Big Country 2.0, aka two of the three surviving members of Big Country plus Mike Peters from The Alarm, have announced a UK tour starting in April 2013 along with more dates to come and a new album called “The Journey” arriving next year.
I have mixed emotions about this because as far as I’m concerned Stuart Adamson was Big Country even more than Kurt Cobain was Nirvana and I’ve often said that Big Country without Stuart is like The E Street Band without Bruce Springsteen.
Still, it’s been more than 10 years since Stuart Adamson took his own life, so there’s a tiny, minuscule part of me that’s open to the idea of someone else fronting the band. At least they’re recording new material, so this is more than a nostalgia act, and Stuart once gave Mike Peters his blessing as a possible replacement.
That being said, you can’t just replace the guy who wrote 98% of the band’s lyrics and was the whole reason the band came together in the first place and whose vision guided the band in almost every way for twenty years.
The first time I saw live footage of Big Country I was stunned because I’d thought that Bruce Watson was the lead guitarist since Stuart Adamson was also the singer and songwriter. The natural assumption was that the guy who is 100% dedicated to the guitar would be the better player, but that assumption was wrong. At the time I wasn’t aware of Stuart’s history as guitarist for The Skids or how The Edge cited Stuart as a major influence or that John Peel once called Stuart the Hendrix of the North. I was just going by the liner notes and the way bands usually work, but that first live footage shattered my assumptions. Stuart was playing all the guitar parts I loved best and, as much as I hate to say it, Bruce seemed to be struggling just to keep up. (I recently heard a Big Country podcast done by some old friends of mine where Bruce frequently refers to himself as a “limited guitar player” so I feel like less of a dick for saying that publicly.)
Big Country With An Asterisk
There’s so much baggage associated with the name Big Country and how Stuart ended his own life that I can’t for the life of me understand why they don’t just pick a new name, work on some new songs, do a live show with an equal mix of Big Country and Alarm tracks, and start reasonably fresh. I suspect there’s some legal reason why the band needs to be active or else they lose the rights to the name or their back catalogue or something along those those lines. But when you call it Big Country the first thing that comes to mind for me is Stuart Adamson, and they’ll never escape that. For example, I question the timing of this announcement because tickets for the tour go on sale two days before the anniversary of Stuart’s death. If this project was using a new name that coincidence wouldn’t feel as awkward.
Five years ago I would have been outraged by this new lineup calling themselves Big Country, but time heals all wounds and I understand that musicians have to earn a living just like the rest of us. Despite my many reservations, I would attend this concert if it came to Vancouver and I will try to give the new material a fair shake when it arrives. I still wish they weren’t using the name Big Country, but you can’t have it all. I would jump at the chance to hear these songs live for once in my life, and Mark Brzezicki is still a part of the band, so when my favourite living drummer comes to town for the first time in more than a decade, I’ll set aside my doubts and buy a ticket.
Besides, if Paul McCartney can play with the surviving members of Nirvana and somehow make it work, anything is possible.
Tickets for the UK tour go on sale today. More details can be found on the Big Country Facebook page.