Richard Bona and Alfredo Rodriguez at the Sage

So, I’ve had a weird old week, all in all. My anxiety has been playing up something awful – I suspect, now I have taken the time to think about it, that it’s mostly a side effect of being perimenopausal and the constant hormonal fluctuations, but when it happens it feels like confirmation life is falling apart (or will do soon) and everything is both terrible and terrifying and only going to get much, much worse.

Luckily I spent Saturday night in the company of two of my oldest friends, being reminded that there is nothing real or imagined so awful it can’t be conquered – or at least ameliorated – by laughter, prosecco and the support of your mates – and last night also delivered an unexpected treat, as I was invited at the last minute to see musicians Richard Bona and Alfredo Rodriguez play at the Sage.

Staged as part of the Sage’s Autumn Jazz programme, I must admit I had heard of neither man (though that’s a reflection on me, not them – I know nowt about music) and was only going as my friend M is both an enormous fan – she was so excited she positively vibrated with delight through the whole set – and she knew Rodriguez of old and so got us free tickets. But as part of my ‘try new things’ commitment, I wanted to go – plus, one of the things anxiety does is make you fearful and play small, so bashing my comfort zone even slightly would be a good remedy, I figured.

I’m definitely glad I went. Both men are charismatic performers and sublime musicians. Bona is from Cameroon, Rodriguez from Cuba, and they tap playfully into their own heritages as well as intertwining their own sounds (both perform independently and with other musicians) to great effect. There was plenty of banter between the numbers and the crowd clearly adored them – Bona in particular knows how to work a room, even though his repeated comments about being in ‘Newcastle’ had the woman behind me muttering ‘GATESHEAD!’ with gritted teeth throughout. And afterwards they took time to meet people and take photos, and were charm and friendliness itself.

I’ve only been to Sage once before and not in the best of circumstances – I broke my arm on the way to a show and insisted on sitting through it anyway, crying in agony throughout, because I’d bought the tickets! – so it was also nice to revisit one of the region’s best venues when not viewing it through a haze of pain.

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