sat 16/12/2017

Bellowhead, Billy Bragg and Karine Polwart, Kew Gardens | reviews, news & interviews

Bellowhead, Billy Bragg and Karine Polwart, Kew Gardens

Bellowhead, Billy Bragg and Karine Polwart, Kew Gardens

Bellowhead rouse the crowd at the final Kew the Music concert

Bellowhead make riotous assembly at Kew Gardens

Sunday evening was the last of a week of Kew the Music concerts – from Blondie to Paul Weller via Jools Holland and Leona Lewis – six nights, 8,000 people per night. The gate money is going towards the £400m facelift of the Temperate House, where the stage was set for the closing Sunday night of English and Scottish folk songs from Karine Polwart, Billy Bragg and Bellowhead.

Polwart, with her brother Steven on guitar, and Fair Isle multi-instrumentalist Inge Thompson, delivered an early evening set of songs from her acclaimed recent album, Traces – "King of Birds", "Cover Your Eyes", "Tears for Lot’s Wife" among them – and demonstrated the drawbacks of Heathrow’s noise pollution by being occasionally drowned out by the air traffic corridor slicing about 100m above the Temperate House.

She wasn’t above a little gentle ribbing of the south-west London audience. “Who’s got the poshest picnic with them?” she cried out in her penetrating Scots accent. “Anyone got champagne? What about Pimm's?”

“What about Irn Bru,” chipped in her brother.

'All you fascists are bound to lose', Billy Bragg shouted over his five-piece band

Maybe Billy Bragg had drunk it all on the backstage rider. His was a ragged but entertaining set, and he’s strong on the between-song patter, though any hopes of a new revolutionary spirit uncoiling from Kew’s Lion Gate were not going to bear edible fruit. It was Woody Guthrie’s 101st birthday, as Bragg pointed out, and did you know the EDL has opened a recruitment shop for lobster-skinned Brits on the Costa Del Sol? Billy Bragg does, and he’s got something to say about it. “All you fascists are bound to lose,” he shouted over the top of his five-piece band, and a hat should be tipped to slide and steel guitarist CJ Hillman, especially on a delightfully ragged take on The Stones’ "Dead Flowers" (flubbing the opening in true Stones style), which gets (along with Polwart guesting on "A New England") the biggest applause of the set. “I told you it was a heroin audience,” crows Bragg.

Headliners Bellowhead were forged in the festival field, and arenas like this are their natural habitat. Singer Jon Boden sported a bright red jacket – a real attention-grabber – and remains a great frontman for this tight, supple and wildly energetic 11-piece. "Yarmouth Town", "10,000 Miles", a new single, "Betsy Baker", a beautiful rendering of Norfolk ballad "Fakenham Fair", and numerous crazed-eyed instrumentals ("Cross Eyed and Legless", "Unclothed Nocturnal Manuscript Crisis") all fuelled the kind of gay abandon that inspires a lot of hot, quite drunk people to pogo furiously along to "New York Girls", "London Town" and the marvellous closing English country dance stomp of "Frogs Legs and Dragons Teeth". Punks didn’t invent pogoing; it’s the ancient form of English Sufi dancing. Just don’t try shaking your head at the same time.

Headliners Bellowhead were forged in the festival field, and arenas like this are their natural habitat

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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