5th November 2016
The John Peel Centre, Stowmarket

I have no wish to sound self-indulgent but it had been a fairly dreadful week, a million reasons, in my head, why I didn’t want to go. But still I drove the hour, to Stowmarket, through the detritus of a thousand bursting fireworks, was it worth it? You bet.

From the opening bars of “The soul’s electric” I was easily reminded of just what a life affirming band they are and exactly why I have seen them far more times than many of the bigger names that reside in my record collection. An added bonus was the introduction of a new drummer – Pete Flood, previously the engine room of Bellowhead, who brought more verve and attack and, consequently, new energy to a decades old band. Plus he got to play a regulation kit rather than last week’s washing up, as often looked the case with his previous employers.

Having been mightily cheered and, as I write this, still a little overwhelmed I have the envious task of deciding which highlights to highlight, so here is a potted guide to an evening of favourite songs. “I built this house” turns the personal to the universal along with a thumping sing a long chorus. A set of tunes to prove that they are still in thrall to the tradition that spawned them, another trip to “The Oxford girl” which still bamboozles me, and the all-purpose protest song “All that way for this” which was dedicated, if that is the right word, to the recent referendum. And, to end this paragraph, my favourite “Dancing as fast as I can” which I often think maybe my funeral song.

In previous times the band were noted for their political and social conscience and, I guess, the times we live in, probably, demand more commentary. To that end we got “Coal not dole” which, in no small way, proves the potency and, often overlooked, beauty in the voice of John Jones. Following that an angry “Bells of Rhymney” which owed far more to Joy Division than Pete Seeger, in similar vein came Leon Rosselson’s “World turned upside down” which, in my opinion, even out does the mighty Billy Bragg.

The current closing song “The road to Santiago” is another of my favourites, in which the band leave the stage one by one until only Ian Telfer’s fiddle is left, almost lament like, to end proceedings. Except, of course, it is not the end, the well-deserved encore began with a rollicking “Granite years”, and the sing a long “Where the world divides”. Finally all five jump into the crowd for an all-acoustic “Like a swimmer in the ocean” which left the audience happily singing whilst they processed backstage.

Then that was it, a five star performance although they lose a star for stealing all the milk, but five stars for the hospitality of the volunteers who happily conjured me coffee despite the lack of said item. Fab gig, fab welcome from JPC and I look forward to next time.