LIVE REVIEW: Bellowhead, Sam Sweeney @ O2 City Hall, Newcastle (22.11.22) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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The North East have missed Bellowhead (who split in 2016 following an illustrious 12 year career) but nobody realises quite how much until they’re back in their musical company and under their colourful spell at the O2 City Hall.

Fiddle player Sam Sweeney more than earns his keep, performing with his excellent three-piece band to open the show before taking his place stage right for the main performance. His set features instrumental tunes from new album Escape That, with goosebump-inducing pieces like Deep Water Shallow (End) and some endearing between-song wit quickly winning over the crowd.

After a quick change into some green sequins and amazing light-up shoes, Sweeney bounds back onto the stage followed by Bellowhead’s other ten members. Byker Hill is the only logical opener for a Newcastle show (as frontman Jon Boden puts it afterwards, “We stole that song from you!”) and it’s not long before the seated crowd are clapping in time and clearly itching to jump up and dance.

A mostly up-tempo selection of songs means that the evening’s exuberant mood remains almost constant, save for the essential and touching tribute to the band’s oboe and violin player Paul Sartin, whose death in October shocked the folk world. For one song, Brisk Lad, a recording of Sartin’s distinctive voice fills the Tyneside hall before his bandmates pick up their instruments to accompany him.

And it’s one of Sartin’s most popular arrangements which helps bring the show to a close and the audience to their feet, with the ever-glorious London Town and New York Girls compounding the party atmosphere before an obligatory encore of 10,000 Miles and Frog’s Legs And Dragons Teeth. Incomparable to almost any other band not just for their number of musicians but also for the sheer joy they bring, it’s good to have them back. They might have been away for a while, but there’s still no party like a Bellowhead party.

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