Sound: Atmosphere: Performance:
Going along to the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh as a ‘Fairport Virgin,’ I really did’t know what to expect. At 39 I was one of the youngest in the crowd, a full-house assembly of fans who were all speaking nothing but high praise for the band at the interval. Here’s not the place for a lengthy bio of the band, suffice it to say that the 5 members taking part in this Winter Tour of Britain are but five of over a hundred singers & musicians who have played with convention since its inception in the late 60s. An institution, then, but more so for their seminal place in popular music history as one of the leading pioneers of the ‘Folk-Rock’ fusion sound as seen in their seminal album, Leige & Leaf. Of their place in the tapestry, Richie Unterberger writes, ‘Fairport Convention did more than any other act to develop a truly British variation on the folk-rock prototype by drawing upon traditional material and styles indigenous to the British Isles. While the revved-up renditions of traditional British folk tunes drew the most critical attention, the group members were also (at least at the outset) talented songwriters as well as interpreters. They were comfortable with conventional harmony-based folk-rock as well as tunes that drew upon more explicitly traditional sources, and boasted some of the best singers and instrumentalists of the day.’
Before the Convention convened, we were treated to the individual talents of Roger Davies – a grown-up Milky-Bar Kid, who presented his simple but effective folk style honed in the intimate sessions of the Topic Folk Club, Bradford. For his last song he was joined by the Convention for his uptempo, self-penned ‘James Dean,’ a full-power way to conclude his set & get the Convention warmed up. As soon as Davies left the stage the Convention fired into the first song of their two hour set, which for a first-timer like me found to be a waking dream of some beauty.
Most of the songs were taken from their new album, Myths & Heroes, which served for a slightly subdued crowd, with the occasional spot of polite applause meeting most of the numbers. These, however, were sparkling; from the cool, ezy-grooves of the bass, to the fiddle & mandolin’s magnificent in concerto, I witnessed some excellent synergised music – uncomplicated yet artistic, mellow yet foot-tappy, lyrically sophisticated yet at times elegantly simplistic – this was the paradoxical essence of Folk-rock, & done to perfection.
Listening to the Convention is rather like having a snowfall in ones mind; the entrancing melodic flakes of each song drift thro the psychic aether & settle down into a soft blanket, embosoming the mind into relaxation. My highlight was the bass solo in the instrumental ‘Gallivant,’ but from Mozart to sea-shanties, the member’s influences perforated the soundscape, & proved an eclectic evening indeed. For myself, the next time those silver foxes are in town I think I shall make my re-acquaintance, for it really was a splendid evening indeed.
Reviewer : Damo Bullen