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The Lindisfarne Story

CAST Theatre, Doncaster
Saturday 8 October 2016

There was a respectful silence in the main auditorium at Cast Theatre tonight, specifically the moment the image of Alan Hull was spread across the huge screen, which formed the backdrop to the Lindisfarne Story. It's with a mixture of joy and sadness that Alan is remembered, his cheeky mischievous screwed-up sneer as he sang the words 'we can have a wee wee, we can have a wet on the wall' on our TV screens back in the Old Grey Whistle Test days, a line that managed to get the song Fog on the Tyne banned by the BBC at a time when ludicrous censorship was rife. In terms of commerce though, such censorship was probably welcomed by the record company as it usually guaranteed further success. Alan Hull might also be remembered for his stage presence, his curious dress sense that occasionally included a mixture of Afghan coat, wooly tam o'shanter and Newcastle United strip, but it's probably his songs that he's best remembered, songs such as Lady Eleanor, Winter Song, All Fall Down and Run For Home, all of which were featured tonight.

Original Lindisfarne drummer Ray Laidlaw and former lead singer Billy Mitchell presented a relaxed trip down memory lane as they sat before the giant screen, re-telling the story of one of the most popular bands of the 1970s. Described as a 'journey through the past', the two musicians pointed out from the outset that there wasn't enough time to tell the whole story, but during the two and a half hour show, quite a lot of it was covered, from the band's initial meeting, illustrated by their very first publicity shot from 1969, to their farewell tour in 2003, culminating in the band's final show in November of that year at the Newcastle Opera House, "nearly fifty years of sex, drugs and rock n roll" as Ray Laidlaw explained in his introduction. 

Predictably the show was highly nostalgic, largely anecdotal and peppered with the duo's own idiosyncratic North East humour. Accompanied by both slides and film clips, Ray and Billy told the story of how a handful of musicians got together to form such bands as Downtown Faction, The Triffids and The Brethren and how they eventually joined forces with singer-songwriter Alan Hull to form Lindisfarne, the story further illustrated with live performances covering not only songs from the band's repertoire, but also songs that influenced the young musicians along the way, together with a handful of pop songs from the period such as Happy Together, The Letter and Hi Ho Silver Lining

Both Ray and Billy showed great enthusiasm as they wandered through the annals of time, recalling the euphoria of first seeing the band's debut LP Nicely Out of Tune just before its release on the famous Charisma label in 1970 and Billy's disappointment of having to go out and buy his version on 8-track cassette, going on to demonstrate how those things worked by producing on stage an antique portable cartridge player. Meanwhile the film clips also revealled one or two fine moments in the band's history such as Ray Jackson's stunning version of Brownie McGhee's Sporting Life Blues, Rod Clements recalling the heady days of touring with Van der Graaf Generator and Genesis and footage of the band in their formative years, hopping around on Holy Island. "We had a certain spring in our step" said Laidlaw as the footage unfolded behind. 

The entertaining and informative two and a half hours flew by and the packed theatre was clearly in the mood to celebrate along with the two musicians, Billy accompanied by the choice of three acoustic guitars and Ray with a small drum kit, joining in on such songs as Meet Me on the Corner, Fog on the Tyne, We Can Swing Together and Run for Home.  

Allan Wilkinson (Words)
Northern Sky
Stephen Connor (Photos)
Stephen ConnorPhotography

Tour dates:

Wed 21 Towngate Theatre, St. Martins Square, Basildon
Thu 22  The Haymarket, Wote Street, Basingstoke
Fri 23 Millfield Arts Centre, Silver St, Edmonton, London
Sat 24 Palace Theatre, Appleton Gate, Newark
Wed 28 The Regal Community Theatre, 24-34 North Bridge St, Bathgate, West Lothian 
Thu 29 Queens Hall, Beaumont St, Hexham
Fri 30 Royal Spa Centre, Newbold Terrace, Leamington Spa

Sat 1 The Plough Arts Centre, 9-11 Fore St, Great Torrington
Sun 2 Norden Farm Arts Centre, Maidenhead
Fri 7 Walker Theatre, Frankwell Quay Shrewsbury Shropshire
Sat 8 Cast, Waterdale, Doncaster
Mon 10 Pomegranate Theatre, Corporation St, Chesterfield
Tue 11 The Assembly Hall, Melksham  Market Place, Melksham, Wiltshire
Wed 12 Spring Arts Centre, Havant 56 East St, Havant
Thu 13 The Stables, Stockwell Lane, Wavendon, Milton Keynes
Fri 14 Plowright Theatre, Laneham St, Scunthorpe
Sat 15 Philharmonic Hall Studio, Hope St, Liverpool
Wed 19 Spa Theatre, South Bay, Scarborough
Thu 20 Grand Theatre, St Leonard's Gate, Lancaster
Fri 21 Playhouse, Bondgate Without, Alnwick
Sat 22 Sage, St Mary's Square, Gateshead Quays Gateshead
Thu 27 Poole Lighthouse Arts Centre, 21 Kingland Rd, Poole
Sat 29 Phoenix Theatre, 37A Beaconsfield St, Blyth
Sun 30 Gala Theatre, 1 Millennium Place, Durham

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