Gig Review: Josh Hodgson Full Band Headliner
Upon arriving at Port of Call it was immediately apparent how much effort had gone into getting the word out and, perhaps most importantly, how popular and well liked the night's headliner is.
Apparently The Lake Poets also hit Sunderland (their home city) on the same night, but this fact by no means split the crowd tonight and if the acts were aware of their competitors, they didn’t show it one bit.
Despite bustling with a very mixed crowd of all ages, it was easy to spot the number of familiar faces from Sunderland’s music scene and the region’s busking/acoustic circuits. And that's hardly surprising given that the organiser/headline act has played alongside many of them, clearly charming them all along the way.
First up though was acoustic solo artist Kewen. Bringing with him a boyish youthfulness and enthusiasm, the signer/songwriter from Northumberland proved to be the perfect opener for the night.
After stating that this was his debut gig in the city, he launched into a varied set of covers that filled the room with an electric atmosphere that we won’t soon forget.
The young lad seemed perfectly at home and relaxed in front of the crowd, which by this point had filled much of the fairly large room, and powered through with a sense of ease that few can master at this stage in their career.
Highlights included a pleasant surprise in the form of a nostalgia driven Sugarbabes’ cover and a rendition of ‘Sweet Caroline‘ by Neil Diamond that had the entire room singing along.
As if this wasn’t already impressive enough, he also managed to flawlessly incorporate a harmonica into his set, adding a little extra pizzazz to some of his songs.
With a healthy range of covers and original music at his disposal, Kewen will certainly be on my radar from this point forward.
Next came the intriguing Flair. This pair of vocalists, with their accompanying keyboard, turned out to be a winning combination.
Marrianne’s lead vocals were staggering in their ability to portray both emotive lows and powerful highs, all the while Olivia’s mastery of the keyboard and additional vocals provided a perfect backdrop for the set.
The duo managed to weave their individual skills together flawlessly and the chemistry between the two musicians was obvious and made the set feel all the more genuine and fun to be part of.
We were even treated to a very stirring collaboration with the headliner Josh, who lent another layer to the already impressive ensemble.
The third act of the night came in the form of Brass in Pocket who exploded into their set with a rendition of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition‘, immediately making the room aware that they were in for a cracking time.
What followed was a selection of supercharged covers that had a visual effect on the crowd who, despite the majority of the venue being seated, couldn’t resist boogieing along.
Notable examples such as Blondie’s ‘Call Me‘ and ABBA’s ‘Mamma Mia‘ made sure that everybody was well and truly warmed up and ready for what was to come next.
Having seen Josh Hodgson play a few times now, I was excited to see what he could achieve with the backing of a full band…I wasn’t disappointed.
As a musician, Josh has the rare ability to instantly spark an emotional response when he starts to perform.
Being extremely modest both off stage and between songs, it comes as a surprise when the voice that is unleashed upon starting his set carries with it a heft and power that is staggering to behold.
Having a full instrumental lineup behind him only exemplified this effect, lending a backdrop to Josh's stunning voice.
On display alongside several covers were some of Josh's original tracks which speak honestly about themes of human decency and care for one another, as well as mental health and private struggles. It's not an easy feat to present such topics in a modest and accessible manor, however Josh achieves both and elicits an undeniable emotional response from the room.
All in all I’d say Josh's first forray into a full band, headline gig was a roaring success.
Keep your eyes on all of the artists who performed tonight, I've got a feeling they'll be some of the region’s biggest and brightest in the coming years…
Cover photo by Lindsay Loughton Lindermann