Bellowhead – Nottingham Trent University, Sunday October 18.
For local fans of British folk, this has been a golden month. Following superb performances from Lau at the Playhouse and The Unthanks at the Arts Theatre, last night saw the return of the mighty Bellowhead: an eleven-piece act who blend traditional jigs, songs and shanties with a theatrical, vaudevillian approach.
Scruffily smart in their black shirts and loud ties, the players filled every inch of the stage. To the left, a four-piece brass troupe; to the right, a three-piece string section whose members doubled up on woodwind and pipes; and between them, three of the leading lights of folk’s new generation: John Spiers on the squeeze box, Benji Kirkpatrick on guitar and other related instruments, and their lanky, wild-eyed singer and band leader, Jon Boden.
It took a while for the audience to respond in kind to the sheer energy of the performers, but rambunctious crowd-pleasers such as Kafoozalum and Haul Away proved impossible to resist. By the time we reached the likes of Sloe Gin, London Town and Frogs Legs and Dragons Teeth, most of the room had surrendered to the madness of the moment, bouncing up and down like gurning loons – and proving that when it comes to sweaty nights out, folkies can match rockers pound for pound.