Live (The Farewell Tour)
The Very Best British Folk Band Of All Time Bow Out At The Top.
Is it me; or have Bellowhead had more ‘Farewell Tours’ than Frank Sinatra? It seems a lifetime since singer and co-founder Jon Boden announced that he was leaving and the rest of the band decided to ‘call it a day’ too; and it sometimes seems hardly a day goes by without a new album (a Greatest Hits and this…to be fair) and at the last count three actual Goodbye Tours.
Hey ho; onto this beautifully packaged Double CD and DVD, recorded on their final (?) UK Tour during November 2015.
As someone who has struggled to like; never mind fall in love with Bellowhead’s music; that in itself has left a bad taste in my mouth; as if I’d been a fan I would have wanted this to be a single concert; warts and all, but instead it is a carefully constructed and edited compilation of 52 tracks recorded in various venues across the country.
The music; all of the fans favourites are here; Betsy Baker, What’s The Life of Man? Gosport Nancy, London Town, New York Girls and Whiskey is the Life of Man. All of which sound glorious to the extreme; with Bodon’s rich voice never sounding better; and the eclectic instrumentation; which was always what made Bellowhead rise above their contempories constantly flits between ultra-traditional Folk playing through sea shanties, Collier Songs, rock structures to almost Classical content; and nary a note is missed.
Much to my surprise, as an un-fan, I still managed to find a few songs that I liked; and went back to voluntarily after sitting through the full two hours, for review purposes.
Let Union Be; instantly caught my attention as did the rather odd Moon Kittens; which is a bit Psychedelic in parts; but also almost hypnotic.
I stress I’ve tried my best to ‘like’ Bellowhead over the years; but have ended up just appreciating what they do; and what they do they do exceptionally well; as they have the ability to deconstruct songs like Old Dun Cow and Rosemary Lane, and give them an almost Jazz like lease of life.
Besotted fans may disagree; but for me there is one stand out song here; the staple of their set for many years and a song I learnt at Junior School 50 years ago; the Geordie folk song Byker Hill; and this version is as passionate and theatrical as I’ve ever heard from Bellowhead; sounding at times like something from a West End Musical!
The album closes with the rocking New York Girls and the rather elaborate Frogs Legs & Dragons Teeth during which, each band member is introduced and gets to do a mini-solo and eventually coming to a thrashing crescendo and a huge cheer from the audience.
While fans will no doubt love the CD and it will probably get welded into many car stereos to stop any other music sullying the speakers; it’s the actual ‘live show’ in all its 3D glory when Bellowhead truly come to life.
As a matter of professional courtesy I’ve gone out of my way twice at Music Festivals to see what all of the fuss is about; and both times I was really impressed; with their stage presence and the intricate way that each member bounces off each other in perfect time is both eye and mind-boggling.
All of my reservations about the construction of the CD are put to one side as the DVD is that very ‘warts and all’ (with no warts at all) concert recorded at Leicester’s De Montfort Hall and this is what will be what their fans will still playing in 20 years time; as it truly showcases why this band have been at the very top of the British Folk pile since their formation in 2004.
I’m 100% sure existing fans will have already pre-ordered this package months in advance of release; and won’t give two hoots for my opinion; unless they are the ones who sent me Hate Mail following my review of Matachin in Maverick Magazine back in 2008!
Released April 8th 2016