LIVE REVIEW: Tom Grennan @ Virgin Money Unity Arena (27.08.20) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Thomas Jackson, Tynesight Photography

The UK’s live music industry has been stirring back into life recently. Artists have been announcing tour dates, certain venues have opened their doors and large-scale outdoor concerts have returned to the suburbs of Newcastle. The Virgin Money Unity Arena has pioneered live music in the Covid era, making certain adjustments to allow DJs, bands, bingo, drag and more to take to the stage once again. All the usual trappings of an outdoor festival remain, including some absolutely torrential rain, but after an absence of six months even that felt somewhat welcome.

Any worries around a potential lack of atmosphere are largely misplaced. An absolutely sodden crowd in Newcastle were fully immersed and engaged, with the more anthemic tracks still prompting a singalong. Tom Grennan’s own performance was fantastic. He’s the sort of charismatic, affable young artist that have been enjoying such success in the UK in recent years. Rockstar egos have given way to humour and crowd engagement, all the while having a back catalogue of songs that would hold up in any musical era. Found What I’ve Been Looking For was obviously a highlight, with Oh Please and Amen also sounding superb. Tom was ably supported by breakthrough band Mosa Wild, who were one of the first acts inducted in Virgin Money’s Emerging Stars programme.

The entire concept of a Covid compliant gig has been executed perfectly. The staging, lighting and production are all befitting of a typical festival main stage, with all the necessary adjustments being made elsewhere. Hand sanitising stations form a barrier between the crowd and the bar, each group has a designated platform and there are staggered arrival times. There are far more positives to socially distanced gigs than I first expected. The usual anxieties around queueing, crowding, overheating and losing your group were no longer a concern. Many people’s priorities when attending a gig are the music and their mates, both of which are unaffected by the new arrangements. It’s an enjoyable way to spend an evening without much of the unnecessary hassle. It may not be forever, but it’ll certainly do for now.

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