wed 29/05/2024

Bellowhead, Shepherd's Bush Empire | reviews, news & interviews

Bellowhead, Shepherd's Bush Empire

Bellowhead, Shepherd's Bush Empire

Ten years of riotous big band folk in one night

Mark Holloway

It’s been ten years since Bellowhead forged their riotous, rigorous pogo-folk, tooled up and fuelled up for closing festivals and getting the crowd to its feet, and they’ve won as many ‘best live act’ gongs as they’ve released records. Now signed to Island, and with their fifth album Revival in tow, the 11-strong troupe are a good way through a tour that lasts to the end of November, and proved to be in peak condition. 

Landing at Shepherds Bush, where they recorded a fine live DVD back in 2009, singer Jon Boden remains a great attention-grabbing, crowd-focusing, red-jacketed frontman, careering about the stage with demented glee before a tight, supple wall of sound. Opening with a shanty from the new album, "Let Her Run", the band’s expansive 19-song set ranges from last year’s single, "Betsy Baker" through the ebullient "London Town" to crazed-eyed instrumental "Cross Eyed and Legless" that lets master drummer Pete Flood, in command of more kit than the British Army, gesticulate athletically from his raised dias, doing amazing things with time.

"What we wanted to be was an English folk music party band to finish off festivals with," Jon Boden once told me. “We've adapted that, but it's still our aim at every gig to get everyone dancing." It sure is, and they sure do. Their repertoire may scan the centuries and the girls’ names – Betsy, Sally, Nancy – may be more antique than Kim, Beyoncé or Rihanna, but they’re no period piece, more in-your-face immediate, all-engulfing and utterly contemporary. They're a great night out. The audience loves them, pogos like mad, and, as an ensemble, they're more powerful, more solid, though still streaked with an array of musical influences and eccentricities trailing their colours through the band's songbook. Ten years on, there's still plenty of tiger in the tank.

Jon Boden remains a great attention-grabbing, crowd-focusing, red-jacketed frontman


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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