Blood & Roses: The Songs of Ewan MacColl, Royal Concert Hall, review: A perfect tribute

At heart, this was a family affair, with MacColl's sons playing a key role

Mutual admiration makes for strange metaphorical bedfellows, and so it is here that Jarvis Cocker, voice ever more bassily Cohenesque as he gets older, and the warm, rootsy tones of grand dame of the Northern folk tradition Norma Waterson face off over a tender version of Ewan MacColl’s “Dirty Old Town”. This perfectly pitched tribute to MacColl on the 100th anniversary of his birth was organised by his musician sons Calum and Neill, and it threw up a few surprises.

At heart this was a family affair, with Calum and Neill playing in a band that included musical director (and Neill’s wife) Kate St John, and Bombay Bicycle Club guitarist Jamie MacColl, one of four grandchildren of the elder MacColl appearing. Waterson was also joined by her husband, Martin, and daughter Eliza for the more resonantly folky sections, while a few indigenous appearances were highlights – not least Paul Buchanan of The Blue Nile softly crooning “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”, Karine Polwart and Callum’s sad but affectionate version of “Nobody Knew She Was There”, written by MacColl about his mother, and Dick Gaughan’s gritty reading of Spanish Civil War drama “Jamie Foyers”.

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