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The SummerTyne Americana Festival: Kiefer Sutherland - Gateshead 21.07.2019

The SummerTyne Americana festival has been a staple fixture at the Sage in Gateshead now for the last few years. A highlight for any fan of Country and Roots music, the three day event is spread across several stages both inside and outside the main venue, with a good few free to the general public. It's only really the shows in hall one and two that you need to pay for and even then they're individual events clubbed under a collective banner.

I'm attending the last night in the main hall where the closing headliner is Kiefer Sutherland. Yes, that Kiefer Sutherland. A man who, when you start looking into things has actually led a pretty interesting life and that's even if you ignore all the acting shenanigans that he's known for across the globe. The one time rodeo rider (I'm not making this up) and “Lost Boys” star has arrived in town as part of his European tour supporting his second album. But first up, Gordon (3S&O photographer and all round good guy) have got our own mission to accomplish.

I arrive first and report to the ticket desk where I'm given a photo pass. Okay, not quite what I was expecting but I wasn't going to panic. Gordon messages me to say they've probably gotten us mixed up and he'll meet me when he gets there. When he turns up a few minutes later I hand him the pass and go to put my bag on the cloakroom. I arrive back to find G now with two photo passes and no seat ticket for me. Bugger. I joke that perhaps I should stand at the front and take selfie’s of Gordon, Kiefer and myself for the first three songs before sitting in someone’s lap. A quick chat with the venue manager and we've got apologies and a plan. There's no seats left as tonight has sold out so I'll be stood at the back with my photo pass where the staff are aware I'm there to review the gig and not to throw me out after the usual three songs rule. Total time taken: 24 minutes (I'm kidding about the time but, hey, it makes for a good story). We both slip inside the hall with seconds to spare as tonight's support act take to the stage.

Jesse Dayton strides confidently onto the stage with his guitar and as soon as he starts to play you can tell why. The Texan rips into 'Daddy Was A Badass' with the aid of Mike Stinson on drums and Chris Rhodes on bass. It's a simple set up that suits Dayton and allows him to shine. His guitar playing mixes traditional Country with licks that Brian Setzer would be proud of. He stands tall centre stage proclaiming that they've played some honky tonks before in the past, before leading the trio into some fine picks from his catalogue. He lists some of the Country royalty he's played with including the likes of Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash but it's not a brag. It's proof that he's worked hard to get where he is by paying his dues by learning from the best. He describes 'Killer On The Lamb' as a murder ballad, which is a pretty fair summary of a song written for Rob Zombie's film of murder and mayhem "The Devil's Rejects" before closing his set with covers of 'Bankrobber' (made famous by The Clash) and AC/DC's 'Whole Lotta Rosie'. Jesse salutes the audience safe in the knowledge that he's won this audience well and truly over.

The interval sees me catching up with an old friend and grabbing a little pot of ice cream before heading back into the auditorium as the lights begin to dim. Musicians enter in pairs under a dimmed light before Kiefer enters wearing a black shirt, white jacket and a large brimmed white hat that, for some reason, seems to be more "Man From Del Monte" than Country artist. Any thoughts of this being a throwaway vanity project swiftly disappear as he leads the band into their opening song ‘Rebel Wind’. Kiefer seems to be enjoying himself but also seems to be hiding away a little under the broad brim of his hat. This doesn’t last long as it’s soon off, hung up by the little wooden table with his drink on it and a lamp, and he seems a lot more at ease.

There’s another couple of songs that pass by in a blur before he’s standing at the stage front introducing the title track of his new album “Reckless & Me”. Originally an ode to his horse from his rodeo riding days in the late 90’s, he confesses that the song also came to be more about himself too. ‘Shirley Jean’ borrows heavily from the Johnny Cash school of prison ballads as he writes from the view of a prisoner in his last few hours before his execution. Common themes rise from his songs. ‘Faded Pair Of Blue Jeans’ talks about long lasting love while ‘Not Enough Whisky’ is pretty self explanatory.

He introduces ‘Saskatchewan’ as his song for his mother who he thought he was about to lose from a stroke, an ode to a life lived well that could have quite easily slipped out of the pages of Bruce Springsteen’s songbook. Sometime’s the sound of his guitar is really driven, giving it a real Rock bite, other times it’s subtle, allowing his touring guitarist to take the lead.

His encore starts with a cover of Dylan’s ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’ which he plays in tribute to the times his dad would play it over and over again on an 8-track tape as they drove around in a Ferrari that was won gambling, probably proving that the outlaw gene has come down from his father’s side. A quick break to tune his acoustic guitar though allows Kiefer to tell us of his love of Gregg’s, particularly the sausage roll, and how we should be proud of being it’s hometown. A spirited and upbeat ‘Agave’ closes everything off, everyone clearly enjoying themselves.

And that’s what I take from the gig. Yes I’ve heard musicians with better voices, guitarists who can play better and writers who are stronger at their craft. But I’ve heard and seen a lot worse. Kiefer may have an okay singing voice but he’s doing a lot better than a lot of actor musicians. It’s something he’s clearly passionate about and he looks as though he’s having the time of his life leading the band through some of the best songs from his two albums. He’s probably not going to quit acting to lead the career of a wandering troubadour but that’s not really the point. Tonight was all about having fun and doing something that you enjoy doing, which is more than can be said for a lot of us. Let’s hope he continues doing so.

Review - Scott Hamilton

Photos - G's Gig Shots

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