The Floating Palace. The Sage Gateshead. Feb. 6th 2012


“Freewheeling”, turns out to be an understatement as The Floating Palace sets sail for the evening. Joining the charismatic English eccentric Robyn Hitchcock on stage are – folk legends Martin and Eliza Carthy, American folk/country star Howe Gelb, KT Tunstall and Krystle Warren (I’m the relatively quiet one, says Krystle). Egos are nowhere to be seen as the sextet improvise, play each others songs, take it in turns to sit out songs and generally have a great time on stage. They sing their own hits, traditional ballads and even The Bee Gees. Yep, that’s right The Bee Gees. All six play their part in the opening song – Ole! Tarantula, taken from the self titled album Hitchcock released with Venus 3. She may be the quiet one of the six, but Krystle Warren’s presence makes a huge impact as she steps up to the mic to sing You can Take Me With You. Next up it’s KT Tunstall’s turn to take centre stage as she sings White Bird before Eliza Carthy performs Revolution from her latest album, Neptune.

KT Tunstall puts down her guitar and takes to the piano to accompany Martin Carthy et al to sing Lost Love. Howe Gelb doesn’t just play the grand piano while Carthy then sings Not The End. He plucks the piano strings like a harp to create an ethereal sound picked up beautifully thanks to the acoustics of Hall One. Martin Carthy’s guitar prowess is legendary and with the instrumental solo of traditional folk song Swaggering Boney, the audience was treated to a stunning performance. A trio of traditional folk songs follow – among them a lament learned by Eliza Carthy as a child from old American lady.

Then it’s traditional folk to 1980s pop! The last song before the interval sees Robyn Hitchcock lead the group in what can only be described as a unique rendition of Staying Alive by the Bee Gees. Known for his lyrical surrealism, Hitchcock doesn’t disappoint as they go freestyle with the verses creating a version VERY different from the falsetto favourite of the disco floors.

After the break, Eliza and Martin Carthy join KT Tunstall in a haunting a cappella account of Tunstall’s song Shanty of the Whale. After asking the audience ‘Am I hip enough for you?’ (the answer by the way is most definitely yes), Howe Gelb sits himself down and plays a medley of his songs from across four decades. Krystle Warren picks up her guitar for a solo performance of Emily before being joined by KT Tunstall on vocals and Hitchcock on harmonica for Climbing Out.

Hitchcock and Tunstall join forces for Scarlet Tulip but not before explaining how they met – on a former Russian military vessel sailing round Greenland, as you do. The pairing remain on stage for There Goes the Ice.Eliza Carthy puts down her fiddle for her next song, instead choosing the tenor guitar for Cover Your Garden. Next she joins her father and Hitchcock and the trio perform the traditional Sir Patrick Spens.

Before there’s any chance of the audience thinking it’s all about folk from ages past, the six make a switch and blast out the Jackson 5 classic I Want You Back as their (almost) final song of the night. The encore saw a second a cappella song, Personality, before they all launched into The Weight by Robbie Robertson. Taking a verse each, Eliza helped her dad out by holding the lyric sheet up to his face – he kindly returned the favour for her. A heart warming dad-daughter moment.

Having played Glasgow the previous night, the Floating Palace was next due to dock in, “that there London”. Good luck to all who sail in her!

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By Emma on February 8, 2012

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