LIVE REVIEW: RJ Thompson, Beth Macari, Eve Simpson @ Sage Gateshead (23.02.18) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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It’s great to see Eve Simpson grow in confidence and self-assurance with each passing performance. She takes to the stage tonight armed with little more than an acoustic guitar and a mesmerising singing voice. Softly spoken, she is transformed when performing songs from last year’s debut Shelter EP like the politicised A Woman’s Work and the lovelorn You Don’t See The Stars Like I Do; songs so timeless that they already feel like classics. Eve introduces two of her friends to help out on harmonies on the tearful For Absent Friends in a set that both enchants and enriches.

Beth Macari first graced Sage Gateshead’s stage some nine years ago and performs a set tonight that sees her fulfilling the promise she has shown for some time. A cover of Cry Me A River is a false start because her own material sees her at her best. A rocked out band version of Like That, her current single with Radio 1 DJ KSO is far superior to the dance anthem original, whilst the summery up-tempo beach vibes of On The Money is possibly the best thing she’s put her name to date. Forthcoming single Clone makes the most of her soulfully seductive vocal and caps a fine performance by an artist truly starting to find her feet and sound.

Tonight’s show was originally intended to be a 2017 record release party for RJ Thompson’s latest LP Echo Chamber but the album’s delay meant a rescheduling. Keen to make up for lost time, Thompson’s band tear into the album’s title track, an unashamedly 80’s Springsteen classic rock track that’s brought bang up to date with references to how the last couple of years have shaped modern day Britain. It’s a theme that runs through many of the songs, but Thompson is perhaps at his best on tender ballads Skimming Stones and Lie Close To Me. Thompson’s band are slick and tight, bar the odd key change error that RJ has fun berating his hapless keyboard player for. Possibly too slick for some, tracks like London are clean MOR rock. That you’re more likely to hear them on Radio 2 than any other more hip station is irrelevant. Tonight’s show feels like an overall success for all three North East artists, albeit a belated one.

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