Saturday, May 9, 2015

DVD Review: Big Country – Live at the Town and Country Club, London, 1990

Text by Matt Stevenson / FFanzeen, 2015
Images from the Internet

Big Country – Live at the Town and Country Club, London
Directed by Chris Bould
Wienerworld Presentation
50 minutes, 1990 / 2013
Big Country were the Scottish equivalent of Ireland's U2, appearing in the same early 1980s time frame and growing from similar roots of punkish teenage bands.  The early recordings of both bands shared the same producer in Steve Lillywhite, and in an only slightly different alternative universe Big Country could have enjoyed U2's massive later success.

Both bands were fronted by singers who wrote about topics large and small, tackling world issues as frequently as personal relationships.  One difference: Big Country had two guitarists who frequently sounded like bagpipers, as opposed to U2's one guitarist whose more processed sound frequently resembled anything but a guitar.

This set, shot at London's Town and Country venue in 1990 – during a period in which their usual drummer Mark Brzezicki was replaced by Pat Ahern – is short at 50 minutes. Yet it contains all their major hits plus one cover, Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World," which was a pretty recent hit at the time, having been released by Neil the previous year.  Big Country's fans may not be as numerous as U2's, but it is apparent from the seething mosh pit that was the lower level at this show that their fans were less mellow and more rabid than U2's.  Not really surprising, as BC's songs were almost always more energetic than those of their Celtic rivals.

The personal demons of frontman Stuart Adamson were unfortunately a limiting factor on their potential success: shortly after this concert they were dropped by their label PolyGram, and from then on had middling results, though they received some exposure in the mid-90's after their Buffalo Skinners CD, when they opened for portions of the Stones' Voodoo Lounge Tour.  

Adamson quit drinking for ten years after their label change and in 1996 moved to Nashville, but never rid himself of his torments, returning to booze and later hanging himself in a Hawaiian hotel room while facing impaired-driving charges back in Nashville.  Still, U2's The Edge told the mourners at Stuart's funeral that Big Country wrote the songs that he wished U2 could write.

At the time of this show, however, those sad days were still in the future and Adamson appears joyous and fully engaged with the audience, and the band really meshes and plays very tightly.  The show is not as comprehensive as their other concert DVDs, but anyone who is thinking of purchasing this will find it a worthwhile addition to their collection.
Stuart Adamson: vox / guitar
Bruce Watson: guitar / vox
Tony Butler: bass / vox
Pat Ahern: drums

Song list:
Restless Natives
Look Away
Fields of Fire
Broken Heart (Thirteen Valleys)
Come Back to Me
In a Big Country
River of Hope
Rockin’ in the Free World


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