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Live Review: George Ezra at Utilita Arena, Newcastle

ByHarry Vavasour

Mar 14, 2019

It is a strange custom in our society that certain individuals are deemed to be talented enough, that thousands of people will pay for the privilege of cramming into a stadium to shout the songs that they have written back at them as they sing. Even now, when Spotify and Apple Music allow you to listen to an artist on repeat at any time that you want, there is still a visceral thrill of attending a gig that cannot be matched by any size of boom box speakers.

Entering the Metro Radio Arena, it was immediately striking to look around at the sheer range of age groups that were filling up the space, evidence of the way in which music can bring groups together in a waythat little in our society is able to.

As the minutes ticked by, expectation rose within the room and seats and floor space were replaced by clamouring fans. Sigrid burst through the chatter of expectant voices with a combination of energy, movement and catchy lyrics to produce an opening half-hour set that warmed the crowd up before the climax of her biggest hit, ‘Strangers.’ Dressed in high-waisted jeans and a white t-shirt, she exuded a sense of normality mixed with a giddy confidence that fed the building excitement with each feel-good tune.

However, once she had left the stage there was no doubt that the main event was about to begin. The murmurs became a little louder, the temperature began to rise, a curtain was taken down to reveal a large 1950s drawing room aesthetic on stage, complete with lampshades, potted plants and a gramophone.

The band walked on; a drummer, keys, two guitarists, a trumpet, trombone and saxophone. And then accompanied by an almighty roar, George Ezra ran on stage and burst into ‘Don’t Matter Now’ and the bubble of expectation was released into an evening of raucous relaxation.

With a lovable loser persona that veers away from geek chic into an embodiment of dad-dancing and quirky jokes, Ezra built an easy affinity with his loving fans almost instantly, guiding them through his songs with a travel journal narrative that seemed as if it was being relayed to best friends over a pint.

He mixed the hits from his latest album with all of the favourites from his first, varying the tone and pace of the set list to exhibit the range of songs that his soothing voice is able to produce.

There must be an honourable mention for the band, who were given spotlights and solos to emphasise that this was more than a one- man show, but there was never any questioning who the star was. Like a magnet, Ezra’s infectious smile and fun-loving attitude drew his audience into a share of his enjoyment for performing that did not wane throughout the evening.

The three large windows at the back of the stage displayed graphics to accompany each song, while the lighting varied strikingly from blaring flashes to the moon-like spotlight and hanging chandeliers of his slower tunes.

Sing-along blended into sing-along so seamlessly that there was a sense of surprise when he departed the stage that so much time had gone by. Luckily, he returned to finish off with rousing renditions of ‘Cassy O’’ and ‘Shotgun’ to lead the Newcastle crowd merrily into the night.

If anyone had been in any doubt about the value of live performances in our digital age before the evening begun, then the beaming smile and vitality of Ezra moving around the stage will have left them certain that there is no substitute for seeing great performers in the flesh.

Image: Biha via Wikimedia

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