Live at The Sage, Gateshead
I struggled to find much info on support act Swimming Lessons, other than they are from Leeds and they play meditative, druggy, yet anthemic songs which are quite possibly about being dumped. One song segues into the next for an enjoyable half hour set which passed by much quicker. If there was one drawback it would be that, just as the songs bleed into one another, unfortunately so do the instruments, occasionally becoming completely lost in the mix. It's an interesting project though, with a singer who is clearly not afraid to go for the high notes and a drummer who, I can only imagine, has become stranded from his blatant natural home: a free jazz trio. It might have taken us British residents quite a while to realise that Merrill Garbus' tUnE-YaRdS had made a modern classic with their second album w h o k i l l, but luckily for us they're back for another tour with nothing in particular to promote and they run through most it tonight. In fact, when they announce that it will be the last time they'll be touring the record it brings mixed feelings, sad to see the album jettisoned but excited for the future prospects of this constantly awe-inspiring performer. The highlight of the set came from the uncharacteristically slow and stripped back "Powa" where Garbus played every last drum beat individually (including some clinks of the mic stand) before combining the lot for a stunning five minute rendition. This, coupled with an amazing knack for harmonising with herself through some technical wizardry, produces a truly unique concert experience. Garbus is like a small child playing around on stage and her natural charisma is the heart and soul of the gig, a gig which achieved the seemingly impossible and got a Tuesday night audience dancing. Highlights included "Real Live Flesh", "Bizness" and after finishing their set with a rousing "My Country" the band returned for an encore which included an absorbing gentle run through of "Fiya" (from debut album BiRd-BrAiNs). Garbus then took the time to thank pretty much everyone in the venue, all the way to the "guy on the merch table" stuck outside and unlucky to miss such wonderfully creative performance.