Tonight attracted a sold out crowd for two bands who both released their debut albums back in 1983. And to mark the fortieth anniversary of The Crossing it was fitting that Big Country should be playing it here at its namesake venue located in the heart of Digbeth. Along as special guests were Spear Of Destiny who are on a lengthy run of dates, some headlining in their own right, and are still led by their singer, songwriter and guitarist Kirk Brandon.
A set length of sixty minutes was enough to remind the audience how many great songs Kirk has written over the years and they dropped the needle at various points in the back catalogue; from the chugging riff of opener ‘Rainmaker’, through the likes of ‘The Wheel’ and the always terrific ‘Liberator’. A couple of new songs in ‘Pilgrim’ and ‘Shine’, both taken from last years impressive studio album Ghost Population, were well received and featured some nice interplay between the musicians. The line-up has changed numerous times over the years but Kirk is well supported by Adrian Portas (lead guitar), Knut Knutson (bass), Robin Goodridge (drums) and Clive Osborne, the latter’s contributions on the saxophone giving the songs that added dimension that sets SOD apart from some of their peers.
Looking back its hard to believe that Spear only head one Top 20 hit, the shuddering ‘Never Take Me Alive’ which, naturally, received a huge reception. Kirk said little between songs but after they closed out with the stirring anthem ‘Mickey’, he seemed genuinely overwhelmed by the enthusiastic crowd response. This was a performance from a band rejuvenated, enjoying a late career renaissance that shows no signs of slowing down. Seemingly on a never-ending tour, Kirk brings his Westworld Weekend to KK’s Steel Mill in June when not only SOD but also Theatre Of Hate will be on the bill. For tickets and info head over to https://www.kkssteelmill.co.uk/event-westworld-weekend-xx.php
Strangers in Our Town
Mile In My Shoes
Grapes of Wrath
Never Take Me Alive
I Can See
Following a swift fifteen minute changeover, Bruce Watson bounded on stage, joined by son and fellow guitarist Jamie, drummer Mark Brzezicki along with new bassist Gil Allan and Simon Hough on vocals and acoustic guitar, a role he has now occupied for a decade. Apart from one new studio effort with Mike Peters (2013’s The Journey), the twenty first century version of Big Country has always been about nostalgia and tonight was no exception as they kicked off with ‘1000 Stars’ and then played an ace in the pack early with an energetic ‘Look Away’. Roared on by the passionate crowd the band were firing on all cylinders right from the start and that everyone was in for a great night was never in doubt.
After noting the irony of celebrating The Crossing at The Crossing, Bruce announced that plans are in place for a similar revisiting of Steeltown in 2024, leading into ‘Just a Shadow’ and the title song of what is another fine Big Country album from the 80’s. The pace dropped for a brief interlude, the tender ‘Ships’, an Adamson / Watson penned classic from the somewhat forgotten No Place Like Home which was beautifully sung by Simon, then it was back to the debut album for ‘Harvest Home’ and ‘Chance’. ‘In A Big Country’ was the cue for some impressive pogoing from the front rows, the energy in the crowd carrying through into ‘Wonderland’ and ‘Fields of Fire’. Just before they bid us goodnight, Mark came to the front of the stage and spoke a few words of acknowledgement both to his fellow band members and in memory of Stuart which was a nice touch. If you missed them this time around Big Country have just announced a date at The Robin 2 in November.
Just a Shadow
In a Big Country
Fields of Fire