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Sarah Darling & The Striking Matches

By Gary Lafferty

I attended the Summertyne Festival at the The Sage in Gateshead this past weekend, primarily to see one of the concerts on Sunday night featuring Sarah Darling, Sam Palladio and Striking Matches (which turned out to the running order of the night, though some of the advertising had suggested – without explicitly stating it – that Palladio was going to be the headliner, given large logos / fonts etc.)

This is an Americana festival featuring lots of paid concerts over the 3 nights (featuring Steve Earle, Iris DeMent and more) plus lots of free shows both indoors & out across the weekend.

Unfortunately we weren’t able to make it down for the 6pmfree (!) show on Friday night featuring The Wandering Hearts, but did catch local The Often Herd late on Friday night after dinner who were okay, and a good way to start the weekend.

There were few acts on over the weekend that I’d personally heard of, so it was always going to be a bit hit & miss as to whether they appealed or not – and sadly on Saturday it was definitely a miss. The only act that stood out was Melanie Greggain who was excellent, with Simon James taking the lead guitarist and vocal roles as well – thoroughly enjoyed it. Unfortunately there was no other act who got a 3/10 from me.

On Sunday we met up with some friends who were also attending the Sunday night concert, so it was good to be able to chat in-between acts or give some a miss that we weren’t keen on.

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Strange Blue Dreams again (they were the support act for The Mavericks at the Old Fruitmarket they last time they were in town) and also Foreign Affairs whom I’d seen recently at Buckle & Boots. They will be touring with Aaron Watson in September, so I’ll be seeing them for a third time in as many months at Oran Mor, lol.

The concert started dead-on 7pm with Sarah Darlingopening the show, and she quickly had the audience enjoying her ‘ode to Wyoming’ with “Where Cowboys Ride”, which is one of my favourite songs of hers. For me, the first few songs were spoiled a little by late comers being allowed unfettered access to the venue, and with long single rows (like the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall) we were disturbed 7 times during the first 5 songs, which when it’s an all-seater venue is really annoying.

I did tweet The Sage about this, as surely people could be ‘held’ at the door until a song ends rather than just being allowed to wander in & disturb everyone? They replied back saying it is *the artists* who decide the latecomer policy, which I find hard to believe – unless the policy is that we’ll let anyone in at any time, unless you tell us otherwise?.

We were then treated to a cover version of “Dreams” by The Corrs, before 2 new songs were played for us.

The first is called Time Lapse, which is a song about how Sarah’s life has changed since she moved from Iowa to Nashville and then to London for song-writing – I thoroughly enjoyed this.

However the second new song was even better – a huge up-tempo number which I can see being a massive hit when it’s released. Sarah didn’t actually say the name of it (and I’ve tweeted to ask) but I think it’s “Do You Wanna Go Out” (I’ll update this if I get a reply).

The set closed out with the new single “Diamonds” which was co-written with Jessica Sharman (who is a mainstay writer for Ward Thomas plus others) – you can listen here:

All in all it was a highly polished performance from Sarah & a great way to start the concert.

Next up as mentioned was Sam Palladio, who opened with “Hello Heartbreak Blues” where to my ear he sounded a little like Ricky Ross from Deacon Blue a couple of times during the song. This was followed by the piano-led “Driftwood”.

Gunnar Scott got the first mention as the introduction of “Gun For A Mouth” which featured in Season One and then again as Sam introduced his farewell song to the character with “Adios Old Friend” which was in Season Two and was written by Brett Eldredge and Kim Tribble (listen here –

Sam’s grandfather got his nightly mention during the introduction to “Wake Me Up in Nashville” and I guess it’s a consequence of seeing the same act a couple of times that you already know the story that is about to be told, although of course it was new to many others in the audience.

The set closed out with a new slow blues-y number called “Goodbye Blue”.

Then last but not least it was time for Striking Matches to take to the stage. There were 4 microphones setup on stage which seemed a little strange, but my guess was that at some point we’d be treated to all three of the artists singing something together?

The opening song was “Retrograde” which featured extended guitar solos & ran to almost 7 minutes – it’s one thing to appreciate the guitar skills that someone may have, but something else if what they are playing wasn’t particularly pleasant to listen to which was the case here.

The title track from another 2017 EP, “Shameless”, was up next and unfortunately it was more of the same and definitely not what I was expecting although I’ve not seen Striking Matches since the C2C in 2015 I think, and I definitely didn’t remember them being this grunge. There were a few empty seats before they started where people hadn’t come back from the interval after Sam Palladio, and a small number of people around us got up & left at this point also – I’m sure that they weren’t expecting the screeching brutal guitar sounds that was being delivered.

Fortunately (for me at least) normal service was resumed with the acoustic guitars broken out for “Trouble Is As Trouble Does”, before the sound was stripped back completely with Sarah playing a ‘baby guitar’ for a wholly-unexpected version of “Never Gonna Give You Up” – yes, the Rick Astley one! I actually quite enjoyed the completely different arrangement to it, whilst others were maybe a bit perplexed by it I expect!

Striking Matches have had 9 songs used in total across all six series of Nashville (there was no getting away from it tonight!) and they sang “When The Right One Comes Along”. Justin & Sarah first sang the song at the Bluebird Café where it was heard by the producers, who then decided that the song would also be sung there (or on the Bluebird set anyway!) in the show.

We were also treated to a final song from the TV show when Sam came on stage to sing “I Ain’t Leaving Without Your Love”.

Unfortunately we had to leave for a 3-hour drive home so I don’t know if there was an encore or if the fourth microphone saw any use!

The second half of the Striking Matches set was infinitely preferable to the first and although I ultimately enjoyed their set overall, I’m not sure I would make any plans to see them again any time soon.



Annette Gibbons
Hi, I’m Annette, I have been a huge country music fan since the early 90s those were the days we were lucky enough to have CMT in the UK. I enjoy nothing more than listening to country music whilst having a cold beer (or a moonshine) with friends. I try to as many gigs as I can here in the UK and in the USA; I think of Nashville as my second home and I am lucky to have made some amazing friends in Tennessee. Think Country is something I am very proud of, I just want to share my love and passion of all things country music related with you all.
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