1865, Southampton

Whatever your political persuasion , whether its left, right or in the middle, you cannot deny that there are so many issues in the world today that need our attention. Poverty, the government’s stance on returning soldiers from war, mental health, alcoholism, the pollution of the sea, Suicide…the list goes on. Tonight Ferocious Dog are in Southampton not only to entertain, they are out to raise awareness of all the above issues and more. There are clearly too many issues to tackle and not enough time to tackle them, though it seems Ken and his band of folk/punk troubadours are on a mission to improve people lives with music and education.

Before the main attraction takes to the stage, we have tonight’s support act Paul Henshaw and his acoustic guitars to warm us up. Paul Henshaw is cut form the same cloth as the likes of other typically British singer-songwriters Gaz Brookfield, Frank Turner and Billy Bragg. After performing with the up-coming Pet Needs on their Fractured Party Music tour, Paul’s popularity has escalated. With are armful of original songs and an attentive audience in front of him, he sets about charming everyone with his musical prowess. In true folk singer style each track has its own alluring story, generating vivid mental pictures.

Paul Henshaw
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There are of course the political directions like “No Longer Proud” and “This War” along with more personal songs. They include the heart-warming “Throwing Lines” for his girlfriend and his merchandise seller Angie. Paul’s euphonious voice delights and his confidence as a performer and in himself is displayed. The audience really warm to him and a good section of the crowd already know much of his material.

He’s engaging and does plenty of coercing getting the crowd involved with some silly but fun ideas. He’s one of the best singer-song writers out there that you probably don’t know about of yet and hopefully with the release of a new album next year, the music listening public will be more educated in the Henshaw way.

Ferocious Dog

After that welcome diversion, the six musicians including their leader Ken Bonsall take to the stage for the familiar sounds of the sea shanty style opener “Haul Away Joe”. The near sold out crowd greet the band with masses of enthusiasm and much of the audience start to move to their infectious momentum. As each song is delivered the crowd act like every track is a celebration. Southampton as a city have built up quite an appreciation of this band over the years, since their first visit to the now closed Taking Heads playing to just under 30 people.

The band’s set list comes from all areas of their discography and as they have five studio albums to choose from there are always a few surprises. These come in the form of “Black Gold”, “Cry of The Celt” and “Pocket of Madness”; which features guitarist Kyle Peters taking on vocal duties and clearly showing his worth. Each tune is filled with a message or a history lesson and the majority of the band’s fans whole-heartedly support the causes. Each gig on the tour has a food bank collection and fans bring along donations to help those in need in the locality of each gig.

The band’s fans are called “Hell Hounds” and they have their own song bestowed upon them and when the band deliver it, a huge safe middle-aged circle pit forms in the middle of the floor. It may not be up to the standards of some of those Death Metal pits, but most of us are in our fifties and have to take it easy these days.

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You cannot fault the musicians that Ken has chosen to surround himself with, who all bring their unique skills to the band. Particularly multi-instrumentalist Sam Wood, who during the set plays on the accordion, electric guitar, banjo, mandolin, Bouzouki and a large historical stringed instrument that I did not catch the name of. Sam skilfully belts out a few classic heavy metal riffs, along with a couple of unexpected children’s theme tunes (Rose & Jim, and Sponge Bob Square Pants) before launching into Ferocious Dog numbers.

The whole evening is over far too quickly and as you already know if you have seen them before; at every Ferocious Dog gig you have the outstanding “Slow Motion Suicide” to look forward to. A powerfully emotive song that never fails to deliver. A song that impregnates anyone who hears it with is powerful lyrics and wondrous instrumentation. The band take their bows and leaving just Ken on the stage, who does his usual dance to The Toys Dolls “Nellie The Elephant” – much to the delight of the audience. He then joins the rest of the band, chatting with fans; signing autographs and having selfies taken, still with a huge smile on his face.

Set Lists
Ferocious Dog
Port Isaac
Haul Away Joe
Pentrich Rising
Too Late
Freeborn John
Black Gold
Lees Tune & The Glass
Broken Soldier
Bedlum Boys
Pocket of Madness
Cry of the Celt
The Punk Police
Slayed the Traveller
Crime and Punishment
Sea Shepherd
Paddy on the Railway
Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya
Parting Glass
Hell Hounds
Mairi’s Wedding, Pt. 2
Slow Motion Suicide

Paul Henshaw
I Declare Shenanigans
No Longer Proud
The Road To Krumlov
Wild Turkey
1000 Miles
This War
Throwing Lines
What If?



Words by David Chinery (Chinners)
Photography by Jon Musselwhite.

Ferocious Dog