The appetite for band resurrections and reunions appears undiminished, sometimes with a worrying lack of quality control and often with the use of an old band name (or some variation of it) aimed at maximising ticket sales over any genuine consideration for the band’s legacy. One of the latest returns to the gig circuit is Newcastle-based folk-rockers, Lindisfarne. No-one can deny how popular this band were in the early 70s and no-one can deny the huge affection there still is for this band, especially in the north-east. But although they were one of the Saturday night headliners at this year’s Great British Folk Festival at Skegness Butlins, I was more than a little sceptical. They are billed as Ray Jackson’s Lindisfarne for starters, always a tell-tale sign that you are unlikely to be seeing more than one original member on stage. The programme advertises them as “containing former members from all three past eras of the band.” This was not actually a reunion of bandmates who had actually worked on stage together in the same band at the same time therefore. Indeed, one could be forgiven for thinking that Jackson had merely worked his way through a list of ex-members in his old address book until he had almost assembled a full set (but scratching his head when it came to locating a drummer and having to recruit ex-Roxy Music drummer, Paul Thompson instead).
However, as the band start playing it is clear that Jackson has assembled a very strong line-up of musicians who actually gel together really well. The atmosphere gets better and better as the gig proceeds and the mood in the crowd gets ever livelier and ever more celebratory. Classic songs like Lady Eleanor, Meet Me On The Corner as well as what was introduced as a song you may have heard of about “weather conditions on a river”, their most famous number Fog on the Tyne. Vocal duties are shared between Jackson and Dave Hull-Denholm, son-in-law of the late frontman, who sings the songs written by his father-in-law, Alan Hull in a vocal style that is very reminiscent of the original.
The band sound good. My scepticism was indeed misplaced. This is an affectionate, credible and highly enjoyable celebration of one of Newcastle’s most loved bands, fronted with conviction by one of their founder members. When the band resurrected their famous annual Christmas show at Newcastle City Hall last year it is not difficult to see why it sold out in just six hours.