Live Review: Rob Heron and the Tea Pad Orchestra + Tommy Arch, The Cluny, Newcastle upon Tyne – 17th December 2022

Live at the Cluny, Newcastle upon Tyne
Photo: Viv Fish

After giving their latest album, ‘The Party’s Over‘, a 10/10 review (one of only two I have ever given), getting to see the full band: Rob Heron and the Tea Pad Orchestra, was essential. So, when I spotted they were playing at popular local venue, The Cluny, in Newcastle upon Tyne, I was thrilled. As the night approached and with excitement and anticipation rising, I couldn’t help but wonder how, or even if, they could recreate the exceptional artistry of the extraordinary album. As I said in my album review, the arrangements and not least the production quality make it an astounding record. So, how could it possibly be done live? Well, anyone who has seen this band live before will know I needn’t have worried. I was not in the least disappointed. Completely the opposite, in fact.

First though, to Tommy Arch, whose support thrilled and warmed up the crowd with his homegrown songs, fab vocal and superb guitar sound. The audience showed their appreciation by rewarding him with drinks throughout his set despite his protestation that he had promised himself he wouldn’t drink much. That’s generous Geordies for you.

So, on to the much revered Rob Heron and the Tea Pad Orchestra and WOW. Such sensational musicianship. The extensive variety of instruments: accordion, organ, piano, double-bass, electric bass, electric guitar, baritone guitar, drums, mandolin, harmonica, saxophone, penny whistle, trumpet, electric harp, percussion box, euphonium and trombone (I might even have missed some out). The superb additional guest instrumentalists who helped play them all. Everyone’s utter professionalism, fantastic talent, unwavering enthusiasm and sense of fun. Not to mention, of course, the brilliant songs all made it a night to remember, talk about and compare to forever more.

Getting started with the title track from ‘The Party’s Over‘ set the scene immediately, and the capacity crowd was into the spirit from the get-go. I was delighted the set included everything from the new album. Every song, as I have previously detailed, being worthy of the huge performance that the band so faultlessly gave: ‘Snip, Snap, Snout‘, ‘The Horse That You Rode In On‘, ‘Remind Me Tomorrow‘, ‘My Salad Days‘, ‘Dilly Dally Sally‘, ‘Right To Roam‘, ‘She Hypnotised Me‘, ‘Trouble Is’, Call To Mothers Arms‘ and ‘The Doctor Told Me‘. It would have been unthinkable to leave any of them out. Other pieces in their energetic set, and every bit as full-on fun, included; ‘Une Bouteille De Beaujolais‘ from the 2019 album ‘Soul of My City‘; ‘Cats and Chickens‘, ‘Honest Man Blues‘, ‘Devil Wears a Blue Tie‘ and the title track from the 2016 album ‘Something Blue‘. An eclectic mix of swing, honkeytonk and rockabilly, and everything else that makes for the great americana sound.

I could gush forever at the beauty of the whole performance. The sound, provided and mixed by the Cluny, was simply stunning. The vocals and array of instruments blending and featuring to perfection. That this band have played together for years does not go unnoticed: they portray such effortless charisma and synergy. The energy in the whole room was palpable. Anyone who has seen and gets the likes of Bellowhead, The Divine Comedy, and The Waterboys will appreciate the beauty of Heron’s lyrics, the poetic, often tongue-in-cheek style and the triumphant performances.

Sadly, this was the last date in their current tour, but there’s always next year. So look out for them on the road and at festivals. In the meantime, treat yourself to the albums and watch their videos. They are just awesome.

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