Review: Bellowhead at O2 Guildhall, Southampton
Whether it was oversight or a snub, we have Bellowhead's omission from this year's Radio 2 Folk Awards for this late addition to their farewell tour.
The night had been kept clear, in case they were required at the Royal Albert Hall, but when it became clear they weren’t, this gig was added to the schedule.
However, the awards’ loss was our gain.
Jon Boden maybe the nominal bandleader, but this 11-headed folk-hydra is packed with talent – many of the members lead successful projects in their own right. And during the course of the gig, everyone gets a chance to shine, from Ed Neuhauser on helicon, to the sole woman, Rachael McShane on cello and fiddle.
Several songs merge into disco-folk – largely thanks to Benji Kirkpatrick’s riffing style on the bouzouki – a genre that is much better experienced than it sounds on paper.
And in keeping with that theme, Boden even removes his shirt to reveal a sequined waistcoat.
There are tunes aplenty – old and new – Flight of the Folk Mutants Parts I and II, anybody?
They reel out the crowd-pleasers like Fine Sally, Roll the Woodpile Down and a particularly feisty main set closer, New York Girls.
There’s an encore of a rollicking London Town and their traditional set-closing tunes Frogs Legs and Dragons’ Teeth, but the crowd won’t let them leave so they come back for one more. They close with Prickle Eye Bush, the first song they ever played live together, 12 years ago, which is a nice touch.
It was a pleasure to see this unique band bow out while still clearly at the height of its powers. The show felt more like a lap of honour than a teary goodbye.
Whether the final gig in Oxford on Sunday really is their last hurrah remains to be seen.
But they will leave a gaping hole in the scene.