Lindisfarne Concert Review

Stables Theatre, Wavendon - Thursday, 16th October 2003

by Elizabeth Medhurst

"Touch of mid-tour fatigue perhaps?"

Thirty years ago Lindisfarne could be heard regularly on Radio 1. They were mentioned today actually - on the Chris Moyles show. Unlikely, but true. I heard it for myself as I walked by teenage daughter's bedroom - listeners were texting saying what their first album and first gig was, and someone from Plymouth mentioned Lindisfarne. One of the team then made the observation that most of the listeners would not have been born when Lindisfarne were around, which was no Bad Thing! One of us was clearly living in a parralel universe, whoever this may have been I prefer my side!

Anyway, tonight the band certainly looked pretty real to me as they came on to polite applause and launched into Fog on the Tyne. Nice arrangement, but I felt that there was the feeling of getting it out of the way so they could concentrate on the rest of the set. The whole set was performed extremely well technically, with highlights being This Guitar Never Lies (I love the sound of that slide on the Strat), Rock and Roll Phone and Statues and Liberties, the latter two shifting the mood of both band and audience considerably, as all in all I thought the first set was slightly on the lacklustre side by comparison - although by no means bad, far from it. Touch of mid-tour fatigue perhaps? Billy looked very attractive in a co-ordinated shirt and jeans - clearly Milton Keynes was not ready to have unleashed upon it the football shirt and straw hat ensemble as seen in the US last year! Sartorial splendour was provided by Ray this evening in his cream linen smock combo - good drumming outfit!

So, into the break, badly needed so both band and audience could top up alcohol levels - incidentally Wavendon Stables is my favourite local (ish) venue, and is marvellously civilised as you can take your beer into the auditorium with you, which was a damn good job tonight, as the bar staff were the slowest that I have ever experienced there (albeit this venue has the nicest staff that you will get at any venue anywhere) - thank God for interval orders! At the merchandise stand Tom was kept very busy controlling the mob that were falling over themselves to throw money at him in return for visual and auditory feasts; some filling up gaps in their collection and some buying for the very first time. I picked up something for the weekend - the Rock of the North vid. We also met up and had a good chat with Clive in the interval - well done for finding me, although I'm never too far from the beer! Lucky sod's also going to the Opera House.

The second set started with about twice the energy of the first - from both sides - and kept getting better from there. I thought it was quite amusing when Billy, Rod and Ray left the stage before Winter Song - they just walked off without a word and Dave and Ian actually looked slightly bemused as if it was unexpected! This is one of the best arrangements I have ever heard of this song, Ian's bass was so flowing and melodic, showing how versatile an instrument it is. It is always a pleasure to hear Dave's guitar playing, his rhythm guitar hits the spot every time as do the harmonics on Lady Eleanor. I really do think that Dave has a unique identity and voice of his own - undeniably similar to Alan's in tone and intonation, and this is what knocks you between the eyes when you first hear it, (and the way he moves onstage also bears resemblance to Alan) but I bet there is no fan that could not tell the difference automatically in a blind test. Here's to more of Dave in his own right in the future!

Unmarked Car was a triumph. Anyone who thinks that the band should have a keyboard on stage should listen to this (and Statues and Liberties come to that) to see what can be done with three guitars. Pure magic was coming out of the corner of the stage where Rod was stood all evening (or was that just the smoke machine?). Every note that came out of that Strat was sublime, and in Unmarked Car came one of those moments that touches your soul as, even though you could explain what Rod was doing from a technical basis, there are no words to describe the vibe and experience of hearing it - this is why music is magical. Rod should be knighted for his services to soul magic! Whisky Highway was brilliant, it is perfect for the full band line-up - was it considered for Neighbourhood or Promenade? Rod and Nigel's body of work is exceptionally strong.

The crowd made a spirited effort at singing along to 'Run for Home' - although I think that most of the effort came from our side of the hall! Most people were on their feet by the time the band came back for the encores and were rewarded with what may well be the definitive version of 'One More Bottle of Wine'. Alan's piano version was absolutely right for 1975, but I cannot imagine that this acoustic guitar version can be improved upon further. Incidentally, this is the second time in this review that I have lauded guitars over a piano - I must further qualify this by saying that I am a piano player so this is seriously high praise indeed!

After 'Clear White Light' and 'Devil of the North', the lads came out for their meet and greet and signing session - loads of people had brought their vinyl albums (or antiques as Rod described them) and one man had brought a pristine copy of the poster that came with Dingly Dell. I hadn't seen one for years - mine was put on my wall (of course!) and disintegrated many years ago. I only had time to say a brief hello, as my friend Simon had an early start the next day, but I managed to get hold of the set list before we left - and I had to plead with the roadie for it as he didn't want to have to write another one out for the next gig. I told him that I needed it for the review and if he didn't let me take one then I would have to make it up!

Elizabeth Medhurst,
17th October 2003

Thirty years ago there was no Microsoft, no mobile phones, no CDs, no MP3s, three television channels and the Seventies singer-songwriter movement was firmly established. This week saw the release of a suberb Cat Stevens compilation prior to a performance at the Royal Albert Hall this week, including a DVD of performance footage. Before 'Father and Son' Cat stated that the song's idea would go on for a long time, the song maybe not so long. Both seem to be bearing up pretty well to me! 

Anyway, Cat went away and came back under a different guise, Lindisfarne never went away but evolved and adapted over the years, taking their audience with them and picking up new travellers along the way. They may be 'merely' a rock and roll band, but have always been and will continue to be so much greater than the sum of their parts. It may be a Good Thing that Chris Moyles's listeners were not around in the early 70s and can take all the advantages of modern technology etc, but if any of them attend this tour they will see that in fact they have always been around in Lindisfarne's time, the meaning of the songs will be around for ever and, like Cat Stevens, they demonstrate that quality and beauty is timeless. Or, they could just not think about it too hard, give themselves a treat and come along for a bloody good night out!