Big Country was originally formed in 1981 by guitar playing founder members Stuart Adamson and Bruce Watson both native of the band’s hometown Dunfermline in Scotland. Initially driven by a shared vision of widescreen guitar melody, harmony and lyric, the classic Big Country sound was further enhanced later that summer by the arrival of drummer Mark Brzezicki and bass player Tony Butler. This is the Big Country that (with producer Steve Lillywhite), recorded the classic debut album ‘The Crossing’ in 1983.
The band broke massively worldwide with the release of the album’s classic singles ‘Fields Of Fire’, ‘Chance’ and signature song ‘In A Big Country’, which went on to become massive worldwide hits, selling over 2 million copies and driving ‘The Crossing’ to 3 prestigious Grammy nominations in the USA.
The run of success continued throughout the 1980′s with the release of the anthemic single ‘Wonderland’ and the second album ‘Steeltown’ (1984), which debuted at Number 1 in the UK and contained the hit singles ‘East Of Eden, ‘Just a Shadow’ and ‘Where The Rose Is Sown’. Tonight in Brighton saw Big Country return with an anniversary run of gigs to mark the release of Steeltown. 35 years ago!
The audience started to arrive early and as such were treated to a wait as there was no support band playing tonight, which was a bit of a shame as I always enjoy seeing a new band or a local band fill that slot. But it gave the early birds a good shot at the merch desk, loaded down with some pretty cool T’s
Big Country: The Band.
Mark Brzezicki – Drums – from 1981 to the present day,
Bruce Watson – Guitar – from 1981 to the present day,
Jamie Watson – Guitar,
Simon Hough – Vocals,
Scott Whitley – Bass,
And, as the house lights dropped the cheers rose. Out came the band and a shout of “Hey Brighton, How you doin?” came from the much loved guitarist, and original member, Bruce Watson. His strong Scottish accent booming out through the PA, with a huge smile on his face.
Big Country: The Set.
The colour wash from the lighting was a green/blue mix and with the smoke machine created quite an eerie atmosphere. As the band opened up with 1000 Stars. What a terrific start, the now pretty packed in crowd could not have wanted for a better opening. We then had two of the opening tracks from the album, Flame of The West and then East Of Eden to follow.
Bruce took the time to chat with the crowd, his humour is infectious. He seems to effortlessly break down the barrier with the fans and his banter with members of the crowd were just bloody hilarious! The guitars fired up and Look Away was sent our way. This had the place jumping and the crowd at Concorde 2 raised their voices to this one. Superb song and just brilliant to hear it live. The guitars in tune and sync producing that almost Celtic sound. Now to make these songs come alive what is needed are some great vocals and Mr Hough delivered them, rocking it out or digging in for some of the slower numbers.
Its got to be tough to even think about trying to fill the shoes of Stuart Adamson, that’s got to be hard for Hough, who joined the band in 2013, but he did it really well. And as the set progressed the sounds and influences of Adamson came through. Lost Patrol and Just A Shadow the latter of the songs giving Hough that chance to deliver at a slower pace, were up next.
Also a huge shout to Mark. He was set back on the stage surrounded by a rather large drum kit. He absolutely nailed those patterns and fills that we have all come to know and love. Some real power coming at us from him. Next up was the title track of the album Steeltown. And then we would have Bruce between every couple of songs offering up a little banter. Spotting someone in the crowd with an SLF t shirt was spotted by Bruce and hilarious banter ensued.
Chance was up next and followed by Tall Ships Go. At this point a shout to Scott Whitley a superb bass player. He provided some solid backing for the band and working in total unison with Mark on the drum kit. He was dressed the part tonight in a tartan waistcoat, which must have been a bit scratchy to wear on skin. The look topped of with a bandanna. I don’t think he stopped smiling during the entire set as he beat the hell out of his bass.
Big Country: Father And Son
The guitars from Bruce and his son Jamie kicked the next one off. Mark Brzezicki hit out the opening drums, the drums getting louder and louder, Bruce and Jamie fired up with Scott putting in the bass lines, the crowd started cheering as we recognised the unmistakeable opening chords of In A Big Country. Hough delivered a pin point spot on vocal for this, with help from the few hundred extras crowded up against the barrier.
Terrific stuff. And it was quite nice to have other songs from the Big Country catalogue mixed in the set list with tracks from Steeltown. I noted a t shirt design with the father and son team work on display.
Back to Steeltown for Where The Rose Is Sown and Come Back to Me. Again a massive shout to Simon Hough for his excellent vocal work and acoustic guitar playing. He really delivered the set tonight with real passion and a clearly a love for the material he was singing.
Big Country: On Fire!
A quick check of the time meant things were about to come to an end. Simon and Big Country were about to set Concorde 2 ablaze. Simon led us through Wonderland, a cracking version of a song released in the UK on 9 January 1984 between their first and second albums. It became a Top Ten hit for them in the UK, peaking at number 8. The crowd singing along to every word made this a special rendition. Well done to the Brighton Concorde 2 choir – in fine voice!
Well, before it all comes to and end, I am pleased to report dear reader, and confirm, that the original sound and essence of Big Country is alive, well and kicking. These guys have taken on this challenge and I think it safe to say it is in safe keeping.
And so the final couple of songs were up, and the monster that is Fields Of Fire was up. The very floor of Concorde 2 was bouncing as the crowd jumped and sang along. A real live highlight for me there. I just love that song.
Big Country: And Finally, a final thought.
The last song of the night was Restless Natives. And that was it 90 minutes of pure nostalgia delivered in a masterclass live performance. The very spirit of Big Country was with us tonight. As the applause started to fade down Mark Brzezicki climbed out from his drum kit and took charge of the mic. He thanked everyone for coming out to see them.He went on to say that there is one big person that’s never far away from Big Country. He went on to say he was in their hearts and of course he was talking about the wonderful, late Stuart Adamson. It was a truly touching moment that reached out to everyone in Concorde 2. The crowd applauding the memory and talent. There was a lot of love in the room at that moment.
Thank you Big County for a truly wonderful evening. Its off now to write this up with my recently acquired replacement vinyl of Steeltown and The Crossing. Come back soon guys!
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