Originally posted by The Evening Chronicle, October 2015.
The Lindisfarne Story was touchingly told – just four days after the sad news of the death of founding member Simon Cowe.
Ray Laidlaw and Billy Mitchell were deservedly given a standing ovation, and embraced as they left the stage.
The childhood friends from North Shields took their Whitley Bay audience on a thoughtful journey of wit, nostalgia and old classics that remained true to their North East roots throughout.
Rare photos, video footage and snippets of songs were used to maintain a pace that rarely dropped, continuing the legacy of a band that has endured for decades in various forms.
Unassuming on stage, Laidlaw spoke of early times with Cowe and Rod Clements as they searched for a musical identity.
They began chasing gigs and girls at local youth clubs before gaining momentum and playing at legendary Newcastle Club A’ GoGo.
A pivotal moment for the band was first hearing Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues in 1965, when they decided that was the kind of music they wanted to make.
The opening song here was Lady Eleanor, a composition by Alan Hull which, they tell us, they first heard him play at the nearby Rex Hotel.
When Hull joined the band in 1969, having left his previous group, this was one of over 300 songs he brought with him.
The band went on to sign for the hip Charisma label alongside Genesis and Monty Python’s Flying Circus, hitting the big time with their iconic second album, Fog on the Tyne, that had global appeal.
Led by frontman Ray Jackson, global tours and acclaim followed.
The images and video were used intelligently to support the narrative, including video of John Peel and an early American promo linking the band to their namesake Holy Island.
Mitchell joined Laidlaw, Cowe and Clements to form Jack the Lad following Lindisfarne’s split in the early 1970s, touring for four years. He joined the re-formed Lindisfarne a year after Hull’s death in 1995.
Although Mitchell spoke in awe of Hull, he certainly made the songs his own during this show.
His relaxed yet charismatic presence alongside Laidlaw invited the sell-out crowd to participate, shouting along and rattling the intimate theatre as their feet stomped.
The duo leapt into the second half with Fog on the Tyne, the Newcastle anthem once banned by the BBC, later urging every member of an obliging crowd to wave their hands for We Can Swing Together.
The show reached its emotional climax as they played a haunting rendition of Run for Home, before standing back to watch footage of them playing an orchestral rendition at the gig to mark what would have been Sir Bobby Robson’s 80th birthday celebration.
A tearful Billy explained that Hull had always wanted to hear this song played with a full orchestra, as happened that night at Sage Gateshead.
“We did it for Bobby. We did it for Alan,” he said. “But tonight, we’re doing it for Simon as well.”