4-11-96 .Royalty Theatre .Adelaide.
Set 1. Set 2.
|Crazy Man Michael.
A Surfeit Of Lampreys.
The Naked Highwayman.
The Hiring Fair.
Con Cases' Jigs/Tripping Up the Stairs.
Matty Groves > Dirty Linen.
Encore: Meet On The Ledge.
It had been 10 years since the last tour and this was the first time Fairport had toured Australia ( or anywhere else for that matter ) without a drummer .The tour was an opportunity to promote the newly released Old ,New, Borrowed, Blue album and we were keen to see what the band sounded like without a skin beater aboard. The show had been extensively advertised in the papers for at least a month beforehand , so we were expecting a fair turnout .
The Royalty Theatre has seen better days, but its a nice old hole. A plush red velvet curtain, lots of ornate plaster work, and excruciatingly small seats, where you have to literally rub shoulders with those sitting next to you. It seats about 500 and on this night there were about 350 spare seats at LEAST . I counted 120 people, but there may have been a few more than that. Very disappointing to say the least. But then there have been smaller audiences than this on Fairport Australian tours , as witnessed by the Murray Bridge 86 gig , where a total of FOUR people turned up.
They still played the gig.
With no visible evidence of disappointment at the size of the audience on their part, the lads proceeded to play an exemplary gig, with many high points in terms of playing, accompanied by the usual extended silly set banter , capped by an amusing demonstration of Dave Peggs temper- of which more later.
This acoustic line-up proved to work surprisingly well and the set got
off to a good start with a nice version of Slip Jigs and Reels, a great song
by UK song smith Steve Tilston.
The band of course sounded very different without a drummer, more like
a traditional folk band, but it was still recognizably Fairport, if only because
of the familiar vocal warblings of messrs Pegg
and Nicol. Numbers such as Woodworm
Swing perhaps lacked the thrust provided by Mr
Mattacks, but were highly enjoyable nevertheless . Since this was
the first tour in 10 years, I expect most Fairport devotees would have
come to see the band even if they had been playing washboards and doing skiffle
tunes ( well probably not actually, but you get the drift) . One thing to remember
, when you are 12,000 miles from a folk bands base you are lucky to get them
to visit at all , given the economics of touring these days and the state of
the Aussie dollar . I always feel that we in Oz are fortunate to see these guys
so frequently ( I think they see their visits as something of a holiday actually
) and this was a highly acceptable version of Fairport .
The first set was quite short, just around 40 minutes, but had plenty of energy and some funny banter from Maaart Allcock. During the break the sound crew, who had set up a pretty good PA I thought , disappeared completely , so when the band came back on-stage they had no way of getting rid of the piped music from the sound system . There followed a slightly embarrassing lull when the band just stood around and someone tried to find the crew to kill the music. This was soon sorted, but I got the impression that the band were not particularly smitten by the sound crews attitude. This may have been a catalyst for Peggy's later outburst.
. There had been some mention of the fabled Adelaide pie floaters in the first half, but now the band and the audience really got down to comparing which of the travelling pie carts were the best. A straw poll held of the audience by the band established that the Town Hall pie cart cuisine was far better than the one at the station and I hope the band visited the correct one after the show( if you haven't tried an Adelaide pie floater , you haven't missed much , but if you do like pies floating in mushy peas, then I don't expect they come much better then the ones we serve up ).
Musically, the second half was most impressive, . Starting with a lovely version of Crazy Man Michael , the band went from strength to strength, The Hiring Fair was particularly effective ,as were the medleys of jigs in Con Casey and Tripping Up The Stairs.
The audience clapped along in time from there on , through most of Matty Groves and Dirty Linen, -which were right champion versions as my Yorkshire relatives might say -but it was right in the middle of said piece that Peggy threw caution to the winds with this mild request to the sound man , to wit " turn up the f**king violin you c**t " , which tended to startle most of the audience and some of the band as it came right out of the blue. Up till then the only indication that there was anything wrong with the PA or foldback was one of the band asking for extra foldback in the first half, - so this outburst was a bit of a shock. But there must have been something major wrong, because at the close of Dirty Linen, Maestro Pegg literally threw down his white bass and stormed off stage ,- he was spitting chips !
I really did not expect any encore after this ,although there was a lot of applause which lasted some considerable time -but the boys did come back on to do Meet on the Ledge. After this ,as the audience ambled out we were all regaled by the spectacle of Mr Pegg giving the soundman a verbal dressing down in full view of everyone. He had NOT regained his composure at all and the soundman looked close to tears , he just had his head down and took the verbal beating . You had to feel sorry for the guy. From our viewpoint the sound had been very good , so it must have been the foldback that caused the problem .
If you want to hear the Pegg's outburst in all its glory at least two recordings are available of this show. The first , to be avoided at all costs, is the one I made , my first ever, which was done with the most basic of equipment and is muffled and very ordinary. The soundboard is preferable, although the copy I have is not top quality.
The band allowed the promoters to set up a static camera on the balcony , so there is a long shot view of the entire show in existence, but its fairly basic and no one is really in focus, its just too far away, but the sound is excellent.
After the show we hung around and had a chat with Maart, who was packing up his instruments. The band were acting as their own roadies in this aspect. Ian got his CD signed by Simon and Maart , but we saw no sign of Peggy and I doubt if even Ian would have had the courage to ask him to sign the sleeve after the fracas with the roadie.
Maart was quite friendly and prepared to talk about the progress of the tour. Apparently the Adelaide gig had been the worst attended of the whole tour - they had good houses in all the other cities. We tendered our apologies and wished him luck for the rest of the tour .
So another Adelaide leg of the Fairport Australian tour was over. We really had our doubts as to whether they would bother to come to Adelaide again , but they had faith and did the deed again in 1999. This time round it was a full house at the Gov and a good crowd at Strathalbyn .We have to thank Dave Kelly , Michael Hunter and some other folks at Fiddlestix for this. Lets hope Fairport continue to come over to Australia for many years to come , its like a breath of fresh air whenever they arrive !
Fairport Convention In Australia pages
Fairport Convention in the Mother Country