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CROPREDY, Oxfordshire, 13 August 2011
Convention's Cropredy festival has been an essential pilgrimage for folk
fans since 1976. It's been many years since I last attended, so I was
only too pleased to reacquaint myself with this much loved festival this
year. The first thing I noticed, apart from it now being a three day
festival, is that it hasn't really changed a bit. It's still a
wonderfully friendly, family oriented festival of Fairport, folk and a
lot more besides.
being a festival rooted in folk, you can be pretty sure there's going to
be a fine selection of real ales on offer, so of course my first stop
this afternoon had to be the bar to sink a pint of 'Fairport Five', a
rather fine little number, before settling in the watch the first act on
my list, The Blockheads.
Ian Dury is
of course sadly no longer with us, but The Blockheads continue and
today's set reminds us of all those great songs Dury left behind. These
days they're fronted by a colourful character known as Derek The Draw, a
former minder and friend of Dury, who does a fine job of standing in for
'Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll' kicks things off in fine style as the
band rip though a set packed solid with Ian Dury and the Blockheads
classics. 'Wake Up and Make Love With Me', 'Clever Trevor' and 'If I Was
With a Woman' all feature from the wonderful 'New Boots and Panties'
album, and 'Inbetweenies' was a great inclusion, but it's the big Dury
hits towards the end of the set that really get the crowd going.
Waste' and 'Reasons To Be Cheerful' sound great and the set closes with
a real sing along for 'Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick'. The Blockheads
return for the encore of 'Blockheads' to a great reception.
Thin Lizzy, Horslips are widely considered the greatest rock band
to come out of Ireland in the seventies. It was their inclusion on this
year's bill, as 'very special guests', that attracted me to return to
Cropredy this year, and judging by the amount on Horslips T-shirts
milling about the crowd today, I was far from alone.
have been reformed for a couple of years now, performing sporadic gigs
in Ireland, but it hasn't been until this year that they've ventured out
only their second show in England since they originally split in 1980,
so for a lot of English fans who didn't catch them at this summer's Feis
festival in Finsbury Park, this was a first opportunity to catch their
delightful fusion of celtic folk, rock and prog.
with 'King Of The Faeries' and 'Power and the Glory', it's evident that
for the first few songs there's a degree of trepidation about their
performance, almost as if they're not too sure how they're going to be
As the set
progresses through the likes of 'Mad Pat', 'Blind Man' and the
Tull-esque 'Charolais' it's clear that the audience are loving every
minute and you can see the band's confidence grow and the momentum
twenty minute chunk of the classic 'Book Of Invasions' album,
culminating in the brilliant celtic rock of 'Sword Of Light', sees the
set move into top gear and the band hit top form as they deliver a
couple of the later seventies tunes, 'Speed The Plough' and 'The Man Who
By the time
'Trouble (with a capital T)' and 'Dearg Doom', probably Horslips two
most famous songs, bring the set to a wonderful climax it's clear that
the crowd, as if there had been any doubt, was well and truly won over.
in particular was a truly stunning version. The audience very quickly
demand an encore and the traditional encore of 'Shakin All Over',
featuring some wonderful guitar work from Johnny Fean, goes down a
In fact they
went down so well that when the roadies came on to remove their
equipment at the end of the encore and the compere returns to the stage,
the audience don't take no for an answer and continue to chant for the
band for a further five minutes, not even giving the compere a chance to
speak and explain the show has to move on!
rarely seen a band knock an audience out like this, especially at a folk
festival, and it's clear that Horslips need to return to England at the
earliest opportunity. These guests were 'very special' indeed.
envy any artist who has to follow a performance like that, and sadly the
solo acoustic ramblings of Badly Drawn Boy don't hit the spot for
me. He gets a very respectful reception from the crowd, but by now
people are getting themselves ready for the main attraction of another
mammoth set from this weekend's hosts, Fairport Convention.
time I attended this festival, Fairport's set lasted for just short of
four hours, which is quite a marathon, but when you've got well over
forty years of history to cram into the set, it's not too surprising.
Tonight's set is a mere three hours.
with 'Walk Awhile', Fairport's set tonight provides a fine balance
between the older classic material from many different eras, and a taste
of the newer material from this year's 'Festival Bell' album, which
sounded very good indeed.
particularly pleased to hear a fair few songs from the Sandy Denny era
played tonight, especially the delightful 'Crazy Man Michael' and 'Who
Knows Where The Time Goes'.
centrepiece of tonight's show though was the complete 1971 album 'Babbacombe
Lee' performed in its entirety. The band have performed the album on
their most recent theatre tour, and they were probably putting it to bed
tonight, but if, like me, you didn't catch them on that tour, it really
was a pleasure to witness them performing this 'folk rock opera' on its
The likes of
'John Lee', 'Breakfast In Mayfair' and 'Hanging Song' sounded great and
relative new boy Chris Leslie did a fine job singing the parts
originally sung by Dave Swarbrick.
hours seemed to zip by in a flash and the classic traditional folk epic
'Matty Groves' provides a fitting finale to a very enjoyable set. The
traditional encore of 'Meet On The Ledge' gets the whole crowd singing
along to end another Cropredy in fine style.
really is a great little festival. The atmosphere is superb, the beer is
great, and the variety and quality of the music on offer is first class.
This time, I'll try not to leave it so long before I return. See you
Review and photos by Jim Rowland
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