Two seminal albums were released in 1983, Spear of Destiny released their debut album `Grapes of Wrath` while Big Country released their debut album `The Crossing`. Forty years on these two bands have come together to celebrate this landmark.
First up tonight are Spear of Destiny who are about a quarter of the way through a 38-date tour, of which, like tonight, fifty per cent of the shows they appear as special guests to Big Country. The band are led by founding member and lead vocalist, guitarist, and principal songwriter Kirk Brandon, in an ever-changing line-up.
The almost tribal `Rainmaker`, pounding, anthemic `Young Men` and `Strangers in Our Town` stir this sold-out crowd to life. The reflective `Pilgrim`, thoughtful `Mile In My Shoes` and `The Wheel ` with its wonderful saxophone tones almost mesmerise this audience into silence and highlight the depth of Kirk`s song writing talent.
Brandon once again ignites the faithful with the forceful call to arms of `Liberator`, quickly followed by the almost dystopian `Grapes of Wrath` and `Shine`, a track from last year`s `Ghost Population` album. The home stretch includes the reggae tinged `Come Back`, spellbinding `Never Take Me Alive`, intricate `World Service`, and `I Can See` before leaving us with the emotive, heartfelt and to me haunting `Mickey`. This was a masterclass in how to utilise an hour slot brought to life by Adrian Portas (lead guitar), Knut Knutson (bass), Robin Goodridge (drums) and Clive Osborne (saxophone).
I have seen Spear many times but I have to say even Kirk seemed quite moved by the affection of the crowd this evening. Kirk`s Westworld Weekend celebration is up the road at KK`s Steel Mill in Wolverhampton in late June so we have a further chance to catch this post-punk legend locally.
As the phrase goes, back in the day, I saw Big Country shed loads of times electric and acoustic when they played at the long-gone Ronnie Scott`s franchise branch in Brum. Although the majority of the current line-up have been together for around a decade, I must admit i`ve found it difficult to consider attending a show without their much missed and loved lead singer Stuart Adamson.
Tonight, though I thought i`ve gotta bite the bullet to see the guys play their debut album `The Crossing` in a venue called The Crossing in my hometown.
The opening bars of `1000 Stars` rings out and I felt I’d been transported back in time when life had so many possibilities for me in my early twenties. The stunning Celtic tinged `Look Away ` follows and if you closed your eyes, it could have been a young Stuart singing. I`d forgotten how much of a comedian guitarist Bruce Watson was as he berates a lady in the front for wearing a Jam t shirt and offers her the opportunity to acquire a BC one at the merch outlet for free.
We enjoy a passage of more thoughtful and considered tracks that highlight the real depth of the band`s lyrical ability with a song about separation in `Close Action`, oppression with `Lost Patrol` and `The Storm`. We enjoy a couple of cuts from the politically charged `Steeltown` album with the reflective `Just a Shadow` and title track `Steeltown` and Bruce shares that the band plan to tour this album next year hence this appetiser.
The enthralling `Ships` was a delightful addition before we return to `The Crossing` with the mystical `Porrohman`, anthemic `Harvest Home`, a song about loss with `Chance` and signature track `In A Big Country` which sends this heaving crowd into a frenzy. The band leave us with the anthemic `Fields of Fire` which includes a snippet of `Whisky In The Jar` but return for an encore with a brief drum solo before finishing off with a final number from this 40th Anniversary commemoration of `The Crossing` in the guise of `Inwards`.
The evening is closed out with drummer Mark Brzezicki thanking us all for coming out and introducing this superb band who include Bruce`s son the energetic Jamie Watson on guitar, steadfast Gil Allan on bass, vocalist and guitar playing Simon Hough who was stunning and finally his long-time friend Bruce Watson himself.
The final acknowledgement is a heartrending “Thank God for Stuart Adamson” and we are sent off into the rainy night with a wonderful warm glow inside.
My final thought as I left was see you next year at the 40th Anniversary tour of `Steeltown`
Need I say more.
ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF RICH WARD