Larmer Tree Festival, Dorset
Sunday 21st July 2013
Roll The Woodpile Down
10,000 Miles Away
Cross-Eyed & Chinless
Thousands or More
Instrumental / Haul Away
Unclothed Nocturnal Manuscript Crisis
Sloe Gin Set
New York Girls
The Larmer Tree Festival is very much Bellowhead’s natural milieu. They’ve ascended through the ranks to headline and close the festival on Sunday evening. As I bought a coffee before KT Tunstall, I realized Jon Boden was standing next to me at the Panini stand munching through his evening meal on a paper plate and chatting to Benji Kirkpatrick. It’s that kind of festival. No one bothered them. But Jon Boden hadn’t donned the bright pink jacket he wore in the show.
This is a shorter review, because I’ve reviewed Bellowhead recently (see here: February 2013), reviewed Broadside as an album, and Spiers and Boden twice. It’s all in the right hand sidebar under concert reviews. In the last twelve months, Bellowhead (and offshoots) are my most played as well as watched artistes. I’ve seen New York Girls close four sets in a few months now, not that I ever tire of it. Having the full eleven-piece frees John Boden from the fiddle for his songs, which means he can put his all into the performance of the vocals. Not that the singing is ever lacking with the duo, but the movement and body language singing alone communicates with a broader brush on a bigger canvas.
The set was heavy on Broadside because that’s what they do with albums, focus on them, and the first three numbers even followed the album sequence, with Betsy Baker being announced as the new single. An excellent choice as it’s my favourite track on the album too. On the way out two women were wondering which album to buy in the Songlines tent, and asking which one they’d heard most of, and I was able to show them that Broadsidehad contributed five songs of the 60 minute festival set. My good deed for the day.
Unclothed Nocturnal Manuscript Crisis is from Umbrellowhead where each band member contributed a solo effort, and is somewhat atypical, but a fabulous instrumental work out. London Town got revived from Burlesque and to me, it also got improved with a fuller sound, but then again it’s a natural audience participation piece, so on its best ground at an open-air festival.
Jon Boden did what Van Morrison did …made no pretence of going off and coming back on for an encore, but told us that this is the point where they would normally go off, wait, and come back on. With eleven in the band, it makes sense to stay there.
The looning around, dancing, jumping up and down all come really to the fore on a beautiful evening. The sheer exuberance is infectious, the sound huge and detailed.
Strangely, Britain’s longest uninterrupted heat wave and dry spell in years broke on my one hour drive home, with lightning in the Southern sky and rain as I neared Poole. But Larmer Tree got the best of it. And we got the best of Bellowhead.