Concert Review

Lindisfarne Acoustic

Nettlebed Folk Club - Monday, 5th April 2004

review by Elizabeth Medhurst

I was thinking this weekend that I really need to get out more. In the past two weeks I have spent my leisure time watching 19 episodes of Star Trek The Next Generation, and also both DVDs of Phoenix Nights plus extras. Not that there was anything wrong with my choice of activities, but I had kind of formed an alternative reality in my mind that was threatening to take over and I needed a good dose of proper reality.

So, not before time I headed off to Nettlebed, the hotbed of rock and roll, well, folk anyway. I met my new friend Clive at the door, and we settled down into good second row seats to await entertainment (front row was available but looked to be quite literally in spitting distance of the stage!). The gig was sold out (really fab venue by the way), and the capacity crowd was warmed up by the proprietors performing two traditional tunes - one Scottish and one Irish – I took their word for it, because I certainly wouldn’t know the difference! Anyway, Rod, Billy and Dave came on after this and, as hoped for, it was wonderful. Billy talked about his affection for Nettlebed and said that it made a change to be there without loads of amps and drums and things and likened it to a party at the end of the night when everyone gathers round and plays music, or perhaps even a folk club!

First set highlights included Refugees – who else agrees that the upwards sliding mandolin progression played over the main riff and leading back into A minor is absolutely sublime? It literally leaves me with a warm glow! First Alan Hull song of the night came in the form of Log on the Fire – something I have never heard live before, so it was a real treat. Funny how certain lyrics jump out at different times – I had always considered “the past is all gone and the future is now to be managed” as a filler line before! Whisky Highway and Sundown Station also went down really well. All three were in great form musically and vocally.

Into the interval, which Billy said was scheduled for “as long as it takes to hold a raffle”. I actually had high hopes of winning as one of my numbers was 642, which is the last 3 digits of the dialing code for Middlesbrough, so I thought it was a sign. Sadly not the sign of raffle winning! Not bad prizes though for 50p a strip – first was a CD from the bands table, second a CD from the club’s table and third two tickets to the next Nettlebed performance. Billy showed what value for money he is - from performer to barrow-bow in one move, taking charge of the merchandise table. Pretty darn efficient too. The band had urged everyone to buy the CDs so that they wouldn’t have too many left to put in a box in the attic – or the modern equivalent as Rod put it – a website!

The second set contained an incredible sequence of 5 Alan Hull songs – City Song, Passing Ghosts (as an aside, I always think of this song during the scene in the novel High Fidelity when Rob sleeps with Marie LaSalle … ), Peter Brophy Don’t Care, Walk in the Sea and United States of Mind. None of them obvious, and all of them perfect. Peter Brophy may not have cared, but I certainly did, as this version was eloquently beautiful and tenderly sad. This song in fact perfectly sums up the magic of Lindisfarne Acoustic. A superb song played and sung with such conviction, and demonstrating a connection between the three musicians that was ethereal. The balance between tone, rhythm and tension was transcendent and inspirational.

The set maintained this high standard through to the end – I don’t have a single gripe about the choice of songs – none worth mentioning anyway! An excellent mix of songs that showcased the talent of Lindisfarne through the eras. The decision to close the show with One More Bottle of Wine was nothing less than pure genius. There is no song more fitting, and Dave’s performance was spot on and faultless. Anyone not attending this tour should know that they are missing out on a unique experience. Billy made me laugh when he said that if anyone was seeing the band for the very first time then he was glad they made it in time. It conjured up the scene at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe when The Great Prophet Zarquon puts in an appearance a few seconds before the Universe ends! (Apologies to any non-Douglas Adams fans if this seems a bit obscure – read the book!)

Special mention has to be made of Professor Sparks – not least because he refused to let me have a set list afterwards, and no amount of pleading would budge him. However, he is forgiven for two reasons. Firstly, the sound was excellent. Vocals and harmonicas came though with amazing tone and clarity, and everything was balanced perfectly all the way through. Secondly, Rod demonstrated amazing powers of total recall by writing me a copy of the list from memory on the back of a flyer! What a genius!

During the gig Rod had talked about how it felt like the band had come full circle after the early days performing at The Rex, and it was strangely fitting to be on the final tour in similar circumstances and venues. (Although Nettlebed cannot be similar to “those rough Northern clubs”. Here, the audience stack the chairs neatly in groups of three and take the glasses back to the bar!) I have to agree. The worst case scenario for this tour was that it could turn into a contractual obligation only, but in fact the truth was nowhere near. Thinking back to Billy’s early analogy about a party, it was the perfect wind down to the band after the exuberance of the earlier shenanigans at The Opera House – the equivalent of enabling you to feel rested and refreshed after a good night’s sleep. Sure enough day follows night - this morning in the lovely spring sunshine there was a realisation that there is so much still to look forward to, as the music will continue, just in other forms and line-ups. Lads – make it so.

Elizabeth Medhurst
6th April 2004