Fairport Convention at the Union Chapel
“Live shows are what keep us going,” admits lead vocalist and guitarist Simon Nicol, the only remaining founder of Fairport Convention. It’s the band’s charisma and obvious love for what they do that makes them such a pleasure to watch. The members do not attempt to hide their age or parody their younger selves, readily admitting when they need to take an interval. They have been on the road for some 50 years, and yet their hefty two-hour set still manages to surprise the crowd.
The chemistry amongst the band members is unquestionable, their humour and warmth infectious as they manage to verify Nicol’s claim that their winter tour “brings a dash of brightness and warmth to the dark cold evenings of January and February.” Set against the stunning backdrop of the Union Chapel, the songs are crisp and powerful. The set flits between tracks from all of their albums, with Nicol remarking on the random prevalence of tracks about soldiers named John, in both John Condon and Lord Marlborough. Chris Leslie, the newest member of the band having contributed for only 20 years, came into his own with the iconic My Love Is in America. But the band’s charm lies not in any individual member, but in their synchronisation, which Nicol also draws the audience’s attention to. It’s uplifting to see a group of people so obviously enjoying one another’s company. Clear Water is hypnotic in its setting, with blue-green lights colouring the stage and spraying the walls of the chapel.
On the whole, the performance is calm, easy listening. More audience members can be found enjoying hot chocolate – complete with Emma Bridgewater mugs – than drinking the alcoholic beverages usually expected at gigs: Fairport Convention are the perfect antidote to chaotic modern life. There is something about folk music’s emphasis on musical storytelling and tradition that is invigorated by the historical setting of the church venue – the melodies warm the audience. The band are so established in their genre that their sound has begun to emulate that of those who imitate them; perhaps it’s their modesty, nimbleness, and confidence onstage that set the band apart from and above their descendants.
Photos: Matthew Pull
For further information about Fairport Convention and future events visit here.
Watch the video for John Condon here: