Shirley Collins, Sage Gateshead

In the days before I wrote this review we had a few incidents! Our son was dashed into hospital and for a while we thought for a while that he was going to need an operation but thankfully not. It was because of this that I ended up getting the train to Bristol and then walking from station to hotel I tripped and fell injuring my leg and wrist. At the time of the gig it was thought that I had fractured my scaphoid bone! Also I had been to see Alasdair Roberts at the Cumberland Arms in Newcastle a few days before…

In the evening I’ve got tickets to see Shirley Collins at the Sage in Gateshead so I drive over (with difficulty) and park my car in the car park where we left it when we went to Harry Potter world. It always looks as though you’ll come back and find the wheels gone and up on bricks but I’ve not actually had any problems. I walk down to the Sage which is quite a difficult place to get to on foot – I guess you’re meant to use their car park!

I’ve not been inside before but I’ve passed it many times driving to and from work. Once I’m in I’m not sure if it was what I was expecting and it actually seems a lot smaller inside.

I buy a drink and hang around waiting for the show to start. Not long before it does I spot the guy I met the other night so I go over and say hi! He’s with his daughter and while we are talking he spots Mike Heron from the Incredible String band behind me at the bar! I’d have love to have gone over and said hello and pointed out that he’d played at my festival but I’m such a wuss when it comes to these things – I always feel bad about invading people’s privacy! Anyway it’s time to go in!

My seat is dead centre in the second row. The first thing I notice is that the hall is so empty. I thought from the online booking system that the stalls were virtually sold out but it would seem that the back was just held back till the front sold out and it clearly didn’t. Still I’m here and so and some very nice people. I get talking to the guy next to me as he spotted my Grateful Dead t-shirt. He’s just been listening to the recordings of Phil Lesh and the Terrapin family band at the Brooklyn Bowl – I point out that I was at one of the shows!

The first halfstarts with and introduction from a gentleman called Pip Barnes who is acting as compere as well as playing in the Lodestar band. he introduces the first performers who are Dave Arthur & Pete Cooper who play a few tunes on banjo, guitar and fiddle. Next up is Emily Portman who is heavily pregnant and she’s then joined by Alasdair Roberts who also does a few songs solo as well. Then just before the interval a Rapper side called Star & Shadow come on to do a dance – they’re all women which is unusual for a Rapper side which tends to be a mostly male preserve. I tried Rapper dancing once – nearly lost an ear!

During the interval I almost have that meeting with Mike Heron in the loo but thankfully he is just going in as I’m coming out! So no repeat of Monday night then!

The second half is of course Shirley Collins and Lodestar. They play the entire album from start to finish adding stories about the songs, who collected them and when and how the versions came about. There is a big screen above the stage and videos are projected onto it during the show. The music is fantastic and there’s a funny moment when Shirley sang the wrong words in Death and the Lady and could be heard saying “Shit!” A single Morris dancer joined in occasionally dancing around with two England flags. It was nice, just for once, to be able to feel proud to be English, not the England of the Tories or the Brexiteers, not their longed for return to the good old days. This was something else – a feeling that you can celebrate being English without all that nonsense!

It was all over far too soon!

I found my new friend in the bar and we swapped telephone numbers and I sent him a friend request on Facebook – I thought I was quite brave doing that, you know what I’m like!


Awake Awake / The Split Ash Tree / May Carol / Southover
The Banks of Green Willow
Cruel Lincoln
Washed Ashore
Death and the Lady
Pretty Polly
Old Johnny Buckle
Sur Le Borde de L’eau
The Rich Irish Lady / Jeff Sturgeon
Orange in Bloom
The Silver Swan
Coleman’s March

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