After 10 years, 5 albums, countless gigs and a split-year farewell tour, the good ship Bellowhead, captained by John Speirs and Jon Boden, sails off into the sunset. This live set- 2 CD’s of tracks recorded in Autumn 2015 across the UK-and a live DVD, combined a very attractive hardbound booklet. If Bellowhead are bowing out, then they are doing so with class and style.
Bellowhead have always been best represented on the live stage rather than in studio recordings, and this live package is testament to how the many musicians on stage come together to create an upbeat, toe-tapping sound, one which wears the Folk sound on its sleeve, but always combined with a modern twist. ‘Lilliburlero’ is easily imagined as a folk song sung a-cappella; the instrumentation here adding a driving beat which could be replicated through voices. If it seems very theatrical, well, that’s because it is. The band are in on the act, performing these tracks with gusto and oomph, coming together to ensure the audience are entertained. Too often, live shows can lead audiences cold. There would be no chance of that happening here with Bellowhead.
The rest of the live record includes such favourites as ‘Haul Away’, ‘Gosport Nancy’, ‘London Town’ and ‘New York Town’, all preserved for posterity in perhaps their very best sound. ‘Gosport Nancy’, a three minute romp, led by the accordion, is difficult to resist singing along and dancing to. It is easy to see why the band have received many platitudes, including ‘best live act in the country’ from BBC Radio 2, such is the strength of this live set.
With the final chords of ‘Frog’s legs and Dragon’s teeth’ ringing into the ether, Bellowhead take their bow, and leave stage left. Here’s hoping a reunion in the forthcoming years.