Gig Review: Anthony Vacher and The Silhouettes w/ Special Guests @ O2 Academy Newcastle
On a night that saw hordes of music fans flock to the enormous Metro Radio Arena to witness the mighty Arctic Monkeys, I made my way to another renowned but more modestly sized live music venue in town to check out some homegrown talent still in the early days of their music career.
Singer-songwriter Anthony Vacher has been a familiar name on the North East music scene for some time. Often accompanied by his trademark ukulele, his songs are as beautiful as they are honest but with a real zest for life that fills the heart with joy. But it was winning an online competition that scored him a support slot for The Voluntears at the 02 Academy and the release of his debut track ‘I Don’t Wanna Wake Up’ in summer 2017 that nudged him firmly into my view as an artist to watch out for.
Yet 2018 undoubtedly has already superseded last year’s feats, with the artist heading out for his first ever UK tour and releasing a further 3 magnificent tracks, all while working on his debut EP.
Selling out the majority of his acoustic tour, the confident youngster continues to aim even higher by announcing his biggest headline show to date; tonight's show at the O2 Academy 2 which will see him accompanied by his band The Silhouettes and an impressive host of support acts.
Arriving shortly after doors the first act was one I was more than thrilled to see again. Having previously witnessed HATi performing purely acoustically as part of a Sofar Sounds session, I was blown away by a much more complex performance that used a whole range of synth effects, keys and loops alongside her trusted guitar. HATi’s soulful voice sounded astounding, filling the large venue effortlessly during both the beat-heavy pop songs as well as the emotive acoustic tracks. I often found myself utterly mesmerised by her frenzied yet skilful multitasking of each instrument, as well as her charming way with the crowd. Promises of her upcoming EP now have me high with anticipation, especially if tracks like ‘Savages’ and ‘Charge’ are anything to go by.
As soon as four-piece The Escapades took to the stage after a short change-over, the amount of lairy hollers and excited chatter audibly increased, giving a good indication of what to expect from this newly established band headed up by well-known local singer-songwriter Kieran Taylor. Opening with their debut single ‘Kleptomaniac’ instantly confirms that these guys know their way around a catchy rock’n ‘roll tune brimming with nostalgic brit-pop influences. A track written by Kieran when only 15 went down equally as well with the bopping spectators, as did their latest release ‘Stay’ which sounded even more colossal live.
Even some brief technical issues didn’t diminish the exuberant atmosphere they created as the visibly grown crowd got stuck in; dancing and cheering to songs that were so easy to let loose too – whether we were familiar with the band’s tunes or not.
By the time Liv Byrom took to the stage with an acoustic cover of Paramore’s ‘Still Into You’ the room was sadly still filled with loud chatter but there was no denying that this fresh-faced singer-songwriter from Blyth has vocals that pack quite a punch.
Having enjoyed her vocals so much I felt that the addition of a three piece band joining her on stage for the rest of the set somewhat overpowered and distracted from that raw talent, perhaps due to a lack of incoherence in their unseasoned performance.
But following 2 highly experienced acts with a set of high-quality original material was never going to be easy. And even if a predominantly cover-filled set didn’t stand out for me personally, the renditions of popular bangers like ‘American Boy’ and ‘T-Shirt Weather’ certainly hit the spot for the crowd. Chances to play on stages like this will hopefully inspire these young musicians to continue their dream of making music and follow in their idols footsteps and beyond.
A short interval later and it was time for the main man to take to the mighty stage of the O2 Academy2 - a venue which holds a huge significance for many up and coming artists.
With his band the Silhouettes playing a rocking intro to build up the tension Anthony joyfully joined them centre stage, ukulele in hand and proved immediately ready to get the crowd on his side. With an exuberant energy and a wide smile, likely a mix of nerves and excitement, there followed a surprisingly powerful indie-pop sound that seems a world away from Anthony’s tracks released so far.
Now, with an undeniably euphoric atmosphere in full force, both Anthony and the band were eager to interact with the crowd eagerly rallying up cheers and chants.
With his sublime vocals thus far being slightly hidden behind the heavy sound of the band, the solo acoustic tracks that followed more than up for this.
Left alone with just his ukulele and acoustic guitar, and placed eerily close to eagerly watching eyes, an endearing vulnerability now showed through. This feeling was only heightened by the fact that this was to be the first time the tracks are performed live by the promising musician. A resulting mind-blank mid-song was quickly recovered and re-affirmed that Anthony feels at ease with the crowd enough to let them experience these tracks so early in their infancy.
The familiar sounds of 2nd single ‘Safe’, released early this year, once again made Anthony’s voice come to the forefront as the mood returned to a cheerful and upbeat high.
Back with a bouncing confidence and the band on stage next to him, the next song was announced as a guaranteed sing-along song - and that it most certainly was as Elvis’ ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’ resulted in glorious choruses chanted in unison and left loved ones holding onto each other.
As the faint sing-alongs continued for Anthony’s debut single ‘I Don’t Wanna Wake Up’ the crowd started to disperse slowly as the night was drawing in. Yet for those who stayed an utterly heartbreaking rendition of Anthony’s latest release ‘This Could Be’ was the reward. Inspired by the deeply concerning increase in male suicides, including a number of losses in recent months in his hometown of Blyth, the song’s theme is all too real and highlights the importance of speaking out and reaching out for help.
At times close to tears and with trembling breaths between lines, the personal encounters for Anthony are all too clear – an utterly heartfelt performance that is given the deserved respect as the room listens silently and attentively until the very end.
While the crowd eagerly requested an encore, I made my escape knowing that nothing could really follow this performance for me.
With highs and lows only in tempos and themes, the night itself was a pure high and one to be proud of for all those involved.
A re-affirmation that Anthony Vacher has a real passion for his art and a desire to connect with people through his music.
‘This Could Be’ is available now on all good music streaming sites with a percentage of the proceeds going to ManHealth - a project created to tackle male suicide and depression.