FAIRPORT CONVENTION at Hugh's Room, April 3. Tickets $45-$55. Attendance: 200. Rating: NNN
sitting alone at a club in a new city can be lonely, but usually the awkward feeling is offset by a loud, enthusiastic crowd you can get lost in. Not so Wednesday night at Fairport Convention's sold-out show at Hugh's Room. There, opening my mouth and interrupting the awed hush just to ask, "What did he say?" when I didn't catch the stage banter was met by a disapproving Shhh! and a threatening glare.
Gulp. Who knew aging folkies could be so scary?
I guess you can't blame them. Fairport Convention were the most important British folk band of the late 1960s. Blending folk rock with the traditional music of the British Isles, the group had a massive influence on what was to come in the genre, and members over the years have included Ian Matthews and the late Sandy Denny. They've changed lineups more often than Scott Weiland, Ozzy and Robert Downey Jr. have tried to get clean.
The current bunch -- singer/guitarist Simon Nicol, violinist Ric Sanders, drummer Gerry Conway, bassist Dave Pegg of Jethro Tull (!!!) and Chris Leslie on mandolin -- brought back old favourites along with new stuff from their latest release, XXXV (that's 35 in Roman numerals, the number of years they've been around, in name at least), with incredible skill and mucho affability, including we're-getting-old jokes like "We're not trying to recapture our youths, wherever they are now."
Wicked musicians, they played two tireless sets running on old and more contemporary influences, featuring lovely harmonies, great fiddle and an obviously huge dose of nostalgia.
Unfortunately, the whole experience was like watching an old movie that you know was groundbreaking and must respect but seems a little lacklustre by today's standards.
At one point the server came over to ask, "Are we keeping you awake?" Um, barely. But at least if I'm sleeping I'm not talking, right?