London, Queen Elizabeth Hall - Wednesday, 22th November 2000
by Chris Groom
Lindisfarne & Friends
The Queen Elizabeth Hall, part of the Royal Festival Hall complex on Londons South Bank, was the setting for the first major Lindisfarne concert in central London for several years, the band preferring to skirt round the capital at the likes of Blackheath, Harlesden, Putney and Walthamstow. This was not their first time at the QEH however, as Rod recalled an earlier visit way back circa 1971; he told us that the band decided to strike up the intro to Lady Eleanor, for Alan to walk onstage while they played. So they played, and waited and after what seemed like an eternity James Alan appeared with the front of his old acoustic hastily strapped up with gaffa tape - the guitar having finally given up the ghost just before he was about to walk on.
Almost 30 years on, this was a very different Lindisfarne, a new band with its own identity, yet with so many familiar echoes of those former times that those who care to listen are treated to the best of both worlds.
This being a 'prestige' gig, it was deemed that a few guests were in order and I doubt that I will hear a better support act this year than Chris While and Julie Matthews who opened the show. The girls will be familiar to fans of the Albion Band, with whom they have both been lead vocalist, and to followers of Fairport Convention who have recorded 'Jewel in the Crown', a J. Matthews composition. Both Chris and Julie are strong vocalists in their own right, but together they form an almost perfect partnership; I would call them a British version of the Indigo Girls - and that's a compliment to all concerned. The sound mix in the hall was spot on, highlighting the close harmonies - not every support act is afforded such luxury - and although I didn't see him working the desk, I assume that it was down to the Lindisfarne sound man - nice one, Sparks. Overall I preferred Chris and Julie's 'rockier' songs, such as 'White Water Running' and the aforementioned 'Jewel', although '10,000 Miles', a transportation song from the female point of view was simply stunning. If you get the chance, go and see them.
After a short break it was time for the main band, looking very relaxed and easing everyone else in with 'When Jones Comes Back to Town', a new Rod Clements song with a 'Court in the Act' soundalike intro. They stepped up a gear via a revamped 'Working My Way Back Home' with Rod on lead vocals, Billy took over for '100 Miles to Liverpool' and the duties were shared on 'Refugees', but the first real surprise was 'Train In G Major' which has turned into a Rod solo workout, with the band tucked in behind and playing where and when they think appropriate. The new arrangement of this slow blues is taken at such a leisurely pace that at one point I thought I would stop breathing, although Billy assures me that this is the song as Rod originally intended it.
'Born at the Right Time' and 'Meet Me on the Corner' both hit the spot as usual, before Julie and Chris rejoined the lads for a rousing 'Diggin' Holes', a track that features on BT3 and is a real live highlight. Dave and Ian do their thing on an extremely fine version of 'Winter Song', followed by 'Canšt Do Right', 'Unmarked Car', 'Lady Eleanor' and 'Ghost in Blue Suede Shoes'.
With Rod getting most of the plaudits these days, a word here about Ray. He's not flash, and he doesn't use a huge kit but he perfectly underpins the whole unit and without him the band goes nowhere. The stuttering twists and turns of the drum break in the middle of 'Jubilee Corner' are just wonderful, while the intro to 'Lady E' shows a sure and subtle touch that even Dave Mattacks would envy. Top sticksmanship!
Billy announces another special guest in the tall American form of Sid Griffin, who plays autoharp centre stage a lá John Sebastian and leads the band through Dylan's 'You Aint Going Nowhere'; consequently the lads end up looking like the Loving Spoonful and sounding like the Byrds, no bad thing on either count. Billy readjusts his mike stand one last time and finally left to their own devices, Lindisfarne run through 'Jubilee Corner' and 'Run for Home' - before returning for a 'Fog' encore and then head straight for the bar.
The reduced time meant that several songs were sacrificed - there was no 'Devil of the North', 'Marshall Rileys Army', 'Road to Kingdom Come', 'Two Way Street' or 'One Day', all of which had been witnessed in the deep south, well Burgess Hill actually, a few days earlier, and where 'One Day' had turned into one of those sublime musical moments, that you can't adequately describe why it should be so good, but wish that it could have been somehow captured for posterity.
Afterwards in the foyer bar, Ralph McTell and his wife chatted to the band alongside the rest of the fans; no doubt as impressed and pleased as the rest of us with the way this band have stayed the course.
Chris Groom 1/12/2000