“It’s good to be back playing arena shows” is how Dave Pegg dryly commented during the evening as Fairport Convention brought their more intimate acoustic based tour to Walsall Arena. Twice postponed due to Covid, the rescheduled date comes towards the end of their Spring tour that sets the band up for the annual Cropredy Festival in August.
Despite the lack of support the 7.30 start is honoured and the band take to the stage in the all seated format and lead off with fan favourite ‘Walk Awhile’ before moving on to the first new track ‘Cider Rain’ which comes from the heavily plugged new album Shuffle And Go. Chris Leslie sings beautifully on ‘Don’t Reveal My Name’ and tells us that the character in the song lies somewhere between Paul Daniels and Freddy Kruger so read into that what you will.
Simon Nichol revisits his solo album with ‘Over The Lancashire Hills’ and Dave Pegg tries to convince that Fairport are more metal than Sabbath as they didn’t have their on bell by means of an introduction to ‘The Festival Bell’ and associated Cropredy plug. There’s a shout out to the much loved and missed Martin Allcock as they introduce one of his contributions to the band; ‘Lallah Rookh’.
Ric Sanders then leads us through a short comedy routine of gags that lead up to him explaining that as he approaches his 70th birthday he was looking to do try something new and that he was intending on becoming a steampunk (he’s already got the glasses an hat, so almost there) which segues nicely into the ‘Steampunkery’ instrumental. The epic ‘Sloth’ from Full House brings the first set to a close and gives people the chance to top up in the bar.
The second set continues in the same acoustic format which again showcases songs from Shuffle And Go. Chris Leslie takes the lead for ‘The Year Of ’59’ and ‘Moondust and Solitude’ with the latter being a tribute to the moon landing, or more importantly his fascination with Michael Collins and his experience in orbit.
For ‘Bankruptured’ Peggy explains that he was encouraged by Dave Swarbrick to write the tune (“a tune, not a song, you’re songs are crap”) and is reworked with a wonderful acoustic intro from Simon. Nicol is in similar form on ‘Hiring Fair’ which begins solely on acosutic guitar with Leslie joining in with some subtle mandolin touches until Pegg joins in on bass. The sparseness adds to its beauty with a touch of violin and Conway adding little more than a shaker. A captivating moment that leads into the inevitable set closer of ‘Matty Groves’.
Without leaving the stage, instead choosing to hide behind their instruments, there’s an encore which Nicol introduces by means of saying “as a folk rock band, I suppose we better play a folk song tonight” and ‘Meet On The Ledge’ provides a expected sing along to close the two hour show.
Don’t Reveal My Name
Over the Lancashire Hills
The Festival Bell
The Year of 59
Moondust and Solitude
Doctor of Physick
Meet on the Ledge