‘For one night only’ – the mighty folk whirlwind of Bellowhead join forces for one more/last(?) time.
Release date: 18th June 2021
Label: Hudson Records
Format: 2CD / 2LP / DL
Hell freezes over, Lazarus rises. It’s carnival time again. Now Bellowhead becomes the latest to join the legions of bands have risen from the dead.
After declaring “That’s all folks!” in May 2016, Bellowhead has managed half a decade of resisting any temptations or neverending dreams of fans. That final show at Oxford Town Hall brought closure and saw the band come full circle. Until now. “Promised you a miracle,” sang Simple Minds back in 1982 and that’s seemingly what we got. An injection of pink jacketed, brass and string fuelled hope and gaiety as we were plunged into the lowest part of the global pandemic. Cue bouts of much rejoicing and celebration – grown men may have even privately wept – as the eleven-piece folk brigands Bellowhead could no longer resist the temptation to do it all again. ‘For one night only’.
Reassembled is the live album souvenir of the event. Granted that we already have a comprehensive DVD and album culled from The Farewell Tour, this new set adds four pieces that weren’t amongst those recorded for posterity on that particular release. And no – there won’t be a film. Someone has already asked. Andy Bell doesn’t want a garage full of leftover product…
OK – so I guiltily didn’t pay to view, but I’m pre-ordered the vinyl pressing that should earn everyone involved a quid or two apiece. I’ve also caught some tasty snippets and this is the first chance to hear if the band has slotted back into the routine that earned them so many followers and caused considerable distress when their split was announced. Some things haven’t changed. Jon Boden is still arch ringmaster adorned in the old pink jacket, but there’s no Andy Mellon on trumpet and a slightly new arrangement in the stage places with the brass and ‘team strings’ in new spots.
So, Reassembled catches Bellowhead back with plenty of greasepaint (although you’ll have to imagine the smell) but sadly missing the roar of the crowds – the two-way process that makes a Bellowhead gig so special. Like Ozzy himself used to holler from the stage – “the crazier you MF’s go, the crazier Ozzy Osbourne goes...” Like that but with a folk music audience but no less ready to party at their own pace. Perhaps why Jon Boden has to compensate with a box of canned applause particularly in the set-piece band intros during New York Girls.
So are the liveliest band in folk (or even music in general) in any way subdued? by the lack of an audience? Do we get a watered-down feel about proceedings? The setlist is as you’d expect. All beautifully played and slotting back into the old routine. The set almost picks itself. From the sprightly (10,000 Miles Away) to the sombre (Cold Blows The Wind) to the dark Chinese water torture drip of Captain Wedderburn and the punkier speed folk of Rosemary Lane and Little Sally Racket. All come liberally peppered some half dozen familiar sets of tunes – Cross-Eyed And Chinless, Haul Away, Frog’s Legs And Dragon’s Teeth and the Sloe Gin set all see the real joie de vivre bubbling over. A high energy jamboree of a set – but is there any other?
So to the inevitable question of a full-time comeback that all the fans will be hoping will follow this one-off event. The ‘oh go on then, just once more’ tour? Will the pleas from the fans ever be satisfied? Or can we look forward to something meeting halfway where we’ll see the occasional scratching of the itch? Who knows what machinations may be afoot in the murky goings-on behind the scenes in the music industry.
Maybe for the time being, the Reassembled deal will keep us warm. Enjoy the joy of the return.