Music review: Fairport Convention @50

As Dave Francis of Hands Up for Trad pointed out while presenting the band with a Landmark Award, Fairport Convention have been responsible for two of the great songs about the passage of time. And, accordingly, in this first gig in their 50th anniversary tour, the veteran folk-rockers did indeed close '“ inevitably really '“ with one of them, Richard Thompson's ineffable anthem for departed friends, Meet on the Ledge.
Simon Nicol Fairport Convention PIC: Jo Hale/GettySimon Nicol Fairport Convention PIC: Jo Hale/Getty
Simon Nicol Fairport Convention PIC: Jo Hale/Getty

Fairport Convention @50 ****

Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow

But if there were ghosts present, one suspects they were capering in the wings rather than wandering wanly into the feast, as founder member and guitarist-singer Simon Nicol, bassist Simon Pegg, fiddler Ric Sanders, multi-instrumentalist and singer Chris Leslie and drummer Gerry Conway – Fairport’s line-up since 1998 – ranged rumbustiously about their hefty back catalogue, from the early days of the Liege and Lief and Full House albums to more recent repertoire such as a snappy Myths and Heroes. From 1985 there was the rustic nostalgia of Ralph McTell’s Hiring Fair and a recent, wonderfully bumptious instrumental, The Gallivant, that managed to sound like a Henry Mancini theme led wilfully astray.

For a decidedly greying but enthusiastically packed audience (suitably primed by a persuasive set from two seasoned singer-songwriters, Steve Tilston and Jez Lowe), the most rapturous responses were elicited by such classics as Crazy Man Michael, a spirited Sir Patrick Spence, the zesty come-all-ye of Walk a While and the ever dramatic Matty Groves – folk-rock history spooling before our very eyes and ears.