THE Citadel enjoyed one of those special nights on Friday, when Big Country pulled out a crowd-pleasing performance for the packed-to-the-rafters audience.

The band, still performing the classic songs and music left to us by the late Stuart Adamson, did so despite no little adversity given the recent departure of erstwhile frontman Simon Hough.

Rather than cancel their shows, the band held their nerve and called up Tommie Paxton from the tribute band Restless Natives – and it worked!

If this was an audition, given the crowd’s response, then Tommie passed it with flying colours with his vocal getting above those trademark Big Country guitars and carrying those songs off to a tee.

Guitarist Bruce Watson, one of the two original members alongside drummer Mark Brzezicki, repeatedly engaged with crowd with witty links and observations between in between the 16 songs they rattled through in a 90-minute set.

The gig had initially been billed as a 40-year anniversary celebration of classic album Steeltown – but given the late personnel changes and limited time for rehearsal that was altered to a back catalogue set.

There were no complaints - especially given the quality of that setlist.

They did, nonetheless, kick off with two tracks from that album - Flame of the West and East of Eden.

And there were more tracks to come from Steeltown, with the title track, plus Where the Rose is Sown and Just a Shadow.

The crowd lapped it all up.

Looking at the make-up of the audience many will have seen this band many times over the past four decades packing out huge venues.

And at times they will have pinched themselves that Big Country were playing such an intimate gig in St Helens.

But the cosiness of the venue made it even more special, especially when it came to the four classics that brought the curtain down with Chance, In a Big Country, Wonderland and Fields of Fire.

The crowd gave a reprise of Chance to encourage the band back on for an encore – and they duly obliged with Restless Natives to bring the curtain down on another great night in Waterloo Street. 

The band will be playing bigger venues as the year rolls out, including nearby Warrington Parr Hall, so catch them if you can.