Bellowhead – St David’s Hall, Cardiff, 27/01/09

Pic from Flickr user 'jcoelho'

Pic from Flickr user 'jcoelho'

When a band takes to the stage brandishing a frying pan and a set of bagpipes, even the most open-minded of music fans could be forgiven for thinking it is going to be a long night.

In St David’s Hall on Tuesday evening, Bellowhead did exactly that, but proceeded to make weird and wonderful music from their weird and wonderful instruments. By their fifth number, no-one in the audience batted an eyelid when the kazoos came out – they were all too busy dancing.

Bellowhead make progressive folk music: traditional jigs, reels and ballads played with a firm and accomplished grip on the past, but delivered in a refreshing and novel style. Multi-instrumentalist Benji Kirkpatrick offered a stark example of this – running his bouzouki through a wah-wah pedal to create a sound that would have raised Hendrix’s eyebrows.

There are few bands who transform as utterly as they do when they play in front of an audience. Even their two critically acclaimed albums, 2006’s debut Burlesque and recent release Matachin, sound a restrained black and white compared to the glorious technicolour of their live show. After five minutes it was easy to see how they have scooped Best Live Act at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards three times in the last four years.

There is almost too much to watch when Bellowhead perform, not least because there are eleven of them. Front man and fiddler Jon Boden is the focal point. He straddles the thin line between the manic and the comic, as if Ian Curtis had been asked to play Mr Bean for the night and had enthusiastically agreed. The horn section compete with the strings to see who can provide the most entertainment when they aren’t playing.

Bellowhead have a few remaining dates on a mini Welsh tour – you can catch them at Theatr Mwldan, Cardigan on Friday night; Pontardawe Arts Centre on Saturday and Theatr Brycheiniog, Brecon on February 1. If the Cardiff, gig was anything to go by, the sound of their twisted, relentless, epic tunes will be echoing in the valleys for a long time to come.

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~ by seanbradbury on January 28, 2009.

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