Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images Nine days after the deadly tornado that touched…
- Posted on Feb 12th 2010 12:09PM by Barnaby Smith
Location: St Mary's Square, Gateshead Quays, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear NE8 2JR
Capacity: 1,700 in the main hall.
Come to see: To cast an eye over the last few months' concerts at one of northern England's most impressive music venues is to get a pretty fair idea of the eclectic nature of this ambitious, modern arts complex. Richard Hawley, Jack Penate, Beverley Knight, David Gray, the Futureheads and Elbow have all passed through the Sage in recent times, confirming it as an important stop on the UK tour map for any established band. The Sage, however, is most sympathetic to the nation's folk reawakening. It has a clear emphasis on traditional artists such as locals Rachel Unthank and the Winterset, Jim Moray, Eliza Carthy and Seth Lakeman, all of whom are more or less regulars on the the Sage's stage. The venue also hosts its own folk festivals, workshops and forums, while the icing on the cake as far as diversity is concerned must be the world music programming, as well as the fact it is the home of the Northern Sinfonia.
Ros Rigby, Performance Programme Directer, says, "For me personally, the best concerts have been Randy Newman, Ry Cooder and Nick Lowe, David Byrne and Guy Barker with the Northern Sinfonia."
The atmosphere: The Sage's closest relative among other UK venues is probably the Barbican, and therefore enjoys the same reverential mood as the east London concert hall. In addition, The Sage's location has a huge bearing on its atmosphere. The venue sits on the South Bank of the River Tyne in the middle of Gateshead, and the simple tranquility of that setting lends the atmosphere a respectful mood. There is also a sense of experimentalism and avant-garde, not just because of the imaginative programming, but also because of the building itself, regarded as something of an architectural phenomenon when the place opened in 2004 and referred to by Private Eye magazine as a "shiny condom".
You saw them here first: The Sage is such a young venue -- and indeed such a big one -- that it is not exactly a place where young talent is fostered on its way to greater acclaim ... yet. It does, however, regularly host shows from winners of the BBC Young Folk Awards, including Last Orders, Uiscedwr and Tim Van Eyken.
"Many folk performers who studied on England's only folk degree course which we helped to start have gone on to national success," says Rigby. "Maximo Park played on our opening weekend in December 2004 and have also gone on to national fame."
Claim to Fame: Again, at only six years old the Stage is still finding its feet. Yet it must be said that it attracts as much attention for that bizarre architecture as much as anything else. Norman Foster's 'giant slug' design has become as synonymous with the North East as Antony Gormley's Angel of the North.
You should also know: Acclaimed Northumbrian piper Kathryn Tickell has been the artistic director of the Folkestra youth ensemble at The Sage since 2008. Folkestra is a training ground for the region's finest young folk musicians, and counts the Winterset sisters among its alumni.
"[The Sage] provides a whole host of learning and training opportunities for local musicians," says Rigby. "It's a resource for local people and visitors to the region alike. We've also established some major annual festivals such as the Gateshead International Jazz Festival."
Booking now: Glen Tilbrook, Seth Lakeman, Grizzly Bear, Portico Quartet