Everyone is in the festive mood as we queue around the building to get into Lindisfarne’s 4th annual Christmas concert – some are wearing santa hats, pre-empting the festive hats we are given on our way in.
City Hall isn’t packed, but there is atmosphere as Simma The Santa comes on stage. We had been promised him from our interview with Rod Clements back in October, as well as other surprises. Simma told us some chuckle-inducing jokes before telling us that the proceeds from the concert’s programmes sales are going to Future Fund – for Children with Cancer, then introducing us to the chief executive who then told us about the cause.
Then Simma introduced us to Lindisfarne – bit of a surprise appearance as I was expecting some sort of support act.
The band jump into ‘No Time To Lose’- a frequent opening song in their sets. They are enthusiastic, stamping their feet and enjoying each other’s company. The only person not bopping about is guitarist Charlie Harcourt, who is sat on a stool due to ill-health.
Most of the first set’s songs are obscure choices from the back catalogue – ‘All Fall Down’, ‘Marshall Riley’s Army’, ‘To Kingdom Come’ – a lot of Alan Hull’s more political narratives; this is more than likely a reflection of the current political climate, and the band’s take on it all. Indeed, a lot of the lyrics ring true today. This is a demonstration of Hull’s song writing skills.
The audience interaction during the first set is also a little lacking – a few awkward silences as the band switch instruments – I think this could indicate room for improvement in the set list order. The songs didn’t really flow as well as they could have.
These criticisms certainly do not take away the talent of the band; how founding member Rod Clements can pick up a violin for the folksy numbers, then give us a gravelly voice and slide guitar blues in ‘Train In G Major’. Steve Daggett’s never-ending list of instruments he can play has his voice added in there. His shouty, fun voice replaces that of Ray Jackson’s and Marty Cragg’s. Roxy Music’s Paul Thompson’s drumming compliments the whole set, from the quiet cymbals of ‘Winter Song’, to the marching snares of ‘Marshall Riley’s Army’.
Alan Hull’s son-in-law Dave Hull-Denholm echoes Hull himself in voice and charisma; he comes into his own during two solo Hull songs at the beginning of the second half. ‘Winter Song’ always gives me goose bumps, but somehow tonight’s rendition is even more spine-tingling good. Both Hull-Denholm and bassist Ian Thomson appear to have miles more enthusiasm on stage than I have seen over the years with Thomson even doing a rock and roll jump at the end of ‘Fog On The Tyne’.
Indeed, you are reminded of Thomson’s seamless bass playing (on the Double bass as well) during Lindisfarne classic, ‘Lady Eleanor’. Rod’s enthusiasm for the lighting company Nitelites is justified during this song – they know how to create atmosphere!
The evening continues to be a tribute to Alan Hull – something I think can only be received with such admiration from an audience here, in Newcastle City Hall. He is certainly a local hero with a memorial mural of him on the screens during the interval.
I think some alternative support act would have emphasised an otherwise excellent evening. Simma’s efforts with a rather obscure 1970s Woolworth’s advert before the second half generated humour but I missed the Shoeshop Quartet from last year – I think the concert needs variety like that.
The second half starts a little flat (in atmosphere, not musically…obviously) a bit rocky and samey, but then the Hull tributes start again with ‘Winter Song’ getting a well-deserved standing ovation.
The Christmas party starts with ‘We Can Swing Together’ and the singalong choruses begin swiftly followed by the Geordie anthem – ‘Fog On The Tyne’. The whole audience stands up and sings along. “That’s your song” Clements tell the audience…he’s proud of it.
‘Meet Me On The Corner’ and ‘Run For Home’ finish the set loudly and proudly, there is dancing in the aisles, Santa hats are twirling, and banners are waving. There is a chant of “howay the lads” as we wait for the encores: ‘Devil Of The North’ (not a great choice as it’s not one of their singalongs), and ‘Clear White Light’ which finishes and Clements shouts at the cheering audience “You are the best! See you next year!” – aye, alright Rod, we will!
Photographer – Victoria Ling
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