Lindisfarne Concert Reviews

 Bluebell Railway Festival, Horsted Keynes, Sussex

Saturday, 5th July 2003

by Derek Walmsley, photos by Charles Orr

"Steaming down the track to Horsted Keynes"

As both a Lindisfarne fan and a railway enthusiast, the band’s visit to the first preserved standard gauge passenger line in the world was a must. The weekend started well train-wise when Virgin got me to London Euston 15 minutes early. Catching the tube to London Bridge, I took the Thameslink service into the Sussex countryside and met up with Mike, Charles and Peter at Haywards Heath. 

Driving to Sheffield Park, we took a leisurely stroll and picnic round the National Trust’s gardens and then headed for the southern terminus of the famous Bluebell Railway. We were met on the platform by a group of Morris dancers and our special 6.30 p.m. train, hauled by green Southern Railway 4-6-2 West Country Bulleid Pacific No.21C123 “Blackmoor Vale”. Built at Brighton in 1946…. OK I’ll stop- told you I’m a railway enthusiast! After a steamy 15 minute journey, the train reached Horsted Keynes station were there was more platform entertainment, a barbecue and a bar queue. A large marquee in a nearby field provided the concert venue for Lindisfarne and also for the Yetties the following evening. 

Those still in the bar queue on the platform certainly had “No Time To Lose”, rushing to the marquee with their beers to catch the second song of the set! The band had already opened with “Fog On The Tyne”. Third song in was “Anywhere The Wind Blows”. Dave then tried to start “This Too Will Pass” but was rudely interrupted by a loud steam locomotive whistle as he sang the title for the first time. Erupting into hysterics, the band had to abandon the song, promising to return to it in the second half “as long as we didn’t have a train to catch.” We did, so they didn’t! 

The band turned to “Lady Eleanor” instead, Billy dedicating the song to a member of the audience who enjoyed doing her ironing to it! Dave continued with Ian’s “Under The Promenade” and Billy, introducing “Can’t Do Right For Doing Wrong”, had a fresh joke to tell about hamsters. More songs from “Neighbourhood” followed- a livelier “Ghost In Blue Suede Shoes” and a spirited “Born At The Right Time”. The first set ended with a rousing “Meet Me On The Corner” and a blistering take on Ian’s “Two Way Street”. 

By this stage it was apparent that the outdoor festival atmosphere was spurring the band on to infuse each song with a fresh vitality, the audience responding in kind. A lengthy interval allowed people to negotiate the bar queue and buy handfuls of CDs.

The second set started sedately with Billy and Rod “Walking Back To Blueberry Hill”. Rod then announced a song about an old train that had been up and down the line a few times and now finds G major no longer attainable. A 4-piece rendition of “Train in E Major” followed, although it has to be said that the train which interrupted Dave in the first half was in more like D flat minor! After a moving “Winter Song” by Dave with Ian, the whole band returned for steamed-up renditions of four “Promenade” songs. 

This Guitar Never Lies” swung mightily with superb guitar work while “Significant Other” saw Tony and Alistair name-checked in addition to Edwina and John. The Clements “Friends Reunited” classic “Unfinished Business” was followed by Billy’s full-throttle, accelerating “Rock’n’Roll Phone”. A super-charged “Road To Kingdom Come” led into a crowd-pleasing “Run For Home”. Of course, no one wanted to do that and a standing ovation brought the lads back on stage for “Clear White Light” and “Devil Of The North”. 

With only 10 minutes remaining to departure of the 10.30 p.m. express to Sheffield Park, the band left the stage. As “Blackmoor Vale” evocatively chugged through the summer night, a comment overheard on the train summed up the evening- “I’ve just texted my friend to say the concert was brilliant!” 

It was great to meet the band and many fans that attended last year’s convention in such an unusual setting- it was certainly ”Friends Reunited”! Memories are made of atmospheric occasions like these. Let’s hope that Lindisfarne’s next whistle stop tour of the UK includes another railway. We mustn’t let the whistle stop the music!