Folk-rock, forty years on: Fairport Acoustic Convention on tour

“Acoustic is an anagram for seated,” introduces Simon Nicol, both showing up a loose approach to the English language, and explaining the addition of an extra word to Fairport Convention’s billed name.

And with all of the quintet sprouting gray hair, and after four decades on the road and 50 albums to their name, why shouldn’t the guys sit down for a bit?

The folk-rock pioneers’ lengthy heritage was hammered home when singer and guitarist Nicol, introduced a “relatively young” addition to the Fairport canon – from 1985. Blimey, there are people in the Croydon audience younger than that. Just.

The relaxed, sit-down mood suited the band, who scattered the set with songs old and new, jerky traditional jigs batting heads with more ornate, self-composed affairs. Nicol, the only remaining founding member, played the distinguished elder statesman, presiding over the evening from centre stage, sharing tales of seafarers, church bells and vicars. Exotic fiddle trills and bad jokes came from Ric Sanders to the left, crafted mandolin plucks from Chris Leslie on the right, while at the back Dave Pegg – a veteran since 1970 – was a continuing inspiration with his thoughtful, inventive electric bass lines.

The ghost of lost singer Sandy Denny haunted the room during a soulful take on her ballad Who Knows Where the Time Goes. And Richard Thompson’s shadow was never far away; despite the fact he quit the band 40 years ago to pave his own way as one ofBritain’s most iconoclastic singer-songwriters – a position that was cemented when he curatedLondon’s iconic Meltdown festival last year.

“This one was tossed off by Richard Thompson as a lad,” said Nichol pointedly, introducing a lurching, singalong encore of Meet on the Ledge. However hard they try, four decades on the band are yet to outrun the one who got away.

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