Calvin Chesworth writes:
A night train to Kilwinning
After a pleasing Saturday night at Birmingham Odeon being entertained by Depeche Mode, I left feeling quite content but unfulfilled. Contemplating whether or not to take the 11.50 to Glasgow and trace the "somewhere over the border" Kilwinning Flicks was something that had to be resolved. However, my sense of unfulfilled overpowered my financial disposition, and I found myself trying to get some sleep on the 287-mile journey.
I spent the morning in Glasgow watching the marathon and then off to Kilwinning. "Excuse me sir, could you tell me how to get to Flicks disco?", "Aye, along thi rood, turn to the ri' in yer canna miss it." Much obliged by this gentlemen and although four hours too early, I was able to enter the disco, thanks to the doorman whose name I have forgotten. Big Country entered in leaps and bounds, and were somewhat taken aback by the height and position of the stage. After informal introductions to the rest of the band by Tony, we went for something to eat and witnessed one of Bruce's health food meals, complete with serated knife for the baked beans.
We returned to the venue where the band did a quick sound check and, after a small technical hitch with one of the amps, retired to the dressing room. Oh, and what's that I hear coming from the speakers? "Charles" - how fitting. Just after 11pm Big Country took the stage, and what a magnificent sound. Two SG's professionally combined to form probably the best guitar sound I have ever heard. Tony and Mark providing the supportive rhthym section. The audience were getting into great shape by the time "Heart and Soul" hit them. A truly magnificent track (let's hope it's on the album lads). Other masterpieces included "Angle Park", "The Crossing" and "Inwards".
After two encores, restricted by worried neighbours, the band left to change and soon returned to sign autographs and meet fans. I remained to the end of the night, content to sit and watch the roadies clear the stage. The band signed a photo for me, and after several handshakes they departed for Dunfermline.
Thanks to everyone who made my first trip to Scotland and my first Big Country gig a massive success. A great band, a great gig, a great weekend. Also thanks to the two road crew who gave me a lift back to Glasgow after the gig.
Gavin Woollard writes:
Pretty daunting prospect, isn't it - supporting the Jam at Wembley on their farewell tour? Obviously it was all too much for Apocalypse (the other support group) who didn't make it to the Saturday show, when I went. Pretty daunting for us fans too, who had gone to see Big Country. We were having to cheer despite rather impolite requests to remain silent from the Parka people.
The sound system was not at all good from my vantage point (upper tier south) of performers left. We were able to recognise the songs, but not the speech or lyrics. This all changed surprisingly for the Jam. Straight into opener Angle Park and family favourite Harvest Home. Tony's favourite Close Action was closely followed by Balcony and Porrohman, a delicate and moody piece of music (yes, I bet you all wondered where Southern Death Cult got that hook line for Fatman - listen again). Being a guitar-based band BC have left that risky raw sound to their music which most polished pop bands forsake for Top of The Pops glory.
Bruce's dancing bears a remarkable resemblance to Hank Marvin on roller skates (not that I've seen Hank on wheels). Mark's bass drum wobbled its way through the rest of the set, but thankfully did remain standing. Whatever You Want favourite Lost Patrol was followed by Heart and Soul, and then that Epic The Crossing.
The set closed with Fields of Fire which becomes more impressive with every listen. As Stuart danced to the side of the stage he was followed by Bruce and Tony leaving Mark and his wobbly drum to beat a fitting conclusion to the set.
Thursday was reported to be the best night for both bands, but no-one left disappointed, except perhaps Mr Weller who stayed in his dressing room for ages. An indication of a favourable reaction was that only one or two moronic cheers were heard when Stuart announced the final number.
Most encouraging. Many Jam fans who had been earlier in the week tried to convince me that BC closed their part of the evening with a 12-inch dance-scratch, get-down, go-for-it version of "Oive got a bran' new Combine 'Arvester". I think we can forgive them for not doing that, can't we?
Martin Somers writes:
Wembley Arena seats 8,000 and caters for those groups which could fill Hammersmith Odeon for a month. For a week in December the place was packed with thousands of youngsters sporting neat haircuts and Hush Puppies, clutching Parkas and Beat Surrender posters. They had come to witness the demise of one of the biggest groups of the Seventies. They had come to see the Jam. Very few had even heard of Big Country.
December 16th witnessed a similar event at the Ace Cinema, Brixton. Spiky-topped individuals came from far and wide to see the birth of Theatre of Destiny....no, sorry, Spear of Hate... or is it Spear of Destiny???
Once again Big Country were playing to an apathetic audience. However the "punkabilies" in attendance were polite enough to allow the lads to play without screaming "off, off" after every number. They had come to enjoy themselves and so had Big Country, and by the end of the evening the pleasure that is so distinct in BC's style had won yet more converts.
Big Country tore into their set with a lively rendition of Angle Park. This bouncy song is certainly one of my favourites and reveals the band's ability to mix cleverly structured lyrics with a strong rhythm on bass and drums, whilst completing the layer with some finely thought out guitar work. This clever concotion did not apply to the whole set, and I have reservations about a couple of numbers which appear to lack a solid punch.
A hearty cheer came from the audience for the first single Harvest Home and quite a few people began to dance and sing along. This track appeared on "Whatever You Want" along with Lost Patrol a few days later. Lost Patrol is a stormer of a track and was delivered with power and vitality. Other tracks worth a mention include Balcony, Fields Of Fire, and the excellent Porrohman. I have reservations about Heart and Soul, but the overwhelming majority of Big Country's songs have various attributes which make them memorable. Porrohman is the one song that stands out above all for sheer strength and variation. The tempo is changed constantly throughout and the guitar chopping techniques of Bruce and Stuart worked very well yet again.
One criticism was that BC did get through their set quickly and one person in the audience was heard condeming the band for their lack of communication with the audience. While this statement was a valid one, it must be remembered that Big Country are a new group with a few hardcore fans in the London area at the moment, and that to communicate with another band's fans for longer than necessary is not only pretentious, it's also stupid. Big Country will build up an audience and one day we could see Paul Weller's Jazz Funk All Stars and Spear of Destiny supporting them at Wembley. Until then we will have to sit back and enjoy the music of one of the best bands to emerge in the last three years.