VENUE union CHApel, lon­don DATE 27/05/2017

Prog - - Intro - JO KEN­DALL

While the world goes bonkers for the 50th an­niver­sary of sgt pep­per – this writer in­cluded – an­other ma­jor mile­stone is be­ing cel­e­brated by folk rock’s first fam­ily, Fair­port con­ven­tion. Fifty years to this day, a teenage quar­tet from north lon­don tested their musical met­tle with their first-ever gig in a church hall in Gold­ers Green. tonight, co-founder and last orig­i­nal mem­ber si­mon nicol, bass player Dave pegg, drum­mer

Gerry con­way, vi­o­lin­ist ric san­ders and man­dolin/banjo player chris les­lie re­turn to their reg­u­lar lon­don home, the rev­er­en­tial cir­cu­lar space of the Union chapel, where the band have cosied up to the im­pres­sive stone pul­pit on stage many a time at the start and end of their re­cent win­ter tours.

this might be billed as the 50th birth­day cel­e­bra­tion but for Fair­port it’s busi­ness as usual, a mes­sage point­edly de­liv­ered by opener Our bus rolls On – the same song that kicked off their show here back in Fe­bru­ary and the shape of things to come as the set barely de­vi­ates from the one they played that night. later this month, at the band’s own cro­predy con­ven­tion fes­ti­val in Ox­ford­shire, there’ll be a fuller, more in­dul­gent event where past mem­bers and current guest con­trib­u­tors will rub shoul­ders. tonight there’s lit­tle squeak room for surprises and al­though the mar­vel­lous Jac­qui Mc­shee is here to sing lady Of carlisle (from their lat­est al­bum, 50:50@50) and sally barker does a fine job on ris­ing

For the Moon, it seems a shame that the very early years – and their re­mark­able West coast-in­spired self-ti­tled de­but – are un­touched. Mean­while, their first vo­cal­ist, Judy Dyble, has been in­vited to at­tend and watches cheer­fully from the au­di­ence, amid a clique of rosy-cheeked 60-some­things who were also there at the be­gin­ning. it’s a missed op­por­tu­nity, to say the least.

the crowd, how­ever, seem happy enough as the be­tween-song jokes flow freely (the imp­ish san­ders es­pe­cially has a gift for a one-liner), and nicol makes a brief ref­er­ence to Fair­porters both ex­tant and passed away be­fore per­form­ing a pre­sentable Who Knows Where the time Goes? (it does lack the vul­ner­a­ble trill of a cer­tain singer’s ren­der­ing, though.)

set two livens up with the chris les­lie-led reel John Gaudie and the trad knees-up Matty Groves, the very lovely port­meirion and ralph Mctell’s the hir­ing Fair, a story that per­fectly pro­pels us back in time to the first flush of youth. Meet On the ledge is its usual rous­ing en­core, with some rows of fans stand­ing, sway­ing hand-in-hand to its uni­fy­ing sen­ti­ment.

it’s all exquisitely played, ed­i­fy­ing sea­sonal fod­der from th­ese el­der states­men, but given the oc­ca­sion, some­what low on steam­power and nos­tal­gic thrills.

let’s see what they pull out of the bag for cro­predy.

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