Tonight’s gig was part of a weekend of music in celebration of the Ryder Cup Golf Tournament which was being held a few miles down the road at Gleneagles. The premise I take it was to cash in on the American tourists staying in the city and to provide some top Scottish music, although with the Red Hot Chilli Pipers also played across the weekend maybe ‘top’ is being generous.
With Europe seeing off the USA in fine style on the fairways earlier in the day I expected a bit of a buzz around the city, but Perth appeared to be closed on arrival. Anticipation was running high though once in the concert hall with the promise of a rocking night with Big Country. The band line up has changed once again with the addition of Simon Hough on vocals and Derek Forbes from Simple Minds filling in on bass so I was interested to see how this latest incarnation fared.
The night was opened with a short support set from Edinburgh rockers, The Holy Ghosts, who entertained with a set of blues laden rock which had touches of The Black Crowes and a hint of country. They describe themselves on Facebook as ‘swinging honky tonk rock’ and, in parts I could agree, but my wife described them as a ‘country Status Quo’ which I also partly agree with, make of that what you will!
The guys were at their best when they were in full rock n roll mode as on the splendidly titled ‘Don’t Come A Knockin’ On My Rock n Roll Coffin’ which featured some good guitar work from Jon McKenzie. By the end of the set though I had seen enough and would say the band are a decent local act but I think that may well be their peak.
Big Country on the other hand have always been a well-polished act with a large faithful following as the decent size crowd within the excellent Concert Hall proved. As the lights dimmed, the cheers rose and the band kicked things off with ‘Harvest Home’.
As always the main feature of the Big Country sound is the twin guitar work of Bruce and Jamie Watson with the father and son team playing up a storm. When Jamie later had to change guitars as he had broken a string Bruce joked that he would take 50p off his pocket money to pay for it.
‘River Of Hope’ followed in what was to be a greatest hits type set, the band will soon be embarking on a nationwide tour playing the whole of the ‘Steeltown’ album, but tonight was all about the big crowd pleasers. ‘Look Away’ and ‘The Teacher’ had the crowd on their feet and dancing along.
New vocalist, Simon Hough, fitted in perfectly and his vocal similarity to Stuart Adamson is uncanny. Derek Forbes is also more that capable of filling the bass spot vacated once again by Tony Butler, during the band introductions the band played a snippet of the Simple Minds hit ‘Waterfront’ with Forbes quipping that it was ‘the best note he has ever written!’
Things were brought up to date with the inclusion of ‘In A Broken Promise Land’ from the band’s 2013 album, ‘The Journey’. The fantastic ‘Chance’ followed with plenty of crowd participation and the Steeltown album was then represented by ‘Where The Rose Is Sown’.
As well as the trademark twin guitar sound the other main feature of the Big Country sound is the complex drum patterns provided by Mark Brzezicki and on ‘Restless Natives’ he had a chance to shine. His ability to rattle around the kit with gusto whilst looking completely laid back is a joy to watch, Bruce Watson later described him as the ‘engine room of the band’, never a truer word said.
The main set was rounded off with ‘In A Big Country’ and ‘Fields Of Fire’ which went down a storm with the crowd with fans of a certain age possibly bouncing along a little more furiously than is good for them. The band returned for a quick blast though ‘Inwards’ to round off a great set and send everyone home with a smile.
If you haven’t witnessed Big Country in a while I would recommend you get along to the upcoming Steeltown Anniversary Tour as the band in its latest incarnation are on top form. The tenuous link to the Ryder Cup was fairly apt as this performance was well above par.
Review and Photos by David Wilson
BIG COUNTRY – ‘Steeltown’ 30th anniversary tour
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