Lindisfarne Concert

Blackheath, Concert Halls, London, Wednesday, 13th March 2002

Dorking, Dorking Halls, Surrey, Thursday, 14th March 2002

by Chris Groom

"Business as usual - or unfinished business?"

First spasm: This Guitar Never Lies / Anyway the Wind Blows / All Fall Down / This Too Will Pass / Old Peculiar Feeling / Born at the Right Time / Freedom Square / One Day / Passing Ghosts / Under the Promenade / Coming Good / Meet Me on the Corner.

Second spasm: Fog on the Tyne / No Time to Lose / Walking Back to Blueberry Hill / Roll on that Day / One World / Significant Others / Road to Kingdom Come/ Unfinished Business / Rock & Roll Phone / Run for Home.

Encore: Lady Eleanor / Clear White Light / Devil of the North.

It is always good to have the band back in Blackheath, situated just south of the river or "almost London" as Billy would have it and the scene of many fine Lindisfarne-related nights; particularly Alan and Kenny recording some of the tracks that made up the 'Back to Basics' CD and a night in November 1998 that ranks high on my list of truly great gigs.

With an albums worth of new songs to digest and incorporate in amongst a back catalogue heaving with classic songs, and with the glowing reports flooding the website from the Scottish and Welsh correspondents, the big question was - would it be business as usual?

The band were in fine form, the Mitchell and Hull-Denholm vocal chords in especially fine fettle, which bodes well for such a long tour. The crowd were also up for it, although they weren't helped by the well spaced, table, chair & candlelight 'ambiance', which had the effect of making the 350 strong audience appear smaller.

While the new songs all sounded good to these ears, in truth nothing from Promenade leapt out and grabbed me from the stage in the way that the songs did from the Neighbourhood album, at least not at Blackheath. It's also an unfair comparison, I know, but when you can dip into the JAH songbook and pull out the likes of 'One World' and 'Passing Ghosts' then the song next to it has to be something special.

Perhaps I should qualify this by saying that I haven't yet played the studio recordings. Given the choice between putting on a CD and putting my coat on and getting out to a gig, there's no contest - hand me my coat every time. For me, the songs have to work live and consequently I prefer to hear the majority of a new album played live before I buy the recording, which is fortunately something that this hard-working road band always enables me to do. There were highlights, of course - Billy and Rod together on 'Roll on that Day', plus Dave's vocal and the instrumental ending on 'One World' were worth the admission money alone. I know the gig went down well, as witness to some strange and crazy dancing to the last two encores, but I left Blackheath with the feeling that there was unfinished business 

The following night at Dorking, however, was a different matter entirely and it's difficult to pin down why - the overall sound was crisper, highlighting the Laidlaw/Thomson rhythm section, the playing tight as the proverbial D.A., even the band members seemed 'happier' if that makes sense! This time though, the new songs finally worked their way into my thick skull; 'This Guitar Never Lies' felt like a natural opener, 'This Too will Pass' became the successor to 'Can't Do Right' and wouldnąt be out of place on any Neil Young album; 'Significant Others' became a band song rather than a Rod solo outing. 'Coming Good' sounded like a hit single (Rod certainly thinks so, as he introduced the final two songs of the first set as "two hits in a row" - and I'm not about to argue).

I also love the attention to detail that the band put in to each number; the way Rod slips in a couple of lines from 'Ain't that a Shame' during 'Walking Back to Blueberry Hill'; the Kinks style ending to 'This Guitar' – never overdone, always the perfect added touch. The way Dave struggled manfully with the line "I'm an entrepreneurial go-getter" in the Thomson composition 'Under the Promenade'; you could almost see the evil smirk on Ian's face! Even the way Billy's guitar strap comes undone at just the right moment - alright, so that wasn't planned, but it did happen twice; once just as he was about to sing and once mid-song leaving Mitch holding the neck in his left hand and the guitar swinging underneath

There were blistering versions of 'Anyway the Wind Blows' and 'No Time to Lose' too, but send a memo stateside to Tom Finn: man, if you think this band rocks, wait till you see the combination of 'Unfinished Business' and 'Rock & Roll Phone', which were just sensational - so good in fact, that 'Run for Home' almost came as an anti-climax. Normal service, as they say, had been resumed. Definitely business as usual.

Chris Groom