REVIEW: The Lake Poets, Oxfam Book and Music, Jesmond

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THINGS are going well for Sunderland’s The Lake Poets – he’s just brought out his third single April (cannily released this month) and played his first headline gig in that London.

The Lake Poets started as a solo venture for Martin Longstaff and his songs, but in the space of a couple of years has swelled to a full band complete with string section, which is used to full effect on the new single.

Martin’s songs, much like the man himself, are sincere and heartfelt, bursting with emotion and pride in his hometown.

As an example of his niceness, he kindly volunteered his time to play an intimate gig to celebrate the opening of a new Oxfam store in Jesmond.

The short, (very) intimate show came before he played two, sold-out gigs to launch April at Newcastle’s Miners’ Hall, where he performed to a rapturous crowd with the full contingent of his band present.

In stark contrast, the Oxfam set was in front of about 30 invited guests in a small room. We were close enough to feel his breath on our faces as his high, sweet voice sang his tender songs beautifully.

Before the set I thought I wouldn’t be able to concentrate as I clocked the amazing array of vinyl in the newly-refurbished room.

There is also the worry that being so close to someone performing such clearly emotional songs would be a little, well, awkward.

I need not have worried. Martin’s songs, which it turns out I now know word for word (and like a real geek, know the harmonies), grab you in an instant. They are about family, absent friends, arguments with girlfriends and Sunderland itself.

In other hands they could end up soppy and mawkish, in Martin’s they are heartwrenching and uplifting, melancholy and celebratory.

I’ve often thought I prefer to hear him play on his own, just his tender voice and a guitar.

However, while he sounded great during the five or six songs, which included Edinburgh, Northside and debut single City By The Sea, when he played April I realised how perfect the recorded version sounds, with the backing of other musicians.

So The Lake Poets are progressing, both in terms of the sound of the band and the size of gigs they play. What is comforting to know, however, is that Martin will always give his time to play gigs like the one in the new Oxfam shop, and create memories people, like the ones I have from this show.

Paul Clifford