Forget the fireworks. The Union boast their own little sparkler and hometown hero Pete Shoulder lit up another glorious night in Newcastle with a performance every bit as explosive as February’s masterclass.
Yet hot on the heels of The Answer’s half empty gig in the Academy’s main room – and the closure of live music staple Trillians – this was another worrying tale of poor ticket sales and alarming apathy on the part of the North East rock community.
Eight months earlier The Union were upgraded from Academy 2. Fast forward to November and the band was forced to accept a last-minute move in the opposite direction. Ultimately there were fewer fans inside from the start than attended the band’s rammed to the rafters October 2011 show in the same room.
Sure, this was The Union’s second Newcastle set of the year. Granted, their ‘new’ album came out in February. And it’s no secret that the quality rock n roll gigs have come thick and fast during the last four weeks – at a time when money is tight and attention is turning towards Christmas.
However, County Durham singer Shoulder fronts one of the finest rock bands this proud nation of music pioneers has produced in decades. He is deserving of far greater support from the region that spawned Burdon, Coverdale, Rodgers and Johnson. And there’s no doubt that The Union are enjoying a rich vein of creative form.
But just as the North East’s rock family deserted The Answer last month, too many familiar faces were missing again last night.
To their credit Shoulder and best buddy Luke Morley didn’t let a lower than average turnout bother them one jot. Exuding professionalism, passion and obvious pleasure in their craft, the seasoned songwriting duo moved seamlessly through an 80-minite set bristling with blues rock quality.
Where it was Shoulder’s voice that shone so brightly back in February, this time it was his dexterity as a guitar hero to rival Morley that constantly caught the eye. Sharing solos and swapping riffs, the pair plundered the very best of The World Is Yours, Siren’s Song and 2010’s enduring self-titled debut – evidently loving every minute.
Not for the first time Cut The Line allowed Shoulder ample opportunity to showcase his incredible talent and if one song sums up this band’s genuine allure it’s the standout track on Siren’s Song. Blame It On Tupelo was another canny choice from the same record but the title track from The World Is Yours was the surprising highlight of a familiarly faultless set.
The rock world really should be The Union’s. But, like The Answer, they cannot sustain a career without consistent support. Two great British bands with even greater futures cannot be allowed to fail. But if Newcastle is a barometer then the situation is increasingly critical. Step Up To The Plate – as Shoulder would say – before it’s too late.