Last night Bernie Tormé played Newcastle on a tour supporting the Pledge Music-funded new album Flowers and Dirt. Here’s what we learned.
Rock retains the power to transform personalities By day Bernie Tormé is a softly spoken, unassuming character content to cradle his pint of Guinness and enjoy a quiet bite to eat in the company of friends and family, freed from the glare of public scrutiny. By night the 62-year-old Dubliner is a wide-eyed whirling dervish of fret-fuelled adrenaline, lapping up the attention of a small yet fervent Geordie crowd and delivering a masterclass in punk-tinged hard rock. Combining the deep vocals of Gene Simmons with the musicianship of a young Satch, the multi-talented Tormé is born to command the stage – even if there’s barely room to swing a harmonica inside one of Tyneside’s tightest venues.
A couple of instruments will do the job Not for Bernie a stack of trademark Vintage Stratocasters stretching the length of the Tyne – one trusty axe and another in reserve is more than enough for a true master of his art. Excess has never been Tormé’s calling card but when the technical wizardry is this compelling who needs a massive wall of amplification, a distracting light show and mid-set gimmicks? So many of today’s would-be guitar heroes mistake quantity for quality, when six well-tuned strings normally suffice. Tormé’s mantra: travel light, play hard. He does.
Less is more… until you agree to make a new double album Tormé has waited 15 years to pen the follow-up to White Trash Guitar and he’s hardly the most prolific touring musician. But this rare opportunity to enjoy a seasoned pro experiencing a new lease of life is well worth the wait. It helps that Tormé solo albums are like buses – you wait an eternity for the next one and then two come along at once. Tonight the main man is spoilt for choice when it comes to draining the well of new material from Flowers And Dirt – Your Voodoo, Partytown and Blood Run Cold are the pick of a mightily impressive bunch. Echoes of Scrapyard, Gillan and Desperado remind the masses of a truly diverse career.
**Pledging really can pay off **The surprising conclusion to an eye-opening show involves lucky punter John Meikle joining Tormé, bassist Chris Heillman and drummer Ian Harris on stage for one final blast of vintage hard rock. At the outset of the Flowers And Dirt Pledge Music campaign, fans with a spare £100 in their pocket could bag a guest list spot, meet-and-greet and the chance to jam with the band during the encore. Tormé provides full value, happily trading solos with his new recruit and making one man’s rock and roll dream come true. Like it or not, this is the future of live music.
All pics: John Burrows
What Tormé says – “I never wanted to get rich or be a star. I’m an old bastard but I’m still playing! That’s the point. It’s a long time since I played a full solo show in Newcastle and I still miss the Mayfair. What a great place. But The Cluny’s a cool little venue. We’ve got a short break now before three Scottish dates later this month and the tour’s gone so well. Not every place has been packed out but I don’t expect that after all of these years. The main thing is the crowds have gone crazy and we’ve sold loads of merchandise! When I made Flowers And Dirt and we booked this tour I didn’t know if there were still any Bernie Tormé fans out there. It seems there are. I might even tour again…”