“The best thing about being a songwriter is that you can make people feel emotions.” This is exactly what The Lake Poets did. Under the tiers of the Sage 2 in Newcastle, the sold out crowd were to witness something beautiful and magical, and with Rachel Sermanni added as support there was something extra special in the air.
With a warm hello reciprocated, Scottish songstress Rachel Sermanni opens her set by herself on the mandolin. Her dark velvety tones over her folksy songs capture you even when she gets that bit rockier with the likes of The Fog. She tells us that this particular song leaves her heart in her throat at times when performing, but with a nice feeling. Then as Sermanni is about to perform her last song, A Song To A Fox, an audience member ‘reminds’ her to tell us who she and her pianist Jennifer Austin are, which seems to show an adoring charm of Sermanni – a very modest soul.
With a nod to his support act, even before he introduces himself or a single note, The Lake Poets, aka Marty Longstaff, picks up a guitar and starts the first part of his set with Rain. As the night goes on, the storyteller within Longstaff introduces many honest songs with mainly sad subjects, such as Black And Blue, written about child abuse. He then describes the collaboration with a student’s lyrics, behind “ booze on her breathe, fags in her mouth…I’m so lonely in this city.” Both of these songs bring gasps from the audience and a few wipe away tears.
As much as he sings sad songs, Longstaff does have some happy moments, especially from the view of a man in love. Just as we close part one of the night, he welcomes back Rachel Sermanni and Jennifer Austin to the stage, along with his bassist and backing vocalist Rebecca Young, to help deliver How Do You Love Me? – written about the first time his now wife said she loved him. As cheesy as it might seem there is something about the way Longstaff delivers a happy subject, amongst all the sadness, that makes you love him too.
We are then given a short break and on the return we are introduced to not only The Lake Poets’ full band, but also a string section of The Sage’s Young Musicians Programme. With a full-on electric feel and the pedal-steel (played by Tom Fletcher) taking the lead, a huge applause from the audience sees Windowsill kick off part two of the evening. Longstaff is in his element as he works a little spot on the stage and looks out into the audience as the night goes on. He is not only a man in love but a man that is in awe of us being in awe of him, and the string element is just the icing on the cake. His performance with these added extras give an additional tingle to your spine, whilst the harmonies from his bassist Rebecca Young brings it to another level. We are given more songs to tug at our heartstrings, most notably with North View, which is a nod to his departed Grandmother who had Alzheimer’s – there is, inevitably, hardly a dry eye in the house. He also makes a nod to his Dad in Vane Tempest, striking a chord with many due to its subject matter about the miner’s strike of the 1980s, resulting in a justly-deserved standing ovation.
A genuine and deserved encore follows with many people shouting out songs that they want to hear Longstaff play. He returns alone and as the crowd settles, Shipyards is our closer, the room silent and still until the last note, which follows with a rapturous applause as he exits the stage and the audience is left with every emotion touched and pretty much breathless thanks to this most stunning performance.
Words & Image by Victoria Ling