Concert Review: Big Big Train – Sweetwater Performance Theater – Fort Wayne, IN – March 1, 2024

Review of the Big Big Train concert at the Sweetwater Performance Theater – Fort Wayne, IN – March 1, 2024

Bob Keeley

The cost for bands from Europe to come to the US is pretty steep. So, it has taken Big Big Train a long time (and one COVID-related cancellation) to finally put together a package that worked for them, bringing their slimmed-down live outfit to the US for a mere five shows before setting out on the Cruise for the Edge. I, therefore, counted myself fortunate to have their first show 170 miles (274 km) from my home in Michigan. I jumped on the tickets as soon as they became available and was able to snag one of about 40 “premium” tickets which guaranteed a seat in the first two rows. I ended up second-row center! A great place for my first Big Big Train concert.

Sweetwater is one of, if not, the largest store for musical instruments and equipment in the US, with a large online presence and a showroom that has to be seen to be believed. The store also has a recording studio as well as a state-of-the-art theater, which is where the concert took place. Drummer Nick D’Virgilio is part of the team at Sweetwater for his day job when he’s not recording or on the road, so, it makes sense that they would use the facilities there as a home base to kick off their short US tour. The venue is one of the best places to see and hear a concert that I’ve ever experienced. The sound was crystal clear and no one was further than 12 rows from the stage.

The band had to make some adjustments for financial reasons to even be able to do this tour so that meant no brass section and guitarist Dave Foster volunteered to stay home so they could hire a local trumpet player/multi-instrumentalist. Before the show, as we waited outside the theater, one of the topics of conversation was if we had heard the new album yet, which was released that morning (I had, twice, as had many of the others in line) and what they might play. We assumed there would be a lot of new music but, what we got was a setlist that was a grand tour of their catalog from The Underfall Yard onward, with nearly every album represented.

They opened with “Folklore” and immediately, singer Alberto Bravin commanded the stage. Throughout the evening, he was constantly in motion. He seems to take to his role as front man for the band naturally, handling his vocal duties extremely well, being respectful of what David Longdon had done, while at the same time bringing his own interpretations to the songs. In listening to the band over the past years and watching their videos, I came to appreciate Big Big Train as a top-notch ensemble. What I had failed to really understand is what amazing musicianship each member brings to the band.

D’Virgilio, seated on stage left facing the rest of the band as part of the front line, played amazingly complex drum parts with ease. One of the highlights was being able to see him so well and to hear each drum clearly and cleanly. It was a master class. He also sang quite a bit, stepping out from behind the drums to duet with Bravin on “The Florentine” and joining guitar and keyboard player, Rikard Sjöblom for a version of “Telling the Bees,” with D’Virgilio on acoustic guitar and Sjöblom on keys, presented as a tribute to the late David Longdon. It was done extremely well and having just those two on the stage made for a nice contrast to the rest of the evening with the full band.

It is hard to pick a standout player in this band, but Sjöblom made a bid for it by covering not only his guitar parts but many that would have been played by the absent David Foster. He had some help – almost every other member of the band picked up a guitar or played a keyboard at many points in the evening to fill out the sound so I never missed an important voice. Sjöblom’s lead playing was exceptional throughout. His work in “A Mead Hall in Winter,” which was one of the highlights of the evening, was truly noteworthy. To watch him play guitar and then reach over to play a challenging keyboard part, often with only one hand, was a sight to behold.

Clair Lindley was a subtle but important presence all night with her spot-on backing vocals and her violin serving as an important part of the band’s sound. She also jumped on both keys and guitar as needed. There were moments when she and the trumpet played in harmony together that were really beautiful. One particular moment when she, Brevin on electric guitar, and Sköblom on electric guitar played a fast-moving three-part figure was stunning. The instrumental “Apollo,” which closed out the main set, gave her and all the instrumentalists a chance to shine.

Oskar Holdorff, was at the back of the stage on a riser with his keyboards in front of him and did a fabulous job holding down many of the important parts both instrumentally and vocally. His work on “Victorian Brickwork,” as well as “East Coast Racer,” and the one new song of the evening, “Love is the Light,” was especially noteworthy. “Love is the Light” was presented with such delicacy and beauty that I was tempted to call out to them to do it again as soon as it was over. The song, Holdorff’s playing and Brevin’s singing were spectacular.

Bassist Greg Spawton stands in the back, quietly tending the bottom end of the sound with his Rickenbacker bass as well as his Moog bass pedals, which really made a statement in that theater. He had a few moments to shine, the jam in the middle of “Mead Hall,” for example but he also played twelve-string guitar for parts of a couple of songs. In many ways, Spawton is the person with his hand on the throttle of Big Big Train, the person who holds the past and the present of this band. His quiet manner on stage makes it easy to forget that he is such an important voice.

The setlist was lighter on new material than many of us anticipated but, on reflection, a career-spanning setlist was a great way to introduce themselves on this side of the Atlantic, although everyone I talked to before or after the show needed no introduction. But it was great to hear so many of their classic tracks in one night.

The crowd left the theater buzzing with appreciation and thrilled to finally get to see and hear this wonderful band in person. The icing on the cake was that nearly all of them came to greet us in the lobby afterward, pose for pictures and chat.

Big Big Train is an exceptional live band, and I can’t wait for them to come back. The three-hour drive was well worth it.


The Connection Plan
The First Rebreather
The Florentine
Summoned by Bells
A Mead Hall in Winter
Telling the Bees
East Coast Racer
A Boy in Darkness
Love is the Light
Victorian Brickwork


  • I was there and it was absolutely amazing!! It was my introduction to BBT! I’m hooked and a forever fan! Sure hope they come back to Fort Wayne in the future. Thanks for the awesome evening!!!

Support The Prog Report

If you like what we do please support us on Ko-fi


Subscribe to our email list: