Rab Noakes and Rod Clements

Live Review | Roots Music Club, Doncaster | Review and Photos by Allan Wilkinson

Tonight at the Roots Music Club, there was the usual proverbial calm before the storm, no one quite sure who might turn up or indeed how many. An original member of Lindisfarne propped up the bar at the back of the hall, a stoic Buster Keaton expression on his face, still, almost brooding, the stage lights reflected in his thick rimmed glasses hiding what might be going on behind those eyes. Not as young these days; long gone are the long black locks that once flanked his instantly recognisable face. Close by, a slim Scot in a smart check suit, prowled the bar area, arms folded, fixed expression, perusing the club’s notice board as he peered over his 1950s style glasses, his vivid blue inquisitive eyes curiously familiarising himself with the surroundings once again, his face a road map of a life well travelled.

Stu Palmer, luthier of this parish and tonight’s opening performer was already on stage, gathering his thoughts, checking the tuning on his vintage Martin, making himself comfortable. The songs that followed in quick succession, namely “Blues Run the Game”, “Aragon Mill”, “St James Infirmary Blues”, “Poncho and Lefty”, “Ain’t Misbehavin'” and Joni’s “For Free”, were all met with appreciation from an audience already very much on his side.

Rab Noakes and Rod Clements were not in the least bit bothered about stage monitors, preferring to hear precisely what the audience would hear. They stood on each side of the stage like elder statesmen of the music business, two singers, musicians, songwriters and storytellers who first met in Dundee back in 1965, the year in which the Stones could get no satisfaction, Sir Stanley Matthews played his final first division game at the age of fifty and Kenneth Tynan kicked things off in style, by being the first person to say a familiar and now very much overused word on TV for the very first time. Rab and Rod picked up their respective guitar and banjo to play together when Lindisfarne was still exclusively a Northumberland castle and fifty-four years later, they’re still sharing the stage, albeit this time with guitars and mandolin, still very good mates and still with a good tale to tell and great songs to sing.

Surprisingly, the already packed room continued to fill with people arriving throughout the set, eager to take the opportunity to see two notable stalwarts of the music industry in their town. The duo made reference to their longevity in the opening (and closing) song, “Alive ‘n’ Pickin'”, with one step ahead of the blues. Few remember Rab’s contribution to Lindisfarne’s early repertoire, writing such songs as “Turn a Deaf Ear” and “Together Forever”, both of which were performed tonight. Rod’s contribution to that repertoire is legendary, with “Meet Me on the Corner” being a shining example, as well as “Road to Kingdom Come”, “Train in G Major”, “The Things I Should Have Said” and “Don’t Ask Me”, one or two of which was brought out to play tonight.

The two sets were largely made up of songs performed as a duo with a couple of solo moments, notably Rab’s gorgeous “I Always Will”, which commanded total silence around the packed room, quite possibly the pinnacle of tonight’s performance. Anecdotally, the two musicians had a few tales to tell, notably Rab’s recollection of once being in the same room where a couple of Bob Dylan’s original paintings hung, and not just any old Dylan paintings, but the ones that would feature on the covers of his own Self Portrait LP in 1970 and The Band’s debut Music From Big Pink a couple of years earlier. These are the stories we like to hear around here.