Live Review: Jake Houlsby – The Mining Institute, Newcastle

On the release day of his new EP Vondelpark, Jake Houlsby headlined Newcastle’s Mining Institute. It seemed a pretty big affair as just before showtime, extra seats were brought in and it was the most packed I have seen this venue.

Opening with a track about God (Patterns In The Sky) followed by a song about the Devil (Bloody Mind) I wondered how the night would unfold, but what was to come was something very special. Having only seen Jake perform at festival slots, this was something more captivating and raw – there were guitar swaps, loop pedals and synths galore, plus the addition of Laurie on keys and flute and Stu on drums. The synths made their first appearance with Loosing The Old – we were told that they are a new addition to the music and it was a welcome one. Unsure if it is the setting of The Mining Institute or simply just Jake’s take on the instruments and the way he delivered the vocals, but it was a spine-tingling moment.

There were many people in the audience that have followed Jake’s career from the beginning and he talked to us like we were his dear friends. His chat was engaging but maybe we were a little bit too captivated, as he checked in on us and asked if we wanted a more serious gig. The answer however was a resounding no and the crowd became livelier with their vocal engagement. The reason this crowd was initially a bit quieter than usual was because we were simply in awe, especially during the likes of the haunting Howl. And not to take anything away from the man of the night, but the stunning instrumental during Milos was like Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsay Buckingham had stepped into the room!

Vondelpark was the reason why we were here and we were told that it is a “cute song about cherishing those you love.” We definitely felt this, especially when it was delivered in such a magical environment. Then his deliverance of Carousel sent us into a daydream before we were treated to an equally dreamy cover of David Bowie’s Heroes. It could have been a perfect ending but with standing ovations and the crowd refusing to be silenced, Jake brought bandmate Laurie to the middle of the room to deliver an unplugged version of Yannina, accompanied only by acoustic guitar and flute – the definite perfect finale.

Words & Image by Victoria Ling