Fairport Convention, Union Chapel, London

4.00

 

"You look far too young for a Fairport Convention gig," bassist Dave Pegg informs us before admitting "We need an interval now as some of us require the restroom."

The engaging folk quintet, who have been going (apart from a six-year hiatus) for 46 years now, joke about their varicose veins and arthritis. However, in truth, they appear nimble and vigorous in this lengthy (over two-and-half hour) set that attempts to embrace the entirety of their diverse career, from 1969 masterpiece Liege & Lief to 2011's evocative Festival Bell.

This idiosyncratically English band, who started as out as an electric folk band to rival The Byrds and The Band, have had a bewildering number of line-ups, which once included maestros such as Richard Thompson, Dave Swarbrick and the late Sandy Denny. However, original member Simon Nicol, who bears more than a passing resemblance to Toy Story's Stinky Pete, is still there, as is Peggy, who joined in 1969, two years after Fairport Convention's formation.

Both musicians, along with multi-instrumentalist Chris Leslie, take on singing duties in a "Winter" set that features a fair few tracks about nautical matters ("Mercy Bay"), historical numbers (Mary, Queen of Scots in "Fotheringay") and a smattering of love songs ("Rosie"). Helpfully every song, in the best folk tradition, is blessed with a droll, eloquent preamble. Occasionally the three singers/storytellers come across like history academics, and Nicol is canny enough to acknowledge that, with "End of lecture, let the feasting again" before Ralph McTell's "Around the Wild Cape Horn".

The singing, particularly Nicol's rich baritone, is robust but the lack of a female voice to replace (the irreplaceable) Denny is a pity, particularly on the exquisite "Who Knows Where the Time Goes" ("On a good night the song brings Sandy back into the room," maintains Nicol), and their tale of upstairs/downstairs misadventure "Matty Groves". Fairport Convention have always specialised in slightly murky tales of olde England, and "Matty Groves" contains the suitably grisly line "He struck his wife right through the heart/ And pinned her against the wall."

Occasionally, as MC5 once maintained, they need to kick out the [folk] jams and some of their bucolic, Hobbit-like songs are a bit creepy, as on the ripe "The Hexamshire Lass" where they claim "Her breasts are deep and cool/ they'll warm when I get near her".

Nevertheless, their performance never flags, Ric Sanders's violin-playing is spine-tingling, and  it ends on their enduring anthem "Meet on the Ledge". A rousing finale from a cockle-warming institution.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week