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The SummerTyne Americana Festival at the Sage Gateshead had everything... here's my highlights!

SummerTyne Americana Festival in Gateshead is always one of the highlights of the year. Out of all the festivals I go to each year, this is the friendliest! This year started with a treat, a Grammy award winning treat as on the Friday night in a packed out Sage One KD Lang was continuing her "Ingenue" 25th anniversary tour. She was supported by one half of the Gregorian Brothers he was an excellent guitar instrumentalist, it was an odd choice I felt for a support act but it was something different for us all to enjoy. KD Lang came out to rapturous applause from the crowd. It was clear from the offset that she was really going to entertain us not just with her flawless vocals but with her humour too. As she played through the album, which is now over a quarter of a century old, song by song, the order they appear on the CD, KD Lang got the perfect balance of interacting with the crowd and letting the music speak for itself. Shortly after playing Miss Chatelaine, a clear crowd favourite she said she’d stop the banter so she could take us on a spiritual journey through these songs. She received a deserved standing ovation in the middle of her set after playing the Grammy award winning Constant Craving. Her band introductions had both the audience and musicians in stitches. It was also nice the way the spotlight flicked from KD Lang to whichever musician had a solo. It was an incredible way to kick off the weekend.

Saturday brought me some surprises on the free stages as I hovered outside around 12noon to catch the first act of the day, A Different Thread. I like a good duo who makes full use of themselves... what I mean by that is they didn’t just pick an instrument play and sing, despite being two they created a band with the use of percussive instruments. They were a little more folk sounding to me. With on off rain and sunshine much of the crowd dashed inside at the end of their set and caught Jack Lukeman on the concourse. I didn’t know what to think of him at first after he started his set acapella walking through the crowd but he was drowned out by background noise. Much of his set was sung into the mic luckily although he did play one on his accordion unplugged. It was a good way to get closer to his audience. Out of all the acts on the Concourse and Jumpin Hot Club stage I think it was Daniel Meade who I enjoyed the most on Saturday and so did a lot of other people as they relaxed in the sun on the mound and when the rain did hit people stayed just with their umbrellas up.

On Saturday night Country fans were in for a treat in Sage One as Eve Selis, Catherine McGrath, Lauren Alaina and The Wandering Hearts all took to the stage and the Adelaide’s who have been doing well for a while sung in between their sets out on the concourse. Eve, who has had a difficult couple of years with both her husband and brother fighting cancer and her other brother passing away, gave an emotional performance which included songs she’s written about her troubles. She accompanied these with some of her better known songs and an emotional speech about how love always wins. Unfortunately I missed Catherine due to interviews with Lauren and Eve. Lauren Alaina was the highlight of the entire festival for me. Not only did she play the hits like Ladies in the 90s, What Ifs and Road Less Travelled, but she interacted well with the crowd, coming over special to give a young lad a high five and she did a medley of her influences which included everything from Dixie Chicks to Britney Spears, Rihanna to Shania Twain. In this mashup which you wouldn’t normally dream up, there was something for everyone. The night ended with a performance from The Wandering Hearts and once again the crowd were dancing down the aisles. They not only played songs from their only album Wild Silence, they also played a couple of new ones - never heard before. They brought the night to a close with Devil which was a crowd pleaser. AJs performance in particular stood out to me, his gravelly voice suits that song so well.

The rain held off all day Sunday which meant the mound was full and the ice cream truck did well! After a nice chat with Sarah Darling I headed off inside Sage two to catch her support act Twinnie. I have heard lots about her but she was one of these acts who plays lots of festivals I’m at but her set always clashes with an interview I’m doing etc anyway this time I managed to sit in for her whole set. Her personality and accent comes across strong as she speaks in between songs, this could do with a little structuring but at least you know everything she is saying is genuine. My favourite song of hers was Cupid as I thought it had some superb, clever lyrics. After that it was time for Sarah Darling who has played this festival on a number of occasions now. Fresh off the release of her new record Wonderland, the backing tracks featured heavily to try and replicate that sound. She did some Sarah classics as well like Cowboys Ride. Wearing a glittery hair and and a horse/unicorn dress, Sarah’s vocals were smooth and sweet. She came out after the show to meet fans before needing to dash to the next gig.

In the evening the show in Sage 1 was Kiefer Sutherland supported by Jesse Dayton. I had heard of Jesse but not heard much of his music. He was just what I’d expect to hear in a Honky Tonk in Nashville or perhaps Austin Texas. He has quite a stellar resume’ having worked with the likes of Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell and Merle Haggard back in the day. His own music was lively and up beat throughout the full forty five minutes. I particularly enjoyed his story and song dedicated to George Jones, I think it was called “A Possum Ran Over My Grave” - that really gave me a giggle. The crowd seemed pleased with him and they were suitably warmed up ready for Kiefer. With the stage set with three rugs, a table with a lamp on it and a glass of Whiskey, Kiefer appeared just a couple of minutes late and jumped straight into his set. Again he was another performer who got the perfect mix between communication and letting the music speak for itself. He was genuine when he thanked everyone for showing up and making it possible. My favourite song of the night was the title track of his latest album Reckless and Me written about his rodeo horse Reckless. He talked of his personal life and struggles his family had faced hand played a song written for his mum when he thought she wouldn’t make it through a stroke. He was a true performer, he got into the music and had a great rapport with his band. This actor turned rodeo cowboy turned singer songwriter has found his new calling in life. He put on a great show and deserved the standing ovation he was given. What a way to end another fabulous weekend at the Sage.

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