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David Ford | Gateshead Sage | 29/01/08

300 Miles From the Place He Calls Home...

Gig Review and Photos by Dawn

Whatever else occurred during this, his first appearance in Gateshead, David Ford was always guaranteed a rapturous reception during his rendition of Song for the Road, with its "I tip my hat to the Angel of the North" lyrics.

But while the North East crowd certainly oblige with cheers of approval at the nod to Antony Gormley’s steel seraph,  they also show their complete appreciation throughout the entirety of a performance which is as classy and as breathtaking as the Sage venue itself.

Ford gigs are laden with stark contrasts. His alluring voice  segues constantly from the gorgeous gravelly rasp conveying the gritty, live sound of Leonard Cohen cover Everybody Knows to the exquisitely beautiful, gently sung reassurances of Song for the Road; his songs, meanwhile, alternate between tearjerking piano poetry and impossibly infectious, impassioned rants.

New track To Hell with the World manages to be both, with bitter observations ("There’s no story to tell but there’s a spokesperson yelling") sitting directly beside the utterly devastating ("Maybe the songs that could’ve brought you to life weren’t allowed to get close to your ears") in the verses, while the chorus offers a far more optimistic view of the world.



Tonight’s songs are made even more astounding by the presence of the multi-talented Hannah Peel, who adds wonderfully triumphant violin melodies to I’m Alright Now, delicate trombone sounds to Song for the Road, some brilliantly layered violin venom to Go To Hell and divine backing vocals via a telephone receiver to Everybody Knows.

And lest we forget the equally gifted Gary ‘G-Man’ Page who, at varying moments during the evening, plays the hatstand, suitcase, tambourine, mandolin and organ.

Ford himself is as passionate and as compelling as ever, focussing intently on his piano keys during the slower songs and making his whole masterful performance look virtually effortless as he stands, hands in pockets, to loop layer upon layer of emotive vocals in his fabulous Go To Hell finale.

Aside from the music, Ford also entertains with his biting, between-song  banter. Having apparently read a backstage sign warning about North Eastern rivalry, he stops tuning his guitar to announce, "Ok, that’s good enough for you guys. If we were in Newcastle I’d try a bit harder", and when a heckler attempts to get the Lewes -residing Ford to pronounce the word 'bastard' with a Northern accent he apologises, "I only speak English".

But his humour is also self-deprecating, to the extent that when an audience member offers a compliment he responds with "Thanks mum" – the added comedy coming from the fact that the shout was from a male voice.

Then, of course, there’s the small matter of the stage decor, which includes such eye-catching features as a desk lamp, a hatstand holding two hats, a wooden trunk, a cabinet holding a pot plant, and the aforementioned black Bakelite telephone. Whether it’s penning opinionated epics or decorating stage sets, Mr Ford certainly isn’t one for doing things by halves.

With thanks to Owen, Abbie, the Sage staff and to Beige and David.

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