Summertyne at Sage Gateshead
Posted: 25 Jul 2014
Having reconvened to promote a trio of album reissues, alt-country
rockers The Jayhawks visited Tyneside as part of the annual Summertyne
Americana weekend – when a large influx of musicians temporarily turn this part
of Gateshead into the 51st State of the USA.
With backing from his 1997 touring band, Jayhawks main man Gary Louris
concentrated on songs from that year’s release “The Sound of Lies”, 2000’s follow-up “Smile” and “Rainy Day Music”from 2003 – with occasional deviations into other corners of his back
The presence of a standing “pit” for this gig helped bridge the gap between the
band and the seated audience, but things only really moved up into top gear after
when the on-stage five piece line-up were augmented by guitarist Marc Ford
after eight solid but workmanlike songs.
Formerly part of the Black Crowes, Ford had earlier opened proceedings as part
of an acoustic duo whose set was somewhat undermined by his between-song
rambling. Plugged in and guesting with
old acquaintance Louris though, his presence beefed up and enhanced “Waiting for the Sun.”
That was one of two tracks dusted off from the band’s 1992 breakthrough record, “Hollywood Town Hall” and by the time
keynote song “Blue” (from 1995)
arrived, the set was galloping along nicely.
Following spirited renditions of Rainy Day Music highpoints “Tampa to Tulsa” and “Eyes of Sarahjane” former Green on Red guitarist Chuck Prophet
appeared from the crowd for a set-closing blast through “I’d Run Away” from 1995’s back catalogue classic, “Tomorrow the Green Grass”.
Returning for an encore, a relaxed-looking Louris appeared to deviate from his
intended set list when fans began shouting out requests, returning to the 1998
album “Weird Tales” by occasional side
project Golden Smog for “If I Only Had A
Car” and “Until You Came Along.”
Proceedings then concluded with “Tailspin”- The band’s twentieth and final song of an enjoyable evening that may not be
repeated in the near future, recent press coverage confirming that Louris regretted
the release of newly-recorded material when reforming the band in 2011. As a
tribute band, though who better than the original players to evoke some welcome
Let’s get the major question out of the way first – yes, she
can still sing.
The worry when spending time in the presence of a “living legend” is that time
hasn’t been kind and 50 years of singing has taken its toll – look no further
than Smokey Robinson’s “performance” on a recent TV special from Edinburgh – a
convincing argument for rebuilding Hadrian’s Wall….
In Bettye’s case, a rather less-than-convincing appearance on “Later” a couple of years ago didn’t
inspire confidence, but after opening with sturdy covers of Free’s “The Stealer” and Bob Dylan’s “Everything is Broken”, she confidently
carried off her biggest hit, “Let Me Down
Easy” from 1965 (recently rediscovered and revisited by both Mick Hucknall
and Paloma Faith.)
This self-confessed Anglophile who worked in Europe during years of
indifference in the USA then dipped into her album of covers by female singers
for “Joy” by Lucinda Williams –
confirming that more than one round of Martinis had been shared when the pair
met. You wouldn’t want to settle that bar bill.
A mixed bag of tracks then followed, ranging from 1965’s vaguely raunchy “John Henry Made A Woman Out of Me” to “Love Reign O’er Me” – the latter a Who
cover whose forceful interpretation banished any lingering doubt of her vocal
prowess at the age of 68. A righteous reworking of Paul McCartney’s “Blackbird” meanwhile mercifully
excluded the Percy Edwards chirping.
Bringing further variety to proceedings, her four piece band were then
augmented by the 40-piece Summertyne Country Choir, who added their voices to “Close as I'll Get to Heaven.”
Concluding with one more left-field selection, Bettye revisited“Salt of the Earth” from the Rolling
Stones album “Beggars Banquet.” Containing
the line, “raise a glass to the hard-working people”, a few post-gig tinctures
were richly deserved and perhaps the secret of her longevity. Cheers!
Closing off the ninth annual Sage Summertyne weekend, Booker
T Jones arrived on stage to a warm welcome looking suitably dapper – and with
minimum fuss, got straight down to business at the keyboard of his mighty Hammond
B3 Organ, fittingly raised off the stage on a pedestal.
Opening a 12-song set with one of seven instrumentals, Jones reached back into
his MG’s songbook for “Hip Hug-Her” –
a 1967 album track given a contemporary touch by his rapping drummer. And what
proved to be both an educational and engaging feature of the evening saw him
preface songs with a brief anecdote by way of introduction.
Thus “Born Under A Bad Sign” was
confirmed as his own composition especially for bluesman Albert King and “Green Onions” written by Jones when a
17 year-old high school student. A change of mood then saw Booker leave the
keyboards to strap on a Stratocaster for a version of “Hey Joe” that underscored his revelation of childhood prowess on
the ukelele (although his guitarist stepped forward for the flashy fret-bending
Arriving at “Soul Limbo” (aka the BBC
cricket theme) via Al Green’s “Take Me to
the River” and film theme “Hang ‘Em
High”, what was threatening to become a Memphis version of the “Good Old Days” was then given a more
contemporary twist by a seriously loud cover of “Everything is Everything” by the Fugees.
A much-anticipated set-closer “Time Is
Tight” certainly didn’t disappoint and after departing to a standing
ovation Booker was quickly back to deliver an uninvolving instrumental cover of“Hey Ya” by Outkast that initially
seemed to have needlessly dulled the mood.
Over half a century doing this stuff though has taught him a few stage craft
tricks, though, and that track soon segued into a blessed reading of “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” that
lacked only the Stax Horns to be absolutely perfect. Otis Redding’s 1965
original featured Jones on keyboards and tonight he played the organ before
calmly walking across the stage and concluding on guitar.
PS: Despite a hectic schedule that saw him in the UK following gigs in
Australia, Switzerland, Holland, Spain, France and Germany, Booker had acquired
enough local awareness during his brief time here to know he was in Gateshead
rather than Newcastle – and certainly not in Sunderland!