HOW time flies. It seems barely the blink of an eye since Bellowhead were the brave new bad boys/darlings of English folk, yet already they’re an established, multi-award-winning institution, plying the country on their tenth anniversary tour, following the summer release of their fifth album Revival.
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
Despite the overheads involved with an 11-piece line-up, they’ve worked to build up a Scottish following over the years, willing to play significantly smaller venues than they could easily fill down south, and they reaped the dividends here with an impressive – and warmly receptive – Glasgow turnout for a weekday night.
For this listener – and judged by the high standards they’ve set themselves – they were some way off their optimum form. Lead singer Jon Boden sounded a bit hoarse when he spoke – though still full of his trademark ringmaster ebullience – and his singing lacked something of its usual exultant force, at times struggling to be heard among the boisterous big-band arrangements, rather than resounding triumphantly at their helm.
Within those arrangements, too, while the sheer weight of numbers and array of instrumentation – fiddles, cello, oboe, accordion, banjo, bouzouki, bagpipes and brass quartet including tuba – was exhilarating, there was simply too much going on, too much of the time, and too little definition or spotlighting of individual components, for the sound not to blur towards the samey.
A couple of numbers from Revival delved intriguingly into darker, eerily psychedelic tones and textures, but otherwise freshness was in somewhat short supply.
Seen on 11.11.14