Saturday, 23 November 2013


Live Review

Town Hall Birmingham

Ade Edmondson has enjoyed several incarnations from the anarchic Vyvyan of The Young Ones, through The Dangerous Brothers with Rik Mayal, Filthy, Rich and Catflap, Eddie Hitler of Bottom, which if we are being honest were really all the same character, The Comic Strip, Bad News, his more recent and sedate Ade in Britain and his popularity on Masterchef.

Ade Edmondson and the Bad Shepherds
Behind all this has been Edmondson the musician who claims to be a thrash mandolin player which tells you straight away that he and his band The Bad Shepherds are not to be taken totally seriously.
However, don't make the mistake that this strand of levity is a sign they do not take their music seriously. Whether you like their "messing about" with what have become modern punk classics, (who would have thought that would ever happen?) and it has to be said some of the cover versions which have their Celtic blend of music bolted on do not work, Edmondson, Troy Donockley and Andy Dinan are incredible musicians. Their sheer skill and the quality of sound they produce came through right from the off in the wonderfully ornate Birmingham venue with Edmondson on mandolin, Dinan on fiddle and Donockley on flute as they opened with a slip jig which grew into a full blown jig as Donockley moved on to the uilleann  pipes then Edmondson's singing came over the top with of all things Anarchy in the UK from The Sex Pistols.
It shouldn't have worked but it did and if you think about it punk and folk are not so distant cousins, both are music offering an alternative to the mainstream, both come from ground level and both are just ordinary people picking up instruments and having something to say about everyday life through music.
The novelty of the fusion of punk and folk, (polk maybe? Well funk is already taken) was part of the enjoyment but it soon gets a little wearisome. The next one was No More Heroes from The Stranglers they just about got away with this and Edmondson does have the right kind of voice for it and of course once again the folk playing was faultless.
Unfortunately this is where the choice of covers became hit and miss bolting on Celtic music to a version of The Jam's Going Underground just didn't weld together and the joins were obvious, it was even more so with Ian Dury & The Blockheads' What A Waste. This is a raw edgy song and one of the those which doesn't benefit from being softened by the use of folk rhythms.
Hit show Ade In Britain
It didn't get any better with Our House, from Madness. It was almost as if they had a great tune, which would have stood on its own, but instead they forced the words to fit into the music and again the same could be said about Gary Gilmore's Eyes from punk band The Adverts about a patient who received the eyes of convicted killer Gary Gilmore after he had donated them to science.
This like many punk songs were designed to shock, they were angry and full of energy when first released and giving them the folk treatment somehow neutralises them.
It may be stating the obvious but it's clear Edmondson et al are trying to recapture the punk era of which they would have liked to have been more involved. The problem with this is that it's something that can very easily be overdone and if they are not already at that point they are very close to it. 
Edmondson should take heed of the same thing which happened to his wife Jennifer Saunders who along with comedy partner Dawn French far outstayed their sell-by date with the BBC with their tiresome parodies of other people's work.
This said one of those which did translate better into a folk setting was Elvis Costello's Shipbuilding which was really cool and Edmondson really took his dexterousness on the mandolin to another level.
They then pulled out one of two Talking Heads tracks, neither of which worked but it has to be said on Road To Nowhere Donockley's uilleann pipe playing was out of this world. Once In A Lifetime was the other towards the end of the set which just did not come off. 
Ade thrashing the mandolin
All of which makes you ask why, when the musicians are this good, are they not concentrating on instrumentals and writing their own material. The cover versions are good for the odd one, for novelty value during gigs and maybe even one album but to possibly make it your defining quality is not a particularly wise move especially when you are as talented as these musicians clearly are.
Perhaps the biggest faux pas of the night was XTC's Making Plans for Nigel which is arguable one of the greatest songs ever written and it just ended up as a sorry sounding version of the original and even the skills of the trio couldn't salvage it
Friday Night, Saturday Morning from The Specials worked quite well but what really made it was Dinan's explosive fiddle playing. Listening to that guy saw away at the strings of his instrument shows you why he has twice been a fiddle playing champion in Ireland. His skill and precision even with half the horse hairs hanging off his bow was stupendous. Further offerings from the Sex Pistols, God Save The Queen,and The Clash, London Calling were worth hearing but again only for the players folk music playing which can't really be praised enough.
They did pull out one of their own songs Mud, Blood & Beer from their album of the same name which is about the experience of playing festivals, and it showed how good they are when they use their own material and hopefully there will be many more like it in the future.

Anarchy In The UK - The Sex Pistols
No More Heroes - The Stranglers
Going Underground - The Jam
What A Waste - Ian Dury and the Blockheads
Gary Gilmore's Eyes - The Adverts
Shipbuilding - Elvis Costello
One In A Lifetime - Talking Heads
Road To Nowhere - Talking Heads
Making Plans For Nigel - XTC
Friday Night, Saturday Morning - The Specials
London Calling - The Clash
God Save the Queen - The Sex Pistols

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