Feature: Cameron Wright – A Look Back At 2021 | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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How was your 2021?
I think honestly, this year came with an onslaught of challenges I didn’t see coming. As for many people, it was a tiresome year, yet I’m coming out of it with excitement and tenacity to devour the year ahead. As difficult as the year was, the troubles were diluted by a slow return to normal, the ability to see people once again and experience the culture of the north east, from the new food outlets like King Baby Bagels, to local theatre productions like The Three Sixties Redcoat. There’s  plenty this year to be proud of and grateful for and I think it’s certainly a year I learnt a lot from. 

Recommended album?
Although nothing struck me harder than the sheer emotional dexterity and consuming, terrifying beauty of Lingua Ignota’s crowning achievement, “Sinner Get Ready.”

And nothing filled me with more excitement than local legend Richard Dawson releasing yet another staggering album, his meandering, prog-folk collaboration with Finnish rock band Circle, ‘Henki.’

The album I think may have slipped under the radar this year and not get the praise it deserves is an album called Palais d’argile by Feu! Chatterton. The album is a surreal yet infectious release that may well be more accessible to my previously mentioned releases this year.  The french release revitalises some forgotten trends that were rife within the yé-yé and chanson movement, melding them beautifully with a crazy and maniacal spread of genres. Always unpredictable and always endearing, this album kept me feverish with anticipation as I never knew where it would dart off to next! A fantastic release that shows so much potential for the band, an absolute must hear of the year!

Your favourite film of the year?
Nothing stopped me in my tracks quite like Questlove’s latest documentary,  Summer of Soul (…or When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised.) Incapable of producing anything below brilliance, Questlove’s name is guaranteed to secure my attention and this documentary of a forgotten festival is no exception. Amassing a phenomenal assembly of unaired footage from a 1969 festival that languished across 6 weekends, the ecstatic documentary becomes an undeniably uplifting celebration of black culture. As the  musical royalty gracing the stage ranges from Sly and the Family Stone or a teenage Stevie Wonder, to Nina Simone, B.B King and Gladys Knight, it is a tragedy that the festival faded into pop culture obscurity. The documentary merges the electric footage of the live performances with an exploration into why the festival’s legacy has diminished.  Thoughtful, passionate and inspiring, the documentary is an essential for anyone besotted with music.

Favourite book of the year?
Nina Simone’s Gum has no right being as delicate and poignant as it is. Warren Ellis, who has spent decades touring and collaborating with Nick Cave, reminisces about a festival he played that featured Nina Simone. After the show, Ellis creeps on stage and peels back the gum from under the piano and wraps it in Simone’s towel. Two decades later, the gum is still his prize possession.

The book uses this totem to become a poignant think piece about the importance of imagery and how we let these small artefacts of those we admire impact us. As a relatively quick read, there is a reverence and an honesty in the way the maverick violinist recounts his life and divulges how the gum enhanced his creativity and his career. Filled with love and humour, Nina Simone’s Gum is one of the most endearing and earnest biographies I have read. 

Favourite venue? 
Although this  year saw me returning to Stockton briefly to visit The Globe Theatre, a venue I have spent my whole life awaiting the refurbishment of, that one night of mesmerising storytelling and musicianship from Nick Cave and Warren Ellis may have to take a second place trophy when compared to the sheer multitude of concerts I experienced at Boiler Shop this year. 

Forever ingrained in my heart as Newcastle’s finest venue, the atmosphere inside is so constantly adaptable and effortlessly suited to whatever sound is thrown at it. From the mountainous mosh pits that burst into life at Architect’s return, to the tears shed at Damon Albarn’s intimate, reserved performance, Boiler Shop catered flawlessly.

What was your favourite gig/show of the year?
Despite that, my favourite concert of the year ended up at Newcastle’s City Hall, although I’d argue there’s not a venue In the country where Nile Rodgers & Chic would not have been sublime. With an impeccable swagger meeting unparalleled musicianship and a set list taken straight from a greatest hits album, every moment of this ensemble performance was perfection.

Any predictions for next year?
Walking into the new year, I’m expecting another surplus of high calibre art as a result of the ongoing confusion we have been facing throughout the pandemic. I am excited for more live performances, I am excited for more experiences and I am ready for more challenges.

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