Timeless anthems for a very Big Country

Big Country
Big Country
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Can a sound purpose-built to blow the roof off stadia ever be made to fit in a venue the size of Colne’s small but perfectly formed Municipal Hall?

Yes it can and – a few early howls of feedback protesting otherwise aside – Big Country proved that in spades Friday night.

Before a lusty crowd overflowing with bonhomie to those on stage, these veteran rockers rolled away the years to deliver a stunning set; their most successful LP Steeltown in its entirety, followed by a run of their finest anthems.

Anthem. A word bandied to death these days, mostly to dignify plodding rock which, it seems to me, is the very opposite of an anthem.

Anthems, surely, should stiffen sinew, stir loins, make hearts thud, hairs rise on the back of necks and arms.

If so, few bands have more anthems to their credit than Big Country.

Fusing the riffing power punk of previous band Skids with swirling, reeling Celtic folk arrangements and mood, the late Stuart Adamson wrote, and this band – led by founder members Bruce Watson and drummer Mark Brzezicki– still brings to life, a body of work which sweeps aside the test of time.

Look Away, Wonderland, In a Big Country, Fields of Fire, these and other towering epic songs will make eyes dewy and fists pump skyward for so long as these men choose to play them, and likely beyond.

That this is the case is in large part testament to the two men brought in to fill the huge shoes of Adamson.

Watson’s own son Jamie does a sterling job in place of a guitar hero dubbed the ‘Jimi Hendrix of punk’ by John Peel, while singer Simon Hough captures fully the powerful, rising falling, soaring tones Adamson used to give those original recordings so much of their emotional pull.

Former Simple Minds and Propaganda bass player Derek Forbes makes up the modern Big Country, and he above all wore the band’s Scottish roots largest – kilted for the second half, with a cheeky flash of bare rump as the quintet quit stage.

Moments earlier, to cheers, Bruce Watson had named one by one the musicians of this new incarnation, before pausing and adding, to the biggest cheer of the night, ‘and Stuart’.

An emotional moment ending a great night.

Barry Freeman