Lindisfarne, Newcastle City Hall

Then all at once I heard some music playing in my bones
the same old song I’d heard for years, reminding me of home

Back in February I was working in Luxembourg and I arrived back at Heathrow late on a Friday night and then had to drive almost 300 miles to Sunderland to pick up Sarah and Ben. As I pulled away from the airport and onto the M25 I picked a CD out of the box on the passenger seat and popped it in. The CD was Lindisfarne’s greatest hits and I’m still to this day not 100% sure if this had anything to do with my answer when Sarah asked me a few hours later “why don’t we move to the North East?”

In any case Ray Jackson’s Lindisfarne at Newcastle City Hall on 20th December seemed like a great idea for my first gig since returning to the North East – it also marked my first visit to the City Hall in over 30 years!

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I saw last year that they’d done a couple of shows at the City Hall – once upon a time the Lindisfarne Christmas concerts were a feature of the season and we used to go often – even my mum and dad! I wished I could have gone last year but it wasn’t possible so when I heard they were playing again this year I wanted to go. there was a single ticket sitting there in the second row that just seemed to be waiting for me to grab it. I’d seen it before we moved and it was still there weeks later so I just had to snap it up!

The last time I saw Lindisfarne was in 1984 at St James Park supporting Bob Dylan and frankly they were awful – I’d seen them first at one of their reunion gigs in 1977 and all that I loved about that night seemed to have gone, all the songs sounded the same it was so sad. A few weeks later I caught front man Alan Hull at a Miners Benefit at the City Hall (the last gig mentioned above) and he was so much better. Alan has of course sadly died since and the only original member of the band left is Ray Jackson but the reports from last year are so good I’m glad to be going!

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The first thing I noticed when I took my seat was that the stage was higher than I remembered it to be but everything else was the same as it ever was. The show started off the way it used to with someone dressed as Santa coming on and telling some jokes before the band came on and got the first set underway. There used to be a support act and then Lindisfarne would play all the way through but I guess times change and they need a break! When the band come on my first thought is that Ray Jackson doesn’t look any different – obviously he is thirty years older than last time I saw him but hey I’m 30 years older too!

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As I said Ray is the only original member of the band but I also spot Charlie Harcourt who joined Jackson in Lindisfarne in 1973 after three of the original members left to form Jack the Lad. We once famously met the pair in a guitar shop in Newcastle when we were in town one Saturday. We saw them through the window and went off to buy a pen to ask for autographs. We bought one but we couldn’t find any paper either and then we saw some posters for the 1976 Reunion concert in a second hand shop next door. The posters duly bought we stormed into the guitar shop and got the pair of them to sign them. They were very confused as to how we just happened to be passing with identical posters!

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Since those days Alan Hull has of course died and his vocal sections are taken by his son-in-law Dave Hull-Denholm and he really does do them justice. The set starts off with a couple of old favourite songs, what am I saying they’re all old favourites! The audience are as old as me, if not older and for most of the night they remains firmly rooted in their seats! The highlight of the first set for me is of course Lady Eleanor but January Song is a definite close second!

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The second set started a bit slow with Mandolin king and tales of Rod Stewart’s Maggie May but after a stunning Winter Song the opening bars of Fog on the Tyne finally got the audience up onto their feet! As the song finished Ray Jackson saw them trying to sit down again and said “Ha’way man you might as well stay standing up” as they kicked into Run for Home! The rest of the night was the familiar Christmas concert finale with the harmonica section and Rapper Side featuring during We can Swing Together.

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The encores were meet me on the corner and Clear White Light. The whole evening fair took me back to the days of my youth and a few weeks later Ray Jackson announced he was retiring from live performances so I was glad that I didn’t put it off and that I got to see him one last time! The band continues but with Rod Clements as the only original member left. Also a few months later Simon Cowe sadly died in Toronto – inexplicably on the day he died there was fog on the Tyne!

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Set 1
1 Santa stands up
2 Road To Kingdom Come
3 All Fall Down
4 Wake Up Little Sister
5 Scarecrow Song
6 City Song
7 Together Forever
8 Lady Eleanor
9 Marshall Riley’s Army
10 Alright On The Night
11 January Song

Set 2
1 Mandolin King
2 Maggie May-Court In The Act
3 Evening
4 Only Alone
5 Train In G Major
6 United States Of Mind
7 Warm Feeling
8 Winter Song
9 Fog On The Tyne
10 Run For Home
11 We Can Swing Together
12 band introductions
13 Meet Me On The Corner
14 Clear White Light (Part 2)

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