, Hope Street
18th January 2010
In the Philharmonic Hall,
There are nudies on the wall,
And you get a funny feeling
That you want to shag the ceiling…
Sorry. It’s been this way ever since I was a kid. Every time I
come here to arguably our greatest concert hall, all highbrow and that,
I can’t help thinking about that rhyme; the same one that tickled
me as a boy does the job just as well today. Try it next time you’re
there and see for yourself. Hee hee!
Ahem. Anyway, to the review at hand: The Imagined Village. This was
a great gig. Nick Griffin would have hated it. It was English folk music
as you’ve never heard it before, unless you’d got onto this
band of brothers and sisters on their last tour. That time they were joined
by the Big Nosed Bard of Barking, Sir William Bragg, in his original pearly
king get up; Benjamin Zephaniah joining us by the miracle of video recording
for a booming retelling of 'Tam Lyn', and Sheila Chandra singing a version
of 'Welcome Sailor' that moved us beyond words and confirming, as if such
confirmation were needed, that she is one of the finest artists to ever
bless this world.
This time, touring to promote their second album ‘Empire and Love’,
the lineup had changed a bit, but with no let up in the sheer quality
of the outfit. But we lucky lucky people were treated to the company of
folk legends Eliza Carthy and her dad Martin; Simon Emmerson (all-round
top geezer and force of nature behind both these and the legendary Afro-Celt
Sound System); the incredible Johnny Kalsi from The Dhol Foundation (who
deserves highest praise of all, not only for giving a customary earth-shaking
performance, but for doing it while feeling really ill – a fact
I only found out afterwards, which shows the sheer professionalism of
The show opened, as last time, with the remarkable Chris Wood. Being
your own support can be a mixed blessing. A friend of mine thought he
had a pole stuck up his arse, and a chip on his shoulder. I reckon he’s
good enough to pull off a juggle of that magnitude, should the need ever
arise. For me, though, he was simply sensational. He didn’t do last
year’s cracker ‘The Cottager’s Reply’, as this
was a whole new set for everyone, both showcasing new albums (on sale
in the foyer folks!). He did an accomplished set, showcasing his new material.
Of particular note is ‘Hollow Point’, which Chris told me
afterwards was the song he wanted to write that he’d be able to
perform in front of both the family of Jean Charles de Menezes and the
officers who shot him. Powerful stuff. The whole album ‘Handmade
Life’ is fantastic, and should join his last one ‘Trespasser’
on your shelf or iDickhead Library. And he was right: we WERE a great
audience for a Monday. See what happens when next time, you make Liverpool
your final show, rather than one of the first. Ohh, we’d party like
After a brief interval, the rest of the boys of girls of this incarnation
of the band hit the stage. The overall feeling we had was the musical
arrangement. Folk isn’t about sticking a finger in your ear and
caterwauling with a hey nonny no. It’s dynamic, charged and vibrant.
'Space Girl' saw Eliza do her finest out-of-metaphoric - space tale
of men doing her wrong. You need a blaster AND a freezer gun out there,
Eliza, girl! Also surely the only time this year you’ll get to hear
a theramin played live. The only instrument you play without touching
it, it was played as hauntingly as nature intends.
I must just make comment on the continued bollocks surrounding what exactly
constitutes The Phil’s Dance Policy. I’ve lost count of the
number of times I’ve been asked to sit down by staff during performances
that plainly warranted a dance to. To me, cutting a rug is mandatory,
and shows respect for the artist. To deny us this time and again is an
insult. THIS TIME, I got told off for holding me lighter aloft. Cliché
be damned. The Imagined Village deserve a thousand lights tonight! Or
at least a little boogie, for fox sake. But no. A single flame in the
Phil now constitutes a fire hazard. Remember the days when the Tocky Massive
brought it good style with all spliffs a-blazin’? Ahhh, those heady
days…it brings to light the utter shite talked by the stewards now.
Don’t worry, officer, I’m in complete control of the lighter
in my hand, and the feet at the end of me legs…and yes, someone
I know IS minding my children…
I must just mention the bit Martin drew attention to a recent article
in The Guardian which gave us a ‘light-hearted view’ of which
musicians were popular with the World’s Most Evil Men. Included
in the list was an ignorant reference to Griffin being a fan of our Eliza!
No wonder Martin was livid! Simon asked that we all give a two-finger
salute to Nick Griffin, whilst shouting 'Bollocks to Nick Griffin'! Simon
asked for the house lights to go up, and took a photo of the whole Philharmonic
shouting those exact, somehow natural, words. The photo should adorn this
review, really. Eliza later wrote a fantastic piece for the Guardian Response
column read it .
These beautiful people do indeed give English folk music a fresh voice,
a strident, melancholic, celebratory mélange.
Give The Imagined Village a listen. Read the book. Download the discussion
on English identity from last year’s WOMAD festival (see their website
for details) for some good stuff from Simon, Billy, Chris and the audience.
For bringing us the good times of New England, Imagined Village, we
Comment left by Graham Holland on 22nd May, 2010 at 13:28
Many thanks for the fab review, Amanda.