@Newcastle O2 Academy, January 21 2016

At the point Paul Sayer ripped into Pride’s blistering solo there was suddenly a sense that The Temperance Movement were back. A familiar track, given a grandiose live makeover, marked the moment that the confidence kicked in, the nerves were calmed and the real fun could begin.

Until then a band riding high on expectation but lacking recent live experience appeared uncharacteristically hesitant and unnervingly uptight. A reputation founded on relaxed camaraderie and old school jamming was in danger of being blown out of the water. Was the pressure too much?

For a while, possibly. Remember this show was only five dates into a first UK tour in a year. The band’s new album hadn’t even been out for a week. New guitarist Matt White is still bedding in. And as the headline act, The Temperance Movement are still adjusting to life outside the cramped clubs and intimate halls that perfectly complemented the quintet’s original, endearing immediacy.

All – or none – of this might have explained an atypically disjointed, almost disparate opening 20 minutes. Bombastic anthem Oh Lorraine, a standout pick from new album White Bear, was brilliantly executed but lacking emotion: where was the trademark vibe, the cheeky swagger and frontman Phil Campbell’s addictive charisma?

Pride – and Sayer – somehow brought it all to the fore. By the time the sensational Smouldering – never has a brooding, slow burner boasted such an apt title – marked a mid-set peak the groove was back and the glint in Campbell’s eyes promised a rousing race to the finish.

Sayer, significantly, was content to allow White his fair share of responsibility and the bold move paid off. Luke Potashnick’s able replacement was a fan before he became a touring member of Britain’s most exciting new rock band but the accomplished session musician hid that potentially awkward transition well.

I Hope I’m Not Losing My Mind and A Pleasant Peace I Feel were brave choices to usher in a three-song encore and yet both underline the quality, diversity and burning ambition at the heart of The Temperance Movement’s stirring new album.

Chilled set closer Lovers And Fighters proved the antithesis of that early tension. Moving and memorable, it’s what The Temperance Movement do best. There’s no need for self-doubt. No time to look back. For as long as raw rock and roll remains in fashion, their future is assured.

Image courtesy of Gordon Armstrong