Bellowhead at the New Wimbledon Theatre
Bellowhead is could be described as big-band theatrical folk. They are a patchwork quilt of influences and instruments, wrapped around the warm and emotive core of English tradition and folklore. Even as the band takes the stage, it’s clear that something unusual is about to take place. The standard drums, guitar and vocalist are flanked on one side by a saxophone and a small brass section, and on the other by strings.
They certainly don’t hold back. From the first beat of Moon Kittens to the final notes of the set, every member of the band is giving it their all, and more importantly, it actually looks like they’re having fun! While this enthusiasm can occasionally come across as something of a cacophony, especially in the earlier stages of the show, Bellowhead never skimp on skill or swagger and each band member gets their virtuosic moment to shine.
The band skips flamboyantly from love songs like Fine Sally to instrumentals like The March Past, from ghost stories like The Wife of Usher’s Well to sea shanties like Gosport Nancy. They roam lyrically from Liverpool to Swindon, in Let Her Run and Betsy Baker respectively, to the depths of South London in the wonderfully gruesome Black Beetle Pies. It becomes evident that Bellowhead have succeeded in drawing together everything that’s great about traditional English folk: playful, sunshine-evoking strings, bombastic, marching band brass, wry storyteller lyrics and a sheer sense of fun.
Of course, this kind of music isn’t for everyone. Some audiences may be put off by their unbridled energy, the lack of any clear unifying style or the sheer wackiness, but it’s impossible not to be a little impressed; with great flare and bravado, Bellowhead have, in a handful of songs, encapsulated the best of the nation’s folk scene. As the band plays a simple, almost sorrowful, sing-along of Down Where the Drunkards Roll, there are more than a few misty eyes in the theatre. This is a farewell tour that London should be proud to have witnessed.
Photo: Adam Bowie
For further information about Bellowhead and future events visit here.
Watch the video for New York Girls here: