Reviews header

  1. Rock City, Nottingham, 19th May 1998.
  2. UEA, Norwich, 20th May 1998.
  3. Forum 28, Barrow-in-Furness, 23th May 1998.
  4. Lemon Tree, Aberdeen, 25th May 1998.

Rock City, Nottingham, 19th May 1998

Steve Bullman writes:

Arriving outside Rock City at 7:40, they hadn't opened the doors - and there was a 200 foot queue to get in!

This ain't no washed up band playing here tonight!

Cue noticing there was a new Firkin pub almost next door (The Fair and Firkin) and a pint of their "Fair" ale for Carol & myself. Also make mental note that this would be an ace meeting place for any subsequent gigs here.

The pint did the trick, and the queue had already been sucked into Rock City, where the support band were already hammering it out. NOT Marcus Hummon/Stu (more later), but a band called "Pelt" (if we heard the lead singer right). Bit ho-hum, most notable for berating the quality of Cornish audiences (we didn't ask).

Bit of an interval, noticing the place was filling up fairly well (though they hadn't opened up the top gallery - pity, as it's a great place for slightly shorter folk to get a good view (as Carol can testify).

9:15-ish and the lights go down and the boys are on, Stu with very "grown-up" short haircut, Bruce looking suntanned in a way that only a ginger Scot can, Tony still practising hair avoidance and Mark - well, looking like Mark.

We're Not In Kansas & You dreamer kick off, with the pogo-ing mosh pit fully formed at the front almost immediately.

Then one I didn't recognise (a new one, presumably) - I can only guess at the titles, as they didn't let on. This one had a pretty good driving Rock'n'roll riff, with the notable refrain "one for the money, two for the money, three for the money, four for the money", which sounded kind of familiar, but I don't know why.

Then 13 Valleys, a rather revamped version with a long e-bow intro before kicking into the familiar into guitar pattern, and another long e-bow middle section. (I say e-bow - I couldn't guarantee it was, but it sounded like it). Lots of community singing.

Then another new one, rather quiet/laid back, with the repeated line something like "put your head on my shoulder, baby, sleep there until dawn", which, for me, sounded a wee bit limp.

Then Wonderland, as good as ever in it's more recent extended guise, to much approval from the mosh pit.

Then another new one, which really ought to be called "Loserville". Quite a cracker, starts fairly medium pace and keeps building ever more intense, as Stu seems to be describing numerous occasions where he's pondered on being "ten miles South of useless" or "two lifetimes on from hopeless" in various combinations which I've probably mixed up badly here. Very good new number.

Then a string broke, so they "had to do Ships" - much community singing once again.

This was followed by I'm Not Ashamed, which seems to be an ever increasingly axiomatic part of the set for BC, as much IABC used to be (which they didn't play), with Stu really getting passionate behind the lyrics.

Another newie - Living in Memories (?) - which was again a bit quiet/unlike BC typical sound, followed by what Carol thought should be called "You Girl" (the PA wasn't the best ever, so I had a bit of difficulty hearing what they were singing in the chorus), which she rather liked.

Then Mark did a roll on the drums, everyone turned round and looked at him and said "would anyone like to tell Mark what the next song is?" Which was Look Away - OK, but not a heartfelt run-through.

Which feeling was totally trounced by a superb Restless Natives (this is the "Restless Natives Tour" - no surprises there), which I was amazed how many of the audience seemed to know as well as the rest of the set. Much moshing and community singing.

Then we got Lost Patrol, to great whoops of delight, followed by another newie which might be called "You Give Me Grace" a strange intro, which was either a tape loop or sequencer with what sounded like tuned percussion (wood blocks, cow-bells, etc). At first I thought it was a drum machine! Bit of an odd one, which they chose to end the main set with.

BIG calls for encore, back they came, Stu saying "thanks Nottingham, we've been coming here for 16 years and it's always been brilliant - in fact it was 15 years ago in a hotel here that Bruce & me heard we had our first hit single, so we went and got stocious. This is the first electric gig we've done ages, and we weren't sure we could still do it, so thanks for being great".

Then a few intro chords of Alone, and then Stu stops and says "I've really missed how f***ing great it is to play electric guitar - (belts out a few more Alone chords) - that's f***ing brilliant", and then Alone gets everyone pogo-ing again.

Another long e-bow intro - but it's Chance this time, much as it ever was, with the big sing-song, but not driven to excess this time, and they leave.

But the crowd restart "oh Lord..." so after a while Mark comes back on and says "which is it to be, Fields of Fire or In A Big Country... oh, OK" and they all come back on.

And the scratching starts for FOF, and the (now traditional) asking up of various comely wenches onto the stage to dance along at the behind. One lass has had a Scottish flag (the yellow one with red dragon, rather than the St. Andrews cross), which she presented to the lads after a good long snog with Stu & a long whisper with Bruce, which had various felt pen comments on that seemed to amuse.

And that was that, but Stu did make the promise to be back, which is always welcome.

Other bits which happened: they forgot to bring out a guitar for a number, and when it arrived it was out of tune, so Stu invited Tony to tell us a story. He said that Marcus Hummon couldn't make it tonight, but do go along to the other shows cos he's "brilliant" - the last said in a mock Scottish brogue, which was parody-echoed by Stu & Bruce.

Stu acknowledged they hadn't been to Nottingham for a while and asked if everyone was still OK, no major accidents.. That's OK then, just a bit older like me (heckle) - "Are you accusing me of using Grecian 2000? Listen son, my dad is 64 and only has two small white tufts by his ears, so I've got no worries on that score." "I have" says Tony, to which Bruce says "lend us your hair drier".

In fact, the biggest surprise was that Bruce spoke. At least four times. Each more than 3 words together! Positively verbal diarrhoea for him!

Loads of good new tour shirts - the deer from Wonderland is back as the tour logo.

Opinions of the new stuff - bit hard to say, but generally Buffalo Skinners meets NPLH, with some rather different feels put in on top. It'll be interesting to hear what the Barrow contingent make of it. Over to you...

Steve Bullman

Thanks are due to Carol (aka amazing memory woman) for ability to remember the set list, which I am hopeless at. I hope we got it right!

Rock City, Nottingham, 19th May 1998

Martin Hetherington writes:

THE GIG WAS FANTASTIC - I got a good view for once and took loads of pictures.

Set List and quick review - it's 2:00 am

We're Not In Kansas - standard rendition
You Dreamer - again pretty standard
Presidents - new song I liked this and put money on it being single number one
13 Valleys - Stu uses E-bow and blew me and my mate away. Absolutely awesome.
Sleep Is Till Dawn - very nice - ballady
Wonderland - usual rendition
Loserville - I loved this - it was in the style of Chance and Ships that starts off slow and builds up to "rocky" later - good song. Good lyrics. Ships - this wasn't meant to be here (I saw the set list beforehand) but Stu broke a string - usual rendition I'm Not Ashamed - usual rendition
Living By Memory - very nice song - ballady(ish)
I Get Hurt - out and out rock 'n' roll - Stu and Tony enjoyed themselves Look Away - same old, same old - I know we slag this off on every live album - but it is a crowd pleaser. Mark fucked up the intro and Bruce took the piss out of him "Taxi for Mr Brzezicki"
Restless Natives - fantastic, out of this world, awesome and any other words that you can think of - a crowd pleaser too
Lost Patrol - usual rendition - crowd enjoyed this also
Grace - new song - can't remember it - ballady again (I think)

Alone - usual
Chance - E-bow intro - usual but fantastic

Encore 2
Fields Of Fire - usual - Mark asked what we'd prefer FOF or IABC - but as I said earlier I'd already seen the set list

That's it.

Don't be put off with "usual rendition" - there are a lot of changes to songs we've heard before - the gig was one of the best I've been to. The guys had a good time, there was some good banter on stage - someone accused Stuart of using "Grecian 2000" - and it was very loud. They don't act like they're 40(ish) on stage and don't look it either.

I spoke to Marcus after the show - he couldn't play 'cos immigration wouldn't let him - f@*#ing politics - nice guy - didn't look like a musician. He told me that was the first time he'd seen BC live - he was impressed - can't think why ;-)

UEA, Norwich, 20th May 1998

Julian Carter writes:

We arrived at UEA about 7:50pm (bumped into some people I used to work with 8 years ago) and headed to the bar, the support band started just before 8, and as I looked over the first thing that popped into my brain was "hell Julianne Regan has stacked the weight on". It wasn't actually All About Eve but if you knew their music from the 80's then you will know what Pelt sound like. One of the bands on Tony's GWR label. Pretty good.

The place was full (ish) by now.

BC arrived about 9pm after a a big "Please welcome BC" from someone in the background. They strolled on very casually, and straight into "Kansas". Nothing new there, as I remembered it from the last couple of electric gigs. "You Dreamer" followed. The set sounds the same as Steve's post about the Nottingham gig.

A few things I noticed about the songs - "13 Valleys", the ebow in the middle started off as the start of "Everything I Need" then meandered into something new. It was different and slower, but I ultimately prefer the rockier version on the previous tour.

The 'old' stuff was as Steve's post, all excellent with the highlights for me "Alone", "I'm Not Ashamed" and "Restless Natives". "Lost Patrol" was as awesome as ever. I actually think it's good that they have dropped "IABC" etc. "Chance" is only in now to give the crowd a singalong. I'm sulking really because they never played "Long Way Home"!!

Right the new stuff.......SUPERB......."Loserville" is excellent, all in a minor key which is a change for BC (don't pick me up on this if you disagree!). All the others were just as good, and all of them got me dancing around (with the exception of the slow one, which is a grower I think). I haven't been as excited about the new material prior to the release of the album since Buffalo Skinners. It's all rocky, not too much of their Celtic roots. It was all very tight and they were all obviously into the new material.

A few odd ball moments…Stuart got the words wrong in "13 Valleys" (he started the 1st verse again after the ebow break in the middle). For "Fields of Fire" two girls got up on stage and danced during the whole song, one grabbed one of Tony's spare bass guitars and strutted her stuff with Stuart during the guitar solos—obviously the highlight of her night

Stuart said that UEA must be the place they have played the most gigs in their whole career—an interesting tit bit! I don't know if anyone has got any comments on this??

I did mean to try and keep an exact set list but got carried away in the evening as ever! My apologies. If anyone has any questions about the gig please put them forward them to the list and I'll do my best to answer them.

To conclude though - 2 hours of bliss, and they are still as good as the first time I saw them back in the eighties. (I think this is my 15th time). For those of you who haven't seen them in the US and haven't heard the Skinners and WTLF stuff live you're in for a real treat. The new stuff is also worth going for on its own.

Forum 28, Barrow-in-Furness, 20th May 1998

Oliver Hunter writes:

I left my Godfather's house in St. Helen's (near Liverpool) at 8.45am and drove up to Barrow-in-Furness arriving at the Tally Ho 'first' at 10.55am shortly followed by Kevin and Pam. Martin Moehrmann and Markus Schoeller appeared from round the corner where they had been waiting and after the relevant introductions we went into the pub.

Kevin had brought the local paper and a few records & CDs to sell which we were checking over as others began to arrive. I handed the sticky labels out (that I had pre-printed with eveyone's names on) as people arrived and tried to guess who people were before they introduced themselves. I turned out not to do too badly at that and soon most people had arrived and we started having lunches brought over.

There was a moment of stress for Kevin when the bar staff brought out a couple of meals for people who hadn't arrived yet but we persuaded them to save them till later... :-)

At about 1.45pm Pam and I went off to see if we could get some copies of last night's local paper and to check on the venue. The Paper's offices were closed so we went in a newsagents and found 18 back copies which I promptly bought up (I'm sure they thought I was quite mad). Then we walked over to Forum 28 with Pam giving me a guided tour of the town on the way. At Forum 28 we just wandered into the hall and up to the stage where Mark was showing a young roadie how to set up his drums. We waited a few minutes before calling over to him and he asked if we could hang on for 10 minutes while he set up his kit.

While we were waiting we chatted to two guys from Northern Ireland who turned up - Phil & Gary. They were very friendly and we agreed to meet up with them again later. Eventually Mark came over and we asked about the possibility of sitting in on the sound check. He said he thought it'd be alright but we'd have to ask the Stage Manager (who said he didn't mind) and check with Ian. He said that he'd be going to pick the others up at about 4.30 so the sound check should be around 5ish. After taking Pam's picture with Mark (who she's rather partial too! :-)) Pam & I then went back to the Tally Ho and the rest of the group for another drink and a chat.

We split up for a bit so people could visit their hotels etc. I took Kevin & Pam back to their house so they could leave their car behind and Margaret back to her hotel, where I looked at Kevin's photos, before we parked up and went into a pub near Forum 28 meeting up with the rest of gang. We had a drink and watched the England/Saudi match on the TV, before going over to Forum 28 at about 5pm.

We tried to wander in as before but the guy that seemed to be in charge wanted to speak to Ian Grant before he would let us in. After a few minutes the band and Ian arrived and I managed to ask him about the sound check. He said it would be fine and that he would let us know when we could come in. After only a few more minutes we were allowed in and sat or stood at the back of the hall while everything was checked. Mark's drums were particularly loud and made various internal organs vibrate... When all the individual mikes and instruments had been tested the band played a couple of the new songs, I think Presidents was one.

After the sound check I asked Ian if we could see the band and he went off to ask them. It was about 6.30pm by now and when he came back he said that the guys wanted to get changed and freshen up but if we waited behind after the gig he would arrange for us all to meet up. We said that we would be great and went off to find some dinner which for me and a few others consisted of MacDonalds although Margaret opted for a pizza. Markus managed to get a couple of burgers and some fries free due to a misunderstanding! After dinner we wandered back over to Forum 28 for the main event, leaving Andy Bairley to catch up in a bit.

A few more people had arrived including Joe and Shari and the Phil & Gary from Northern Ireland. The merchandise guy had set up shop and it seemed that Joe had bought up most of the merchandise! ;-) I bought a T-shirt with the RN/rarities cover on the front and a large 'Pelt' stick of rock. I dumped all my stuff back in the car along with Kevin, Margaret and Joe's stuff. The doors opened and we went in and secured places along the front of the stage.

Joe noticed my camera and was surprised that I had been able to bring it in. He had left his back at his hotel as he thought it would have been confiscated. I offered to take him back to get it and so a few minutes later Joe & Shari were enjoying the novelty of a right-hand drive car and the fun of roundabouts! :-) Having dropped off some of the 'horde' of T-shirts and getting the camera we returned to Forum 28 in time to catch the second song from Pelt who had come on early.

Pelt were as good, if not better, than when I saw them at The Great Big Noise last summer. They played a 7-song set as follows: "High", "Feel", "I Wish I Was", "Hold Me Down", "Toffee Apples", "Another Day", and "Elmira".

They were followed by Jason Isaacs who played an 8-song set including "Man In The Moon", "Sigh", "Who Says I Can" and "She's The One". Jason and his band were quite good and I would definately watch them again.

We realised that we hadn't seen Andy Bairley since MacDonalds and looked around for him but to no avail! I guess he was probably in the bar as when I looked around after BC came on he was right behind us.

After a surprisingly short wait Big Country were announced and ran onto the stage. They played: "We're Not In Kansas", "You Dreamer", "President", "Broken Heart (13 Valleys)", "Sleep Till Dawn", "Wonderland", "Loserville", "I'm Not Ashamed", "Living By Memory", "I Get Hurt", "Ships", "Look Away", "Restless Natives", "Lost Patrol" -* encore 1 *- "Alone", "Chance" -* encore 2 *- Mark's drum solo, "Fields of Fire"

Stuart used ebow during BH13V and the intro to Chance and the whole gig was really energetic with the usual bouncing in the centre section. During an early new song Stuart had something wrong with a guitar and had to stop plaing after a few bars saying it's not right. Bruce said "Remember, if it's not right, it's shite!" and Stuart told Tony to tell a joke. He approached the mike and said "Funny football ground this!"

Kevin Wright adds: When Stuart changed guitar Bruce remarked "And what colour guitar is it today then?.... Why it's the nice shiny red one". That's the only thing apart from Stuart saying to rowdy lot when guitar was playing up "C'mon Stuart what are you doing"........"What do you think I'm doing .... Having a @ank".

There was the usual contingent of drunk Scotsmen shouting out crap and song titles to Stuart and the boys. Stuart and Bruce had the usual witty put downs for these occasions and one time when someone shouted out a song title he responded with " just one of the songs we play!". Pretty soon another song title was shouted out and he said to Bruce "this guy's got a f*ckin' list of all our songs down there". The guy shut up for a bit...

The band left the stage before the end of Lost Patrol leaving the crowd singing the "ay-e-ie-ay-e-ie-ay-oh, 1-2, 1-2-3-4" as is traditional at these occasions.. They came back on and finished the song before doing "Alone" and "Chance" during which (I think it was) Stuart did the usual hand shaking with the crowd routine and then the band went off leaving us singing "Oh, lord, I never felt so low, 2-3-4!" etc. This went on for a few minutes before Mark came back on. He asked if we wanted to hear him make some noise before entertaining us to a couple of drum solos making use of some intricate technical patterns which was really fascinating to watch and a treat not just for the drummers in the audience...

The rest of the band came back on and they played the traditional "Fields of Fire" (scratch) but without any dancing girls. According to Stuart's set list they were meant to play a new song called "Grace" after "Lost Patrol"; I don't have this written down but it's possible that they did play it, is anyone else's memory better than mine?

After FOF that was really the end and we all waited patiently in the foyer and I went and got the bits out of the car. The bar was shut and the drinks machine was empty so we were all pretty thirsty. After 10-15 mintues Ian Grant came over and said we could all go backstage so we all trooped in. The band were scattered about backstage chatting and so people moved over to the person they wanted to talk to first. I went and talked to Pelt first and got my "Fuzzy" CD signed and took some pictures of them. They are really friendly and the drummer, Ben, is on the internet and should be visiting the various sites soon.

I guess we had about 3/4 hour to an hour chatting with the band and getting autographs/taking photos before they started packing up and moving out, Mark driving them back up to Scotland. I felt really pleased that those who had travelled a long way and/or hadn't seen the band before got to have such an experience.

Markus, Margaret, Kevin, Pam, Claire and Tony from Malta all piled in the back of my car and we drove back to Markus & Margaret's hotels. After dropping them off I took Kev, Pam & Claire back to their house and we said our goodbyes. I took the guy from Malta back down the A590 to Ulverston where he was staying before continuing on back to St. Helens where I arrived ears still ringing just after 2.15am due to very quiet roads, lack of Police and a slightly heavy accelerator foot.... :-)

All in all a really great day, both for the Big Country elements and meeting people from the list. I would like to say "hi!" to everyone that I met during the day, but especially to Kevin & Pam, Markus & Martin, Margaret, Heather & Adam, Tony & Gill, Colin & his wife, Joe & Shari (New York), Darren (Oz), Tony (Malta) and Hylton Gray (Johannesburg). Also, major thanks to Kevin for organising the meeting-up and meals and for keeping us all in touch with the developments before and after the postponement.

I'm sure I've missed some bits out above so if anyone wants to correct or add anything to the above please let me know and I'll make amends before posting the finished review to "I hope you like it!".

If they play 'Barrow Rocks!' we'll have to do it all over again..!

Stay Alive!

Lemon Tree, Aberdeen, 25th May 1998

Dominic Boyle writes:

Just a few comments on the concert at the Lemon Tree.

The support band Pelt opened with a seven song set that went down fairly well, particularly a track called 'I wish I was', though the club was still half empty at this point.

Having stuck myself right at the front as the club filled up, the moments ticked away and then BC took the stage with the slightly corny opening "We're Big Country and we're not in Kansas!" The setlist was the same as the other concerts, though when Mark came back on stage for the 2nd encore he did join the crowd in a brief rendition of 'Flower of Scotland'!

Throughout the concert both Stuart and Bruce were very talkative with a lot of banter with the crowd and between themselves, most notably Bruce's comments on seeing Stuart nude, and Stuart's revelation that he's really an hermaphrodite!! Though the biggest roar of the night went up when Stuart described the Lemon Tree as possibly his favourite club gig.

The new songs were very good. 'Presidents' was a classic rock song, whilst 'Loserville' and 'You girl' were both very powerful. 'Sleep there till dawn' was possibly the weakest of the new songs, whilst I thought that 'You give me grace' was, apart from the weird percussion, possibly the nearest in sound to the traditional BC sound. The highlight of the new songs for me though was 'Living by memory' which crept into a niche in my head and has been repeating itself ever since!

On the merchandising front I was seriously annoyed that they had no rugby shirts left in my size, though this was offset by getting the '93 Live "Bootleg" tape which I've just finished listening to as I write this.

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