Concert Review

Lindisfarne Acoustic

Bein Inn, Glenfarg - Friday, 16th April 2004

review by William Hershaw

photos by Michael Bailey, taken at the Bein Inn on Apr 17th

The Bein Inn is situated on a lost highway three miles north of the Perth and Kinrosshire village of Glenfarg on the old Perth Road that used to connect Fife and the Highlands in the days before motorways. It is worth visiting the basement bar and the collection of Rock memorabilia on display therein. However The Bein Inn is most famous for its acoustic music sessions in intimate settings - the venue only holds around sixty people at a squeeze. In recent years I had seen Rab Noakes and the acoustic Strawbs perform there so I knew in advance it would be something very special to hear Lindisfarne Acoustic on their most northerly date of their final Highland fling.

Come to think of it, I'd never pilgrimaged North to see Lindisfarne before - soft Southerners that they are.

The set was the same as reported in the previous excellent reviews posted on this website, opening up with a breezy "Old Peculiar Feeling". Billy Mitchell announced that it was a bit like playing in a bay window and to me, with a pint of Guinness in hand and the new CD in my pocket, it was the nearest thing to having Lindisfarne playing for me in my living room as they delivered up the kind of set list I would have suggested myself if I'd been allowed to put forward my favourite all time songs. "This Too Will Pass", sung by Dave Hull Denholm, is surely a classic.

It may only have three chords but it sure as hell has the truth. "Refugees" is another song that strikes a big chord with me both musically and lyrically. It builds up to a fantastic climax with Rod and Dave singing the melody and Billy wailing harmonies over the top. The tremolo mandolin break in the middle is superb.

Billy's "Happy Birthday Dad" is another song that gradually gets into your consciousness and makes its worth known. When I first heard it on "Promenade" I didn't think it was anything special. Among the plethora of quality songs on the album, it didn't stand out. Hearing it close hand, strummed on a big twelve string was another thing. When Billy makes a solo CD I hope he doesn't include too many covers. I know he has a great voice but ever since first hearing "Turning Into Winter" on the debut Jack The Lad album I've admired his songwriting skills.

At the Bein Inn we were treated to "Born At The Right Time" at the end of the first set and "Rocking Chair" in the second which sounded better to me than the electric version because I could hear Rod's harmony singing and mandolin better. Rod Clement's songwriting abilities need no praise here - anyone who is unaware of them must have a set of tin ears. I'm always astounded by his playing but the power of an acoustic "Whisky Highway" was a huge surprise and I hope Gordon was pleased because he had shouted out for it all night at the Ghosts gig at Gala. I say an acoustic version but for much of the night Dave Hull Denholm's shimmering, reverberating, subtle Rickenbacker notes cast their chiming harmonics as a suitable backdrop to the songs - like the Phil Spectre of electricity, he was. No more so than on "Walk In The Sea".

The opening of the second half, five Alan Hull songs in a row, left me thinking that one day, the city of Newcastle will recognise its own John Lennon. Alan Hull airport sounds good. City Song, Passing Ghosts, United States Of Mind, aforementioned Walk In The Sea but most surprising Peter Brophy Don't Care, my least favourite Fog On The Tyne number which I always felt sounded like a rant but is now transformed with a terrible beauty. I first encountered Lindisfarne, like many, through the Fog On The Tyne Album.

For me, this final tour is a bit like having watched a good film and then staying on in the cinema to see the beginning again of the second performance. I'm so glad that this band have been able to reclaim the musical soul they lost in the eighties. Rod Clements said that the smaller acoustic venues the band are playing on this final tour reminded him of the places where they had started out in and reminisced briefly about the Alan Hull and Brethren days in the Rex Hotel, Whitley Bay.

Listening today to the Acoustic 2 album I am struck by the effectiveness of the simple acoustic arrangements. They may not have spent a lot of time recording this final fling album but it certainly has worked. It has a fragile beauty and you can hear real guitars on it like that one Bob Johnson produced all those years ago!

So unlike the last occasion when I saw Lindisfarne on their final electric tour and they were literally unplugged in a gloomy Edinburgh kirk, this was a joyous evening. To be truthful, it is in fact, very difficult to write a damning review of any Lindisfarne show because the songs are so good and they are so good at playing them. And now that they're kicking into their prime the miserable sods have decided to deny us their collective presences. Nevertheless I was grateful to have one more bottle of wine with them.

Finally, I'd like to thank Rod, Billy and Dave for being so approachable after the gig and for making my son David's day by signing his copy of Acoustic 1. ( Billy offered him a fiver for it.)