Lindisfarne Concert Reviews

Whitehaven, Rosehill Theatre - Friday, 4th April 2003

by Derek Walmsley

The band had a very long drive from their previous night’s South Wales gig in Ebbw Vale to the hill-side Rosehill Theatre near Whitehaven, overlooking the Irish Sea coast. Stopping overnight in Birmingham, their journey northwards was rewarded by a glorious sunny day and a chance to enjoy the Cumbrian scenery en route. Converted from a barn by West Cumberland Silk Mills owner Sir Nicholas Sekers in 1959, the atmospheric little theatre evokes a much earlier era and a capacity audience filled both auditorium and bar to the seams. 

The last time the band played at the Rosehill was in the early days of the “Untapped & Acoustic” tour on 25th February, 1997 and they were warmly welcomed back. Sat down in relaxed mode without the “knocking and banging”, laid-back renditions of Old Peculiar Feeling and  When Jones Gets Back To Town with Billy on vocals were an appropriate way to open proceedings. The mood then shifted to a batch of moving, reflective songs. Refugees, with stirring mandolin and a different vocalist for each verse, was followed by Dave’s poignant rendition of This Too Will Pass supported by some fine harmonica from Billy. Billy’s touching Happy Birthday Dad and Rod’s One More Night With You from his solo “Stamping Ground” were topical for very different reasons; Billy’s as he had been being invited to a lot of 50th Birthday parties recently and Rod’s for sadder reasons in the Middle East. 

Introducing the Sundown Station duo with Rod’s intricate mandolin as a song about a train, Billy said that Rothbury in Northumberland, where the tour started, no longer has any. However, the only bus song they could think for that concert was "The Wheels On The Bus Go Round And Round”! Relieved there was no room for line-dancing at the front “or we would have to employ snipers”, the first half ended with Ghost In Blue Suede Shoes and Born At The Right Time

As Dave was “phoning his mam”, Billy and Rod started the second half with Walking Back To Blueberry Hill. Dave returned for a fantastic nostalgic trip back to the early days of Alan Hull and Brethren in the folk club of the Rex Hotel, Whitley Bay, songs that ended up on “Fog On The Tyne” and “Pipedream”. Billy took vocals for superb renditions of Passing Ghosts and the never-heard-live-in-recent-memory Peter Brophy Don’t Care, passing vocals over to Dave for United States Of Mind. After Rods Train in G Major, it was time for Billy to be nostalgic, choosing a song co-written with Vin Grey around 1969/1970 and first recorded on Jack The Lad’s “Rough Diamonds” album. Vin was in the audience; he is now an artist living in Whitehaven and the band had enjoyed tea at Vin and Marion’s house before setting off for the gig. Rocking Chair, written about Billy’s coal-mining grandfather who used to tell him stories as a child, fitted perfectly into the set.

We then moved to more recent times with Dave’s Candlelight from “Promenade”, one of six in the set from last year’s classic album. After more effective harmonica support for Dave, Billy sang the fine ballad Can’t Do Right For Doing Wrong. Another gem from “Neighbourhood”, Rod’s Working My Way Back Home, followed before a crowd-pleasing finale of Meet Me On The Corner and I won’t tell you that Billy forgot some of the words!

The two-song encore was a real surprise but highly fitting. Inspired by a TV “History of Jazz” documentary showing the enslaved community of New Orleans enjoying their few hours of freedom making music, Rod’s Freedom Square displays the ongoing quality of Rod’s writing. The show finished as it started with another song about drink, this time a tribute to Alan Hull’s masterful songwriting talents. Written in 1975 for the “Squire” album, One More Bottle Of Wine is one of Hully’s best piano-led ballads and one I thought I would never hear live again. With Dave on vocals and acoustic guitar, Billy on harmonica and Rod on mandolin, a new lease of life was breathed into the great song. A wonderful end to a evening which demonstrated the variety and versatility of the Acoustic Trio, paving the way for the full band’s return to Cumbrian soil at the Carlisle Sands Centre on Friday, 31st October. 

True, there was no “Run For Home”, no “Fog On The Tyne”, no “Lady Eleanor” for the masses but this was something different to be treasured. There’s no doubt that the hits will be back and also that further incursions will be made into the rich song catalogues of band members past and present. It’s all encouragement to go to future shows and enjoy the rich tapestry that is Lindisfarne! 

    Derek Walmsley 5/4/2003