Published on September 6, 2016 | by Alastair Gilmour0
Getting nicely into tune
Are you sitting comfortably? Chapter Three of The Lindisfarne Story is about to begin. It’s the one where North East star musicians Ray Laidlaw and Billy Mitchell tell the tale of Tyneside’s favourite band through music, words and pictures.
The 26 dates across the UK during September and October include five around the region – Hexham, Gateshead, Blyth, Alnwick and Durham. One of the gigs – two actually – is on the DFDS ferry from North Shields to Amsterdam. The first half of the show will be performed free on the outward leg and the second half on the return trip, with the highly regarded Martin Stephenson in support.
Drummer Ray was a founder member of the band which formed in 1968 (following spells as Downtown Faction and Bretheren) while front-man Billy did his shift between 1995 and 2004.
“We’ve changed the show quite a bit since the last tour,” says Ray. “We want to keep it fresh, not only for the audiences – some of whom have seen it seven times – but for ourselves.
“We’ve done a lot of research into the archives and unearthed some new film clips, changed some of the songs, and we’ll be dropping in a few surprises. We’ve got two hours to tell 35 years of a story, but if you keep on doing the same thing it becomes cabaret.
“It’s a fun show to do and no two are the same – the idea is that you’re responding to stimulus on the night and sometimes things will come up that you didn’t expect. We revisit the times and the music in a very simple way.”
Ray reckons one of the best things about being on tour is finding new pubs in different towns, like the micropubs that keep on springing up where a butcher’s shop or a station buffet once sat.
“We like seeing how a place has changed since the last time we’ were there,” he says. “It’s good to experience that through pubs and microbreweries – a reminder of why we went to pubs in the first place.
“Without pubs there would have been no Lindisfarne. We used to meet in pubs, write songs in pubs, rehearse in pubs, perform in pubs, and relax in pubs. Most of our best ideas came in pubs – and some of the worst, depending on how long we’d been there.
“In The Lindisfarne Story, we tell the story of the band from the beginning. We started off in 1965 but it was 1970 before anyone took notice, so we’d already served a five-year apprenticeship.”
Ray and Billy perform acoustic versions of Lindisfarne’s classic songs illustrating the band’s rise to fame from Whitley Bay to San Francisco Bay, from Rothbury to Glastonbury. The show is illustrated with personal archive photographs and describes their worldwide tours, festival successes and television appearances, their triumphant returns home, and their unique relationship with Newcastle City Hall, venue for more than 130 Lindisfarne performances.
Ray says: “Lady Eleanor, Meet Me On The Corner, Fog On The Tyne, Run for Home, all of these songs have a story behind them.”
The Lindisfarne Story isn’t just for fans of Lindisfarne… if you love UK rock bands and the music of the Sixties and Seventies it’s the show for you.