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Review: Bellowhead, Harrogate Festival, Harrogate Royal Hall, Thursday
SILVER surfers turned into silver moshers as Bellowhead tore up the palace of glittering gold on Thursday night. For once the Hall’s PA was turned up to 11 and while plasterers will be busy repairing ceiling cracks, it’s a small price to pay. The band were exhilarating; they always are.
The secret to Belowhead’s success is that for all their seeming complexity, they play things straight. English folk music is meant to be simple and while Boden et al stay true to tradition, they are partnered by a free jazz quartet who improvise, seemingly oblivious to the main song.
That is an illusion however, this band is tighter than a Yorkshireman’s wallet; supreme musicians who blur boundaries like few others.
Folk is a sedate medium with few exceptions. There’s Fairport of course and the Bothy Band who tore up the rule book in the ‘seventies, but there has never been anything like Bellowhead. On stage they are more Sex Pistols than Dubliners, pogoing with unimaginable energy.
It’s the jazz element that really fascinates. And not just Coltrane style. On Captain Wedderburn they build a haunting wall of sound behind ancient lyrics that prickle the neck hairs.
Same with Cold Blows The Wind, but then Little Sally Racket is pure Dammed circa 1977, liberally dosed with Spiritualised circa 1998.
Bellowhead saved New York Girls for a blistering encore which left the audience gagging for more, but probably lacking the energy to take it.