|A typical Newcastle panorama.|
Sufjan was ably supported by his own band member, DM Stith, who of course has been profiled by Cora on this very blog in days gone by...it really is a small world, isn't it. He seemed to have a good night, I enjoyed his set and heard the people sat around me afterwards muttering things like: 'Wasn't he good?' 'Oh yes, so glad we came early, wouldn't have wanted to miss that.' This was despite the venue's tannoy introducing the concert as 'Sufjan Stevens supported by...uh...DJ...Smith.' Of the two names, his is probably the easier to pronounce, I'd have thought.
The venue was the incredible Sage (see picture above - it's the shell-like building on the left), and the show more than lived up to the grandeur and spectacle of the building. Sufjan expertly captured the spirit of his latest album, just upping the ante a bit to make it intensely thrilling; an engrossing and dangerously arty couple of hours. One of the things that impressed me was the 'duelling drumkits', one at either side of the stage, facing inwards (so looking at each other), an idea not used to make more noise, but to produce intricate and carefully planned rhythms... I was scrutinising the behaviour of the drummers regularly during the night. The noise quotient was mostly provided by the trombone section, who were absolutely devastating, making their proclamations (possibly the most memorable bit of the album) with almost physical force.
|Cue tickertape, near the end of Sufjan's show.|
That was Monday. The next day (before I went home...I did say it was a short holiday) I was determined to find a literary landmark, and with no street vendors selling 'maps to poet's homes' (though the city is full of them), I ended up at the Literary and Philosophical Society - my first visit. My suspicions that this would be exactly my kind of place were proved accurate... I've never seen so many poetry books, old and new, in one place - if you have, let me know and I'll go there next! The people also seemed infinitely agreeable; I overheard a bloke tell his friend a joke where the punchline was: 'and then he says, "have we met? My name's Rilke"' at which they both guffawed. On leaving, the friend said: 'well, tara then old boy, see you anon.' I wish I could get away with speaking like that.
After a quick read of Bertolt Brecht's Collected Poems (I'm into him at the moment... I opened the book onto a poem where he reckons Los Angeles is full of 'houses built for happy people, therefore standing empty / even when lived in') I headed to some sort of refreshment hatch, where I met a very nice woman with the classic Geordie accent who sold me, without question, the best glass of orange juice I've ever had. I went back to see if she'd fill up my water bottle for the train - not only did she provide this service, she slipped a large bar of chocolate into my bag, winked, and said: 'have this for the journey, pet...on the house. Remember us next time you're in town.' I certainly will! She also asked me 'what the deal was' with 'that Lady Gaga' - I forget how we got onto that topic, but I didn't have any insight for her.
That about concludes my travel report. If you're the sort of person who likes photographs, there's a decent selection of snaps from the trip on facebook - otherwise, stay tuned to the blog for some decent book-related posts later this week, not least of which a report from James Mcloughlin's launch on Wednesday 25th. Don't just read the report though - try and get there, it's going to be fantastic.