Fairports review: Band with history mark hall’s centenary

Fairport Convention on stage at Masham Town Hall. (Picture by Rob Hall)
Fairport Convention on stage at Masham Town Hall. (Picture by Rob Hall)

Review and picture by Rob Hall

Fairport Convention, Masham Town Hall.

It is rare for a band with such a history and heritage as Fairport Convention to visit Masham but visit they did for the opening of the town hall’s centenary celebrations.

Choosing to make the event unseated was probably an oversight by the organisers and several people left before the band had even started.

However, local knowledge meant that some seating was broken out and the venue soon became half seated much to the exasperation of the organisers.

The atmosphere was buoyant as is the way with Fairport gigs and the presence of the bar meant that things got livelier as the evening went on.

Opening with, Sir Patrick Spens, Fairport set the stage for their return to Masham.

Sharing with us a wide selection of their vast back catalogue we were treated to some classic Fairport from Fotheringay through to more modern pieces such as Wood and the Wire and The Festival Bell.

Traditional arrangements were given the Fairport treatment with, The Banks of Sweet Primroses standing out.

Whilst there is nothing to touch the original Sandy Denny recordings of Who Knows Where the Time Goes, Simon Nicol has made this song his own and delivered it with all the feeling that he could muster with the band’s close vocal harmonies and counterpoint reducing some of the audience to tears such is the emotional charge that this song holds.

Chris Wood’s faultless and soulful rendition of the Cell Song, a tale of a man reflecting on his last hours before being executed, had to be one of the highlights of the night.

Dave Pegg and Gerry Conway underpinned the whole ensemble with their driving bass and drums whilst Simon Nicol, despite having a problem breaking strings, brought the whole group together with guitar and his rich voice.

Ric Sander’s fiddle weaved its way through the entire set building to some explosive and breath-taking solos and the interplay with Chris Leslie showed us why Fairport have become such an enduring and inspirational group.

Between re-stringing Simon’s guitar and building up to some of the songs we were treated to some very witty banter which drew the audience in.

Tales about their past adventures, the people in their lives and also time they spent time in Masham made the gig personal to the town.

A story about Ric and Daves’ parents led us to the clever and constantly shifting instrumental, Albert and Ted with its complex key and time signature shifts so representative of Fairport.

Finishing with the classic, Matty Groves and returning for a rowdy encore with Meet on the Ledge, the audience left smiling and inspired by a group who are still at the top of their game.

Fairport have been doing this for so long that their distinctive relaxed vocal sound and instrumental style comes so naturally.

It would be easy for them to deliver their set without trying but this was not the case and you got a sense of them caring about the songs and the stories they were delivering and their references to absent friends showed that their links to the town through Neil Cutts and the White Bear were an important part of the band’s history.

Anyone who was at Masham Town Hall last night shared in a very special event which opened the Masham Town Hall centenary celebrations in fine style.