Dave Stewart says his home city should prepare for a gig “like it’s never seen before” when he takes to the stage for his Sunderland Empire debut.
Though he’s sat in the distinctive red seats at the venue many a time as a child, the multi-million record-selling musician has never actually performed on his home stage - until now.
To mark his 65th birthday, the singer will perform at the venue on September 10, bringing with him a host of talented musicians from Nashville who will perform tracks from Dave’s illustrious career which spans more than three decades.
On a visit to the Empire ahead of the gig, Dave said: “These are the crème de la crème of musicians. Individually, they play with the likes of Neil Young and Joss Stone, but they come together for me as a band.
“We’ll be performing songs that people will know, but they probably won’t realise I’ve written 90percent of them.”
As well as his extensive Eurythmics back catalogue, Dave’s writing credits include songs for artists including Bono, Gwen Stefani, Katy Perry and Joss Stone, as well as for musical Ghost.
Speaking about the latter, he said: “There’s a song in the musical called With You, which I wrote with Glen Ballard and Bruce Joel Robin, which is really popular with contestants on talent shows. I remember being inspired when I was lying on bed, totally knackered, and thinking about how this woman can’t believe her partner is dead.
“I remember being in the apartment Yoko Ono shared with John Lennon and her showing me his broken glasses with blood on, and it made me think about how your life can change in that moment.
“I decided to make the one note on ‘you’ last a long time, and there was a lot of opposition, they said it would confuse people. But it didn’t, it really connects with people.”
He added: “Stay, which I wrote for Shakespears Sister is another tear jerker, which people don’t realise I’ve written. So there’ll be a lot of heartstrings pulled on the night, and also a lot of Eurythmics tracks. It’s funny because me and Annie (Lennox) were together as a couple for five years, then broke up, but stayed together as a duo and wrote 120 songs. We have such full lives, but we still keep in touch, she was at my house in May.”
One of Dave’s earlier memories with Annie, who whom he had hits including Sweet Dreams, There Must Be an Angel and Who’s That Girl, is of them performing in Holmeside.
“It was before we were even The Eurythmics,” he recalls. “We decided to stop in Sunderland on the way to somewhere else and we performed a gig for Geoff Docherty (well-known Sunderland promoter). It was above a weird bar and restaurant that I doubt is even there now. There was only about 20 people there and I don’t think anyone knew then how big we were going to be.”
Sunderland also holds special family memories for Dave, who grew up in Ettrick Grove, Barnes.
“It’s been great being back,” he said. “Yesterday I walked from the Cat and Dog Steps in Seaburn along to Fausto Coffee and back again, the tide was out and it was lovely. I scattered my dad’s ashes in the sea in front of the Cat and Dog Steps. It was his favourite place and he would go there every Sunday without fail, even in torrential rain. Since my mum and dad passed away, there’s only my cousin Ian who lives here now, but I try and get up when I can.
“I still have some friends from ages ago here, like my friend who used to own West One, back then that was the only place you could buy clothes in Sunderland that people would wear in places like Chelsea.”
Dave, who’s long supported music acts from his home city, has chosen three local support acts - Lilliput, Social Room and Picnic - to support him at the Sunderland Empire.
•Tickets for Dave Stewart at Sunderland Empire on September 10 are available in person at the Box office on High Street West, from the Ticket Centre on 0844 871 3022 or online at www.ATGtickets.com/Sunderland