LIVE REVIEW: Big Country – The Forum, London

Big Country play this rescheduled gig at London’s Kentish Town Forum on a warm Sunday night, accompanied by a crowd who seem to have spent most of the day soaking up the sun, reddened as they are of face. It must be said though that there’s every chance they look this way all the time, bearing in mind that the phrase ‘middle-aged spread’ seems to apply to most of the assembled faithful.

Big Country gigs are always, since the suicide of original singer and guitarist Stuart Adamson, likely to be a mixed bag of emotions. It’s impossible not to miss Adamson’s enthusiasm, vocal agility and guitar acrobatics. Similarly, it’s impossible not to be swept along by the emotions of these occasions; emotions that occur within the crowd when these gigs arrive; emotions that for the band must now be long-lost in the hundreds of gigs that have been played without Adamson.

Replacement Mike Peters, of early 80s stalwarts The Alarm, does all he can to match the spiritual nature that once was a Big Country gig. He comes close, but there’s a feeling that these gigs are more of a ‘singalong’ than they are an ‘event’.

Any inferred criticism aside, this is a night when the old and the new are perfectly aligned, both in songs and band members. Many of the songs from the new album ‘The Journey’ get an airing, as do the established crowd favourites, including ‘Harvest Home’, ‘1000 Stars’, ‘Fields of Fire’ and rousing set-closer, the ever-demanded and appropriate ‘In A Big Country’.

Band-member-wise the newest recruit is bass player Derek Forbes, once of Simple Minds and, for me at least, the only reason that Simple Minds started out so brilliantly but then, on his departure, became turgid, plodding, predictable and boring. Tonight though, while Forbes’ bass ability remains undiminished, his playing feels less fluent than original bassist Tony Butler, as hard as he might try to replicate the effortless rhythms and agility of Butler’s playing. I guess when a bassline isn’t your own, it’s never easy to play it as well as the composer.

If this is the only criticism I can find of this evening (a pretty unfair criticism, I admit) then clearly the new Big Country are fast-replacing the old. While the memory of Stuart Adamson will never fade, the need to mention him in between every song is fast-disappearing. These songs are being reclaimed by Peters and Co. and it’s getting harder to find sadness in the emotions of the audience; an audience that have taken the memories of the past away with them and are closely protecting them in their hearts. Instead, we have the raucous, almost football-crowd-like chanting of song lyrics that fill The Forum like the drunkest of male voice choirs, intent on making the most of tonight’s atmosphere. It’s a good night, a big night, a great night. The Journey continues.