Saturday, 22 June 2013

Ron Sexsmith at the Sage, Gateshead - review by Terry Kelly

Ron Sexsmith
The Sage, Gateshead
19 June 2013

BRILLIANT Canadian troubadour Ron Sexsmith remains one of the best-kept secrets in rock music.

His melancholic songs, blessed with great melodies, reach places other artists can't even imagine.

But his fan base isn't huge and this obviously bothers the engaging singer-songwriter, judging by some of his between-song comments at The Sage.

His 2011 album, Long Player Late Bloomer, was a more high-gloss affair than usual and won him many new fans.

But while his latest album, Forever Endeavour, apparently hasn't sold well, it's again filled with Sexsmith's trademark songwriting excellence.

Two songs from the new album, the similarly-titled Nowhere Is and Nowhere To Go, proved some of the highlights of his latest Tyneside appearance.

But it's also fair to say that Sexsmith took a while to get warmed up.

This may have been down to the sore throat he was apparently suffering - at one point comparing himself to Joe Cocker - but he appeared disengaged for the first five or six numbers.

It was only when Sexsmith sat at the piano for Right About Now and Secret Heart that the show really took off.

He also performed a lovely duet with his long-time drummer and musical partner, Don Kerr, on Listen, before harmonising with the rest of the band on a delightfully ramshackle Me, Myself and Wine.

As the night progressed, Sexsmith seemed to grow in confidence, Deepens With Time being one of the real high spots of the gig.

But the self-deprecating Canadian still couldn't resist adding that he wrote the song for country superstar Faith Hill, who failed to record it.

This slightly chip-on-the-shoulder aspect of Sexsmith's personality could now usefully be ditched from his stage act.

Least That I Can Do, which closed the show, was as good as it gets, Sexsmith's soaring vocal filled with real soul.

While he may never pull in as many fans as The Boss, Ron Sexsmith's quality songs can stand comparison with anyone in rock music.

And songwriting quality, rather than chart action, is what really matters for his devoted fans.