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.

Contributor

Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Fairport Convention – review

The grand old men of English folk-rock not only have a great back catalogue but are still clearly enjoying themselves, writes Robin Denselow

Robin Denselow

13, May, 2013 @11:24 AM

Fairport Convention: Festival Bell – review
The Brit folk-rock institution roll out their first studio album in four years, and 44 years after they formed, they're still on great form, reckons Robin Denselow

Robin Denselow

07, Apr, 2011 @9:30 PM

Article image
Beeswing by Richard Thompson review – beyond Fairport Convention
Folk rock, finding a voice and confronting tragedy ... a gripping account of the early career of a great songwriter and guitarist

Richard Williams

10, Apr, 2021 @6:30 AM

Article image
Fairport Convention: Myths and Heroes review – folk-rockers’ confident return
The new album from folk-rock legends Fairport Convention eschews traditional material in favour of confident new songs

Robin Denselow

05, Mar, 2015 @6:15 PM

Article image
Fairport Convention: 50:50@50 review – folk pioneers celebrate time together

Robin Denselow

09, Mar, 2017 @6:15 PM

Article image
Heartbreak House review – George Bernard Shaw sails into surrealist waters

Róisín McBrinn's inventive production accelerates the pace and plays up the dreamlike quality of this nautically inspired farce, writes Helen Meany

Helen Meany

26, Aug, 2014 @11:56 AM

Article image
Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino review – pizzica masters stomp into rapture
Hailing from Puglia and smoothly updating the region’s folk traditions, the seven-piece band expertly blended trance-inducing dance with exhilarating rhythms

Robin Denselow

19, Dec, 2017 @12:06 PM

Article image
Old music: Fairport Convention – Si Tu Dois Partir

Greg Freeman: Fairport Convention's first, light-hearted hit offered few clues that they would reinvent English folk music

Greg Freeman

31, May, 2012 @8:00 AM

Article image
Shirley Collins review – a five-star foray into the darker depths of folk
In an atmosphere charged with excitement, the secret treasure of English folk music delivered a performance of unwavering and revelatory intimacy

Kate Molleson

05, Feb, 2017 @1:48 PM

Fairport Convention, Cropredy, Oxfordshire

Cropredy, Oxfordshire

Robin Denselow

13, Aug, 2007 @10:50 PM