Recorded at the band’s sold out shows at London’s Kings Place in August 2015, ‘A Stone’s Throw From The Line’ documents Big Big Train’s return to the live stage after a 17 year absence. Review and photos by Tim Darbyshire.
Recorded over three nights (August 14th – 16th), each song performed over the three night residency is represented here, in the order they were played on this double cd. Such was the success of Big Big Train’s return to the live arena that they were awarded Prog Magazine’s prestigious ‘Live Event of the Year’ award.
Since the addition of vocalist David Longdon and drummer Nick D’Virgillo in 2009, Big Big Train have seen a welcome upturn in their fortunes. ‘The Underfall Yard’ (2009) and ‘English Electric Part One/Part Two’ (2012/13) have helped to expose the band to a wider audience. In 2014 it was decided they would plan for some live gigs, so the band assembled at Peter Gabriel’s Real World studios – some of them meeting each other for the first time – to see how their complex studio arrangements translated to the live environment. (This was captured on the 2016 blu-ray ‘Stone And Steel’).
Live, the band comprises founding members Greg Spawton (bass, backing vocals) and Andy Poole (guitars, bass, keyboards) along with Danny Manners (keyboards, double bass, backing vocals), David Longdon (lead vocals, flute, banjo, percussion), Rikard Sjöblom (guitars, keyboards, backing vocals), Nick D’Virgilio (drums, backing vocals), Dave Gregory (guitars, piano, backing vocals) and Rachel Hall (violin, backing vocals). An additional five piece brass ensemble brings the number of musicians on stage up to a healthy thirteen! (Dave Desmond – trombone, Ben Godfrey – trumpet and cornet, Nick Stones – french horn, John Storey – euphonium and Mike Poyser – tuba).
The setlist is not surprisingly dominated by songs from ‘English Electric’ (2012/13) and ‘The Underfall Yard’ (2009). ‘Wassail’ from the then unreleased ‘Folklore’ also gets an outing. Big Big Train are quintessentially English and take us on a two hour plus story-telling journey pinned by the epic ‘The Underfall Yard’ and the spectacular ‘East Coast Racer’. The musicianship is exemplary, providing the perfect backdrop for David Longdon’s passionate vocal performance. The band thrill their audiences with an eclectic array of dazzling melodies (‘Hedgerow’), crazy rhythms and time signatures (‘Judas Unrepentant’) and soaring emotional songs (‘Curator Of Butterflies’), fully utilising the wide sound palette available to them.
The sound quality of the live recording is very good of course – recorded and mixed by long time band collaborator Rob Aubrey – and it’s a given that any Big Big Train fan should buy this release. As an introduction to the band though, I’d recommend ‘English Electric’ (recently remastered and repackaged), for the full lush studio experience.
Since these concerts, the band have released ‘Folklore’ – which is many people’s album of 2016 – and have announced three shows for late September 2017 at London’s Cadogan Hall, and at the time of writing some tickets remain for the last show.
The album comes in a gloss, laminated soft pack with a 40-page booklet and maintains the standard of high quality presentation we’ve come to expect from Big Big Train.
Full track listing:
Make Some Noise
The First Rebreather
The Underfall Yard
Summoned By Bells
Curator Of Butterflies
East Coast Racer