Boiler Shop, Newcastle
13th July 2018
Mavis Staples makes her Newcastle debut at the age of 79 and she thrills a packed crowd with a wonderful set filled with the old and the new!
There are few people who can claim to have been performing as long as Mavis Staples, let alone to her standard. Tonight she makes her first ever appearance in Newcastle, firstly though there is the small matter of Benjamin Booker. The singer-songwriter has been rather quiet since the release of Witness last year, that doesn’t detract from our excitement of seeing him tonight though.
Taking to the stage with guitarist Sam Cohen it’s a stripped back affair from Booker, who sets about the most heartfelt and spellbinding set. The stand out track from which is Witness, he has this entire crowd completely mesmerised as they chant and clap along. His sets are normally much more raucous affairs but tonight he cannot be faulted, his power and passion so incredibly evident. All the while he is equally giddy about seeing Mavis Staples, it’s the perfect early summers evening set from Booker.
Making her way to the stage, there is an emphatic roar as Mavis Staples is introduced, opening with If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me) it kicks off proceedings in the perfect way. With a cover of Talking Heads Slippery People not far away either, Staples is off to a flying start. Her energy and enthusiasm ripples out through this excited crowd, with her set quickly devolving into this incredible blend of Blues, Funk and Soul.
There is an obvious leaning towards her latest album If All I Was Was Black, and there is the unrecognisable influence of Jeff Tweedy that runs through that. Tracks like Build A Bridge, Take Us Back and Little Bit all sound exceptional, but it is the classics that really capture everyone’s hearts. Staples packs her set with brilliant anecdotes and stories between every track as well.
It’s a truly incredible atmosphere and when she launches into tracks like Freedom Highway, and I’ll Take You There this place truly lights up. It’s often a strange thing to claim there is a lot of love in a room, but the environment Staples creates it’s almost impossible to deny. Whether it be a cover, or her own track Mavis Staples does everything her way tonight, apart from the reprisal of Witness in which she welcomed Benjamin Booker back to the stage.
It was a set that had everything from the Blues to Funk and just about everything in between, Mavis Staples has it all and even digs at the current “Baby in the White House”. A true legend and a real honour to get to see her live, Mavis Staples is a truly incredibly talented lady and tonight that lit up this packed room with phenomenal energy and excitement.
Photos by Gordon Armstrong find more work by Gordon here.