, with plenty of relaxed interaction. With Steve's wife Becky operating the lights however, and plenty of thought and effort put into setting up the "stage" area, there was no mistaking that this was a thoroughly professional gig.
Right from the start, with old favourite Back To The Beginning, it was clear that this was going to be a special night. There were plenty in the audience who were seeing Steve for the first time, and the rapturous applause as the lights dimmed at the end of the first song showed how quickly they were captured by the performance. The first half was dominated by songs that appear on Steve's three album, and there were many highlights. I Spat Fire really picked up the tempo early on in the set, clearing away any cobwebs. Doing Well with its dark vein of humorous vitriol against those left abandoned by the DWP was exceptional too.
There was even room for an incredible cover of Father & Son, which coming immediately after Friends & Fathers upped the levels of emotion. Recently anyone who follows Steve on social media would have seen a spoken word piece he released while recovering from a heavy cold. We got to hear the full musical version at the launch for the first time, and it could not have gone down any better. The first half ended with the anti-austerity Quit Blubbin' In The Cheap Seats, which I've heard Steve sing many times live, but never better.
Anyone who knows Steve's music knows there's just a slight touch of political commentary to some of his songs. Ok, most of his songs. The second half certainly had more of a political flavour. Same Smile, Same Words kicked us off again, followed by the softer (in tone if not in message) The Baptist's Father. Both these unreleased tracks are incredibly powerful, though it's a shame that the former is still so relevant.
The track of the evening for me was If You Fall, an older song that shows the full range of Steve's vocal abilities, going from soft and delicate to passionately powerful in an instant. It also feels very close in spirit to what On Trust is all about. Me & The Silence is always welcome in any Steve Pledger set, and seems to move any audience. Steve spoke about donating the track to RT Projects, a Durham based mental health organisation. It's well worth reading up on it (you can find mention on Steve's website), and also listening to the new song released by Steve and Beano, the manager of RT, called What If. It's a great song and a great cause.
The second half ended in spectacular style, with four songs that perhaps best display Steve's political protest singer side. Lefty, Wait Your Turn! has long been a crowd favourite, and The People Sang covers the orange peril across the Atlantic, and the intro is perhaps the first time a US President has been compared to a Fatberg (disgusting and unpleasant but sooner or later it has to be dealt with). Creation Is Laughing is another favourite of the audience, and he ended with Matches In The Wind, which has always felt to me like a neat summation of everything Steve stands for.
That wasn't quite the last song however. After some insistent demands for an encore, and after covering off a few thank you mentions, Steve finished with his cover of Hallelujah. If you've never heard it, you are missing out. It never fails to raise the goosebumps.
Judging on the buzz that followed the launch, this may have been the first On Trust Event, but it won't be the last. There will be more of these occurring in the North East of England at first, but then hopefully across the country in the not too distant future. For those of you who cannot wait until one comes to a town near you, Steve has a short live album coming out later this year, as exclusively revealed by Neil King on his Along The Tracks radio show.
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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