Tivoli Theatre, Wimborne Minster

Fairport Convention

When the original legendary 70’s folk rockers roll into town it would be rude not to pay them a visit. So on Friday 6th June I went to see Fairport Convention play at the Tivoli Theatre in Wimborne on the penultimate date of their Spring tour. No support acts here, this band have such a huge repertoire, dating back to their formation in 1967, that they have plenty of material to choose from to fill an entire evening. They were greeted with warmth and affection by an appreciative and receptive audience on tenterhooks to hear whether their favourite songs would be played. The band looked very comfortable on stage, engaging in relaxed banter between themselves and the audience. Each song was introduced with an often humourous synopsis of its story or the tale of its origin and creation, the chat littered with numerous bad dad jokes and puns which were delivered with an impressive spontaneity and freshness considering how many times theyíd been aired already, on this the 29th gig of the 30 date tour!

Fairport Convention

The show opener “Walk Awhile” set the tone for the evening, with lovely three part harmonies, and catchy and intricate fiddling over a classic rock rhythm. Songs were drawn from all over the repertoire, several from the seminal Liege and Lief album, but also more recent work and some new songs too. Two instrumentals and a Scottish reel allowed the fiddlers Ric Sanders and multi-instrumentalist Chris Leslie to really show off their skills and dexterity. “The Lark in the Morning” medley of traditional Irish tunes, and “The Tale of John Gandy” had the audience clapping along and were rewarded with rapturous applause and cheering. More recent work included “Theodore’s Song” from Chris Leslie’s new solo album “Origins”, and “Mercy Bay”, a song with dark and moody harmonies about the ill-fated expedition to find the north-west passage whose theme called to mind Bob Whitley’s Magellan series of songs. They also aired three new songs which are all in contention for inclusion on their next album, my favourite being “Love at First Sight” a humourous take on the traditional song theme of a woman dressing as a man to get access to somewhere she shouldn’t be, in this case, a menís Morris side! An upbeat, tongue in cheek number with a rock and roll flavour.

Fairport Convention

Although there are still nods to the traditional folk canon in their newer material, including, to my delight, name dropping the wraggle taggle gypsy, I have to confess the secret flower child in me prefers their older folk rock numbers. Highlights for me included ëFotheringayí, Sandy Dennyís song about the incarceration of Mary Queen of Scots in Fotheringay Castle, the guitar melody and rhythm conjuring images of Elizabethan England, and the song which ended the first half ñ ëFarewell Farewellí. This song has only in the last two years been added to their concert playlist after they canvassed public opinion on which songs to include on their recent “By Popular Request” album and were surprised by its popularity. And what a welcome addition it is, reworked and opening with beautiful a capella three part vocal harmonies.

As the evening drew to a close, the final song was announced to approving cheers and applause. A rousing rendition of their classic arrangement of traditional folk ballad “Matty Groves” proved a triumphant finale, rounded off with an emotionally delivered encore of “Meet on the Ledge”.

After a lifetime of touring and performing I guess it should be no surprise to see such an accomplished and polished performance from these supremely talented singers and musicians. But for someone who wasnít even born when this band formed, itís incredible to see them still obviously enjoying playing out live, and also writing new material. I look forward to catching up with Ric and Chris in the near future when they perform at the Wimborne Minster Folk Festival on 14/15 June. Fairport’s Cropredy Convention, their “annual three day festival of music and good cheer” runs from 7 to 9 August.

The line up
Simon Nichol – acoustic guitar/vocals
Dave “Peggy” Pegg – bass/vocals
Chris Leslie – mandolin/bouzouki/fiddle/whistle/vocals
Ric Sanders – fiddle/ukulele
Gerry Conway – drums/percussion

Set list
1. Walk Awhile
2. Crazy Man Michael
3. Portmeirion
4. Myths and Heroes (new song)
5. Genesis Hall
6. The Happy Man (trad)
7. Fotheringay
8. Theodore’s Song (Chris’s solo album)
9. The Festival Bell
10. Farewell Farewell
11. Mercy Bay
12. Love at First Sight (new)
13. Home (new)
14. The Lark in the Morning medley
15. Now Be Thankful
16. Around the Wild Cape Horn
17. The Girl from the Hiring Fair
18. The Tale of John Gandy
19. Matty Groves
20. Meet on the Ledge


Reviewed by Jo Elkington
Guest Reviewer

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