Anna Gorick reports on Fairport Convention – Cambridge Corn Exchange, 16 Feb 2007

Artist Visiting Cambridgeshire
The 40th celebrations for the band that put traditional folk music and ‘new' soft rock to the forefront of British culture were held at the Cambridge Corn Exchange on 16 February. Their monumental LP, named Liege and Leaf was medieval in tone and created a high-spirited genre in music. Their sound was reminiscent of merry English traditions and contained within its rhythmic thread both powerful emotion and mild societal protest. It vocalised stories about the plight of downtrodden rural workers and became a popular soundtrack amongst the alternative student scene in the 1970s. Folk is thought to represent the majority and English roots, in juxtaposition to Opera and classical which emulate high culture commissioned by aristocrats and royalty.

Fairport produced a new music style that amalgamated acoustic and electric sensibilities, a hybrid fusion that was an appreciative challenge to the auditory senses. Unlike Bob Dylan, who lost a substantial fan base when he introduced electrics into his authentic signature, Fairport enthralled audiences with their inimitable sound.

Instruments on the night included a low whistle, electric mandolin and mouth organ, along with the ubiquitous guitars, drums and fiddles. Raised above the seated venue were five men simultaneously singing verses about lost pirate ships and travelling from South Dakota to Manchester. The jovial fusillade of sound incited eager foot tapping amongst the predominantly middle-aged crowd. An informal introduction between each song added a personal touch that conjoined each performance with a spattering of comedy that helped to ignite sporadic giggles.

Memorable moments included a gorgeous medley of two fiddles synthesised together called The Bowman Return and an instrumental piece entitled Your Heart And Mine. This poignant and strikingly beautiful display of musicianship managed to pluck delicately at the strings of your soul. Who Knows Where The Time Goes was a tribute to the tragically deceased vocalist Sandy Denny. A melancholically enchanting number that filled the air with a feeling of our inevitable mortality, yet re-established life as a rich tapestry worth every second.

The gig ended with an impromptu jam between the bands members, who though slightly frayed around the edges by the aging process, still have the capacity to entertain their followers. The missing link was the ethereal influence of a female singer to provide the band with the necessary edge of diverse chemistry.

Writer: Anna Gorick