A day out in Gateshead!

We had an interesting day yesterday in Gateshead and Newcastle - twin cities on the banks of the Tyne. The primary reason for our visit was to see Richard Thompson and his trio in concert at The Sage, but as we'd never been to the Sage or its near neighbour, The Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, we thought we'd make a day of it.
On the Millennium Bridge
We arrived at about 1.30pm and although it was bitterly cold on the banks of the Tyne, the stupendous views down the river over the Blinking Eye bridge and exploring the little embankment market kept us happy and on the move.
There was a great little stall selling Italian leather, and it had my fav Graffiti purses at amazing prices. Note to US readers - when I say purse I mean what we carry cash in, not a handbag, What was it that  Churchill famously said about being Separated by a common language...? Anyway I just couldn't resist getting another one in a glorious spring colourway - always good to have a reserve.

After the market we strolled back over the Millennium Bridge to the Gateshead side of the river, adrenalin pumping in anticipation of what The Baltic might hold. 
We'd heard so many good things about it - the building is certainly awesome, and we were greeted warmly by lovely peeps in the entrance and told enthusiastically about the exhibitions. We decided to go straight to the top floor and work down, so we could have a rest and a little sustenance in the rooftop restaurant before we started.
View from the restaurant
The views from the restaurant were brilliant and my peppermint tea and P's mocca also were spot on. Fully rested and raring to go, we duly decided to start making our descent down to the fifth floor - the children's gallery and official view station. There were lots of fun things for little ones to do as well as more educational activities - a great space for.parents and children and the all the kids were loving it.
View from restaurant
However, we were eager by this time to actually see some art, so we figured the next floor must be where the exhibitions start...  wait a minute, this one is closed.  OK, so we'll just go down to the third floor... would you believe it, closed too. By this time, slightly bemused, we continued down to 2, and lo and behold, we found the first exhibition.
Under the Blinking Eye
This was the work of Marcin Maciejowski, who as the catalogue claimed, re-presents everyday images of our time. I'm afraid everyday is exactly the word I would use, as unfortunately, try as we might, the work did nothing to inspire, excite or move either of us. 
On to the first floor and you know what... you guessed it, closed again!  By this time we were slightly disheartened to say the least, but we went on to the ground floor, hoping for better things.
Above is the complete exhibition of Avid Jablonowski, whose sculptures allegedly investigate the history and potential of communication in visual culture.
Here's a close-up of one of the exhibits, which were basically slabs of stone, variously adorned with different media - a printing press, exposed film, a camera, pigment. There was a curator on hand to explain what it was all about and I must say he was kept very busy doing so. 

At no point were we told that three of the five galleries were closed. And all in all it was a very poor experience, the best thing about it was the rooftop restaurant!
The Sage
So on to The Sage, where we'd decided to have a meal before the show. I felt a bit iffy about the building when I first saw it, like a giant glittering slug nestling in a field, but I soon came to love everything about it.  From the moment you walk in it feels like a cosy cocoon and we were soon settled down, comparing notes about our photos before eating. In no time at all, after a scrumptious meal, it was time to find our seats in the auditorium.
Inside Sage
What a great space, we took our seats and prepared to be blown away by perhaps the best guitarist Britain has produced in recent times. Richard Thompson has had many reincarnations since his days with Fairport Convention, and his love affair with the electric guitar is renown. This concert was part of The Electric Tour and as we'd never heard him play an entire electric set, it was hard to know what to expect, except to expect the unexpected.
When the trio walked on stage, it occurred to me that Richard looked exactly the same as when we last saw him about ten years ago - the beret, the badge and the same dark clothes. No problem either about recognising the gorgeous dark chocolate vocals and the masterful guitar licks - Thompson's guitar playing is as near as it comes to a Zen experience. But it took no time at all before we realised this was a competely different animal.
The band was tight, in fact this was precision in the extreme. Overtones of Hendrix, Cream and Led Zeppelin psychedelia flowed forth, fluently and flawlessly executed, even though at times it felt as if the notes were being delivered by a scatter gun! Powerful and loud, with the drums (even though for sure the drummer was ace) completely drowning the bass, it was virtually impossible to hear any of the lyrics. This was the boys having a great time, a virtuoso jam session with all and sundry invited. It seemed strangely inappropriate for a sit-down concert though. 
Blinking Eye by night
However, the encores were generous, with a couple of acoustic numbers thrown in, and I know the critics went home happy, though I'm not so sure about the audience, who like us, might have liked a little more of the Richard Thompson we know and love, retro and soppy as that may sound - and electric or not is not the issue.
There was just enough time after the concert to take some night-time pics of the bridge before driving home.  I know I've been sounding like a bit of a philistine here, moaning about the art and the music, but overall I'm glad to say it was a fun day and we both had a great time, irrespective of whether the art and the music was to our taste or not.
PS We really enjoyed the support - the American country singer/songwriter, Robert Ellis. Have a listen.

PPS  This trip inspired the Blinking Eye scarf and shawl, available now on Ravelry. 


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