Rosalie Cunningham and Druidess @Cluny 2, Newcastle, May 3, 2024

Local history fact of the day: before becoming one of Newcastle’s most popular independent gig spaces, Cluny 2 was a theatre called The Round. So it was perhaps fitting that Rosalie Cunningham and her travelling players, seemingly transported from Tudor England via Camden ’68, graced the fairy-lit, atmospheric venue on Friday.

A capacity crowd, much expanded since the songstress hit Trillians Bar in 2023, was there to greet her.

Cunningham’s star has certainly been rising since her first act with Purson. She’s a unique talent, with the ability to weave between technicolour psych, warm vintage rock and vivid prog with ease. Her songcraft is sublime. And her band are effortlessly cool. And she has a voice from the heavens. And… and…

OK, on with the review.

This felt like a special show.

And not just because guitarist Rosco Wilson, was reminded – thanks to gig promoters Byker Grave – of school days watching PJ, Duncan, Spuggy and Geoff.

There was an air of celebration to it, a vindication of the work Cunningham has put into touring post-Covid, an affirmation of her post-Purson career.

Ride on My Bike started proceedings in typically jaunty fashion and from there on in, joy surged from the stage and back again.

Fair play to Durham lad Mike Ross who, despite having less than 48 hours to prepare, ably deputised for bassist Claudia Gonzalez Diaz, who was sadly absent due to a family illness.

But like the rest of Cunninghan’s troubadours, his playing seemed effortless. This was a night of enthralling vaudevillian fantasy, delivered by supremely gifted musicians.


The appropriately titled Duet saw Wilson and Cunningham (partners on and off stage) trading verses over a Sgt Peppered stomp, and having a whole heap of fun. You wonder if they practice it on the way to Tesco…

Donovan Ellington and its sequel, Return Of The Ellington, were both given a heavier touch than on record, to the satisfaction of the more metal-inclined Cluny dwellers.

And Rabbit Foot – another vocal collab – rocked to hazy southern riffs, keyboard psych-outs and jaw dropping tempo shifts. An incredible performance, even by this band’s standards.

Yet the stripped down, whimsical Home, which turned all attention on Cunningham’s lilting voice, was just as magical.

Home, they say, is also where the heart is. And on Friday, for Rosalie and co., that home was on Tyneside.

Saxy doom, anyone?

This wasn’t a ‘typical’ crowd for support act Druidess. Conan shirts were conspicuous by their absence. Electric Wizard patches? Not one in sight.

The Cluny 2 was more prog hamlet than doom central.

Did that stop this emerging Newcastle act?

Did it hell.

Rosalie’s devotees were won over with tales of twillight folklore, blended with low end boogie and infectious riffery.

The Hermit of Druid’s Temple got asses shaking (including ours).

Witches’ Sabbath brought whoops of joy, and appreciative grins from vocalist/bassist Shonagh Brown.  

And when Dan Dowling swapped his guitar for a sax, and those brass tones washed over Cluny 2, the cheers got even louder.     

Yes, Druidess are quite playful with doom.

They also look beyond its traditional confines: Kylver keyboardist James Hill has been added to the line-up since debut EP, Hermits & Mandrakes was recorded. On stage, he embellishes the band’s work with kaleidoscopic flourishes.  

But at the heart of the quartet is some very fine songwriting… and it cast a spell over Friday night.