Hayley Westenra at The Sage, Gateshead 2012

Friday, 2 March 2012

 This time yesterday my little black shoe boots were teetering back over the iconic Milennium Bridge crossing the Tyne.  I'd just finished seeing Hayley Westenra begin the first leg of her Paradiso tour at The Sage in Gateshead and the crisp evening air was as electrifying to the senses as was Hayley's emphatically delivered performance.

I'd last seen Hayley perform back in December 2010 when she brought to the UK her Christmas Wishes concerts.  This time around Hayley had a new album to officially introduce to her UK audience, which would not only showcase the fine piece of musical history that brought Hayley to work with one of the most celebrated composers in history - Ennio Morricone - but also dedicate to and mark the occasion of her 10 year anniversary in the industry.  This young woman has made a truly significant difference to the world of classical-crossover music and continues to delight and enthrall with her god given vocal and self penned talent.

When the tickets were introduced for sale last year I barely hesitated to purchase a pair for Sean and myself.  Having bought album after album by Hayley and being mesmermised by her Christmas offering, I knew we had to experience her live again!  Knowing she was coming to the good old North East made it all the easier (where as for Manchester we had to stop over) so it was fantastic to welcome Kiwi Hayley to our beloved region.  Despite with a Geordie on my arm, I am a Yorkshire lass at heart, so please come to North Yorkshire next time, Hayley!  :-)

The concert began at a fraction past half seven when the vibrant NSO Chamber Orchestra took to their strings and a smiling Hayley wearing a slinky red silk dress came to the stage.  Hayley began with a song I'd not heard her sing before, though maybe some other fans may have; Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep.  I'm sure it's something you usually have at funerals but it was beautiful, a punchy way to begin the show.

From then on it was a dazzling collection of our favourite songs taken from Hayley's albums created to date, tracks including Hine e Hine and Who Painted The Moon Black from her first internationally acclaimed album, Pure, to Profumo Di Limone and Amalia Por Amor from her most recent collaboration with Italian great, Morricone, on the Paradiso album.   There was also the up beat Metti Una Sera A Cena which I think is pretty cool too.  When I listen to it on the cd I often wonder how Hayley gets all those words out in what seems as one breath, but she proved it is possible!

Hayley sang with her musical director, Tim Evans, to the side of her on the piano, apart from Sonny which she sang us out to and played as pianist herself (edit:  just remembered, Amazing Grace was followed to end!).   Although she said herself in her usual humble and so like-able way, that she is 'not a multi-tasker', she certainly is a lady of many talents!

The only photo we dared take!

I found myself listening to Hayley in ways as if I'd just heard the songs for the first time that day.  She has a remarkable way of singing like she really does mean every word that leaves her mouth, and conveys it in a unique and personable way each time.  I was so drawn in to Wuthering Heights which hit new heights with me!  I really enjoyed it.  It actually sounded even better than the album version, if I could say so.

I whispered over to Sean "You can see her engagement ring flicker in the light!"

We were treated to Hayley's renditions of Fleetwood Mac's Songbird (which was also covered by Eva Cassidy and All Angels) and I Dreamed A Dream, most of us link to Susan Boyle.  Regardless of not being much of a Su-Bo fan myself, I was moved and emotionally taken by the way Hayley sang it.  You don't get that from Britain's Got Talent or X Factor.

Italian Gianluca Paganelli was Hayley's support act who she sang a duet with on a couple of occasions and he promoted his debut album, Tango.

What was so lovely about seeing Hayley perform again was to see that she really has blossomed into a fine lady who has stayed true to herself yet continued to stretch and widen her talents so musically.  She beamed on stage and was just as sweet in person.  I was thankful that there was a signing opportunity afterwards, especially as I really wanted to meet her again.  She signed a picture for me as I told her about the last picture she signed that's in our bedroom which didn't come out sounding quite right, but was funny!

I LOVED the concert and enjoyed every minute of Hayley's voice.  I couldn't fault her in any way.

The only bits I would change?

Firstly, I would impose a dress code.  Whilst Sean and I had gone to the effort of dressing up nicely, I was disgusted by the amount of people dressed slovenly in jeans, trainers and UGG boots.  I find dressing inappropriately like this nothing short of disrespectful.

The Sage.  Old people.  No where to sit.  Standing about in heels.  I say no more yet my feet do.

The programmes.  At £8, ridiculously expensive with nothing much to show for it.  There isn't even a 'programme' of the evening's schedule.  Not Hayley's fault, but it would have been nice to remember it all properly.  I had to buy one to meet Hayley at the signing which felt like blackmail.

No Photos and Video Policy.  I took my camera and little video recorder which I didn't dare use in the end because of the warnings before the concert.  Everyone likes a memento of their favourite bits.  If you can't take pictures or video clips then it would be a good idea to produce images and/or a dvd of the evening.  I can guarantee I would not be the only person who'd sign up.

And to end - congratulations Hayley on your 10 year anniversary and I wish you a fun and successful tour this Spring!

Becky x


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