Storming night with the stars

Household names were not the only stars on stage at the Sage as Daniel Cochlin reports.

Household names were not the only stars on stage at the Sage as Daniel Cochlin reports.

The line-up was breathtaking - Jools Holland, Paul Weller and Johnny Vegas with the cream of North-East talent, including Ross Noble and Tim Healy, thrown in.

And 3Bandstand - the Teenage Cancer Trust concert at the Sage Gateshead - did not fail to deliver. At times moving, electrifying and downright outrageous, the sell-out audience was left mesmerised by the stunning array of talent in front of them.

The gig in many ways summed up what the new concert hall is all about, combining rock music with jazz, classical and blues, with some of the UK's best acting and comedy stars for good measure.

Yet despite the presence of endless superstars, the most important people on show were a handful of North-East youngsters.

The gig was organised to raise awareness of the disease and money for a teenage cancer ward at Newcastle's Royal Victoria Infirmary, where scores of teenagers from throughout the region have been treated.

Rather than being tucked away, the patients stole the show.

The audience fell silent as 16-year-old Melissa Cavanagh, from Sunderland, beautifully sang Stacie Orrico's hit Strong Enough beautifully.

Melissa was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease in 2003, but has battled the illness and has recently embarked on a music course at Newcastle College.

But it was not only on the stage that the youngsters were involved.

Jordan Thompson, 14; Stewart Simpson, 23; Daniel Finn, 16; Jenny Craney, 23; and John Anderson, 18, were all patients at the unit.

Just before the last act - a riotous ensemble of Weller, Holland, former Lindisfarne frontman Billy Mitchell and his legendary house band of Frankie Gibbon, Ray Laidlaw, Alan Clarke, John Miles Jnr and Simon Ferry - compere Simon Donald announced that the five youngsters had been behind the cameras filming the entire show.

The announcement earned the penultimate of several standing ovations, only trumped by when Vegas decided to dive head-first into the audience, cracking his knee on a chair as he did.

Cramlington comic Noble kicked the evening off, followed by tenor Sean Ruane singing Nessun Dorma, and controversial comic Ava Vidal, before Holland closed off the first half with a stomping set.

Interspersed with these were music from Mitchell and comedy from Donald. Highlights from the second half included Healy, disguised as a drunk heckler, storming on to the stage to sing with the band, and former Byker Grove star Jill Halfpenny in a duet with Mitchell.

But it was Vegas who brought the house down with an X-rated rant about how Newcastle is turning into London, taking out most of his fury on the Sage itself, before his ill-judged nosedive into the crowd.

To rapturous applause, the celebs made their way off stage and on to the Baltic, where the after-show party was going with a swing.

Most negotiated the short walk without trouble, except for Vegas who took 45 minutes to reach the art gallery.

This was the first time the TCT concert has been put on outside London.

On the evidence of the performances, and the reaction of the crowd, it will not be the last.


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