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Review of 2008's musical highlights

When it comes to memorable music performances, 2008 was pretty darn good.

WHEN it comes to memorable music performances, 2008 was pretty darn good. Sam Wonfor looks over her shoulder and chooses a smattering of tuneful highlights.

REGULAR Journal readers will have hopefully been enjoying our series looking back over 2008’s cultural highlights.

We’ve cast an eye over the arts, classical music and theatrical delights as well as allowing ourselves the indulgence of harping on about what made our hearts sing during the year.

Here – and appropriately on the last day of the year, don’t you think? – is the last look back over what each month had to offer in music offerings. Hope it brings back some swaying, rocking and feet stamping memories.

Here’s to an even more memorable 2009.


A pretty quiet start to the year, but that didn’t stop The Wombats putting in a blistering performance at The Cluny to get 2008 off to a flyer.

Paul Carrack also made a welcome return to The Sage Gateshead, while The Almighty had a sold out performance at Newcastle’s Carling Academy. The venue also played host to the Plain White Ts ... those of Hey There Delilah (hate or love it) fame.


Welsh soul power-pot Duffy graced The Cluny stage before returning later in the year for the Evolution Festival.

Meanwhile at The Sage Gateshead, veteran legends Bill Wyman and Dionne Warwick strutted their stuffs to much applause, as did 1980s icons Boy George and Alison Moyet.


Saw the fourth Gateshead International Jazz Festival kick off at The Sage with celebrated veterans Cleo Laine and John Dankworth. The rest of the programme lived up to its opening.

Down at the Arena, Irish manband Westlife made their annual double date with their Tyneside fans; Gary Numan played his pioneering Replicas album in its entirety at the Carling Academy while in South Shields, The Doonan Family Band played up a storm at the Customs House.


Chris Rea returned to his North East roots for An Evening With an audience at Newcastle City Hall and brought his love letter to the 50s and 60s.

The next night saw the 2008 Mercury Music Prize winners Elbow visit the Carling Academy on the tour promoting the soon-to-be triumphant album Seldom Seen Kid.

Marty Wilde and the Wildcats ripped up a storm at the Customs House while Jason Isaacs and the Dave Connolly Big Band served up a lovely evening at The Journal Tyne Theatre.


The now national treasure Cheryl Cole came to the Arena for a duo of dates with her Girls Aloud bandmates (they’re coming back for a quartet of concerts in 2009).

The much-loved Evolution Festival returned with top female talent at the top of the bill, namely Duffy and Kate Nash. The Streets also did their thang.

Elsewhere, Rachel Unthank and the Winterset (who notched up a Mercury Music nomination for their album The Bairns) played The Round in the Ouseburn before its untimely closure, while Dirty Pretty Things and The Pigeon Detectives put in respective (and more than respectable) shows at Northumbria Uni and Carling Academy.


The girls were out in force in June. Pearl’s a Singer, singer, Elkie Brooks took in a handful of North East venues, while Sandi Thom, (the wannabe punk rocker with hair flowers) came to The Cluny and Thea Gilmore brought her singing and songwriting to The Sage Gateshead.

Hitting for the boys were piano genius Ben Folds at the Academy, Joe Jackson and Steve Harley – separately at The Sage – and Boyzone, who returned to the Arena in not-as-good-as-Take-That (but nevertheless good) comeback style.


Kylie Minogue kept four, yes FOUR, dates with the Metro Radio Arena and wow-wow-wow-wowed the crowd while still finding time to call in to The Angel in Corbridge for a drink.

Earlier in the month, silky smooth crooner Michael Buble had warmed up the venue for her in smashing style while earlier still, Russell Watson showed he had fully recovered from his brain tumour with a full-cylinders performance at Newcastle City Hall.

Down at The Cluny, former Beautiful South frontman and Housemartin Paul Heaton sang classics old and new from his back catalogue.


Although a traditionally quiet month due to the ridiculously overcrowded festival merry-go-round, August still managed some memorable moments.

Alnwick International Music Festival once again brought a wonderful array of world music to Northumberland while Gomez brought it on at the Academy in their 10th anniversary tour. Too-cool-for-school Kasabian also visited the Academy and proved their considerable worth.


A new City Hall stage was laid in August and hosted its first performance on September 10, from Emmylou Harris.

Across the Tyne, Lambchop frontman Kurt Wagner made a rare solo appearance at The Sage Gateshead. Back at the City Hall things were getting rocky as veteran rockers Status Quo brought 40 years of hits to the stage (they’re finishing their set later tonight!) while North West chart toppers The Ting Tings whipped up a sell-out crowd at the Academy.


The Boss Sounds Festival returned in style with performances from East Star Allstars and Sly and Robbie among many others.

The Hoosiers said hello to the Carling Academy (as well as Mr A) while Kathryn Williams and Neil McColl played The Gala Theatre, Durham.

James Blunt silenced his critics (well, had a good go, anyway) with an applauded performance at the Metro Radio Arena. Well, he did tell everyone they were Beautiful ... what else were they supposed to do?


As the dark nights got darker, there was plenty on hand to make us feel cosy and warm.

Yorkshire’s Kate Rusby brought her pure voice and new take on the traditional to Durham’s Gala Theatre while The Fratellis got everyone jumping up and down at the Academy in Newcastle.

Kanye West brought his arrogance (and a show to back it up) to the Arena, got arrested and then released without charge after a scuffle with a photographer. Memorable indeed.

Back at the Academy, Seth Lakeman left a packed crowd breathless with a ridiculously energetic folky, fiddly and frantic performance they won’t forget in a hurry.


A Christmas gig from The Pogues at the Academy provided a double measure of festive spirit.

Meanwhile, the Arena was ringing with rocky performances from Simple Minds, celebrating their 30th birthday; the Stereophonics, who were celebrating selling loads of albums; and Kings of Leon, who were doubtless celebrating playing a really big gig.

And just before Christmas, The Futureheads returned home after a return-to-form year and performed with friends at The Sage Gateshead.

And that’s all, folks.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer