Oliver Hunter writes:
Firstly, I must tell you that, until recently, I was a little apprehensive about how I was going to feel about seeing Big Country live after all these years, fronted by Mike Peters rather than Stuart. I couldn't listen to Big Country for quite some time after Stuart's untimely, tragic death and the thought of seeing anyone else fronting the band just didn't seem 'right'. However, I read things on the official site and decided to watch some footage on YouTube and found myself pleasantly surprised.
Mike isn't Stuart and obviously never will be. However he isn't trying to be Stuart and the gig has more of a feel that he's just filling in to help out a mate who couldn't make it 'tonight', which is in effect what he's doing. As most of you will know, he was a fan of Big Country and had seen them live many times, so was familiar with how Stuart sang the songs and acted, but he's brought his own personality and charisma to the table and the crowd loved him, including me. There's no doubting his sincerity and passion for the project. At the start of the tour, Mike had a lyric book on stage with him to help him remember the words but by the last night the book wasn't even in attendance, let alone referred to. I say fair play to the guy, I think he did a fantastic job and it was a pleasure to see the band performing again, even playing a new song (see below)!
Next, let's talk about Jamie. Talk about a chip off the block - he's an unmistakable mini-me! I've been following his and Bruce's songwriting talents via their website and have really enjoyed listening to their CDs. Jamie is a talented guitarist in his own right but on stage with Big Country it's like having two Bruce's, playing different parts. He really enhances the band and totally deserves for his name to be included in the "Big Country Are" member list on the latest live CD. It didn't feel at all weird having an extra body on stage - long may he stay!
The support act was Mike Marlin who looked a bit like 'Bono with a beard' due to his yellow glasses. You can listen to clips of all the songs on his album on the various on-line stores and see a full track in HD below. They were OK, not the best support band Big Country have ever had, but far from the worst. Their female guitarist was talented and the drummer got 11/10 for physical effort - I'm amazed he didn't break any sticks or his seat! My friend and I spent some time talking to Mike after the gig at the stage door, whilst waiting for Big Country to come out, and he seems a really nice guy.
The venue was on the small side with the stage not being that capacious and it did feel a little crowded at times. It was certainly intimate though, which I was more than happy about. I stood in front of Tony with just one row in front of me. I chatted to a couple of other fans before the band came on and discovered that they'd been to at least one or two other venues on the tour. Mind you, I spoke to another couple of guys afterwards, whilst waiting to speak to the band, who'd been to almost every night of the tour! :0o
Big Country opened with "1000 Stars" and played the set list below. Mike and Tony made several respectful references to Stuart at various points during the gig, which were warmly welcomed by the crowd. As is reportedly usual on the tour, Stuart's old centre-stage spot was left clear and Mike stood close to Tony, even sharing the microphone on one occasion during "Lost Patrol". As for clothing, Mike had Big Country T-shirt underneath a checked shirt. Tony was wearing black trousers with a stripey T-shirt and a knitted hat that he removed at the end of "Inwards" to reveal his shaved head. Mark was wearing jeans and a checked-shirt with bandana, looking remarkably like he did in the "Chance" photograph. Bruce and Jamie both wore black trousers and decorated T-shirts.
Before "Porrohman", Mike spoke about his interest in Stuart's lyrics and how Bruce had told him about the HG Wells story, "Pollock and the Porrohman", published in May 1895, and he read a passage from the book, before dedicating the song to "Stuart Adamson, the Porroh-man". He then left the stage, whilst the band played the lengthy introduction, only to reappear at the back of the crowd with a hand-held microphone. He then made his way to the front of the crowd, whilst singing and name-checking the band members. Eventually security helped him up on the crash-barrier where he stayed for a verse before climbing back up onto the stage for the remainder of the song. Mike also came down off the stage to the crowd in the first encore, to start off "Lost Patrol".
Bruce used the famous e-Bow during the intro to "The Storm", taking on Stuart's part, with Jamie picking up some of Bruce's part. Watch the videos below and see what you think! I'd say both the traditional encores were deserved, with the crowd keeping the chants going until the band came back on stage again.
There are 7 complete songs and the first minute or so of 5 others, all in HD (720p). The complete songs are publicly listed on YouTube but the snippets are unlisted and are only available here and via the Yahoo! mailing list. Whilst the HD video quality is pretty good, I was stood on the edge of the central jumping-throng, which affected the steadyness of the filming in a few places. :) I must apologise for the sound quality though, which is very treble-heavy, lacking in any bass and also picks up the crowd singing a little too well - it was much better in person (and loud - my ears were still ringing the next morning!). I suppose I can't really ask too much from the tiny (less conspicuous!), cheap DVC weatherproof fixed-lens HD camcorder I used. At the very least though it will give you a fan's-eye view of the gig!
Set List - Links will open YouTube video in a new window
Mike Marlin - http://www.mikemarlin.co.uk/ Home Town - (not sure this was the best song to pick really but there we are)Taken from his 2010 album "Nearly Man" (AMP006CD, left) on the Amp Music Productions label, containing the tracks:
Hit The Button, Not Perfect, In The Basement, Second Son, Play That Game, Undercover Genius, No Place Like Home, Guilty, Home Town, Iceberg, Nearly Man
Big Country 1000 Stars - Full) Harvest Home Driving To Damascus - (Clip) The Teacher - (Clip) Just A Shadow - Full) Look Away - Clip) (Never Take Your Place) - on the set list but crossed out, on the live CD. Porrohman - (Full) Inwards East Of Eden Steeltown - (Clip) The Storm - Full) Where The Rose Is Sown - Full) Wonderland Fields Of Fire Encore Another Country* (Full) Lost Patrol - (Clip) Chance - (Clip) Second encore (Restless Natives) - listed but not played (time constraints - early curfew?) In A Big Country - (Full) * - A NEW SONG!!!!
I managed to speak to all of the band afterwards and get them all to sign Tony's set list, above, that I'd asked a roadie to get me and the new live-CD (Shepherds Bush Empire). Mike left pretty smartish as he had his kids in the back of his 4x4 and understandably wanted to get them off to bed. The rest of the band were around for about 20 mins before they left for their hotel. From conversations with Bruce, Tony and Mike it seems that there are more new songs in the wings and we may get a new studio album at some point in the near-future...
Thanks for reading/watching, hope you liked it! :)