Lindisfarne Tour Impressions

USA Tour August 2002

by Rich Burkinshaw

Why do you do this?

A question posed to me by Billy Mitchell in the bar of the Clarion Hotel after the bands 2nd appearance at Bethlehem's Musikfest. It got me thinking why would a 41 year old man take his vacation time, fly in his daughter from Cardiff & set off on a road trip covering over 3000 miles in a car that didn't look like it could make it to the nearest 7-11. I guess looked at logically it doesn't make too much sense. What I do know is that over the course of 4 gigs in 4 different States my daughter, Sian & I had a trip we will never forget. So here goes - the story of a small portion of the US 2002 tour.

The first date we attended was the Cincinatti gig at the Carson's house. This evoked a lot of memories for me as it was here in 1999 that I saw the band for the first time in 13 years following my move to Chicago from the UK. This time it was hotter than Hell outside but thankfully the basement where the band played afforded some relief.

Steve introduced the band & ended by proclaiming them the best band to come out of the north east of England. Billy took his place on stage & said he thought they were going to be hailed as the best band in the northern hemisphere but he would take north east England. 

And so into the music - a great set including as always a tribute to Alan Hull after Dave's amazing rendition of One World. A group of people left early between songs & as they said goodnight to the band remarked "too bad we can't stick around for Fog On The Tyne". But this was to be a different kind of show as anyone lucky enough to catch the acoustic band's gigs will know. A Lindisfarne show without FOTT, Lady Eleanor, Run for Home or Clear White Light. 

Now I know there are the purists out there who don't understand how this can be but as I see it Lindisfarne are a living organism, constantly evolving & always producing excellent new material. There aren't too many bands who do that. Yes this band has a great history but more importantly a great future too. The set list ran as follows: 

During the show we were introduced to Crispin - apparently the youngest of Billy's kids who hoped as Dad left for the US that he would sell enough CD's so that he could have shoes this winter!

At this gig I was also able to bring my 5 year old daughter Kayleigh who insisted as Rod & Billy were sitting down to begin the 2nd half that she had to sing Run For Home to them. So up she went & sang just the chorus, thankfully, to be rewarded with a kiss from Billy.

After the show I overheard Rod being asked by someone who had seen pictures of Alan in a red cowboy shirt if this was an indication of Alan being more flamboyant than the others to which Rod's deadpan reply was "No he just had terrible taste in clothes" before erupting into a big smile. Throughout my time spent with the band I heard many fond recollections of Alan always told with a smile - proof positive that the man is greatly missed. Back to Steve's new house after the show & a few more hours of stories & discusssions about the rest of the tour. 

The next day we headed back to Chicago for a few days work as the band headed off for Indiana, Kentucky, Nashville [ where they would perform in the only Irish pub in town before it closed down forever the next day] & Pennsylvania where we would catch up with them next. 

Bethlehem Pa. is a pretty small town that pays host to a pretty big "Musikfest". Umpteen stages, with a wide range of acts appearing for 11 days straight. Food & drinks available at various booths dotted around the huge site - pizza, hot dogs, burgers & of course all kinds of "meat on a stick", The band were playing on the Volksplatz stage at 2pm. & immediately before was an accordion soloist who did a pretty good job of clearing the tent of any music lovers. In the 15 minutes of so after he left & before Lindisfarne appeared however the tent started filling up & was about 3/4 full as they got up on stage. As they played the 300 or so crowd swelled to 400 & by the end people were standing all around the open tent obviuosly really getting into the music.

Either that or they were waiting for the techno dance stuff which Billy promised they would play later. Sian & I were selling CD's off to one side of the stage & I can't tell you how many people came up to us amazed to be seeing this band that they first heard of 30 years ago. Most saw the lineup for the Fest & when they saw Lindisfarne on the bill decided to take the day off work & head down. They also made a lot of new fans that day & we were able to sell 78 CD's.

The set was essentially the same as at the Carson's except that on stage they made the decision to slip in Roll On That Day before One World. After the show the guys spent a good half hour signing autographs & chatting to fans old & new. Ray Somerville was there from WDIY the local community public radio station & so arrangements were made for the band to do a slot on the Saturday morning show.

After all that hard work we met up with Joe & Jill Aimino & Joe's brother Mike & headed for a watering hole in town. We spent several hours there & the Brits [ Billy & Sian ] beat the Yanks at pool on their home turf.

Back to the hotel for some much needed rest & up bright & early the next day to make the radio spot before heading on to Philadelphia for that nights show at the Tin Angel. WDIY went well as the band played Working my way back home, This too will pass & Remember tomorrow in between chatting with the DJ. Unfortunately her opening question to Rod was to define Lindisfarne's sound to which he gave a long impromptu reply only to find she'd pushed the wrong button & the answer didn't go out on air.

That night at the Tin Angel proved another great performance with only about 40 people in attendance unfotunately. Once again though some fans from way back were there taking this rare oppotunity to catch the band live, Tom Hanks was namechecked in place of Tom Cruise at the beginning of Significant Other in honor of the movie Philadelphia, & Itchy & Scratchy replaced Peters & Lee because , well we were in America, but otherwise the set bore no surprises. 

After retiring to a local watering hole for a short while the lads drove back to the Aimino's house in rural New Jersey. Joe & Jill very kindly invited Sian & I to stay also & so we spent the next 2 nights there. Their basement sports a very fine bar to which Billy made a dubious donation - his Newcastle FC shirt. Joe, a Sunderland supporter, considered putting it up over the dart board. Many tales were told over the next 36 hours & Joe & I couldn't get enough. We heard how Billy was originally approached by Ray Laidlaw in the bathroom at a Christmas party, at Jacka's & invited to be a member of Lindisfarne, & how several months later Ray paid him another visit in Canada to tell him the deal was off. Then of course you know the rest - another call & Jack The Lad was born.

The first time Billy met Alan he'd booked him into a folk club he was running & while driving him home decided to throw him out because he & Terry Morgan were having a shouting contest - "I can shout louder than you" "No I can shout louder than you". 
Rod's partnership with Nigel began when Nigel was recording an album & trying to put the band together. His producer asked who his favorite bass players were to which Nigel answered "Chris Hillman [of the Byrds] & Rod Clements". To which the reply was "I don't think we can get Hillman, what about the other guy."

We heard about Richard Prentice who's wife's a dentist, why JTL are looking left & smiling on the 1st album cover [some country fun in a hay loft], how Billy first saw sound move in Yours Is No Disgrace from the 1st Yes album one of the first 2 stereo albums he owned - the other being Mud Slide Slim.

On Monday it was on to The Blackthorne Tavern in South Easton Massachussetts. A very light crowd - only 28 people but they obviously enjoyed it as 17 CD's were sold. The familiar set was played except that Rod opened the 2nd half with Old Blue Goose, a rare if not unique occurence at a Lindisfarne concert. For some reason, this was my favorite show of the 4 I saw. The lads were relaxed & both musically & vocally took the songs to new levels finding new nuances in the lyrics, accompanied by some of the best playing I've ever heard from them.

Back to the motel & we said goodbye to Billy, Rod , Dave & Sparks. As they would leave the next morning for Rochester Sian & I were starting our journey home visiting Cape Cod, New York City & the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame inCleveland on the way. 
Why was I doing this? To the band it was just four guys plying their trade - to me it was one of the most enjoyable trips I've undertaken, a sentiment echoed by Sian. All in all lads I'd have to say it could best be summed up by the expression we heard countless times on the tour & which became a runing joke - Awesome!

Thanks to the guys for allowing us to tag along & although you might not be able to figure out why I'd do it, if you ever need a merchandising team Sian & I are applying in advance for the position.