Tag Archives: Union Chapel

Fairport Convention – 50th anniversary gig at Union Chapel, London 27/5/17

This review is also published on the Get Ready To Rock website here

Folk-rock pioneers Fairport Convention have never been a band to shy away from celebrating their own legacy. When they decided to split in 1979 they held a big outdoor farewell gig in Cropredy, Oxfordshire that proved so successful they decided to stage it again each year, evolving into the big three-day festival we know today. Thirtieth, fortieth and forty-fifth anniversaries of the band have all been celebrated with emotional reunions of surviving ex-members and a similarly nostalgic trip down memory lane is scheduled for Cropredy this August.

An anniversary concert in north London, not far from where the band performed their first ever gig fifty years ago to the day, drips with symbolism. However, unlike the lavish reunions of the past, tonight was scheduled to be a fairly ordinary gig half-way through the band’s spring tour, albeit one that coincided with an extraordinary anniversary. For a band that has done more anniversary performances than many acts have done albums I was beginning to wonder what, if anything, would make tonight’s gig that bit more special than many of the other admittedly excellent performances I’d seen from this band.

The answer lay in the rapturous and sustained applause the band receive as they walk on stage tonight, even before they play a single note. The spontaneous wave of love and and affection is palpable and tonight was clearly going to be as much about the audience as about the band. Performing a mixture of songs from their new album 50:50@50 and older staples, original member Simon Nicol (joined 1967) together with “newbies” Dave Pegg (joined 1969), Ric Sanders (joined 1985), Chris Leslie (joined 1996) and Gerry Conway (joined 1998) provide a nice overview of different eras of the band. From the late 60s classic Sandy Denny/Richard Thompson era the unforgettable ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’ is an obvious highlight. While from the mid 80s, when Fairport became a working, touring band again, Ralph McTell’s ‘Hiring Fair’ is another genuine highlight of tonight’s set.

A couple of “surprise” moments are when Pentangle’s Jacqui McShee joins the band on stage to sing ‘The Lady of Carlisle’ the track for which she provides guest vocals on the current album; and when Sally Barker (who reprised a number of Sandy Denny songs when she toured with the surviving members of Denny’s post-Fairport outfit Fotheringay a couple of years ago) lovingly recreates the magic of Denny’s ‘Rising For The Moon’.

‘Matty Groves’ and ‘Meet On The Ledge’ are two songs the band could never get away without performing and for many years now have been the traditional climax to any Fairport gig. After an energetic ‘Matty Groves’ the band are serenaded with a spontaneous audience rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ when they come back on for an encore. As tonight seemed as much about celebrating the longevity of the Fairport audience as celebrating the longevity of the band, this seems an especially nice touch and makes the ensuing sing-along to ‘Meet On The Ledge’ all the more poignant. Happy 50th Fairport!

http://www.fairportconvention.com/

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Dave Mason’s Traffic Jam at Union Chapel, London 3/3/17

I must confess that my introduction to the music of seminal psychedelic-tinged band Traffic was via the cover of Hole In My Shoe by Neil out of The Young Ones (Nigel Planer) in 1984. The end of the sixties was then only 15 years previously but, culturally, it seemed like a million years away. While everyone in my year at sixth form found Hole In My Shoe utterly hilarious, it did tempt me into finding out more about the original and taping a copy of a ‘Best of Traffic’ compilation LP that I borrowed from Preston Record Library.  On the album I found not only the original, still very quirky, Hole In My Shoe but a load of other treasures: Dear Mr Fantasy, Medicated Goo, 40,000 Headmen and more.

Traffic split in 1975 and Dave Mason had already left several years before. However, having enjoyed seeing Traffic’s Steve Winwood in 2013 I jumped at the chance to see Mason when his Traffic Jam tour-dates were announced – his first UK tour since the seventies he tells us tonight.

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It’s the aforementioned Mr Winwood who is most closely associated with Traffic’s legacy in Britain these days, so it’s really welcome to see Dave Mason publicly celebrating the part he played in this iconic band. The first part of the set focuses on the Traffic era, including 40,000 Headmen, Medicated Goo, Dear Mr Fantasy and Feelin’ Alright. After a short break the second half of the show focuses on both Mason’s post-Traffic career but also his influences that inspired him to get into the music in the first place, with a pounding, soaring tribute to Hank Marvin in the shape of a cover of The Shadows’ Apache. Another tribute was to Jimi Hendrix, with a stunning version of All Along The Watchtower (the Dylan song that Hendrix made his own and which Mason played acoustic guitar on.)

Mason’s voice is in fine form and he gives us some outstanding lead guitar throughout the set but special praise should also go to his keyboard player, Tony Patler, who provides some perfectly evocative Hammond tonight, as well as some really rich, bluesy vocals. My only minor complaint was about the impact of the building’s acoustics. Union Chapel can be a wonderfully iconic venue but, sitting near the back, I did find the echo of the drums a bit clattery and overwhelming in this cavernous Victorian chapel at times. However, having purchased his current ‘Traffic Jam’ album, recorded live at the New York City Winery (which Mason later signed for me) I am pleased to report a much superior sound mix and can really enjoy the contributions of all four musicians.

And what of Hole In My Shoe, Mason’s quirky sitar-based hit that led me to discovering Traffic in the first place? He hasn’t played it in years and hasn’t touched a sitar in years either, mainly because he would struggle to get down on the floor to play it these days he tells us…

Sitar or no sitar, it was a great performance tonight and it’s good to see Dave Mason rightfully staking his claim in the Traffic legacy in his home country once again.

Setlist:

40,000 Headmen (Traffic)
Pearly Queen (Traffic)
Medicated Goo (Traffic)
The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys (Traffic)
Rock and Roll Stew (Traffic)
Dear Mr. Fantasy (Traffic)
Feelin’ Alright (Traffic)

< INTERVAL >

World in Changes (from ‘Alone Together’)
We Just Disagree (from ‘Let It Flow’)
Look at You Look at Me (from ‘Alone Together’)
Apache (Shadows cover)
Good 2 U (from ’26 Letters 12 Notes’)
Shouldn’t Have Took More Than You Gave (from ‘Alone Together’)
All Along the Watchtower (Jimi Hendrix/Bob Dylan cover)
Only You Know and I Know (from ‘Alone Together’)

http://www.davemasonmusic.com/home

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Fairport Convention at Union Chapel 9/3/14

“Don’t worry, if you are not enjoying it and can’t wait for me to finish – I’m only on for twenty minutes.” So explained support act Edwina Hayes. The singer-songwriter turned out to be very much more than bearable and was later welcomed back on to the stage by Fairport Convention towards the end of the night to join them in a performance of the Sandy Denny-era classic “Who Knows Where the Time Goes.” I’ve seen Fairport fifteen times now. Although they have always been adamant that they could not and should not attempt to replace the late Sandy Denny; for me, what turns a good Fairport performance into something very special  indeed is when they are able to enlist the assistance of a talented female guest vocalist to sing one or two of Sandy’s songs.

This wasn’t the only noteworthy thing about the performance, tonight either. The setlist, which has possibly been getting a bit samey these past few years,  has been spruced up for this tour with some new songs as well as some old favourites that had not been heard for a while being brought back. Also notable, on this tour has been the addition of a stand-in bass player. Dave Pegg, who has played with the band since 1970, managed to damage the tendons in his hand and has been unable to play. Although he came on stage to introduce the band and hung around for some occasional backing vocals and on-stage banter, it was his son Matt Pegg on the bass. An excellent replacement who was warmly applauded.

The audience were far more reserved than at Fairport’s Cropredy Convention, their Summer festival which takes place each August and which got constant plugs throughout the night. Nevertheless, it was a fitting performance for the final night of their winter tour in what is one of London’s most beautiful venues. To absolutely no-one’s surprise and everyone’s delight the band finished with their usual sing-along encore “Meet on the Ledge.”

Setlist:
Jewel in the Crown
Doctor of Physick
Already There/Sailing into Walpole’s Marsh
Home
Theodore’s Song
Dirty Linen
Cell Song
Mercy Bay
– Interval –
Festival Bell
Wassail Song
Farewell Farewell
Happy Man
Myths and Heroes
Close to the Wind
Grace and Favour
Who Knows Where The Time Goes
Danny Jack’s Reward
Matty Groves
Meet on the Ledge

http://www.fairportconvention.com/