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Review: Peggy Seeger at Sage Gateshead

Hall Two at Sage Gateshead played host to a magical evening with Peggy Seeger and sons

Vicki Sharp Peggy Seeger
Peggy Seeger

I was looking forward to the concert. I knew it was a ‘one off’ tour and that Peggy Seeger now normally performs solo following the death of husband Ewan MacColl. The tour, we were told, came about after Seeger discussed with her sons what she would like for her 80th birthday and she suggested going on tour with them.

Cheerfully she opened with Sing About These Hard Times. Well, what else should we expect from a political radical who has spent her life campaigning?

Working class struggle, unions and social injustice were threads that ran through many of the songs performed over two sets. A couple of Elizabethan tunes, played on a weird bowed instrument apparently called a bowed psaltery, also stood out.

The concert had a warm, cosy atmosphere with entertaining family banter. I felt I was at a Seeger/MacColl family house party.

Seeger encouraged people to sing along with choruses in the folk club tradition, the approach being that she was performing with us, not for us.

Throughout the evening she read out quotes, facts and observations that she had recorded in a big blue file. Pertinent and amusing, these words of wisdom lightened the tone of the evening.

Both Neil and Calum are excellent musicians. Their performance was delicate, mainly slow and tender. Once came the comment: “Mum, I have told you many times, you play too fast.”

They played, with passion and sensitivity, a couple of songs dedicated to their dad, Sheep Crook and Black Dog, and a song he wrote when he knew he was nearing the end of his life, The Joy of Living.

They announced that, this being the centenary of Ewan MacColl’s birth, they are working on a project to include a recording and concert later this year at the Sage. Money raised will fund a bursary for a student on Newcastle University’s folk and traditional music degree course.

Just before Seeger sang The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, Calum interrupted to dedicate the song to his wife, who he proposed to in Newcastle outside the Irish Club.

A magical evening. I look forward to seeing them again in the bigger Hall One later this year.


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