The retractable seating at the new state-of-the-art venue was put to the test to create a standing area for people to dance the night away at the weekend for a festive blend of funk, gospel and rap.
With the North East’s finest purveyors of northern funk joined on stage by members of soul and gospel choir Voices of Virtue, MC Kay Greyson and The Origin Dance Crew it was a perfect blend of genres and a real celebration of music that felt all the more special in the current climate.
First up, Voices of Virtue well and truly warmed up the crowds with their rich melodies and uplifting message of unity.
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As the main act took to the stage with their full band, from keyboards and electronica to brass and percussion, it really showcased the perfect acoustics of this new venue, acoustics designed by Idibri who’ve sound designed some of the world’s best concert halls no less.
Panels surrounding the seating area can be altered to suit the sound needs of the act and it’s a level of precision which helped to heighten the warmth of lead singer John Turrell’s gravelly tones as the band worked their way through tracks such as I Can’t Give You Up, Will You Be Mine, It Ain’t Working, Do It and more.
Touring with their sixth studio album, Stratos Bleu, which went to No.1 in the Official UK Dance Chart, Smoove & Turrell put on a slick show with Mike’s trademark foot on the keyboard stance and Smoove’s infectious bongo beats. It all comes together perfectly to create an upbeat groove that perfectly suited the venue when it’s laid out club-style.
As if that wasn’t enough energy, they were joined on stage by the back flips and body poppin’ of Origin Dance Crew and rising star Kay Grenson and her ‘90s hip hop-style MC’ing for the closing numbers which had everyone shuffling, stomping and swaying along.
With the shadow of further restrictions looming over us all, it was a reminder of the power of music to transport you elsewhere. If this was to be our last gig for a while, it’s certainly a high note to go out on.
The next gig in the Fire Station opening season, called Firestarters, isn’t for a few weeks. It’s the sold-out An Evening with Emeli Sandé on January 15, 2022. Other highlights this season include The Shires, A Doll’s House, This Is The Kit, BBC Radio 3 New Music Show, Fisherman's Friends, Janey Godley- Soup Pot Tour, Beth Nielsen Chapman, The Futureheads and many more.
More acts are also to be added to the programme, which is a mix of music, theatre and comedy.
The venue is a mid-size venue designed to bridge the gap between the city’s larger venues, such as the Stadium, the Empire and The Point and smaller venues such as Independent.
As such, it holds 550 seated or 800 standing with the central seats retracted.
In the spring, a dedicated outdoor stage is set to open. With a capacity of up to 600, The Parade Ground, being created at the rear of the site is ideal for mini music festivals and outdoor theatre. The Parade Ground will also have its own outdoor bar, called The Colonnade Bar.
Prices are fair, ranging from the free BBC Radio 3 New Music Show to from £22 for established international acts such as The Shires. Tickets are available from sunderlandculture.org
The auditorium has its own foyer bar serving pre-gig and interval drinks which can be taken into the auditorium in plastic cups.
There’s a good range of drinks on offer including spritzes, wines, canned and bottled beers and ciders, low or no alcohol options and hot drinks.
Prices are £8.50 for an aperol spritz; £7 for a medium-sized Prosecco or £22 a bottle; red and white wines start from £3.50 a glass or from £20 a bottle; beers and ciders start from £4.20 for a bottle of Coors and £4.80 for a bottle of Rekorderlig. If you’re feeling flush a bottle of Taittinger is £75.
Pre-gig food is available at the Fire Station’s bistro, The Engine Room, which is back open with a new management team in place.
The menu features small plates and classics such as fish & chips, panackelty, schnitzel and vegan burgers.
If you want to eat and drink elsewhere, there’s many bars and restaurants around the auditorium including The Peacock, The Dun Cow, Mexico 70, Spice Empire, No2 Church Lane, Aperitif, Vesta Tilley’s, Street Bar and more.
Car parking and travel
There’s no on site car park, but the Bridges and St Mary’s car parks are only a 5 minute walk away. A new multi-storey car park – which will provide between 500 and 750 spaces – is also due to be built on the nearby Riverside development.
If you’re travelling by Metro, Park Lane and Sunderland central stations are both no more than a 10 minute walk away.
The Fire Station is wheelchair accessible with lift access to all levels. To book a wheelchair ticket Tel. 0191 5700 007
In line with national covid regulations, ticketholders aged 18 and over (unless medically exempt), will be required to demonstrate proof of Covid-19 status on arrival at the venue.
Accepted proof includes: an NHS Covid passport showing vaccinations; a vaccine card with a photo ID; a negative PCR or lateral flow test taken within the previous 48 hours; proof of natural immunity or a medical exemption certificate.
Any customers unable to produce any of these will be offered a lateral flow test to gain admission.