Rothesay - Isle of Bute Festival - Sunday, 23th July 2000
by Tom Cunningham
Lindisfarne go 'Doon the Watter'
I realise that this latest chapter in Lindisfarne's long and glorious history is pretty well documented, so I'll keep it brief. No point in duplicating what other people have already written.
The Sunday night session took place in the Pavilion theatre, Rothesay, the principal town on this island just off the west coast of Scotland. For anyone who is interested, Rothesay is a traditional holiday destination for the people of Glasgow, in fact, the whole of the lower reaches of the Firth of Clyde are affectionately known in that city as 'Doon the Watter'. (Down the Water, for those in need of translation). Attendance at this event necessitated a 35 minute crossing on the ferry from Wemyss Bay. In sharp contrast to the Walker concert, the sun shone, and no doubt this added to the sense of occasion.
The doors of the theatre opened at 7.30, and a succession of folk acts, none of which I had ever heard of before, took the stage from eight onwards. The headlining act - Lindisfarne of course - came on at midnight, and played for two hours solid, without the now-customary break at 'half time'. Billy wisecracked that they don't normally do their Sunday shows on a Monday!
This, incidentally, is where a bit of advance notice might have come in handy. The last ferry left, as usual, at 7.45, no prospect of a special crossing being laid on. And Rothesay at this time of year is 'No Vacancies' City - just as well, really, if I had succeeded in finding a room in a B&B, I would have been locked out! Some of you may recall that a while back, on my way to a gig at Hexham, I managed to get marooned on Lindisfarne island. That I came to terms with, but I draw the line at being stuck on Bute!
I'll run briefly through the set.
Once again, they opened with 'No Time to Lose', following with another gem from the dim and distant past, 'Alan in the River with Flowers'. Then came 'Working My Way Back Home' - this time with Rod on lead vocals, in the absence of Marty Craggs. Straight into 'Money Game', Dave on lead vocals. And yes, the absence of Marty's flute on 'Refugees' did leave a hole, this time Rod shared lead vocals with Dave and Billy. 'Walk a Crooked Mile' was a welcome return, and Dave played slide guitar on 'Can't Do Right For Doing Wrong'. Then came 'One Day', followed by my own personal favourite, 'Marshall Riley's Army'. This brought the welcome and much publicised return of Rod's fiddle. Unfortunately, this was the only time in the show when it was used. I have to be honest; although I was - am - a great fan and admirer of Marty, I was never impressed with his penny whistle part on this song. Nothing, not even Rod's fiddle, can take the place of Jacka's mandolin on the original version of this truly great Alan Hull composition. And sorry lads, but I don't like the changes you have made to the melody line of the chorus!
As if in answer to my (mild) criticisms, 'Why Can't I Be Satisfied' was next. Then 'Jubilee Corner', followed by a seriously reworked post-Marty version of the timeless classic, 'Lady Eleanor'. 'Train in G Major' sounded very different this time. Everyone except Ray was on stage, with born-again lead vocalist Rod doing the honours once again, and Billy playing mandolin. Dave and Ian did their version of 'Winter Song', and I have a strong feeling that 'January Song' was in there somewhere as well, but unfortunately my notes appear to have become a bit confused at this point. There followed 'Ghost in Blue Suede Shoes'. Next, the inevitable 'Meet Me on the Corner'. This of course was where Marty's presence was seriously missed. Billy sang, played harmonica and guitar, and he deserves to be applauded for a very brave effort indeed. But it sounded very different, this version really hasn't come together, and only time will tell if it ever does. It still sounds distinctly makeshift. Forgive me guys, but while the band now has two harmonica players, Billy and Dave, neither has that cutting, compelling, commanding sound that we came to expect from both Jacka and Marty. This is something which needs to be addressed.
By way of (some) compensation, 'Born at the Right Time' sounded more powerful this time of asking. And I'm glad to see that 'Any Way the Wind Blows' is now such an essential part of the set. This is one of Rod's truly great songs. And for good measure, just in case anyone hasn't heard it yet, once again we got Rod's crack about having met everyone who bought the 'Amigos' album! Oh and Rod, if by chance you are reading this, please do add me to your list of people who bought (and enjoyed!) 'Amigos'. Rod next took lead vocal on 'Devil of the North', and after that, it was oldies all the way. 'Call of the Wild', 'Run for Home', hitchhikers' anthem 'Road to Kingdom Come' (Rod on lead vocals), 'Fog on the Tyne'. Just recently, this old favourite has been sounding just great, much as it sounded on the album. This time it sounded looser, with more (tedious) audience participation. Lead vocals on the verses alternated between Dave and Billy. Finally, Dave took lead on 'Clear White Light'.
I would like to offer an honourable mention to Ray. His drumming sounded solid and reliable as always, about the only thing that has stayed the same. I won't go on about Marty, It's all been said before. But he was conspicuous by his absence. And he was the bridge between the old Lindisfarne and the new. Now we must look to the future, whatever it might bring. Marty is gone, without there being any compensating advantage that I can see, apart of course from Rod's fiddle making a universally welcome - but brief - return!
A few key songs were missing, but they can hardly play them all, and around twenty-five songs in one gig is certainly value for money. Oh and by the way, Louise was selling three different Jack the Lad cd's, at just five pounds a time - I grabbed the opportunity to buy all three.
I wandered out into the night with some people I had met. And John, if you are reading this, thanks a million for letting me get my head down for a couple of hours in your tent on the camp site. I caught the first ferry to the mainland at six thirty in the morning, was relieved to find the car where I had left it, drove home, and collapsed! It has taken me all week to recover sufficiently to write this!
Oh and, any future Lindisfarne gigs I attend will definitely be on a strictly 'mainland only' basis!
Tom Cunningham July, 2000