Saturday, January 28, 2012



Chris Wood 
at Colston Hall, Bristol, Oct 21

Chris Wood is always amazing, but this is the best I've ever heard him, which is to say, about as good as the "one man with a guitar singing ballads" genre ever gets. He praised the acoustics of the room and the sound engineer, and was more than usually under-stated, nuanced, a conversation between guitar and audience. Assume I'd made all the usual remarks about the English not valuing their national treasures. 

Show of Hands 
at Bristol Folk Festival, April 30

I don't like everything Steve Knightley does. Or perhaps it would be more honest to say that the thing which Steve Knightley does doesn't come off every time I see him do it. This time it did. It was Day 2 of Bristol folk festival and local resentment against the seventeenth or eighteenth branch of Tesco being plonked on Stokes Croft had just boiled over into a full scale riot, about half a mile from the stage, and not one single artist had even mentioned it, or seemed to be aware that Bristol was in the news. So Steve Knightley stepped onto the stage and launched straight into "to the cutthroats, crooks and conmen running this gaol: is there anything left in England that's not for sale?" and "I hope some day we'll all be freed from your arrogance, your ignorance, and greed" and "Agri-barons, C.A.P in hand strip this green and pleasant land...." He is, in a way, a demagogue, a revivalist preacher without any single cause, and on this occasion he judged the mood of the hall, he took it into himself, he channelled it back at us.... And then went to the Silent Disco and danced along with Remember Your A Womble. A bona fide folk-god.

Blackbeards Tea Party 
at the Croft Bristol, Nov 26

Stuart Giddens (now positively identified as one of the two morrismen who performed what we all now know are traditional Morris double jigs with the Demon Barber Roadshow at Scarborough) has replaced Paul Young as singer in the band, and added a camp wildness, an awful lot of jumping, but probably not that much subtlety to the act, cranking the live show a notch or two above either of the records. It appeared that a lot of people who had really come for the rocky punky music that the Croft is more famous for drifted into the back room for the Tea Party and stayed until the end. There was singing along; there was dancing; there was jumping in the air...and there was a sense that Blackbeard's Tea Party had just gone from being a really very good busking and celidah outfit to being a major musical force.

Back in May, the judge said that the Show of Hands show was the best live gig he'd ever seen, and he isn't going to go back on that now. But he's never seen anything quite like Blackbeard Tea Party either. Obviously, one can't blame the apple for not being as orangey as the orange or or the orange for not being as apply as the apple. So for the first time in their history the 2011 Monty will be awarded jointly to Show of Hands and Blackbeards Tea Party. Fortunately, since it is an imaginary award, there is no problem imagining it being in two places at once, like that puzzle involving an imaginary duck in an imaginary bottle.