Lindisfarne Concert Review(s)

South Shields - Customs House- Saturday, 23rd March 1996

by Derek Walmsley

When Alan Hull died in November 1995, I remember not being able to believe the Teletext news item I awoke to the following Sunday morning. When the tragedy had sunk in, I felt completely numb. Just as when John Lennon died, I will always remember that day. Playing Alan and the band's music continuously seemed the only thing to do.

As 1996 dawned, I hoped that somehow the band would find the strength to carry on. I was heartened to read in the January issue of "Record Collector" that "Pat Hull has encouraged the group to continue". The February issue raised my hopes even further; thanks to Chris Groom and Julia Revell, the band was finally given the excellent article it had long deserved. 7 pages of career history, discography and photographs were concluded by a quote from Ray saying "Alan would definitely have wanted us to keep on playing". Shortly after, I received the first tour dates, including the band's return to a Tyneside venue for the first time since Alan's death.

On 23rd March, I travelled to South Shields and enjoyed a superb concert by the new line-up in the Customs House. The entire band gelled perfectly both instrumentally and vocally which, with an enthusiastic capacity crowd, resulted in one of the finest Lindisfarne performances I had experienced.

After a promising three-song warm-up by the young Scott Mitchell/Andrew Craggs duo Beggars Banquet, the band (with Rod's mandolin to the fore and excellent harmony vocals) played driving renditions of "Alright On The Night", "Court in the Act", "Marshall Riley's Army" and "Wish You Were Here". All from different albums and all sounding as fresh as when they were written. In contrast, Rod's slide guitar and Marty's harmonica made for a memorable "Train In G Major".

At this stage it was noticeable how well Billy Mitchell was fitting in and his own rendition of the classic Pipedream song "United States Of Mind" provided even more proof that Alan's songwriting legacy could not be in better hands. "We Could Swing Together" then made a welcome return to the set before Rod introduced a real treat. "From Alan's new solo album- I kid you not", "Walk A Crooked Mile", a newly-minted masterpiece, was one of the evening's many highlights. Well-placed just before the interval, "Run For Home" kept the audience on a high.

At the start of the second half, it was good to hear overlooked gems from The News album, "Call Of The Wild" and "Log On Your Fire", book-ending the memorably-arranged "Lady Eleanor". Dave Denholm's vocal on "One World" was quite stunning- you could almost sense that Alan was there. After this magic moment, Billy introduced the next item by saying "we had to include one Jack the Lad song- and this one was written by Rod!" Storming renditions of "Why Can't I Be Satisfied" and then Hull's "Drinking Song" followed.

The audience rose as one for "Meet Me On The Corner", raising the roof as if the venue was the City Hall- the encore had a comedy false start as Marty had his harmonica upside-down!! Standing, clapping and waving continued to the end through more old favourites; "Road To Kingdom Come", "Clear White Light", "Fog On The Tyne" (with Woody on cowbell) and "Jackhammer Blues".

Lindisfarne had surpassed my wildest expectations; they were not only back but the spirit of Alan was guiding them on to new heights. It was even more impressive that they had achieved this after "that curry in Southampton" the night before!!

Derek Walmsley