"Hey Mr Dreamseller, where have you been?"
Quick! Name one British folk rock act of the 1970s!
Okay, so who actually mentioned Lindisfarne? Precious few I imagine, as they’re now primarily for an arse-clenchingly awful novelty duet. Those that do delve a little further into their career will be rewarded with a clutch of hit singles and a selection of albums of variable quality. Lovers of melancholy and bittersweet song writing found much to admire in Alan Hull’s material in particular, but where the band really came into their own were their rousing and celebratory concerts, where even their most downbeat material became singalong anthems.
In an era where live albums were plentiful, Lindisfarne’s contribution to the genre has been subsequently overlooked, released as it was, while the band were on hiatus. This at least meant that there was little in the way of post-recording studio tinkering, resulting in a refreshingly raw and honest live recording complete with missed cues, bum notes and vaguely wonky harmonies. An expanded version from 2005 effectively doubled what was originally on offer, containing their hits, b-sides and, in an era when soloing was not outlawed but actually positively encouraged, a harmonica medley.
What comes across on this album more than anything is the sheer joy of the band to be playing a homecoming gig and how much they were loved by their home crowd. Each song is sung along to, the various band members reminisce about their previous bands to mass applause and the whole thing seems oddly effortless in an era where far too many bands tried too hard to impress. Lindisfarne by contrast come across as a bunch of amiable and personable blokes with a very specific streak of self deprecating Northern humour stood on stage and playing their songs with the minimum of fuss and clutter, while effortlessly connecting with their audience. Sure, the band haven’t got the first clue what reggae is and they were never going to fill stadiums, but on the upside it meant that they were never in danger of their egos reaching U2 sized proportions and annoying those of us that don’t need to be told how to lead our lives.
Okay, so sound wise this is a little too bare-bones for some people that may want a little flash and presentation even when it comes to live albums, but if you enjoy 70s folk rock, or have only heard the band’s radio hits, I encourage you to track down this live album. While their studio albums are of niche appeal, I can say hand on heart that this live disc and a decent best of is all most people will ever need.