Festival Review

Dundee’s Summer Sessions bring top acts to Scotland

Noel Gallacher’s High Flying Birds and The Stereophonics show their younger peers how to rock a festival.

Review: Sydney Thomson / Photography provided by DF Concerts

The peaceful and tranquil area created right in the heart of Dundee’s waterfront was somewhat disrupted at the weekend by some of the country’s most established rock stars as well as a few promising up-and-coming artists.

The 10,00sqm green space was home to Summer Sessions at Slessor Gardens, which featured Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds on Saturday and The Stereophonics on Sunday. The multi-functional space is becoming a regular spot for some of the music industry’s most respected acts and a wonderful opportunity for the fans to see their favourite bands perform in such a great location. DF Concerts Geoff Ellis said: “It’s absolutely fantastic to have live events back after the pandemic. I think the obvious thing that people can expect from Dundee’s Summer Sessions this weekend is top quality music from some of the finest artists that Britain has produced.”

Dundee’s Summer Sessions kicked off with Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds with support from Inhaler, Dylan John Thomas, Theo Bleak and Gates.

Photography provided by DF Concerts

Sunday saw The Stereophonics return to Dundee much to the delight of the crowd. Support came from Jake BuggCirca Waves and Voodoos.

Voodoos are no stranger to a festival having recently played Brighton’s Great Escape Festival on the Outdoor Beach Stage. Not quite on the beach in Dundee but still, just a stone’s throw from the Tay River, the band were first up. Having their latest single “Tired Minds” featured on Spotify’s Hot New Bands playlist has seen the band riding this crest of a wave to Summer Sessions. It’s only a matter of months ago the band were packing out King Tutt’s and The Garage in Glasgow. The band hit the stage just after 5 pm, the crowd made the indie rockers welcome. The Voodoos are a good fit and would be the ideal support for Circa Waves or The Libertines with their guitar-driven indie music. Normally a four-piece, the band drafted in a keyboard player from fellow scots The Pleasure Heads.

Circa Waves love a good festival and even with the restrictions on 2021, they had a busy year rounding it off with a tour with Gerry Cinnamon. Hailing from Liverpool, it was the band’s first gig in Dundee, and they loved it. They opened with “Wake Up” from the second studio album “Different Creatures”. “Jacqueline” was dedicated to all the Jaqueline’s in the crowd which got a cheer. The bouncy track brought some joy to the early evening. The hard work’s paying off for Circa Waves and they certainly know how to engage with the crowd as the intense urgency in their music. The band closed with the ironic “T-Shirt Weather” from their debut album ‘Young Chasers‘, their most successful single to date. Not quite T-shirt weather in Dundee but there’s certainly more to come as the band enter their 10th year.

Photography provided by DF Concerts

Hard to believe Jake Bugg is already in his 10th year of playing live. He’ll celebrate it late in November but meantime, his focus was on Dundee and ramping up the vibe. Jake opened with ‘Lost’ from his latest album ‘Saturday Night, Sunday Morning’ released last year. “I’m going to play some old ones and some new ones” then he said, “This one’s dedicated to you” and he played one of his earliest tunes, “Seen It All” from his debut album. “Lightning Bolt” got the crowd singing along. Bugg’s first UK top 40 singles. Remains one of his biggest hits to date. Bugg closed with “All I Need” from his newest album. The whole crowd sang it back to him. The last time I saw him perform the song was on The Graham Norton show, thankfully, we now get to see him live and the crowd was bouncing.

At last, The Stereophonics took to the stage with a huge roar from the crowd. It didn’t last long as singer Kelly Jones’s microphone appeared to be muted so the band took their leave whilst the issue was resolved. The puzzled looks on the faces in the crowd turned to laughter as Jones re-entered the stage asking, “Can anyone guess our first song?” The band opened their set with ‘C’est La Vie’ from their 2015 album ‘Keep the Village Alive’. For a band that’s been around for 25yrs, it’s always tempting to be lazy and just play the hits, which are considerable, but you also need to make sure you move with the times and keep producing new content. As well as the chart-toppers, Jones told the crowd, “I took a very long walk on a very hot day, had a very long drink and thought how did I get here?” he said. “Then I wrote this song.” Right before playing the band’s latest single “Right Place, Right Time”. At times, the band could do no wrong as the crowd bounced along to the popular pop tunes but mid-set, they went a little quiet with as songs from ‘Oochya’ were aired. The crowd were re-ignited with “Traffic” and “A Thousand Trees” as the two early tracks from the iconic album ‘Word Gets Around’ reminded the audience what they’d come for. The timeless classics haven’t aged at all, like Kelly Jones who still looks remarkably fresh even at the ripe old age of 48. The main set ended with a run of great songs which saw a trumpeter join the band for “Glad Rags and Handbags” and the audience provided the backing vocal with arms aloft true festival style. A belting version of one of my favourites, “The Bartender and The Thief” ended the main set.

The customary encore didn’t draw any frenzied screaming from the crowd, perhaps the chill in the air had taken the edge of their mood but it was soon raised as the three-song set enders were played out. ‘Sunny’ started off the low-key return and the song kept on building with Jones thrashing out a full-on rock solo before. Another of the band’s greatest hits was next as ‘Just Looking’ kept the tempo up before the chart-topping ‘Dakota’ brought the weekend to a close. 

Photography provided by DF Concerts
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