Published on March 4, 2019 | by Alastair Gilmour0
Real Live Lindisfarne
Singer, songwriter, performer and poet Simma reviews the new live album from one of the region’s greatest bands
I recently bumped into John Cooper Clarke in a hotel bar. Having been on the same bill as him years before, I was delighted he remembered me. “Are you still doing it?” he asked. I assured him I was, and he smiled. “That’s what I always say – don’t tell me how good you are, tell me how long you’ve lasted.”
Now, what happens when you’re good – and you last? Lindisfarne are a prime example. By my reckoning this is their 50th year and, by expanding, contracting, tweaking and rotating the line-up, they’re still delighting their fans, festival audiences and music lovers to this day.
Their latest album Real Live Lindisfarne is a collection of recordings from recent tours. They’ve always been a band best appreciated live, and they certainly have plenty of material to draw on, so with such a long history, writing a set list must be a nightmare. While everything you’d expect is here (Run For Home, Meet Me On The Corner, Lady Eleanor and that one about the river), there are some pleasant surprises. Song For A Windmill from Alan Hull’s solo period appears very early on, making it clear that, while you’re going to get the hits, it’s all about the songs.
A particular highlight is Numbers (Travelling Band) from the same period. An autobiographical tale of a band on the road, you get the sense that they’ve lived it; the performances, parties and dreary tour buses alike. As far as the performances go, the enthusiasm shines through, and as an ensemble, you get the impression that the arrangements have been put together to accentuate the strengths of the players. Rod Clements steps from bluesey slide to folky mandolin and fiddle with apparent ease, and the band sound pleasingly loose and laid back, exuding the effortless confidence of veteran artists. The crowning glory of the set has to be Clear White Light, in which ex-Roxy Music’s Paul Thompson leads a rhythm section clearly having the time of their lives. This album also sees the last contribution of the recently-retired Charlie Harcourt, who seems incapable of playing a bad note on anything.
I’ve heard people say they’re not keen on live albums, but I’m a bit of an enthusiast, and this is a belter. A band with such a long history inevitably has ups and downs, but catch them on this particular up. A fine addition to Lindisfarne’s ongoing story.