Fairport Convention at Union Chapel
“It’s all, in its own way, not too bad” muses Fairport Convention’s lead singer and founder Simon Nicol, attempting to sum up nearly fifty years of influential folk rock into one of his many self-deprecating lines. The captivating folk quintet are full of wry quips, naggingly joking about their aging knees and arthritic hips, but upon picking up their instruments they are nothing but adroit and zealous as they attempt to showcase their varied career from their seminal 1969 masterpiece Leige and Lief to 2011’s redolent Festival Bell.
Union Chapel proves a fitting venue for the group who have in recent years been regarded as a national institution; a position cemented upon their acceptance of a Lifetime Achievement Award at BBC Radio 2’s annual Folk Awards 2002. The ancient venue enigmatically reflects the old, twisting reels and rhymes to which the group owes its fame resulting in a stunningly evocative and spirited set.
Formed in 1967, the group began as an electric folk band, reinventing ancient folk tunes to rival their American counterparts such as The Byrds and The Band. The group have seen myriads of past members including folk connoisseurs Richard Thompson, Dave Swarbrick and the late Sandy Denny. Despite these various comings and goings fans, can still bask in nostalgia as original member Simon Nicol takes to the stage tonight. Long term bassist Dave “Peggy” Pegg is also present, although due to an “interface with a dishwasher” is unable to play the bass, a task taken over by his son Matthew who proves, as Nicol loving points out, that “the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree”.
Tonight’s concert marks the final date of the band’s annual Winter Tour. They begin with quintessential British anthem Jewel in the Crown with its odd, juxtaposing rhythms and fluttering fiddle. Dr of Physick swaps the buoyant folk for a darker, gothic sound complete with clanging, discordant mandolin, while Dirty Linen (renamed Dirty Crockery tonight in recognition of Peggy’s dishwasher disaster) allows for Matthew to prove his musical prowess as he replicates his father’s revolutionary bass lines of low, rumbling jigs and reels.
The second half of the evening treats us to a haunting rendition of Farewell, Farewell and a rollicking performance of Matty Groves, set off beautifully by Nicol’s rich baritone and Ric Sander’s adept fiddle playing. Fairport Convention prove that time does nothing to counter quality, and a rousing finale of their enduring anthem Meet on the Ledge is a fitting end to a superb evening.
Photo: Brian Marks
For further information and future events visit Fairport Convention’s website here.
Listen to Meet on the Ledge here: