June Tabor

The Capstone Theatre
22nd March 2013

Reviewed by Joe Coventry

On a freezing cold and snow swept night here was a singer to warm the cockles of any heart. Famous for a career spanning over four decades, June Tabor's plangent voice was back in Liverpool following her sold out concert with the Oyster Band last year.

Perfidious Albion being what it is the audience could not match such levels tonight, but those who turned up, at £17.50 each, aficionados all of her burgeoning repertoire were not to be disappointed. The set was comprised mainly of songs from her latest compilation to do with the sea, Ashore.

In the marvellous acoustics of the Capstone auditorium her crystal clear delivery resonated to the nuanced and unrushed accompaniment of her backing musicians. Hew Warren brought ozone cogency to the piano, alongside Andy Cutting's accordion playing for any century, and Mark Emerson's sensitively bowed support on the violin.

The sea has always been a source of fascination for the people of these Islands, the diminutive folk diva intoned, and before each song she gave a short exposition on why it had been chosen in the hour and a half programme.

A magical conjuring up of images of Gibraltar, Malta and the waters off Cape Verde contrasted with shorelines closer to home and tales of hardship and privation as well, for loved ones on the high seas or left at home; not knowing; waiting.

She began the set with 'Finisterre', unrequited longing at it's heart, and was followed up with a doxy's lament in Manchester and 'The Bleacher Lassie Of Kelvinhaugh'.

There were also two songs in French. Hailing from the Channel Islands - whose side were these sailors on and does it matter? - she poured out the stories of more pining in 'Le Vingt Cinqueme du Mois Octobre' and gruesome dining as starvation brings cannibalism on board a becalmed warship, in the spirit of Gericault's Raft of the Medusa.

The band had a chance to show off their collective skills when she occasionally rested her vocal chords off stage and they all joined in on the ever popular jig ' I'll go and enlist for a sailor'. Cyril Tawney's hoary old classic 'The Oggy Man' got centre billing, evoking a long lost but by no means kinder Cornwall. That other great standard from Maddy Prior and Silly Sister days 'The Grey Funnel Line' encapsulated the night.

The performance was eclectic, sonorous and heartfelt. Unfazed by the turnout the trooper that is June Tabor marched away in a black trademark suit complete with culottes, but the tumbril will not be coming round for her for a long time yet.

Very enjoyable.

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