Big Big Train Announce New Singer and Tour Plans

News from Big Big Train:

Big Big Train - New Lineup

BIG BIG TRAIN WELCOME NEW VOCALIST ALBERTO BRAVIN

Big Big Train have recruited Alberto Bravin as lead vocalist following the tragic death of David Longdon in November 2021.

Based in Trieste in Italy, Bravin’s career includes performing around 200 shows with progressive rock legends PFM between 2015 and January 2022, both in Italy and internationally, singing lead and backing vocals and playing keyboards.

Alberto Bravin says: “I am extremely honoured to have the opportunity to join Big Big Train. I was already a huge BBT fan and am looking forward to play my part in taking this great band forward while also honouring the memory of David Longdon.”

Big Big Train bassist and founder Gregory Spawton comments: “Before Covid-19 hit, Nick D’Virgilio and I had both seen Alberto perform with PFM. We were very impressed with his abilities as a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist and therefore approached him earlier this year.

“We know that David is irreplaceable and we miss him deeply both musically and personally,” Spawton continues. “We were very clear that we didn’t want to bring someone into the band who would seek to mimic David; that just felt fundamentally wrong. Instead we wanted someone who could do justice with their own musical skills and personality to the songs that David sang for Big Big Train as well as being able to help to drive the band forwards. From his first audition singing some BBT classic songs and subsequently his work on some new material that we’re working on, we’re confident that we’ve found the right person in Alberto.”

 “Aside from Alberto’s great voice and all round musical skills, it was also vital for us to find the right personal fit, particularly after being struck with David’s sudden death,” drummer Nick D’Virgilio comments. “We flew Alberto to London several weeks ago so we could hang together for a few days and the chemistry immediately felt right.”

‘THE JOURNEY CONTINUES’ EUROPEAN TOUR 2022

Big Big Train are also pleased to confirm that their two previously announced UK shows in September 2022 will take place. In addition the band have scheduled six further shows for September in the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and France.

Keyboardist/vocalist Carly Bryant is unable to tour with the band in September 2022 for family reasons. “After over two years of being part of Big Big Train and involved in two studio albums, I was extremely keen to go on the road with the band. However a recent change in my family situation means that sadly I cannot be away from home in the autumn,” Bryant explains. “I love being part of BBT and will be on stage with the band at the earliest opportunity when my family commitments permit.”

Alongside Bravin, D’Virgilio, Spawton and longstanding guitarist Rikard Sjöblom, the Big Big Train line-up for the September 2022 shows will consist of guitarist Dave Foster, violinist/vocalist Clare Lindley, keyboardist Oskar Holldorff and the Big Big Train brass section led by Dave Desmond. Holldorff leads Norwegian band Dim Gray, whose debut album Flown was much acclaimed last year and who are preparing to release their second album later this year.

“Oskar came to our attention from his work with Dim Gray and is another tremendous talent to involve in Big Big Train,” Sjöblom says. “We’re very grateful to him for stepping in while Carly is unavailable. It’s also exciting that Big Big Train is becoming an increasingly international band – in September we will have an American, a Swede, an Italian and a Norwegian on stage with the Brits.”

During the September tour Big Big Train will be playing material from various stages of their career and also one new song.

“We were originally scheduled to play live shows in spring 2020 but then Covid-19 derailed our live plans repeatedly and since then we’ve prepared numerous different set lists,” Sjöblom continues. “We’ve released two full albums since we last played live and are spoilt for choice with the set list for September.”

“In addition to our UK shows, I’m really looking forward to getting back into continental Europe,” D’Virgilio adds. “As well as visiting the prog strongholds of the Boerderij and Z7, we thought it would be cool to play some smaller venues in France and Germany as we re-establish BBT as a live band. We can’t wait to get out and play again and show what this band can do!”

Big Big Train September 2022 tour dates

Friday 2 September – Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury, UK

Saturday 3 September – HRH Prog festival, Leeds, UK

Monday 5 September – Cultuurpodium Boerderij, Zoetermeer, The Netherlands

Tuesday 6 September – Harmonie, Bonn, Germany

Wednesday 7 September – Kuz, Mainz, Germany

Thursday 8 September – Frannz Club, Berlin, Germany

Saturday 10 September – Z7, Pratteln (Basel), Switzerland

Sunday 11 September – Café de la Danse, Paris, France

Support bands for all shows (except HRH Prog) will be announced shortly.

Tickets for the UK shows are on sale now. Tickets for the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and France shows go on sale at 10am UK time on Friday 29 April. See www.bigbigtrain.com/live for ticket links.

Thank you for your support

Carly, Clare, Alberto, Dave, Gregory, Nick and Rikard

Big Big Train

Biography of Big Big Train To Be Released June 16

Some great news from Big Big Train today about an upcoming biography of the band by Grant Moon. More from the band:

Kingmaker Publishing is delighted to announce the publication of the biography of Big Big Train. Written by music journalist Grant Moon, Big Big Train – Between The Lines: The Story Of A Rock Bandwill be published on 16th June 2022.

Big Big Train – Between The Lines documents the entire career of Big Big Train to date. From the band’s humble beginnings in Bournemouth on the UK’s south coast and its slow progress through the 1990s, Classic Rock and Prog magazine writer Grant Moon then covers Big Big Train’s endurance through the 2000s before charting the arrival into the band of drummer Nick D’Virgilio in 2007 and their breakthrough with 2009 album The Underfall Yard, their first with vocalist, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist David Longdon.

The book goes on to explore the band’s steady rise to greater commercial and critical success during the 2010s, including their return to live performance in 2015 and triumphant headline show at the Night Of The Prog festival at Loreley, Germany in July 2018.

Big Big Train – Between The Lines concludes by bringing the band’s story fully up to date, detailing last year’s Common Ground and this year’s Welcome To The Planet albums and how the band have persisted despite numerous challenges including the turmoil of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The book was written primarily in 2020 and 2021 and completed early in 2022 to take account of David Longdon’s tragic death in November last year. Moon interviewed over 30 musicians and other individuals connected with Big Big Train and their story. These included Tony Banks of Genesis, who provides significant insight into David Longdon’s audition to replace Phil Collins in Genesis.

Big Big Train – Between The Lines will be published as a ca. 270-page, coffee table-style hardback book, with over 180 photographs and illustrations documenting the band’s career and the early lives of band members, many of which have never been previously published.

The book is available for pre-order now from Burning Shed via https://burningshed.com/store/kingmaker. All pre-orders will be signed and individually numbered by Big Big Train founder Gregory Spawton and author Grant Moon.

Thank you for your support

Carly, Clare, Dave, Gregory, Nick and Rikard

Big Big Train

A Statement from Big Big Train Manager Nick Shilton

“As the promotional campaign for the Welcome To The Planet album approaches an end, we feel that the time is right to address the question of the future of Big Big Train following David Longdon’s death.

“Several years ago David expressed the clear wish that if ever he were not around, he would want Big Big Train to continue. Of course none of us foresaw the tragic situation that happened in November last year.

“After careful consideration, and with the active encouragement of David’s partner Sarah, we have decided to honour David’s wishes.

“Big Big Train will therefore seek to continue as a band and will perform live and release new music in due course. More specific details of the band’s line-up and planned activities will follow in further announcements, including an opportunity for fans to celebrate David’s life and musical legacy.”

Nick Shilton

Manager

Big Big Train

Album Review: Big Big Train’s “Welcome to the Planet”

Big Big Train - Welcome to the PlanetBig Big Train – Welcome to the Planet, January 28, 2022
Tracks: 
Made From Sunshine (4:05), The Connection Plan (3:55), Lanterna (6:29), Capitoline Venus (2:27), A Room With No Ceiling (4:52), Proper Jack Froster (6:38), Bats in the Belfry (4:54), Oak and Stone (7:12), Welcome to the Planet (6:41)

Perhaps it’s a strange quirk of fate that the album Big Big Train releases after the tragic death of David Longdon is one of their most upbeat albums to date. It’s a very positive album, much like 2021’s Common GroundWelcome to the Planet sounds even more hopeful, more full of life, and more accessible than ever. It’s a more than welcome antidote to the insanity of the world today – insanity amplified by David’s death.

“Made From Sunshine” is a beautiful opening to the album, giving us a jolt of energy to start us off. It isn’t a Big Big Train anthem like past album openers, but it has a similar upbeat feel. Come to think of it, none of the tracks on this album fall into the anthem category. “Made From Sunshine” is about the joy of parents as they look at their newborn child and enjoy that child’s early years. The name of the song and the accompanying lyric was inspired by guitarist Dave Foster. In a track-by-track overview of the album made in October, David Longdon commented that when he first met Foster in studio in November 2020, he commented to him that he was a ball of energy. Foster told him that his parents told him when he was a child that he was “made from sunshine.” The song features a vocal duet with Longdon and new member Carly Bryant, pointing to new developments in the band as they grow with new musicians in the fold.

Big Big Train – Made From Sunshine – YouTube

Fans of Nick D’Virgilio’s vocals will love “The Connection Plan,” which features him singing both backing vocals and lead on the bridge. I think I can hear Rikard singing on the bridge too, as well as what I assume is Rikard’s Hammond organ swirling around.

“Lanterna” sounds like it could have been on any of the band’s albums with Longdon, or at least any after The Underfall Yard. This song was originally supposed to be part of “Atlantic Cable” on Common Ground, but Greg Spawton decided to split it into a separate track. The song is about an historic lighthouse, with the lyrics about the idea of lighthouses shining light into the dark. It brings in the history element Big Big Train is known for, but it’s more subtle this time around. Rikard has some stellar guitar licks, which really pump the song up starting about two minutes in. Greg’s bass brings a booming deep end over Nick’s drums, with piano and violin periodically popping up. Carly’s piano matches the theme of the song really well.

By now you’ve probably heard “Proper Jack Froster,” which the band released several months ago in advance of Christmas. It has everything Big Big Train is known for. It’s pastoral and nostalgic with a warm feel throughout. Longdon’s vocals are emotional, with his delivery really stealing the spotlight. The vocal harmonies add to the overall mood, but David is the star here. We also get a solo vocal from new band member Carly Bryant, whose warm and bluesy voice fits the song rather well. The guitar work and of course Greg’s bass also get their opportunity to shine. While this might be considered a Christmas song, it isn’t overtly connected to the holiday, meaning it can be listened to all year.

Big Big Train – Proper Jack Froster – YouTube

Some might call this album pop, but calling something “pop” has the same problems with calling something “prog.” People never seem to define the word. For a progressive rock band or artist to “go pop,” they have to give up the soul of their sound. Becoming more accessible doesn’t necessarily mean a band is going pop. In that regard, I don’t think Welcome to the Planet is pop at all. It’s pure Big Big Train, with the only track that sounds drastically different being the title track.

By accessible, I mean the songs are all on the shorter side, and they take on a more traditional song format. For the most part, the lyrics depart from the band’s storytelling, but that isn’t new for the band. They’ve written these kinds of songs before, although they’ve never really made a whole album of them. The storytelling is still there, but as I mentioned about “Lanterna,” it is more subtle. I expect Welcome to the Planet will reach a wider audience because in many ways the record sounds more traditional. I don’t think that makes it pop, though.

Just listen to an instrumental like “Bats in the Belfry” and try to tell me that’s pop. D’Virgilio pulled out all the stops in writing this track. It may be short at under five minutes, but it has both slow and quick sections. Greg’s bass is front and center in the mix, as well it should be. Close listeners will pick up on elements that Nick used in his drum solo tracks in their last tour. The album actually features multiple instrumental tracks, so while there may not be any long epics, there’s still a healthy sprinkling of Big Big Train’s proggiest moments.

Big Big Train – Bats in the Belfry – YouTube

The album has its more sedate moments, such as “Capitoline Venus” and “A Room With No Ceiling.” The former is a love song Greg wrote for his wife. It originally appeared as a demo in the Passengers Club with Greg on vocals. I remember thinking when they first released it how good of a track it was, and I’m very happy to hear a completed version of it with David on vocals. It’s a smooth, touching track that David’s voice breathes brilliant light into. I actually rather like the raw honesty that Greg’s voice has in the demo, but David had the best voice in the business. Nothing can compare to that. The song features just David on vocals and Greg on acoustic guitar and synths. I can just imagine the rest of the band leaving the stage and the two of them playing this track front and center stage. It would have been beautiful.

“Oak and Stone” is another calmer track dripping with Big Big Train nostalgia. There’s a piano moment that takes me back to “East Coast Racer.” The opening bass to the instrumental “A Room With No Ceiling” is a great reminder that in addition to being the greatest lyricist in prog today, Greg Spawton is also one of the finest bassists out there.

The biggest deviation, or progression, in the Big Big Train sound comes from the title track, placed at the end of the album. “Welcome to the Planet” is Carly Bryant’s debut song for Big Big Train. She wrote both the music and the lyrics, and it’s unlike anything the band has ever made. It’s a great song, but if you’re a longtime fan of the band, it will stand out quite a bit. I don’t know if I would have liked an entire album from Big Big Train made in this style, but it’s a pleasant change that still features the BBT flair, including the brass band. David begins the vocals, but Carly quickly takes over and sings for the rest of the track. She even brings a bit of blues grit in at one point. The smooth section with vocal harmonies singing “welcome to the planet” is a beautiful moment on the album. I think the song would have been better served ending with a fadeout of this rather than the somewhat abrupt ending it has, especially since they chose it to close the album. It’s a bit of an odd ending, with the line “Aunty Carly’s singing lullabies to all the children that she never made,” and ending with Carly sighing. Clearly a personal note, and a bit sad all the same. The lyrics are somewhat dark, but they’re honest, something Big Big Train has always been. In hindsight, with David’s passing, this song might better be served elsewhere on the album, since David takes a back seat on this one. But aside from that, it’s a bold choice for the band to mix up their sound and to end the album with this song. Overall it does work, and I find it ends up being the most memorable song on the album.

The band released this live acoustic duet version with David and Carly yesterday, although the album track has a much fuller sound. If you’d rather go into the song hearing the original first, then watch this after you’ve had a chance to listen to the album.

Big Big Train – Welcome to the Planet (live acoustic version) – YouTube


While overall the album sounds more accessible than Big Big Train’s past records, I find when you break it down song-by-song the tracks could each fit on any of the band’s albums from the last decade, except perhaps the title track, which brings with it the influences and tastes of a new band member. Simply put, Welcome to the Planet is another excellent album by Big Big Train. It has a very different feel from Common Ground, which I think adds to my enjoyment of it. This isn’t just an album of b-sides that didn’t make it onto that record. I like every song on the album, and I know it will make my best-of list come the end of 2022. Whatever the future may hold for Big Big Train, they can be proud of this album.

RIP David.

https://www.bigbigtrain.com

Kruekutt’s 2021 Favorites!

I thought I didn’t have a big list of favorites from this year’s listening — until I revisited my six-month survey from back in June and added in the good stuff I’ve heard since then! The listing below incorporates links to full or capsule reviews, or other relevant pieces on Progarchy and elsewhere; albums I haven’t written about yet get brief comments, along with my Top Favorites of the year. Most of these are available to check out online in some form; if you find yourself especially enjoying something, use that Christmas cash and support your choice with a purchase! And the winners are . . .

Continue reading “Kruekutt’s 2021 Favorites!”

Big Big Train Releases Short Film Tribute for David Longdon

Big Big Train released a short video tribute to David Longdon today featuring the song “Capitoline Venus” from their upcoming album, Welcome to the Planet. The film was made by Christian Rios. A demo of this song was released on the Passengers Club earlier this year, featuring Greg Spawton on demo vocals. I was hoping we would get a finished version of this song with David on vocals, and he sounds absolutely wonderful. A beautiful song for heart-wrenching times.

https://youtu.be/Jm2xJfXDibc

Tears Enough To Fill The Tyne: Remembering David Longdon

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I stumbled across Prog magazine’s tweet announcing David Longdon’s death yesterday. I still can’t believe it. 56 years old and at the height of his music career with so much to look forward to. Life is so precious and so brutally short. To be taken so quickly and so unexpectedly… We’ve lost a lot of prog legends in recent years, but very few at the height of their careers. Piotr Grudziński from Riverside is the last I can remember who died so unexpectedly at a young age.

David and the band have been such kind supporters of Progarchy since our inception in 2012. Our site has had the fortune of interviewing him a couple times including this past summer when he gave a lovely interview to Rick Krueger. In that interview David shared his excitement for the band’s future plans. His thoughts on the song, “Common Ground,” really sting now that he’s gone:

This time in my life – I’m now 56.  It’s time to get on it, because we don’t have forever!  This was written slightly before the pandemic actually, the title track.  But it’s just about that, really; it’s about claiming it!  It’s not about “will we find it?”  It’s “you’d better find it and get on with it, because you’re not — it won’t be forever.  We don’t get forever.”  That’s the beauty of being human, we don’t get forever.

I can still remember the first time I heard Big Big Train back in 2013. I was sitting in my dorm room in college. I think it was “The First Rebreather,” and I remember being captivated by David’s voice. So pure. So effortless. The tone of a fine pipe organ. Over the next few years I fell in love with Big Big Train, and by 2015 they were my favorite band of the “new” wave of prog. Now they rank next to Rush as my favorite band of all time. There was nothing David couldn’t sing, as he proved on Common Ground by mixing it up on “All The Love We Can Give.”

My journey as a Passenger reflects my journey with progressive rock over the last nine years. What started as an appreciation for bands like Rush, Kansas, and Styx grew into an obsession with progressive rock new and old. Thanks to friends here at Progarchy, I’ve been exposed to so much music, much of which has quite literally changed my life. I know Big Big Train has. I’ll never forget listening to English Electric on a bus in England while I spent a month there doing archival research. It was one of those key moments that sticks in my memory, and David is the voice for that memory.

David’s addition to Big Big Train in 2009 marked a major turning point for the already 20-year-old band. His voice, in my opinion, is unmatched in the music world. I can’t think of a better vocalist. Beyond that, he was an excellent lyricist and musician. The combination of Longdon and Greg Spawton as writers is certainly unmatched in music. Others might have more acclaim, but none are better.

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My Big Big Train collection

David wrote two kinds of songs: stories and anthems. Being an historian, a curmudgeon, and a prog snob, I generally prefer the stories. But his anthems are far too good to be ignored or dismissed. He had such a bright and positive outlook on life, as evidenced in his song, “Alive.”

Sunrise
A new day
Bright blue sky
Open the door and step outside
Feel the wind at my heels
It’s good to be alive

These lyrics are a good reminder for a grump like me not to take anything for granted. Perhaps David’s legacy can be summed up in his own words:

I’m a travelling man
Each day I walk the byways of this life
Till I’m dead in the grave at the end of my days
I’ve known what it means to be alive

He ended the liner notes for “Alive” with the admonition to “seize the day.” Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed for any of us.

Big Big Train – Alive – YouTube

There aren’t many vocalists out there who can bring such power and emotion to the seemingly mundane. He brings adults to tears in songs about steam trains, pigeons, and shipyards through his powerful delivery.

I re-watched Empire last night, and I was reminded yet again what a brilliant showman David was. For whatever reason, the song “Winkie” has always hit me right in the feels. Maybe the story of doomed men being saved beyond hope because of the humblest of creatures does it for me. Watching the band perform that song now with the knowledge that David will never sing it for us again was really moving. I’m glad the band filmed their concerts so that we could all enjoy their live performances. I don’t think they could have imagined that we would so soon be using those Blu-rays to remember David. I’m incredibly sad that I’ll never be able to see him perform live. I was looking forward to them playing in America.

Another song of David’s that comes to mind in remembering him is “The Florentine” off 2019’s Grand Tour. The track is about Leonardo da Vinci, but these lyrics could easily be said of David:

You showed us
New ways to know our world
Of what we see and all we could be – ah
Inspire us to reach and spur us on
Daring us to dream – see further

Big Big Train – The Florentine [Live] – YouTube

I suspect I speak for thousands of fans who can say that David encouraged us to investigate our world and to dream – to see further.

My words could never do justice to David Longdon’s memory. His loss hurts as much as Neil Peart’s did. His voice and his words have made him a close friend to me, even though I never had the honor of meeting him. His art has inspired me to be a better man. It has inspired me to be creative, whether that be in my writing or in my painting. In fact Big Big Train is my favorite music to listen to when I paint. His music has become so ingrained in my life that I can’t imagine life without it. I’m grateful that I can still listen to his music, but now it will always be bittersweet.

I offer my sincerest condolences to the band, to Sarah Ewing, to David’s daughters, and to his mother. Thank you for sharing David with us, and I hope the outpouring of love from his many fans is a tiny sliver of comfort in these dark times.

Rest in peace, David. Thank you for everything.

Now, who’s going to tell the bees?

David Longdon Dead at 56

What an absolute punch to the gut. Prog Magazine is reporting, with confirmation from Big Big Train, that David Longdon tragically died today in hospital after an accident yesterday morning. I don’t even know what to say. This is an absolute tragedy. And here I thought this shithole of a year couldn’t get any worse.

One of the reasons Progarchy was founded nine years ago was to celebrate Big Big Train’s music, and David Longdon’s brilliance was a certainly a big reason behind that. His vocals, lyrics, and musicianship propelled the band to new heights. This is a major loss to the progressive rock world and obviously to the band.

Our prayers are with the band and Longdon’s loved ones. We’re certainly devastated here at Progarchy. Longdon was always very kind to us here, including giving us a wonderful interview earlier this year. We will miss him greatly.

Limited details and statements from the band at Prog magazine: https://www.loudersound.com/news/big-big-train-singer-david-longdon-dead-at-56

Big Big Train to Release New Album in January – “Welcome to the Planet”

Big Big Train - Welcome to the PlanetHoly cow! I wasn’t expecting news of a new Big Big Train album this morning. This just goes to show that this band is one of the few decent things left in this world. Life seems to suck more and more by the hour, but Big Big Train breathe a bit of light into the darkness.

The new album, Welcome to the Planet, is set to be released on January 28, 2022 – just six months after their last album, Common Ground. The new album features contributions from the entire new lineup. Here’s the tracklist:

PART ONE
Made From Sunshine
The Connection Plan
Lanterna
Capitoline Venus
A Room With No Ceiling

PART TWO
Proper Jack Froster
Bats In The Belfry
Oak and Stone
Welcome To The Planet

From the band’s website:

As with Common Ground, Welcome To The Planet sees Big Big Train retain their progressive roots but also take influence from all spheres of music. The album’s opener Made From Sunshine, co-written by guitarist Dave Foster and singer David Longdon, has guitar lines redolent of Johnny Marr and vocal harmonies reminiscent of the Finn Brothers/Crowded House, with violinist Clare Lindley sharing lead vocals with Longdon.

Elsewhere on the album, keyboard player Carly Bryant gets her first Big Big Train writing credit and lead vocal on the captivating title track. The two recent singles The Connection Plan and Lanterna are included along with a winter themed song Proper Jack Froster, a bittersweet tale of childhood. The album is completed by the delicate acoustic Capitoline Venus, the beautiful Oak And Stone  and a pair of dazzling instrumentals, A Room With No Ceiling and Bats In The Belfry, written by guitarist/keyboardist Rikard Sjöblom and drummer Nick D’Virgilio respectively

https://player.vimeo.com/video/637386993?h=aea344b340