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Big Country @ the Robin, Bilston, Wolverhampton – Friday 16th September 2016

posted 6 Oct 2016, 09:23 by Paul Woodward

Review by Woody

I hadn’t initially intended to go to this gig but once I saw Brummie AOR hot shots Corvus had been announced as support I snapped up a ticket. This is only the second time I’ve seen the band live, the first been their first ever live show as Corvus, well over a year ago and the band have been playing live as frequently as possible ever since. That first show was enjoyable but it was clear that it was their first show and the experience they have gained over the past year is very clear tonight and they come across far more confidently on stage. The keyboards were a little loud in the mix to start off with but this minor sound gripe was quickly cleared up and the band’s highly melodic smooth AOR came across really well for their entire set.

This set of fans may not have been their ideal target audience but the chance to play in front of a large crowd when you’re growing your fan base is not to be sniffed at when these opportunities come your way. They did get increasingly loud and positive responses as their set went on so they definitely won a few new fans before the end of their set!

As a live unit they put a lot of thought into been mobile and entertaining on stage and they are quite possibly one of the smile-ist bands I’ve ever seen (except guitarist John Clews, who is always in deep concentration mode!) that upbeat attitude really helps sell their very uplifting and feel good music to their audience. Ciaran James is a confident and commanding vocalist and he keeps the audience invested and his vocals throughout were strong. Guitarist John Clews took every opportunity to slip in solos and really working his fretboard hard and although he was always throwing in some complicated guitar licks and was totally focused on his playing he still moved about as much as he could and seemed to relish the chance to let rip all his guitar wizardry.

They have so many good songs it’s impossible for them to NOT pick a perfect paced and continually exciting set list. There’s not many bands with only one album under their belts who can do that, running through one awesome melodic rocker to the next. Opening with ‘Can’t Get Enough’ they then treat us to flawless performances of ‘All I Need’, ‘How Long’, ‘Believe’, ballad ‘Where Do We Run’ which got one of the loudest reactions from the Big Country crowd and ‘Turn To Stone’ which was probably my favourite song of the evening. They closed out their set with the rousing one two punch of ‘When You Love Someone’ and their anthem ‘Chasing Miracles’.

If you’re a melodic rock fan you should get out and see Corvus as not only do they not disappoint as a live act they also play a style of music so rare on the live circuit nowadays. They have a load of shows coming up so put them in your diaries and remember to take your dancing shoes and singing voices!

As previously stated I was here for Corvus, I do know and like all the Big Country ‘hits’ but I’m only a casual fan so have never pushed myself to see them before. I wasn’t sure what to expect although with them playing their 1986 album The Seer in full I knew there was going to be a lot of songs I was unfamiliar with tonight so I thought that may dampen my enjoyment of their set. Thankfully it didn’t and now I really need to get my hands on that classic album!

The only song I knew was ‘Look Away’ which I thoroughly enjoyed the energy of but of all the The Seer tracks ‘Hold The Heart’ is probably the one that struck me most. The full house crowd were lapping up all the songs, with loud reactions and lots of excited chatting as all these rarely played songs got dusted off and delivered to a clearly devoted set of fans.

Guitarist Bruce Watson did most of the talking and interacting with the fans, clearly loving the highly vocal and excitable Black Country crowd stating frequently through the night how much he fuckin’ loved it here! I wasn’t surprised when less than a week later The Robin website shows the band have already booked a return show for next September.

They have a really strong melodic feel even live where things tend to get a little heavier and I really enjoyed all those melodic guitar riffs and licks. The songs came across far more energetic than I expected and I had wrongly presumed Big Country were more of a laid back band, especially with the strong Celtic sound interwoven into their songs. Although this is a new version of the band, with only two key original members left it was still a great show and the fans didn’t seem to care. Obviously with the death of their iconic frontman Stuart Adamson for the band to continue they would obviously have to change their line-up. Their new vocalist Simon Hough does a superb job and does his best to deliver these songs as they were originally written and does well to try and fill in for Adamson’s distinctive vocal.

The band as a whole are veteran performers and they gave on a full on rock n roll show full of infectious energy. Far from what I was expecting and it also intensified my enjoyment of their set and gave me a new found respect for the band as whole. Another thing I didn’t expect was how rambunctious and energetic the Big Country fans were, I had expected middle aged music buffs who would tap their shows and smile wistfully when a fine musical moment occurred. I was wrong oh very wrong – I was only right about the age range of most the crowd – Come the end of the Big Country set when they played the big hit’s starting with ‘In A Big Country’ the place erupted and I felt like I’d been swept into a heavy metal mosh pit and near shat me pants! As the half-naked screaming tattooed rockers head banged like it was Motorhead and pogoed so vigorously to make all punks look like big girl’s blouses. This level of energy never subsided again until the band’s set finished going through their best known songs ‘Fields Of Fire’ and the iconic ‘Wonderland’ a song upon hearing I was glad I’d came and ticked this band and that song of my live show bucket list! I’m pretty sure there was going to be some very sore legs and backs in the morning!

A fantastic show which the loyal Big Country fans clearly and audibly enjoyed and if you haven’t seen them before even if like me you’re only a casual fan you should go and check them out!