Bellowhead performing their That’s All Folks…The Farewell Tour at the Royal Concert Hall Nottingham on Saturday 30th April 2016

Images and Review by Kevin Cooper

A dozen years, countless festivals, endless awards and five brilliant albums later, Bellowhead have reached the end of their thrilling journey that has seen them reshape the landscape of British folk music.

Appearing before a sold out Royal Concert Hall for the final time last night on their That’s All Folks…tour, this big band, with its complex arrangements and a huge variety of instruments delivered a master class in keeping an audience in the palm of your hands.

At the centre of a crowed stage that housed eleven musicians and a plethora of instruments, was the commanding and engaging Jon Boden.  With his incredible stage presence he is graced with a voice as strong as would be necessary to front such a massive show that has such a huge sound.  It says a lot that when he called it a day, the band decided that they didn’t want to go on without him.

With an extensive set list; Brazilian sea shanties, Napoleonic war songs, Cornish ballads and English songs of the sea were all given that energetic and frenetic Bellowhead flavour.  From their opening salvo with Jacques Brel’s Amsterdam to the climatic closing charge of New York Girls, and a re-visit in the middle to Cold Blows The Wind and Fine Sally, this was a night of triumph and celebration, in front of a whooping, dancing and adoring full house.

Old favourites Roll Alabama Roll and Betsy Baker took pride of place in this lengthy and tightly packed set, whilst London Town prompted an audience sing along.  They delivered an extended version of the musically complex Roll The Woodpile Down and a fantastic rollicking instrumental Frogs Legs And Dragons Teeth.

Bellowhead are a group of musicians who make being in a band look like so much fun.  The old maxim ‘leave them wanting more’ has never been truer.  Roll on the reunion tour but in the meantime at least some other bands will finally get a chance at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award for The Best Band.