This was the LA rock ‘n’ soulers’ third visit to Tyneside this year and the second time they’d played the Sage.
The first occasion on which they made the slivery caterpillar on the banks of the Tyne their temporary home was as the support act to Brian May and Kerry Ellis, when they simply blew the headliners off stage.
This time round the conquering heroes returned as headliners in their own right to play a sell-out gig in the venue’s Hall 2.
It’s difficult to encapsulate the explosion of joyous energy that underpins a Vintage Trouble gig, save to say that by the second number, a storming version of Blues Hand Me Down, the audience was abuzz, enthralled and invigorated by the music and performance that was unfolding before their eyes and ears.
It helps that VT have a consummate frontman in Ty Taylor who not only possesses a voice to die for, dripping in pure soul and blues, but who also has the moves and charisma that soon had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand. During a short musical break in Still And Always Will he implored the audience to produce even more noise – and the masses delivered.
One of the wonders of Vintage Trouble is that they’ve successfully managed to straddle the rock and soul genres. They can happily play sets at Sonisphere and High Voltage whilst simultaneously featuring in trendy magazines that wouldn’t dream of covering either of those rock festivals.
When I first saw the band live I likened them to hybrid of the Black Crowes fronted by Otis Redding: it’s a metaphor that still holds true. Their self-confessed mission is to produce the sort of music once found in the juke joints – the wellspring from which gushed forth blues, R&B, soul, and rock ‘n’ roll. It’s instructive that the band’s intro music is Big Mamma Thornton’s original version of Hound Dog. Even more tellingly their post-gig outro music is Led Zeppelin’s Going To California.
What, or rather who, gives VT their hard rockin’ edge is guitarist Nalle Colt, whose playing can be powerful yet also subtle and nuanced. He looks not unlike Buffalo Bill might have appeared if he’d been put in a modern two-piece black suit and had to strap on a Les Paul.
Colt’s tasteful, emotive solo during Gracefully was one of the highlights of the night. He’s definitely one of the less-is-more school of players, and is all the better for being so. It’s not just the notes he plays, it’s the spaces between the notes that are equally significant.
Given that R&B is also in Vintage Trouble’s DNA, the band’s rhythm section is just as important. It’s left in the capable hands of snake-hipped bassist Rick Barrio Dill to lay down the fluid bass lines while being ably assisted by his rhythm partner, drummer Richard Danielson. Indeed rhythm seems to ooze out of Danielson’s very pores – not content to be constrained on a drum stool, he occasionally stands up to move and groove with the beats he’s laying down.
Unsurprisingly the VT set relied heavily on material from their lone album to date – The Bomb Shelter Sessions. But there was also a sprinkling of new material such as 24/7 365 Man and Get It Before What Is To Be Got Is Gone which blend well with established crowd favourites like Nancy Lee.
As the show reached its climax, Taylor leapt into the audience in the middle of Jezzebella – after which the crowd respectfully formed a circle around him, giving him space to pick out various female audience members to sing to.
Of course it was all over to soon but not before Vintage Trouble ended their encore with Run Out Of You. It was a brave choice, as it’s not the sort of up-tempo number that tends to be de rigueur when it comes to final songs but it worked triumphantly.
The song built slowly with Colt pulling off a magnificent solo that would not have been out of place in a Joe Bonamassa set. One by one the band left the stage until it was just Danielson playing with the crowd sing “I’m running, running out of you”, before he too departed.
A tour de force of a gig and I’ll certainly be looking for more Trouble to be coming my way in 2012.
Martyn P Jackson