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Review: Barbara Dickson at Sage Gateshead

Seasoned performer Barbara Dickson leads her audience on a musical tour with a characteristic personal twist

Singer Barbara Dickson
Singer Barbara Dickson

Barbara Dickson, always a warm and friendly presence, has been performing in the North East for almost 50 years.

She knows her audience and, while happy to sing past hits, always stays fresh and has a surprise or two up her sleeve.

All this explains why, yet again, she attracted a huge crowd on a Sunday evening.

Starting with just a guitar and piano accompaniment for her 1977 hit, Another Suitcase in Another Hall, she was into her stride faultlessly.

For two hours we were taken on a musical tour, with the Beatles, Bob Dylan and Benny Anderson given her unique twist.

Her fine version of Sandy Denny’s Who Knows Where The Time Goes? had me thinking the same.

She treated us to many tracks from her latest album, Winter, and while some of the songs have been heard before, the arrangements made by her multi-instrumentalist band member, Troy Donockley, were bright and thoughtful.

These included Winter Song, written by the late Alan Hull of Lindisfarne, and Gerry Rafferty’s Winter’s Come.

There were further examples of Rafferty’s music and it’s a delight that she continues to keep this fine composer’s work in the light.

Her roots in folk music are never far from the surface, even when delighting her audience by singing parts of her significantly large back catalogue of hits.

Answer Me and Caravan raised wistful smiles from those who remember them first time around.

Dickson’s TV and stage career has brought her many awards, including an OBE and Oliviers for best actress in 1984 and 2000 (Blood Brothers and Spend, Spend, Spend respectively). Of course, she featured songs from this part of her career as well.

She has always surrounded herself with the best musicians and this concert was no exception. While she alternated between guitar and piano, her band supported with additional keyboards, bass, percussion and the many instruments of Donockley – including guitars, whistles, bazouki and the haunting Uillean pipes.

Yet it was with the encore that she made her definitive personal statement, guaranteeing a major shiver to the spine and a lasting memory.

This was a majestic a capella performance of MacCrimmon’s Lament, followed by The Gold Ring jig featuring the whole band in a state of joyful abandon.

It was no surprise that the audience rose as one to cheer her off the stage.

Rob Barnes


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