A wet and very windy night in Kent welcomed Big Country to the Keith Jagger Centre, for their first ever gig in Dartford and a crowd of around 350 were there to see them.
Quite a few of those had obviously been following the band since their heyday in the 80’s and others from the days of the Skids (former lead singer Stuart Adamson’s previous band) – so tonight was going to be a treat for them.
The 2 bands are entwined and in recent times Bruce & Jamie Watson have been working with The Skids as well as the 2 bands going out on the road on a joint headline tour.
So when we were promised a special guest as support tonight, it was maybe no major surprise when it turned out to be Richard Jobson, the lead singer & lyricist with The Skids.
He happened to be in the area tonight on the way back from some friends at Broadstairs and took to the stage with Big Country as his backing band. He opened proceedings with a high energy version of The Skids 1979 hit ‘Charade’, before moving swiftly into ‘Of One Skin’. Jobson bounced around the stage like a man much younger than his 59 years and the Big Country lads behind him were enjoying their support role.
He then proceeded to hand out the lyrics to one of their biggest hits ‘Working For The Yankee Dollar’ “…..in case I forget the words, which can happen at my age……” but there was never any fear of that, as he was joined in the chorus by the crowd. ‘The Saints Are Coming’ was next up, which was released in 1978 but received a new lease of life after being covered by U2 and Green Day in 2006 and Jobson touched on this when he introduced the song and told the story of when a younger member of the audience at a previous gig asked “….why are you covering a U2 song?”, His answer left them in no doubt that U2 had done the cover version.
The all too short set was ended with The Skids 2 biggest hits, firstly ‘Masquerade’ and then ‘Into The Valley’, where he was accompanied by not only Big Country, but half the crowd and some serious po-going from men of an age that should know better, but it was great to see them rolling back the years together.
After a short break Big Country returned for their headline slot, complete with lead singer Simon Hough who had been absent during the support stint, much to the delight of the crowd, who were now in party mood.
They opened with ‘1000 Stars’, before the first of two tracks from the Steeletown album – this being the Steeltown 35th anniversary tour – ‘Flame Of The West’ and ‘East Of Eden’, taking the crowd with them as the twin guitars of Bruce & Jamie Watson gave us that unique sound of Big Country.
‘Look Away’ was the first chance for the crowd to join in en masse and they were in fine voice as Hough encouraged them. Bruce Watson spotted a fan wearing a Beatles shirt in between songs and told him to go to the merchandise stand where they would hand give him a Big Country t-shirt instead – only to rescind the offer when he then saw another fan wearing an Eagles t-shirt, who he felt was more deserving, before ‘Lost Patrol’, ‘Just A Shadow’ and the title track from the album ‘Steeltown’.
This is the third time I have seen the band live in recent years and I don’t think Hough has ever sounded better, his voice clear and more powerful than previously. ‘Chance’ gave him the opportunity to stretch the vocal chords fully, whilst accompanied by a full choir who knew the chorus from years of practice.
Whilst the sound of Big Country owes a lot to the guitars of father and son combo Jamie & Bruce Watson, the rhythm section of Mark Brzezicki & Scott Whitley, work their socks off alongside them and that came to the fore on ‘Tall Ships Go’ where the drum work of Brzezicki was at times mesmerising.
It is no wonder that he has been one of the most in demand drummers of the past 35 years, but having played with just about everyone of note in the industry during that time, he remains a driving force behind Big Country. ‘In A Big Country’ followed closely behind, before the crowd favourite and anti war anthem ‘Where The Rose Is Sown’.
The pace then slowed for ‘Come Back To Me’, the final track of the night from the Steeltown album, before the big finish of ‘Wonderland’ and the ever classic ‘Fields of Fire’ saw the grown men who had been po-going earlier to Richard Jobson, at it again, leaving them hungry for more. A brief return for an encore of ‘Restless Natives’ bought the 80 minute set to a close and sent a very happy crowd on their way home.
Musical trends come and go, but class is permanent and this is a band that has it by the bucketload. With 29 singles and 9 studio albums behind them, Big Country still have a lot to offer the paying public. Catch them on tour if you can and if that’s on a joint headliner with The Skids, you’ll be assured of a great night out.
Review by Howard Whitelaw for MetalPlanetMusic
Photography by Darren Smith for metalplanetmusic