Monday, 23 July 2012

John Hiatt at The Sage, Gateshead - review by Terry Kelly

John Hiatt at The Sage
Saturday 21 July 2012

AMERICAN troubadour John Hiatt is one of the music world's finest exponents of country-rock.

Capturing small town dramas in songs blessed with great hooks, Hiatt's soulful voice is grainy as an old barn, making him sound like a backwoods Otis Redding.

Originally a frantic, New Wave-style tunesmith, Hiatt's 1987 album Bring the Family saw him reborn in the country mould.

That album produced such classics as Memphis in the Meantime and Thing Called Love, both of which proved highlights of his appearance at The Sage, part of the SummerTyne Americana Festival 2012.

Hiatt immediately established a rapport with his local fans, joking about the band's driver from County Durham: "Might as well be speaking Mandarin."

Backed by a brilliant, four-piece band called The Combo, there was no indication from Hiatt's high-energy, foot-to-the-floor performance that he'd already been on the road for several weeks.

Hiatt standards Perfectly Good Guitar and Real Fine Love went down a treat with the fans, while Cry Love was a spine-chilling highlight.

But tracks from his most recent album, Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns, proved his songwriting muse is still very much alive.

Emotional closer Have A Little Faith In Me was followed by the bluesy encore, Riding With the King.

Perfect gigs don't come along too often, but Hiatt's came pretty close.



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