Bert Jansch/Beth Orton/Bernard Butler, Somerset House, London

Somerset House, London

Neil Young once said that Bert Jansch did for the acoustic guitar what Jimi Hendrix did for the electric. Young's claim overstates his reach and commercial impact, but emphasises the reverence felt for the relatively unsung Jansch by many of his peers. A maverick but leading figure in the 1960s British folk scene, Jansch has enjoyed a critical revival in recent years. Revered by Jimmy Page, Johnny Marr and even Pete Doherty, he is the archetypal guitarist's guitarist: two further acolytes, Bernard Butler and Beth Orton, look thrilled to be playing with him tonight.

Now 63, Jansch's forte is slow-paced, lugubrious folk-blues. His famously dextrous finger-picking guitar-playing is still impressive, while his voice remains an acquired taste, veering erratically between keening whine and sandpaper growl on his own My Donald and Brendan Behan's The Auld Triangle.

Bernard Butler has always been one of indie rock's more diligent virtuosos, and is clearly delighted to trade intricate guitar licks with Jansch on Fresh as a Sunday Morning. Things start to get a little arid, but thankfully Beth Orton ups the ante: on the traditional air Katie Cruel she manages to be both spectral and feisty, crooning the fragile lament like the missing link between Kate Bush and Janis Joplin. The night ends with Jansch, Butler, Orton and fourth guitarist Paul Wassif, hunched in a line over their guitars, picking their way through Orton's gentle Pass in Time. It is a fitting close to an evening that is short on visceral thrills and spills but long on restrained, meticulous musicianship.


Ian Gittins

The GuardianTramp

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