LIVE REVIEW: THE FUTUREHEADS @ SAGE GATESHEAD (05.06.21) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Thomas Jackson, Tynesight Photographic

After a seemingly endless fifteen month hiatus, the Sage Gateshead opened its doors to patrons once more for Sunderland music legends, The Futureheads. Of course, nowhere is at full capacity just yet – but thanks to rigorous organisation and guidance, a decent crowd were able to enjoy one of the biggest cultural gatherings in the North East since the beginning of our national lockdowns.

Part of the Sage’s graft to minimise the risk of transmission included a change in scenery for the support act, local up-and-comer Jodie Nicholson. This relaxed set on the sunlit concourse was the ideal reintroduction to in-person performance. The cabaret-style setup suited Nicholson’s gentle, melodic arrangements and powerful vocals. Armed with only her guitar, keyboard, and some light nacking melodies, the singer-songwriter filled the stage, and indeed the glass bubble of the Sage, with heartfelt, soothing sounds perfect to enjoy with a chilled beverage.

Sitting in an auditorium after such a long break leads to quite an alien experience; everyone seemed to be scrambling in their brains to remember just exactly what one is meant to do at a live show. Thankfully, The Futureheads were the ideal band to break through the ice with their banterous performance. 

Rocking up on stage with little fanfare, the foursome immediately appeased the anxious crowd with a set that provided everything from post punk groove to acapella folk interludes. A delightful nod to their Wearside roots came in the form of the ditty The Old Dun Cow, a traditional song which ticks all the boxes with some call-and-response, references to superfluous alcohol consumption, all set to a foot-stompingly jaunty tune.

But it wasn’t just heritage folk songs that got the stripped back treatment. A couple of their 2019 comeback tracks Jekyll and Listen, Little Man! got their first outing after over a year in a similarly simplistic manner. Some bands might only resort to an acoustic set for convenience to save time on cable management or as a brief gimmick for a song or two, but The Futureheads embraced the rustic format to give it the due diligence it deserves as a mainstay in North East folk culture. 

While these vocals-only performances impressed, they treated us to their usual full band sound for some old favourites. The emotionally-charged News and Tributes, the eponymous track from their 2006 album, deals with the tragedy of the 1958 Munich plane crash. and still serves as a poignant commemoration for the lives lost over 70 years on. Hard to Bear, the perfect message from one friend to another going through heartache, scratched the nostalgic itch for longtime fans of the group. 

The Futureheads closed their set fittingly with OG track Decent Days and Nights. When this was released as their second ever single as a band way back in 2004, no one could have imagined the global turmoil and uncertainty of the past year – and yet this song may better encapsulate the uncertainty we’ve collectively experienced throughout the pandemic. Perhaps now, with a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, we can, finally, have a few decent days and nights ourselves.

Image by Thomas Jackson, Tynesight Photographic

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