Fairport Convention review – the old crew sails into new waters

Lowry, Salford
Stuffing their set with a surprising amount of new material for a vintage act, Fairport are still clearly having fun and brought the house down

Released in 1969, Fairport Convention’s fourth album, Liege & Lief, is generally held up as the start of English folk-rock, and the band’s sound still lingers in British music from Steeleye Span to Mumford & Sons. It can sometimes feel as if Fairport have become so influential they’re starting to sound like those who sound like them – tonight, they play the title track of their new, 27th album, Myths and Heroes, and it sounds oddly reminiscent of the Seahorses’ 1997 hit Love Is the Law.

Much water has flowed under the bridge since stellar talents such as Richard Thompson and the late singer Sandy Denny passed through their ranks. Simon Nicol – the only remaining survivor from their 1967 inception – compares the band to a ship: “Every so often, there’ll be a man overboard.” But the ship carries on, the current crew have been together longer than many 20th-century governments and seem to capture the Fairport spirit while steering into new waters. It’s certainly hard to think of many vintage acts that could stuff a two-hour set with mostly new material or songs as moving as John Condon, about a first-world-war soldier who died in the trenches aged 14.

Perhaps the group’s longevity comes from the amount of fun they’re clearly having. With jokes flying thick and fast all night, longstanding powerhouse bassist Dave Pegg yells, “I hope there’s going to be an interval,” and feigns a limp. Nostalgia only arrives at the end, with three of Liege & Lief’s timeless wonders, Matty Groves, Crazy Man Michael and Farewell, Farewell. Nichol observes that second single Meet on the Ledge – about reunions with absent friends – “means more now than  it did then”, and it duly brings the house down.


Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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