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Pentangle - Liverpool Philharmonic 14th July 2008
By Merle Veggard
I might have let slip in last month's Swine that I had a bit of a thing for medieval jazz-folk weirdos Pentangle - well blow me down with ye plague, they only went and reformed the classic 1967-73 line up and decided to a do a show at the Liverpool Philharmonic. Thirty odd nicker for a ticket was a bit steep, but compared to the price of the togger these days it's not that bad, so me and the editor plus a couple of the old Neth stoners decided to lump on. As per normal, we needed a few "calmers" before kick off so we met up in the Casa Dockers Club for a few pints and a bit of speed smoking, before getting into the venue with two minutes to spare. Boss seats were sorted, row five lower, right in the middle. The crowd was heavily dominated by grey haired folkies, although the little known Folk-Skinhead cult was represented by Swine's Doughboy and Glen from the backroom. And some lad on the way in sported a nice cord jacket and suedies combo. And John O out of Groundpig was there as well.
I'll admit right from the off that I was never a Pentangle completist or anything - I only ever heard the early albums ("The Pentangle" and "Basket Of Light"), usually when I was twisted. I never had a clue about the history of the band at all, but they sounded great. Bert Jansch and John Renbourn on acoustic geets, Terry Cox percussion, Danny Cox on double bass and a Jacqui McShee doing the hey nonny nonny vocals. About one third of the tunes I wasn't really arsed with - the band were into medieval/renaissance music and reworking traditional folk tunes as well as original stuff and instrumentals - but when they got good they were mind-blowing. The double bass feller used to use a bow and get this bizarre drone effect that overlaid the tune, the drummer was a jazzer into the brushes, and the two geets were being handled by ace players, and in the case of Bert Jansch, a bone-fide guitar genius. The instrumentals "Bells" and "Pentangling" sum up what they are all about to me - bizarre, extended, round the bend acoustic jams, ideal "end of the night" tunes.
The band come on stage at 8.00pm prompt. Bert looked pretty cool in rag-arse jeans and top and a pair of Converse All-Stars, Renbourn looked like a Professor of Medieval Gum Diseases, the bass player looked dapper in a black whistle black shirt combo, the drummer was a ringer for Pat Rice and the singer looked like a mumsy arl hippy-chick. They kicked off with one that I knew - "Let No Man Steal Your Thyme" - off the first LP, and their biggest hit "Light Flight" was the third song - this tune was the soundtrack to the first BBC colour series "Take Three Girls", and for some reason me mum loves it. After that, I only knew a couple of tunes they did - "Goodbye Porkpie Hat", "In Time", "Bruton Town". Each of the players took a turn to get into a solo showcase of some sort, and at one point John Renbourn nearly ruptured himself as he got strapped into a sitar to accompany Bert on the banjo in some weird Ravi Shankar meets the Beverly Hillbillies swami hoe-down, which totally ruled by the way. Other than that, I spent the rest of the show just watching Bert Jansch to see if I could gain any tips into his genius. Typically I learnt fuck all other than what I already knew - I'm shite at the guitar. Half the time Bert wasn't even moving his hands and yet flurries of complicated contrapuntal solos would just drip out. It does your head in really. They wrapped up about ten bells, before coming back for two encores, neither of which was bastard "Bells", and that was that - lights on, out and back to the Casa to get accosted by a baghead who told us his life story for a swig on our dregs and lasties on the spliffs. There's probably a "Trad Arr" version of that knocking about somewhere.
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