Amy Thatcher

The Sage, Gateshead

5 May 2019

It's almost exactly 11 years since I first saw Amy Thatcher, in this very hall. Since then I've seen her numerous times with several different bands, but this is the first solo show I've seen her do. And I mean, completely solo: just Amy on stage for the entire set. She doesn't sing (well, she does sometimes, but not tonight) so that's entire set of solo accordion music. That might not be everybody's cup of tea; personally I can't think of many better things.

The accordion has such a rich and versatile sound that it doesn't need an accompaniment: it accompanies itself. And Amy's compositions (it's almost all her own tunes tonight, with just a couple of covers) are all interesting and varied. So yes, I'll be honest, I did wonder going in whether the completely solo format would work, but I came out in no doubt that it worked superbly. I could listen to solo accordion music from a performer like this every night.

Having said all that, I think my favourite moments were the two songs where she accompanied herself on electronic keyboard. Partly because the compositions were brilliant, but also because watching her play accordion and keyboard at the same time was just amazing.

The other string to Amy's bow is that she clog dances. But when she came on wearing huge platform boots laced up to mid-calf I thought, oh well, no dancing tonight because she'll never get those off. Maybe she didn't want to dance without an instrumental accompaniment.

So, she came on for an encore carrying clogs. And while she changed, she called Kathryn Tickell (who was in the audience) on to the stage. Kathryn brought up a shopping bag full of pipes (I am not kidding here) and, after a bit of banter, played them while Amy danced. Honestly, can there possibly be a better encore than that? I don't think so!