Michael Oakes

Review: Stornoway | Riverside

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As the time approached 7:30, the crowd was starting to build with the arrival of Stornoway on stage expected soon.  The crowd were chatting amongst themselves as the excitement started to build. Seemingly out of nowhere, Irish folk duo, The Lost Brothers, arrived and stage and greeted the crowd with “It’s great to be back in Newcastle”. As soon as the pair began to play, the crowd went silent as they were instantly captivated by the peaceful sound of The Lost Brothers. This music very peaceful and the lyrics made you want to just stand and listen closely. It’s clear to see why The Lost Brothers were the chosen support for Stornoway on this tour as the similarities between the two make them a perfect fit. But The Lost Brothers are a band in their own right, and this mesmerizing performance cemented that. Playing a number of instantly catchy songs from across four albums, mixed with some anecdotes about their previous trips to Newcastle, The Lost Brothers proved a massive hit with the crowd. They thanked the crowd on a number of occasions for their attentiveness, but the music made being attentive easy. Their music fitted perfectly in this small intimate venue and it’s safe to say that a number of the packed crowd will have left the show with another favourite band.

Perfectly warmed up and in the mood from the beautiful The Lost Brothers set, the crowd were ready for Stornoway. From entering the venue, field recordings of birds played until Stornoway entered the stage embodying Brian’s love for birds and his Phd in ornithology. The set started with field recordings of ships and birds, before Brian’s voice started with “Between The Saltmarsh and The Sea” from the new album Bonxie. The field recordings were a constant theme throughout the set and really helped you to become fully immersed in the atmosphere of this intimate venue. If you shut your eyes you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in a forest, listening to a Stornoway record as birds and nature surrounded you.  The peaceful opening was contrasted with the next song from the new album, Get Low, as the crowd had their first dance of the evening.

Brian politely addressed the crowd on a number of occasions, which warmed him to the fans more than he already had. He told a story about the Geordie accent, and how they were bemused by a Geordie couple they stayed with on their last visit. “It’s a lovely accent, I’m not trying to pick a fight” was greeted by a unanimous laugh from the crowd. They quickly went through ‘On The Rocks’ and ‘I Saw You Blink’, which everyone knew every word to and immediately a mass sing along broke out.  The band left the stage and Brian remained; “would you be up for an unplugged song?” Obviously the crowd obliged and Brian started with ‘November Song’ using only his voice and an acoustic guitar. You could hear a pin drop as the captivated crowd watched on in awe of the beautiful moment which was happening. The rest of the band reappeared on stage to take part in the final unplugged song, ‘Josephine’. This Stornoway performance had everything, including an unexpected drum solo in the extended opening of ‘When You’re Feeling Gentle’. As the set drew to a close, they pulled out two classics from the debut album ‘Beachcombers Windowsill’. A special moment occurred as the entire crowd swayed and sang every word to ‘Fuel Up’. Last, but definitely not least, came crowd favourite ‘Zorbing’; a perfect way to end a perfect performance. If you missed the chance to actually go Zorbing with Stornoway, seeing them perform this amazing song live certainly made up for it.

But that wasn’t the end just yet. The crowd shouted desperately for an encore, and Stornoway obliged by entering the stage, this time with The Lost Brothers. They ended the encore with two covers. The first of which was Yazz and The Plastic Population’s ‘The Only Way Is Up, which was greeted by a slight chuckle from the crowd as they started to realise the song they were playing. But this was soon followed by cheering, a sing a long and a party like atmosphere to end an incredible performance.  With four fantastic albums under their belt and a live show to match, the only way for Stornoway is indeed up.

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