Reviewer: Dave Cunningham
In 2017 Fairport Convention celebrated their Golden Anniversary. Their current tour suggests that, as they work towards their 60th Anniversary, the band has caught their second wind. The set list is varied and surprising avoiding a lazy selection of fan favourites for a more refreshing choice of material.
Physically, singer/songwriter duo Winter Wilson seem a mismatched couple – one being tall and bald and the other decidedly petit. But they are a strong support act both being excellent vocalists and multi-instrumentalists they deliver a set that runs from folk to blues and mixes songs of social injustice with classic tales of heartbreak. It is certainly of a quality that would tempt an audience to check out their forthcoming tour.
Although Fairport Convention are as expert as ever the atmosphere at The Lowry is convivial with the band wandering onstage to join the support act and mingling with the audience during the intermission. The relaxed mood continues on stage with the band chatting between numbers; fiddler Ric Sanders even gets to indulge in a mini-standup routine which makes you wish he’d stick to the day job.
Fairport Convention’s most recent album, 50:50 @ 50, was very self-referential spilt between a selection of oldies and new songs with many of the latter taking the theme of life on the road. Although barely a year has passed the band have managed to develop new material for their current tour and, surprisingly, Chris Leslie’s warmly nostalgic Shuffle and Go pushes the band away from their folk/rock comfort zone towards rockabilly.
Although the current tour features the instrumental jigs and reels that are a standard feature of folks acts the band continues to move away from material that has become over-familiar in recent years towards songs with a rougher edge. Many of the songs at The Lowry take the theme of war or conflict. In the first Act only Crazy Man Michael might be recognised as one of their classic songs.
Inevitably, a degree of ritual creeps in during in the second Act – the closing number and the encore at Fairport Convention concerts are pre-determined by custom. However, even when the band dips into their massive back catalogue they dust off tunes that have been neglected in the past rather than the anthems that one might expect. It has been some time since Doctor of Physick featured in the set list.
The current tour from Fairport Convention shows a band determined not to simply rest upon their laurels and goes to prove the truth of a song title used by their support act: There’s Life in the Old Dog Yet.
Reviewed on 4th February 2018