Report from Newcastle
Breakfast over, Gordon and I made our way to Barrow Station and boarded a train to Lancaster and awaited the connection to Carlisle. The latter was a few minutes late but we still arrived in plenty of time for the final connection through the backbone of England (the Pennines) to Newcastle. As we pulled in I saw a suspicious looking character on the platform wearing an HWI sweatshirt - Grant!
The story has been told of our trek to the hotel. I am puzzled as to why Grant didn’t know how far down the flight of steps went. I could have told him they went all the way to the bottom and I hadn’t even been there before! Anyway, either by accident or design, we found the hotel eventually.
We went to our respective rooms, practised our ‘quick change’ routine and reconvened in Reception before scouring the town centre for somewhere to eat. What is it with Newcastle? We wandered around for ages and saw only three possibilities – an American-Italian place and a pub, neither of which met with the approval of all three of us, and MacDonalds for which none of us could conjure up much enthusiasm. We eventually opted for the first of the three. Thankfully, it turned out to be more than acceptable but it may have been the red wine which sufficiently numbed the senses!
And so to a mystery (there is always one!). We had finished our meal and were considering investing a further life changing sum on three coffees when a voice beside me said “Hi guys”. I looked up and was astonished to see it was our own Steve H! We could have been anywhere in Newcastle and were a good mile from both hotel and venue. I still don’t understand how he ever found us!
Four coffees later, we made our way to the venue where we were immediately welcomed by Graham. Now five in number, we whiled away a few minutes in the bar before they opened the doors to the foyer. We quickly learned that no signing was planned tonight. The fact that the price of the programmes had been mysteriously reduced to five pounds (from £7 in Barrow) did little to compensate for the disappointment. Hang on a minute? What does it matter if there is no planned signing session? Since when did that ever stop us seeing Hayley?
Okay, we are now in the auditorium and Grant has, at last, settled after playing musical chairs with various members of the audience! I have described the first half of the concert in the Barrow
thread so I will pick the story up towards the end of the interval.
Steve, who had been sitting three seats to my left during the first half asked if I would mind changing places so he could take a few photographs from a slightly different angle during the second. When I say “a few”, this should not be taken too literally! Two people sitting in the row behind looked puzzled that Steve and I had moved. I told them we do it to confuse Hayley!
Raven opened Part 2 with a Scottish number entitled ‘Mrs Jamieson’s Favourite’. Favourite what? And who is Mrs Jamieson anyway? In the confusion that ensued during our later meeting, I forgot to ask! This was followed by a thrilling crossover piece entitled ‘Libertango’ before the final piece in the set was introduced by Stephanie. On both nights, I thought she called it ‘Spanish Fire Dance’. Although it sounded very familiar to me, I am not aware of anything by that name. I think it may be better known as the ‘Ritual Fire Dance’ by Falla. Maybe titles are unimportant. What matters is the performance and Raven’s was outstanding. I could have watched them all night if it wasn’t for the fact that a little kiwi was waiting in the wings!
What we needed here was a song which is the perfect bridge, in terms of style, between the slightly contemporary classical repertoire of Raven and the gentle crossover or light pop which is Hayley. I cannot think of a more suitable choice than the one we got – ‘The Mummers’ Dance’. Perfect.
This was followed by ‘May It Be’ and then Hayley introduced Rod. Who’s Rod? I dunno, maybe he’s a friend of Mrs Jameison’s. Oh sorry, it’s not Rod, it’s ‘River of Dreams’! It’s no good, I’m going to have to get a bigger notebook!
Then came the one song without which no Hayley concert would be complete, ‘Pokarekare Ana’. In Barrow, there was a ripple of enthusiastic applause when she began this song. Not so in Newcastle but still there was a feeling that the audience were especially pleased that it should be included.
To everyone’s delight and perhaps astonishment of those who have not seen her recently, Hayley then walked over to the piano! Yes, this was ‘Sonny’ and we have to assume that she has now incorporated this into the main programme and not merely decided to “give it a go” as an encore.
As Hayley departed for a final change of dress, Raven took centre stage for one final number.
One more piece from Raven Nimrod?
Yes Grant, it was indeed ‘Nimrod’ so it wasn’t quite the *enigma* that you question mark may have implied!
Hayley returned to commence her final set. ‘Santa Lucia’ and ‘Both sides Now’ were followed by a highlight from the early days of the Pure tour, the incredible ‘Wuthering Heights’. Okay, if I have one criticism, it is that this song really needs drums and nobody thought to bring any. Look, I’ve given her a guitar; have I got to give her drums as well? Honestly, what is
going on here? Nevertheless, it was an incredible performance and great to see Hayley being a little more animated than she usually is, by necessity, throughout most of her performance. Towards the end, her delightful spoken voice was heard to say, “Goodnight” as she left the stage.
It wasn’t long before she returned as the instrumental accompaniment of Wuthering Heights still continued from Al, Andy and Raven. The encore, quite rightly, was ‘Hine e Hine’ and the rapturous applause at the end was thoroughly deserved. They all left the stage but Hayley and Al returned once more to perform ‘Amazing Grace’ before leaving the stage for the final time. That makes eighteen songs from Hayley in all which I believe is a record!
Steve, Grant, Gordon, Graham and I met up in the foyer but it was clear that there would not be any sort of meet and greet. We knew Hayley had to be in the ITV studios in London at 9 o’clock the following morning and there was a five-hour journey to be endured in order to get there. Clearly, she needed to get away pretty quickly. The five of us gathered outside the Stage Door together with about a dozen other hopeful members of the audience. If necessary, we would depart without seeing her but we would at least make enquiries to see if a brief meeting might be possible. It wasn’t long before Dick, the driver for the tour and someone I had met at many previous concerts appeared. He said it would be perfectly acceptable to see her briefly but later asked the other fans that anyone wishing her to sign anything must limit it to one item per person. Fair enough. When Dick was about to go back inside, I asked if it might be possible to see any members of Raven if they had nothing better to do. Within minutes, I looked up to see Stephanie approaching! We all chatted with her for some time before Rachael and Kirsty appeared. Somehow, Natalie escaped us and got into the Hayleymobile while we were busy talking to the other three. Natalie, we’ll get ya next time!
Hayley also emerged, signed a few items for other people, posed for a few photographs and was then confronted by us lot! She seemed more than happy to spend a few minutes with us but I made it clear to her and to Dick that they must go as soon as they wished. I did manage to get a programme signed for somebody else and, as she returned it, she took the other and signed it to me even though I had no intention of asking her. Thanks Hayley.
A few moments later, everyone was on board the Hayleymobile as it seems to be called. It has smoked glass windows but we could just about see inside. Kirsty held up a series of DVDs to tell us what they might be watching on their way back to London… or was she trying to get us to make the selection for her? I don’t know. Suddenly, the flash of a camera was going off inside the van. It was Natalie taking pictures of us standing outside!! I left with the feeling that these girls are not only superb musicians both individually and collectively but they are also incredibly friendly, good sports and great fun. Thank you Stephanie, Natalie, Rachael, Kirsty, Al, Andy and Hayley for two memorable and thoroughly enjoyable evenings. And no small thanks go to Dick without whom, much of this would not have been possible.
We waved them off as Dick pulled away into the night. It looked as though all five girls were frantically waving back. Farewell, I’ll see you all in Bournemouth!