Someone once said that a typical June Tabor concert review went thusly: “June Tabor sang some songs and everybody cried”. There is some truth in that but on stage with Oysterband things are different. There is darkness in the songs, yes, but here June was sharp, jokey and making points with a surgical precision before anyone noticed what she was doing.
They opened with ‘Bonny Bunch Of Roses’ and played all of Ragged Kingdom as well as four songs from Freedom And Rain and some Oysterband “solos”. With producer Al Scott on bass and guitar, plus all the extra instruments they have added the men in black and the lady in red have enormous flexibility to play just about anything from the gorgeous unaccompanied harmonies of ‘When I Was No But Sweet Sixteen’ to the acid rock of their second encore, ‘White Rabbit’.
The second set was preceded by the presentation of the fRoots Critics’ Award by Stephen Mangan (it’s probably compulsory to refer to him as TV’s Dirk Gently) – well, we were in Islington. He made a witty and brief speech before June explained how they hold a grudge in Somerset as an introduction to ‘Judas Was A Red-Headed Man’ followed by my favourite track from the album, ‘Son David’.
I must mention the sound engineer. I was not in an advantageous position but the sound was excellent. The Union Chapel acoustic properties are such that you can feel the kick drum vibrating through the pews, adding a sometimes visceral bass immerses you in the music and the acoustic guitar and kantele were sparklingly clear.
Performance: 19th Aril 2012
Artist Web Link: www.oysterband.co.uk