Fairport Convention – The Met, Bury – 1st May 2022
When you’re At The Barrier, you’re never too far from Fairport. It’s not long since we were on the Wintour, catching them post-COVID at The Atkinson and come June we shall have one of our roving Fairporters reporting back from their Rhine cruise. No quips about Carry On Cruising…yet. Then there’s the return of Cropredy to look forward to in August as well as something rather juicy we have up our sleeves in the pre-Cropredy build-up. Watch this space.
For now though, Howard and Mike are on the Spring tour and back at The Met in Bury. First time in a while for Fairport (The Met website tells us – “This event has been rescheduled from 27 May 2020, 9 September 2020 and 28 May 2021”); first time since last night for us. A sell-out too with the main hall packed with the regular suspects, the repeat offenders who’ve probably shared a similar Folk-Rock journey over the years. Probably like us, intrigued to see what the intrepid quintet has been working up. Walk Awhile to kick-off as per? Maybe a little more Full House in prep for the full album performance at Cropredy? Perhaps an old gem dug out of the riches of the library of work. And what about the odds on the Matty Groves/Meet On The Ledge pairing to end the evening?
But first up was a nice surprise to see Dom Prag getting up to sing some songs. We reviewed his folk/classical crossover album, Needle & Thread, a few months ago. It was an entrancing opening short set from Dom Prag. His 4 song set included 4 songs, two versions of traditional songs, the lively Oakey Strike Eviction, then a lovely living Irish ballad Lovely William. he also gave us two self-written songs the Shoemender, a song rueing the dying of town culture and Come All You Fine Young People, a song to inspire the young generation to hold onto to positive social values. His songs reminded me very much of a stage in the life of FC themselves when they updated traditional songs like on Leige And Lief and wrote their own songs like Genesis Hall putting a folky spin on current issues. His nifty fretboard acrobatics showed that Dom is an artist with much potential especially when he is receiving support from the likes of Phil Beer of Show of Hands fame.
The Fairport Spring tour always generates a warm, cosy atmosphere and is an extended version of their short opening acoustic set which begins every Cropredy Festival. In the setlist was Chris Leslie’s song about a 1950’s childhood memory of a suspected UFO sighting near Banbury, Year of 59. Peggy alluded to his 1950s connections and indeed much of the audience could be said to be children of the ’50s but despite this age reference every one was an enthusiastic music follower attracted to the incredible venue. Fairport themselves paid tribute to the Bury Met staff as I have in the past, acknowledging The Met as one of the major northern music venues.
The evening began (as anticipated) with the traditional Walk Awhile from Full House, which will be performed in full in a field in Oxford with members of the Full House lineup; Chris Leslie being a more than adequate substitute for Dave Sawrbrik (“detained elsewhere” was Simon Nicoll’s poignant aside). Indeed during the evening, this album got further visits with newly arranged versions of Doctor Of Physick, during which Ric included an amazing wah- wah effect on his fiddle, and the regular favourite Sloth. Simon Nicol had the chance to display his guitar prowess (observed from very close up) which is not always given the credit it deserves in the shadow of one RT. Peggy showed why he is rated as one of the top Rock bass players and Ric Sandersdisplayed his violin virtuosity. At one point his fingers were so far down his violin he could have adjusted his specs!!
Their latest album Shuffle and Go was the focus of many songs on the setlist. One personal favourite Cider Rain came up early and showed how they expertly interpret songs from many of their chosen songwriting contributors, in this case Wood, Boisseau and Richalley. Also, Don’t Reveal My Name , the story of a card trickster fooled by an unlikely suspect, and the stunningly beautiful Chris Leslie’s Moondust Amd Solitude (now a must-play on every FC setlist and the highlight of the album for several ATB scribes). I share a keen interest in card tricks and the Apollo missions with Chris Leslie so it was pleasing to see the two songs included.
Chris Leslie receives credit for much of the songwriting these days but in Ric Sanders, they have a super composer too. His tricky and jolly Steampunkery and delightful Portmeirion amused and stunned the appreciative audience in equal measure. As did Peggy’s self-written instrumental Bankrupted.
The band never fail to pay tribute to members sadly passed and tonight Maartin Alcock received such recognition with a rendition of Lalla Rookh. His guitar solo which beefed up Matty Groves (Alsos now known as ‘Metal Matty’) in his last Cropredy performance in 2018 still strong in our memories.
Tribute was also paid to Ralph McTell, who came to their rescue when they were recovering from the tragic accident that nearly finished off FC for good, by giving them The Hiring Fair. Again another must play which shows Simon at his vocal best. He was also top of his game again with Rob Beattie’s Moses Waits.
No Fairport gig is complete without Ric’s joke spot but tonight we were treated to two spots (although ‘treated’ may not be the correct word?.. sorry Ric!!) His excruciatingly comical interlude also shows the close connection the band has with their audience, which was also evident with a version of Over The Lancashire Hills, specially included for their Lanky audience. Also audience neighbours Nigel and June were given a special request moment when they played Festival Bell. This song about the traditional ringing of St Mary’s church bell on the first day of the festival leaves us with eager anticipation for August. As did the usual gig ending of Matty Groves and Meet On The Ledge, which to me is more a song of hope than one of ending. Gerry Conway sat astride his canon gave us an incredible percussive opening to Matty Groves, although never one for the drum solo in FC his dextrous handwork on tamba, tom tom and electronic drum pad was astounding.
Sadly Covid prevented the usual meet and greet. However, Peggy ever the merch frontman as well ace of bass did chat briefly to fans and friends before and at the interval. Let’s hope come August and the next Wintour, the lads can mix again giving us the opportunity to tell them how special they are to young and older fans.
Categories: Live Reviews