A Fabulous Fairport (Concert Review: Fairport Convention)
Fairport Acoustic Convention's performance at the Iron Horse Music Hall, Northampton, MA, USA, November 6 gets my vote for Concert of the Year.
Their intensity magnified by playing in a small hall with a wildly enthusiastic audience, Fairport--in an acoustic and drumless configuration (except for a very muted electric bass, replacing the acoustic instrument used on the CD)--rocked the hall with not just flawless but exciting playing, tight vocal arrangements, and an assortment of jokes, sight gags, and general shenanigans.
The group at the Horse consisted of guitarist and lead vocalist Simon Nicol--Fairport's founder, after whose house the group is named--Dave Pegg on bass, who's been with the group almost as long, fiddle wizard Ric Sanders, and former Jethro Tull guitarist Maartin Allcock (who also played a rare instrument called a bouzar--a guitar-like instrument with a sound lie a bouzouki. Maartin commented, "There are only about nine of these things in the world, so that makes me one of the world's nine best bouzar players--but also one of the nine worst.") Sanders and Allcock have both been with Fairport since 1985.
Clearly, even after all these years, they really love performing, and they genuinely enjoy each other.
As expected, the show drew heavily from the band's newest CD (the first in a fully-acoustic configuration), "Old.New.Borrowed.Blue." Songs from that album included "Woodworm Swing" (the title is a pun on tequila), "There Once Was Love/Innstuck" (the first being a country song with bluegrassy 'high-lonesome" vocals, written by Paul Metsers, James Taylor's "Frozen Man," Loudon Wainwright's light-hearted "The Swimming Song," Ralph McTell's classic tale of farm romance, "The Hiring Fair," and of course, "Matty Groves," the centuries-old tale of love, infidelity, and murder--blended with a spunky instrumental medley called "Dirty Linen".
And there were songs from the past, too: to name one obvious highlight, a haunting and beautiful "Who Knows Where the Time Goes" closed the first set. Richard Thompson's "Walk A While" was also featured.
All of them played beautifully--but Ric Sanders was simply awesome. His fiddle touched every corner of the room with achingly beautiful, clear playing, and his versatility extended to every genre you could think of. And, with his blond ponytail swaying as he played with his entire body, he was fun to watch, as well.
The group's playful humor could have been corny, but it was genuinely funny. For instance, after a great big buildup by other members telling us to watch out for his "short but fabulous" solo, Dave Pegg stepped up to the front and made a big show of playing a one-note solo--to cheers and whistles from the crowd.
Fairport, at 29 years old, is one of those bands like John Mayall's--a gathering place for future stars. Alumni include, among others, Richard Thompson, Dave Swarbick, and the late Sandy Denny. The group will celebrate turning 30 next summer with a festival in England, featuring many ex- and current members.
Fairport is on the Web, at http://www.novpapyrus.com/fairport (U.S.).
Shel Horowitz, Editor of Global Travel Review and owner of FrugalFun.com, is the author of the e-book, The Penny-Pinching Hedonist: How to Live Like Royalty with a Peasant's Pocketbook, and the creator of the Ethical Business Pledge campaign.
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