Oysterband/Blair Dunlop. Leeds Irish Centre. 4.12.2014


It’s a couple of years or so since we have seen Oysterband, and there have been some line-up changes. Our first encounter was back in the last millennium at the ‘Jig and Swig’ weekend in Morley. We had bought tickets , mainly to see the Coal Porters doing their Gram Parsons show, but were impressed with Oysterband (Her Ladyship especially).  Probably seen them half a dozen times, and we were pleased that this time they had one of folk music’s rising stars in tow.

Got there 7.40pm, and was surprised to see the room had been partitioned off. Has the austerity syndrome hit the fans pockets? Or are they not as popular any more? Christmas approaching?  Whatever reason, even the strange addition of BD as ‘special guest’ still only made the crowd maybe 300.  I say ‘strange’ because BD can command a decent audience (and ticket price) in his own right.

So, young Mr D shuffles on at 8.00 pm-ish. Strangely silent reaction, apart from three women near me discussing the booking fees on their 1 Direction tickets!   He gave us songs from ‘Blight and Blossom’, including the title track and his song about Christopher Marlowe , ‘Secret Theatre’, plus  the likes of ’45s (c14)’  from this year’s  ‘House of Jacks’ .   He finished off with Richard Thompson’s ‘1952 Vincent Black Lightning’.  I am tempted to say the obvious, ie that young Mr D is a big fan of RT, but when I tried to hint that I thought that Blair must be a fan of Seth Lakeman in my Moonbeams Festival review it was as if I had said he was a fan of Jimmy Savile, it created such indignation. (But am I bovvered?  Am I folk.).   Have been playing both cds in the car of late (cheers Les) , with an Albion Band (The Next Generation) cd waiting in the wings.  A great 30 minutes set, which surprised a lot of people, but not the closed-eyed, head-nodding section sitting on the floor.

Oysterband. 9.00pm and on they come. If they were surprised at the relatively small crowd, they didn’t seem to show it. However, in his pre-amble to ‘Spirit of Dust’, John Jones did mention previous mayhem at their Irish Centre concerts.  It always amazes me that every song of theirs is so…anthemic. New songs like ‘Diamonds on the water’ seem as though they have been there forever.

‘Deserters’ was the first cd of theirs I bought, for a few dollars in the Virgin sale in New York in 2001, and ‘The Deserter’. ‘Granite Years’ and ‘All that way for this’ still feature in the set. (Back in 1989 though, I picked up their 12″ single ‘The lost and found’ pretty cheap and liked their ‘Change is gonna come’. )  ‘Walking down the road with you’, ‘Street of dreams’, ‘Everywhere I go’, they are all such bloody good songs.  And almost thankfully we didn’t get ‘Bells of Rhymney’, otherwise I would have had to get windscreen wipers fitted to my eyelids. It is an absolute tour-de force ‘live’,  especially if you have any involvement with the mining community.

Difficult to describe them to the uninitiated. I am tempted to say ‘Fairport Convention turned up to 11…with a squeezebox’. I know it’s not completely accurate but it’s the best I can do!

Her Ladyship only had her phone for pictures, so quality not too good. She didn’t actually ask young Mr D to do his impression of Freddy Krueger, honest!


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