Gig preview: Big Country at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

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FOLLOWING the massive success of their tour to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their chart-topping Steeltown album last year, Scottish legends Big Country are back with a ‘Best of’ tour.

Still with two original members, Bruce Watson on guitars and vocals and Mark Brzezicki on drums, the band promise an evening of great music and energy.

But 30 years on, do the songs have the same energy as they did?

“Yeah, definitely,” Watson says during a break in the sound-check in Bristol.

“We play the songs identical to the way we did them, which makes for a brilliant night.”

As well as Steeltown, the follow-up album The Seer gave them a second gold disc in 1986, whilst their 1983 offering The Crossing went platinum.

The band were also responsible for some superb singles: In A Big Country, Fields of Fire, Look Away, Chance and Wonderland to name but five.

What made Big Country’s songs unique was their way of playing guitars to sound a little like bagpipes.

“It came about just by continuously playing,” Watson explains.

“Stuart [Adamson, the co-founder of the band, who sadly died in 2001] and I were jamming with our guitars and the sound evolved.

“With all our influences, we didn’t want to be too bluesy. It sounds very complicated but it’s not really.”

After a number of hit singles and the four massive albums, the bands’ chart profile seemed to wane, although they still maintained an enthusiastic live following.

“I think there was a number of reasons for that,” the Canadian-born guitarist ponders.

“After those four albums we had lost a lot of our naivety and had become a bit mainstream. Plus people had moved on.”

Watson says Wonderland is his favourite track.

“I’m often asked what my favourite track is and it’s that one. It’s my stock answer and there is no real reason why – I just like it and there it is.”

The death in Honolulu of founder member and ex-Skids Stuart Adamson must have hit the band hard.

“Well, at the time it happened in 2001, the band had broken up,” Watson says.

“Stuart had relocated to America although we never saw much of each other, but it was a horrible, horrible time.”

Onto happier things and the ‘Best of’ tour; apparently it will also carry on the celebration of Steeltown.

“We played the album in it’s entirety on last year’s tour, but not everyone saw it and we are playing venues this time around that we didn’t do in 2014, so we’ll be playing a few songs from it that we wouldn’t normally do to give the people a chance to hear them. And of course we’ll be playing all the hits,” Watson says.

In 2010, Watson’s son Jamie joined the band on guitar and vocals and Watson senior loves sharing a stage with his son.

“It’s great fun, if I make a mistake I can just glare at him and blame it on him. It’s all part of the fun.”

Although the band still play with the energy they did in the 80s, Watson says that it can be taxing.

“For such tours you really have to look after yourself. My head and heart love it all, but my body says ‘you stupid, stupid b****r’.”

Having said that, he is looking forward to the tour that goes all the way to the end of the year.

“I’m happy to play anywhere,” he grins. “Bring it on!”

Big Country will be bringing their ‘Best of Big Country Tour’ to The Brudenell, Leeds on Saturday October 17. Tickets are available from the box office on 0113 275 2411, priced at £22.50 in advance (may be subject to a booking fee) and the usual agencies.