Bellowhead at Shepherd’s Bush Empire
One of Bellowhead’s many achievements during their decade as an award-winning traditional folk act is the brewing and branding of their own ale. Entitled Bellowhead (Hedonism), the manufacturer Potbelly Brewery describes it as: “A light-coloured bitter with a citrus hoppy finish”. The same description could be said about tonight`s performance. The band succeeded in getting all present folk fanatics, whether dedicated Bellowheaders or first-timers, hopping around impulsively and merrily throughout their welcoming and infectious set.
Shepherd’s Bush Empire welcomed the 11-piece band for the fourth time since their recorded live show in 2007, giving them the opportunity to perform with the same gusto that gained both admirers and awards, but this time with a larger catalogue.
The crowd was treated to an encyclopedia of instruments (from cellos to clarinets), being educated along the way about the historical origins of Bellowhead`s songs. Folk is known for its storytelling, but tonight it was spiced up with a sense of humour including a hilarious tale about a heartbroken doctor who got his revenge on a patient, which justifiably received roaring laughter. This led to a dancing-on-a-grave craze, which spread instantaneously through the audience. Bellowhead’s self-confessed objective was to “make everybody feel the joy of a night out”, which they certainly achieved. They completed their ode to London by bellowing out the Hispanic ska-inspired London Town.
Despite the focus on the fiddle throughout the set, the most rewarding elements of the night were when Bellowhead peeked out of the traditional folk box. This was exemplified by the nursery rhyme-inspired Moon Kittens from the new album, which layered simplistic percussion with science-fiction electronic effects, swirling oboe and dominating helicon to bear resemblance to the bond theme You Only Live Twice. Shanty chants and hoedown dancing abounded in string-plucking ballad Captain Wedderburn, one of many historical covers dating back to pre-18th century. The crowd got right into the sailor mood, stamping their feet vigorously at the salmon-suited Jon Boden and his band, demanding an encore. Their appetites were satisfied by fan favourite Roll the Woodpile Down.
A happy return to their beloved venue confirmed that Bellowhead are still folk masters of joyful entertainment.
Matt Taylor Hobbs
Photos: Guifré de Peray
For further information about Bellowhead and future events visit here.
Watch the video for Moon Kittens here: