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Tue 12 Mar 2024

Review – Big Country on 7th March 2024

On at the Corn Exchange


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Review by Stephen Foster
(Freelance broadcaster and promoter)

Big Country/Icicle Works
Ipswich Corn Exchange
Thursday, 7 March 2024

Ipswich’s love affair with the ever changing music of the 1980s shows no sign of ending. Two of the most distinctive groups from that era – Big Country and The Icicle Works – became the latest acts from that much adored decade to grace the stage of the Corn Exchange.


Scottish band Big Country are on the road celebrating the 40th anniversary of their chart-topping Steeltown album. That LP was made at Abba’s Polar studio in Stockholm and went straight into the UK album chart at number one.


Founder members Bruce Watson (guitar) and Mark Brzezicki (drums) are keeping the flag flying with Watson’s guitar playing son Jamie and lead vocalist Simon Hough taking on the dual role of the late, great Stuart Adamson. The bassist Gil Allan completes the line-up which is totally faithful to the Big Country sound.


For an hour the group played all the tracks from Steeltown plus a bonus song Winter Sky from the same sessions. They followed that with a handful of anthems – Look Away, Chance, In A Big Country, Wonderland and Fields of Fire. Refreshingly, the encore comprised just the one song. It was Restless Natives, dedicated to their much missed spiritual leader.


Earlier Ian McNabb and Chris Layhe performed a 40 minute set of Icicle Works favourites. As he had been at the John Peel Centre in Stowmarket a few months ago, McNabb was seated, mostly playing a beautiful white 12 string guitar which did have a tendency to go out of tune. It didn’t detract too much from a well received set enhanced by solid bass playing and more than decent backing vocals by the comeback kid Layhe.


Prior to this tour the pair hadn’t played together since the trio’s heyday. I hesitate to call Icicle Works the support act because they have been headliners in their own right and hopefully will be again in the not too distant future.


The music of the electronic 80s is alive and kicking in Suffolk’s county town and as guitar bands Big Country and Icicle Works prove, a synthesiser isn’t compulsory – far from it in fact.

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