My latest ‘Journey’ with Big Country began in earnest last night at a packed out ABC in Glasgow. It was another heart in the mouth beginning to a tour which is about to take up the entire summer with shows all across the UK, Europe, America and beyond. The Big Country album ‘The Journey’ was released on Monday amidst a swathe of excellent press reviews (see below) and rewarded with a top 40 album placing in the British Album chart (37), not to mention making it to NUMBER ONE in the classic rock category on the Amazon charts knocking David Bowie no less, off the top position.
As the lights went down and Big Country’s version of ‘Flower Of Scotland’ (recorded during the Journey sessions), filled the room accompanied by the voices of those assembled, I felt a similar sense of awe exactly as I did the first time I awaited to walk onto the stage with this band in the exact same venue on December 31st 2010. This time though it was because we were opening up with ‘Return’, a new song from ‘The Journey’ that has only just been released into the public domain.
A lot has happened since that first date I played with Big Country and it has been an incredible ‘Journey’ for all concerned (and for those now departed), but we live in the present – not the past, and so now begins the time of Big Country with myself on board, and tonight is the true acid test of how my contribution to this great band will be received.
As soon as I walked out I knew. I knew from the sound the crowd that I was now a part of this family, no longer an outsider (at least not to the people before me and they are the ones that matter most). This night was all about the people who want to be here, myself included. Those who have gone will never be forgotten, those who do not want to be here good luck to you as well, but as the song says “I’ll be there when you return”. I knew as I opened my mouth to sing the words, that ‘Return’ has already made it deep into the hearts of the Big Country faithful, I could see it in their eyes and in the way they already knew the words (even though the lyrics aren’t on the album sleeve….), I knew it when Bruce Watson delivered the signature guitar line and every hand reached for the sky in celebration. I knew that, having suffered the losses, the hurt and the upheaval that this band has endured, Big Country had returned from as dark a place as any band could ever find itself.
I’m so proud of the contribution I have made to the songs on ‘The Journey’ and I want to thank all those ‘Mike Peters’ supporters for coming with me (I could see you in the crowd and you know who you are), and the same to all those Big Country fans for giving me the time to prove myself. I also know that as this new era of musicality unfolds there is something for everyone along the way, not only Big Country fans, but for the most ardent Alarm / Mike Peters fans too.
I fully understand that some people only want to see me with the same four guys I started out with in the way that there are those Big Country fans who cannot countenance anything other than the Stuart Adamson, Bruce Watson, Tony Butler, Mark Brzezicki line-up of ‘The Crossing’ era but I challenge every single one of you who harbour such strong commitments to days gone by to listen to this album and not be moved by it.
We all feel this way in the Big Country of today. We are all committed to taking this music out into the world with over a hundred live dates before us. It is not going to be easy, nothing ever is. One by one we will work this album in the way we all worked those first albums that defined our reputations as we now believe we have an album that carries an authority and clarity of vision that is rare. We are all prepared to go to the ends of the earth on this journey and I hope you will come with us.
Throughout the set, a lot of songs from The Journey were played and for each one there was a historic piece to follow. For me and the band it was the new songs that held centre stage breathing new life into the old songs so that they have a new context in which to hear them. We even managed to slip in an impromptu ‘Saints Are Coming’ from The Skids as a homage to the real origins of Big Country in the way my own punk beginnings were the starting point of The Alarm. After the show we all assembled in the aftershow bar area where the Love Hope Strength volunteers had staged the Bone Marrow Donor Drive and I was thrilled to hear that we had signed 71 people which is our best yet in the UK. 71 people who came to see Big Country tonight may well be the one to help save another’s life at some point in the future…. Stay Alive indeed.
Tonight we are in Aberdeen and it’s all sold out, Sky TV are here filming a piece about Big Country fans following the tour on trains and we are in the dressing room plotting what to play tonight that we didn’t last night…… I’m also working out what to write on my guitar……
Stay Alive and Dream Aloud in Love Hope and Strength
“Big Country serve up personal empowerment with their first album in 14 year” – Rolling Stone USA
“Scottish rockers’ emotional return with new singer” – Q
“The Journey sets out to be a euphoric return that celebrates the work of Stuart Adamson rather than be dictated to by his absence” – Get Ready To Rock’
“a three-act masterpiece that mirrors the story of Big Country themselves” – Tim Barr – Independent Scottish