Portsmouth Pyramids

At a U2 gig in 1983 Bono described Big Country and The Alarm as the “new breed”, two bands that bucked the trend of the electronic music of the time and stuck to melodic guitar rock which they delivered in a passionate way. After Big Country’s Stuart Adamson’s untimely death in 2001, the rest of the band took a prolonged hiatus while coming to terms with the loss of their prestigious leader.

They regrouped in 2002 for a celebration of Stuart’s life at a fan club convention in Holland where The Alarm’s Mike Peters was asked to join the band on vocals, that night the band performed a rare Adamson composition ‘Never Take Your Place’ which seemed very fitting for the occasion, this is where the seeds for this current reformation were sown.

After a brief successful UK tour in January 2011, the band are back for a more extensive tour after considerable renewed interest in the band, the bands label Universal have also have released a new 2 disc, 35 track compilation ‘Fields Of Fire The Ultimate Collection’. A beautiful spring day filled with constant sunshine greets everyone’s arrival on the south coast for the first night of the ‘Dreams Stay With You’ tour, the venue is packed with an army of expectant fans ready to rediscovery some of the bands heartfelt melodic rock anthems.

The Crowns

The 1st support act are Cornish band The Crowns who include the son of Big Country’s Tony Butler ‘Jake’ on bass following very well in his Father’s footsteps. The young bands energetic folk punk provides excellent early entertainment for the excited audience. Their Pogues style fast paced acoustic lead songs include ‘Bodmin Town’ and the excellent last number ‘Little Eyes’ which gets much of the crowd singing along with the chorus ably encouraged by front man Bill Jefferson.

Mike Marlin

Mike Marlin and his band were up next and zany Mike arrived on stage wearing his dressing gown for some strange reason. Apparently he has been holed up in his basement writing songs for nearly 25 years and only recently after a meeting with a music producer Mike released his debut album “Nearly Man”. Tonight’s performance was very interesting and his sound is certainly an acquired taste, once you listen to the lyrics and get used to his style there is definitely something intriguing there. The songs such as the single ‘Play That Game’ , about the tediousness of working life and ‘Give It All’ about the ageing process which was dedicated to the over 50’s in the audience, are very well written covering material from a very personal perspective.

The surprise of the night as a reworked and slowed down version of the Bee Gees classic ‘Stayin Alive’ with Mike apologising in advance for performing it..

Big Country

The atmosphere in this Pyramid shaped venue has been building all night, the lights go down and the intro music is starts, a piece by Ralph Vaughn Williams called ‘The Lark Ascending’ which the band have historically used for many of their past performances. The packed venue comes alive as the band take to the stage, Mark Brzezicki’s familiar drum intro to ‘1000 Stars’ starts and the place is bouncing. Mike Peters delivery of his vocals are much more confident than on the previous tour and as per usual with he his puts 100% into his performance.

The band despatch hit after hit effortlessly with virtually every member of the audience singing along to every word. The big man Stuart Adamson is mentioned several times during the evening, to make sure his is forever in peoples thoughts, Mike read out a part of the lyrics to ‘Never Take Your Place’ which left lots with a lump in their throats or a tear in their eye, the band launched in to the emotive ‘Porrohman’ inspired by a HG Wells poem. The long powerful build up to the track started and Mike appeared in the centre of the audience with microphone in hand delivering the heartfelt lyrics surrounded by the fans.

Tony Butler has taken a walk along Southsea seafront earlier in the day and decided to visit the Military museum to pay his respects to the fallen, he was given the idea while he was there for the band to play the song ‘Where The Rose Has Sown’ because of it’s war themed subject matter, the band rehearsed it for the 1st time in the sound check and delivered a stunning version to the delighted audience. The band played extended version of the classic ‘Fields of Fire’ which included part of Thin Lizzy’s ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ which was crafted by Bruce Watson’s talented 18 year old son Jamie, who with his father reproduced the classic Big Country sound with some style and would have made Adamson proud.

As the band left the stage the audience’s appreciation was just amazing, showing that everybody involved had made the right decision to bring the band back They soon returned with a four song encore including the their theme tune ‘In a Big Country’s which left everybody with a huge smiles on their faces. Big Country are back and in a big way, this is just the start of another new era for the band, the band’s manager Ian Grant also announced that the band would be returning to the South Coast on the 9th June to play a warm up show at Southampton’s Brook for the Isle of Wight Festival, and I for one cannot wait to see them again.

1000 Stars
Harvest Hone
Driving to Damascus
The Teacher
Just A Shadow
Look Away
East Of Eden
The Storm
Where the Rose Is Sown
Fields Of Fire(Inc Whiskey in The Jar)

Lost Patrol
Restless Natives
In A Big Country


Mike Marlin

The Crowns


Pictures of Big Country by Bob Whetton.

Words and Pictures of The Crowns and Mike Marlin by;

Dave Chinery(Chinners)

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