So the first concert I ever went to as a teen was Big Country in Manchester at the Apollo. We thought we were fucking cool me and the 5 mates I went with from school. There we were posing in our drainpipe pin-striped jeans and our lumberjack shirts as we quaffed the 2 Litre bottle of Tizer one of the lads mums had provided.
It was probably 1984, the album Steeltown had just been released, and we thought we had discovered the band as we had been talking about them for a good 6-8 months. Yeah we werent the new plastic fans because we'd been watching them (on TV) when they were still promoting their first album "The Crossing" Well like I said we were fooking cool werent we? Nobody else in school had been to a proper concert in another city. One of the lads even called it a gig as we travelled there luxuriously on a Cavendish travel coach. We all tried to sound blase aout it as though we did this all the time, but you could see by looking at the other lads that the sense of anticipation was immense. None of us were prepared for the level of moshing, the wall of noise, and the sheer energy in that room, all the hope, the youth, especially the hope, always.
Anything was possible and the lyrics seemed so fucking beautiful it was untrue. "Come up screaming, right after everything you ever might have wanted" OR "The beating heart will never die, the house on fire holds no shame, I will be coming home again, Four hundred miles without a word until you smile, four hundred miles of fields on fire.". You came away wanting to be a poet, wanting to be a genius, a musician craftsman, you came away wanting to be Stuart Adamson.
I probably saw them at least a dozen times over the years till 2002, along with other bands who became favourites for a fleeting time, like the Alarm, like Simple Minds, of course U2, Del Amitri and even "Then Jerico" (dont ask) but although it was possibly never so special again I would see Big Country on many more times and twice on the "Final Fling" tour in 2002. Its funny but as I aged that youthful enthusiasm and hope when watching them that first night dissipated with each event. The words that were so promising within the lyrics were somehow masked by the the darker lyrics that had always been present like those of Chance: "Oh Lord, I never felt so low, Oh lord where feeling go.
It was shortly after that news that Stuart Adamson had killed himself in a hotel room far, far from home and all alone, he had quickly spiralled into alcoholism unsure if he was loved or even respected after the group finished that last tour. What a fucking travesty that this amazing man ended in that abyss. What a tragedy that we would never hear his most tecnichal & beautifully crafted music performed again.
Of course the 3 remaining band members tried a tour but by all accounts it wasnt great the energy had departed.
So when I heard of this years tour I wasnt sure if it could work without Stuart, but then I heard that Mike Peters of the Alarm ( a freind of Stuart & the band) had been recruited and was taking the vocals, and knowing that an immense human being he is for the way he treats people, and overcoming his health battles against cancer with dignity and character I thought it was worth a try, so I booked to see them on Thurs at the o2 Acad in Leeds.
I have to report that it was a wonderful gig which played that first album in full (The Crossing) , and some other hits on the 30th Anniversary of its release. Mike was energetic, respectfull, you might even say reverential. It felt like Stuart Adamson was being celebrated, loved, respected, but more than that it felt inspiring again. Current. Most of the people there looked like me 40 and marginally overweight but also there was something else. There was energy, it felt like the hope was back. It was great to have that youthful idealism again, just because. A signpost explaining how to find what has been lost. Energy energy energy.
In a Big Country, dreams stay with you.