Grace Jones wasn’t my choice but I thought “what the hell” and went anyway. We were sitting up in the Gods close to the stage but vertically way above it; odd, but I quite like these seats; they are quirky and strange in the otherwise antiseptic, boring Sage hall one. She put on an amazing performance; the musicians were wonderful, accurate and precise, totally co-ordinated. Watching the choreography of the show was incredible. The stage had been marked up and organised with gaffa tape, everything in it’s place; even the exit route for the “spontaneous” stage invasion was carefully marked out and free of wires. At the end of ever song, she rushed off stage to the dying chords, changed costumes, while keeping up some off-stage audience banter. And the music? Started off quite funky, got more rock as we went through. I only recognised a few songs including a strange version of Love is the Drug (with a clever laser effect, shining down onto her sparkly hat, like a wearable mirror ball). The grand finale was Slave to the Rhythm sung while rotating a hula hoop.

Richard Thompson was, as always, wonderful but the total opposite. Three people on stage, with a projected backdrop; wonderful guitar playing, lots of humour in between. He was playing “1000 years of music”, taking songs from, well, the last 1000 years, skipping over centuries at a time in the first half. The second half went decade at a time. A great night of music, I thought.

Last night was Arlo Gutherie, in Durham. I’ve not been to the Gala before, but it was a welcome change from Sage (where wouldn’t be). It’s a small, discrete theatre, but warm and welcoming inside. The show started with the somewhat strange “Landermason”: I quite enjoyed them; they were technically adept (perhaps too much) and their arrangements were novel and quite interested. That said, one of my friends, Gerry, described them as “absolutely awful”. A bit harsh perhaps. Arlo, on the other hand, just came on stage, played guitar and told stories. He played and spoke with the fluency of someone who has been on stage all his life, the songs were straight-forward, honest and moving. The stories in between were very, very funny and often took us back through the 20th century, talking about figures who have become mythological in some ways now but who were just guys travelling around the US, singing songs, trying to make ends meet.

Outside the theatre, it was a normal friday night in Durham, lots of people walking around, slightly drunk. There was a woman busking outside, playing Wonderwall on an acoustic with a small amp; seemed appropriate somehow.

Published by hand from my old blog

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