Jon Boden and the Remnant Kings

May 30, 2010

Bury Met, 20/4/10

Half way through this concert, Jon Boden described his recent album, “Songs from the Floodplain”, as being set in world where the oil and other things had run out.  There was no electricity, and so people had to make their own entertainment.  Entertainment such as Folk Music.  This got a laugh and round of applause from the audience, which was rather ironic given that out of the couple of hundred people present, only five of us were making our own entertainment that evening.

It seems a shame to begin a review of such an excellent gig on what might seem to be a negative point, but, despite claims to the contrary, this was not Folk Music.  Yes, there were folk tunes included, yes the concert began with music played on wax cylinder phonographs,and yes, the songs had a folky feel, but taken as a whole, this was a very modern event.  The way the songs segued into each other; the way the group would set a cylinder playing on the phonograph and then join in; the attention to detail in the arrangements; all this showed a sit list as preprogrammed and rehearsed as something that Lady Gaga might perform.

Not that this is a problem.  Far from it: I don’t subscribe to the view that rehearsal is bad, and I deplore the way that amateurism is frequently passed off as self-expression.  This was a group of people who clearly had a vision about what they wanted to perform, and they delivered it.  (Incidentally, why is it, recently, that Sam Sweeney keeps turning up on stage when I go to a concert? He was playing the drums this time, occasionally with his fiddle bow.)

Anyway, I’m increasingly of the opinion that Jon Boden is not just a great arranger, but he’s shaping up to be one of our best song writers.  I’m looking forward to seeing how he develops.

I meant to write this entry earlier as the tour ends in Cambridge tonight, so it’s unlikely that anyone persuaded by this will have the opportunity to go and see the group.  Still, it allows me to describe how the show closes without spoiling it for anyone…

First, Jon Boden asks the sound techs to turn off the PA, then he launches into Stardust.  (It’s funny how this song is relatively unknown nowadays, given it was the most covered song ever until Yesterday.)  When he finishes, someone steps forward to play an old recording of the song on the phonograph, and the band accompany the song to close and fade.  Lovely, and strangely poignant.

I think I will end this entry in the same vein…

Though I dream in vain
In my heart it will remain
My stardust melody
The memory of love’s refrain