WHEN Chris Rea used to travel from his home in Middlesbrough to watch his heroes play at Newcastle City Hall he probably never imagined he’d one day perform on that very stage.
Last night’s fantastic gig wasn’t the first time he had played the historic venue and it definitely won’t be the last – he’s on there again tonight – but it was a very special show nonetheless.
Since undergoing a life-saving operation to remove his pancreas several years ago, Chris Rea has been a new man.
Vowing to return to his first love, the Blues, he released a series of groundbreaking concept albums starting with the 11 CD box-set Blue Guitars and most recently the unique ‘music book’ The Return of the Fabulous Hofner Bluenotes.
The live version of ‘Hofner Bluenotes’, which Rea brought to the City Hall last night, was just as innovative as the ‘music book’ concept itself and saw the legendary singer-songwriter on stage from start to finish.
Surrounded by guitars hanging from the ceiling and bathed in atmospheric light, Rea took the audience on a musical journey through 50s and 60s Blues to his more familiar hits, such as Josephine, Stainsby Girls, and The Road to Hell.
The Delmonts, a fictional guitar band of Rea’s creation, kicked off the show in style with a selection of all new instrumental tracks that perfectly captured the atmospheric of the 50s.
My personal favourites were the effortlessly cool 008 Jimmy Bond and BB was a Comanche.
Next up were The Hofner Bluenotes themselves (also Rea and his veteran band), with the man himself providing the unmistakable vocals for a double album’s worth of excellent new songs such as The Shadow of a Fool, Legacy Blues, and the gorgeous I Will Be With You.
Rea may be best known for his smoky voice and songwriting talent, but he is also an extraordinary guitarist and I think you really have to see him live to appreciate just how good he is.
The Return of the Fabulous Hofner Bluetones is a love letter to the music Chris Rea grew up listening to and you can tell.
He may be a man of few words on stage, but he played with the same passion and intensity as the 20-year-old who first picked up a Hofner guitar in 1971 and went on to become one of the greatest musicians to ever come out of the North-East.
Rea recently said he would be more nervous playing Newcastle City Hall than any other venue on the tour, but he needn’t have worried – he was most certainly among friends.
After playing for nearly two hours without a break, Rea finished with the classic hits On The Beach and Let’s Dance before one of the longest standing ovations I’ve ever heard.
The Middlesbrough-born star was visibly moved by the reaction and left the stage with a huge smile on his face.
He wasn’t the only one.