Review: Dave Stewart's homecoming 70th birthday show brings real star quality to Sunderland's Fire Station

He was the boy from Barnes who dreamt of playing football before a knee injury in his teen years turned him to music and led him on the path to stardom.

Sat in his bedroom in Etrrick Grove depressed at not being able to play his beloved sport, little did a 13-year-old Dave Stewart know that his injury would change the course of his life forever

A self-confessed “wayward” child, he immersed himself in the small Bohemian community of 60s Sunderland, hanging out at places like West One and Sgt Pepper's and found a new form of expression in fashion and music.

London’s bright lights came calling where fate would lead him to a restaurant where Annie Lennox worked, going on to form The Eurythmics with the singer and creating music that defined an era.

Musician Dave Stewart celebrates his 70th birthday at Sunderland's Fire Station.

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    And his forty-year career in music brought him back to where it all began last night: Sunderland.

    His 70th birthday show sold out within hours of going on sale earlier this year, with so much demand, they could have filled the 550-seated capacity many times over – and what a show it was.

    Rather than just a gig of hit after hit, it was a real This Is Your Life foray into Dave’s colourful, at times psychedelic, life, which kicked off with a personal video message from Annie and a warm, charming and funny introduction from Malcom Gerrie, producer of the legendary Tube and countless other music shows, who regaled the audience with tales of the “master of chaos.”

    With the birthday boy taking the spotlight, the anecdotes and footage of Dave working with fellow legends came thick and fast: Lou Reed, Andy Warhol, Mick Jagger, Beyoncé, Gwen Stefani, Bono, Stevie Nicks, Joss Stone – the Mackem Maestro has written and produced with them all. There was even a phone call from Nelson Mandela.

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    Dave talked about his formative years in Sunderland

    Throughout his glittering career, Dave has always stayed true to his roots, and still to this day makes trips home when he’s not producing in his studios in Nashville and the Bahamas.

    And it’s his formative years which have informed his latest Ebony McQueen music project, tracks of which he performed on the night – including the title track which he rightly calls an “ear worm”. It’s soon to become a Billy Elliot-style film shot right here in the city, so watch this space.

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    Dave Stewart hosts homecoming album launch for Ebony McQueen at Sunderland's Pop...

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    It is of course his work with Annie for which he is most well-known and it was great to hear from the man himself about their time together, their two years living together in a squat where they wrote not one note together. Then they split and penned 120 songs, many of which are true anthems.

    Dave was joined by world-class musicians

    He was joined on stage by an incredible band of musicians, who’d flown in from around the world to perform on Wearside, including the hugely-talented saxophonist YolanDa Brown with whom he performed a ridiculously-beautiful rendition of global smash Lily Was Here.

    The audience was also treated to a rare chance to see Dave perform Eurythmics tracks, such as Here Comes The Rain Again and, of course, Sweet Dreams, hits which resonated all the more when put in context by the man himself.

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    This was one of the first shows as the city’s newest venue enters its second season and it was pure star quality from the Barnes lad who never forgot where he came from.

    Musician Dave Stewart celebrates his 70th birthday at Sunderland's Fire Station.
    Ebony McQueen is Dave's latest release
    Musician Dave Stewart celebrates his 70th birthday at Sunderland's Fire Station.