Blackheart are rock haired Welsh songstress Chrissy Mostyn on vocals and acoustic guitar and now trademark hat and ponytail adorned Rick Pilkington playing acoustic guitar and mandolin; considered to be among the fastest rising stars of the British folk scene, having received great acclaim for both their debut album Indigo and follow up CD, Invisible. Their songwriting efforltessly blends folk, country and rock to create a sound often described as‘urban folk’ by the media; a sound which is very much their own.
Having seen them play a few smaller venues in recent years, I was excited to see them play what I’m sure everyone now knows is my favourite music venue!
Demonstrating their down to earth nature from the outset, Rick quipped that this was the Nicest wedding cake they had ever played in. (All who have been in Hall 2 will know what he meant!) The jokes continued as they talked of Chrissy trying write a song backstage but Rick being too distracted by the sandwiches with musical names, such as ‘salmon and garfunkel’ and ‘prawn to be wild.’ Maybe I shouldn’t admit that I added a few of my own when chatting to them later – ‘jam session’ being one...!
Commanding the attention of the audience from the opening notes of Wednesday Afternoon, and Wonderland, which allowed for jokes about Chrissy’s hometown of Wigan, they held it for the duration of their set, which took us through a variety of old and new songs; personal favourites perhaps being a new song, which beautifully shows of Chrissy’s angelic voice; Here I Go Again, which has been rewritten several times – guys – it’s great how it is!, - and a new song which allowed for a sing along, called Smile, Smile, Smile. Not forgetting of course Rick’s bit of guitar madness, with a German name I can’t even attempt to recall! How he moves his fingers so fast is a mystery. Ending the set with the achingly beautiful 94 years, about Rick’s father, there was no doubt in all hall two as to the talent of this duo and we were all left with a very big smile, smile, smile.
After a short break, Eve, looking super slim, and part of the band; Marc ‘Twang’ Intravaia and Rick Nash on guitars and Larry Grano on drums (a little shout out here to ‘Cactus’ Jim Soldi and Sharon Whyte – see you guys next time, we missed you!) walked out bearing huge grins, before Eve greeted us like old friends; “Well, hello! How’ve you been?” before launching into a new song, All Roads Lead to Here. This seemed a highly apt title since it is Eve’s 5th time now in the North East and 4th time at The Sage, a venue she has loved since that first visit at the very first SummerTyne Festival, where in the eyes of many lucky to see her there, she set the precedent for all festivals to come. In fact, her fondness for this festival, which she has now played three times, was evidenced when she gave it an impromptu plug, telling us it rivals many USA music festivals. It seemed a cruel irony that she had missed playing it this year by just one week. There’s always next year...Eve? Sage?
In her typically natural, down to earth manner, Eve laughed, chatted and joked in between songs, drawing us into her space on stage more and more with each and every performance; I still believe she and Joan Baez are cut from the same cloth when it comes to using their hands to express themselves on stage. Her voice sounding better than ever, Eve and the band took us through a selection of well loved songs’ Mr Lincoln, Russellville (about getting lost, which they managed not to do this trip – yay!) Those words we said (a rocking version of one of Kim Richey’s great songs) Angels and Eagles, One Day at A Time (with a stunning introduction by Rick and Larry) Crying Days and of course, The Ballad of Kate Morgan, the ghost who haunts the Hotel del Coronado, with Larry taking a verse – who knew he had such a great voice aswell as being a star drummer! (as an aside, I recommend this amazing book, if you, like I, are intrigued by Eve’s story of Kate Morgan - Dead Move: Kate Morgan and the Haunting Mystery of Coronado by John T Cullen.) Having discussed it with her, Eve and I drew the same conclusion, but who actually knows who Kate really was!) I can’t forget, of course, that Eve sang one of my personal favourites, Pocket Full of Stones, which was possibly the most beautiful I have heard it.
These ‘old’ favourites, were peppered with new songs, many of which appear on their tour only CD, 65 Roses. The highlights among these included When is Everything Enough (inspired by Tiger Woods, and very insightful,) Crazy (which is a brilliant song) and a beautiful cover of a song by Buddy and Julie Miller – I must look them up.
In between, Eve talked about the pink streaks in her hair and how they are connected to the 60 mile walk she is doing over just 3 days, to raise money for breast cancer (both one of her sisters and her best friend – Mattie Mills – with whom Eve wrote the book Forty Schmorty – are survivors) She then proceeded to make us all laugh when she lost her set list; Marc took the opportunity to thank the sound man ‘for making it sound like we’re playing in our living room’ (I think that’s how we all felt) and Eve looked over and started laughing, as she said ‘It’s great to see the soundman grooving.’ Cue everyone in Hall 2 staring at said individual, happily dancing away to the music!
They chose to end the set with an absolutely rocking version of Stop The Train; Marc and Rick trading guitar riffs so fast it was impossible to watch without becoming dizzy.
Clearly realising we had no intentions of letting them go without an encore, they returned to the stage to huge applause and invited Blackheart back out onstage to join them for a rendition of a traditional song which Eve told us she fell in love with over here last year; Go Lassie Go (sometimes called Blooming Heather) Eve took a verse, then stepped back to let Chrissy take hers, then she did likewise for Larry. Just beautiful. I don’t think I was alone in wishing the song and their harmonies, could continue all night! It was, without a doubt, the most stunning version I’ve heard of that song.
All too soon, it was over, and Eve, as always, spent time afterwards chatting to anyone who wanted to say hello. It was actually lovely, when speaking to her, to hear her speak very highly of not only The Sage but of how well they look after ‘their’ artists – it’s good to know backstage is as good as what we see from the other side! No wonder people want to come back – and I know Eve is no exception; especially now we all know that All Roads Lead to Here, at least once a year. That isn’t so long to wait, really, after a wonderful night of music that was ‘just the kind of crazy that WE love!’