Reviewer: Dave Cunningham
Fairport Convention marks their 50th Anniversary with a new album: 50:50 @50 comprising half live favorites and half new studio recordings. The new album shapes the set list for, and approach to, their 50th Anniversary Tour in a number of ways.
The album is plugged shamelessly tonight. Surprisingly, rather than being in the folk tradition of storytelling, the newer songs are of a comedic nature (one of them name-checks the current members of the band and another is about difficulties undertaking DIY for pity’s sake). The band seem influenced by this approach and indulge in some awful jokes (the new album is described as ‘half live and half dead’) to the extent that the first half of the show starts to feel more like a music hall act rather than a concert. There is a tentative edge to the first Act as if the band is loosening up for a more demanding second half and there is a slightly ramshackle conclusion when the lighting cue is messed up.
There is an introspective mood to the concert which is appropriate for an anniversary. Most of the songs feature lengthy spoken introductions and several are self-referential, concern life on the road or celebrate the band’s annual festival at Cropredy. Inevitably, in a concert that looks back over 50 years, there is a sense of being obliged to include songs by former members (like Sandy Denny and Richard Thompson) and the occasional ‘proper’ folk number to acknowledge that the group are often associated with the Folk/ Rock genre.
The format for the second Act becomes more conventional with fewer awful jokes and a more dignified approach to the material. Support act and superb vocalist Sally Barker returns and raises the roof with the rarely performed gem Rising for the Moon (yet another song about life on the road but an exceptional one).
Considering that the show is intended to commemorate a Golden Anniversary the vibe is low-key and understated rather than triumphant. No one could complain about the song selection as most of Fairport’s best –loved numbers are included but the presentation lacks the anthem quality one might have hoped for in an anniversary tour. Only fiddler Ric Sanders gets to cut loose with some extended solos.
Fairport Convention are now such hardened professionals that it may actually be difficult for them to relax and celebrate their achievements so that despite the title the 50th Anniversary Tour at times feels like just another concert.
Reviewed on 19 February 2017 | Image: Contributed