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Review: The Bad Shepherds and Wreckless Eric, Holt Festival

PUBLISHED: 07:34 28 July 2014

The Bad Shepherds.

The Bad Shepherds.

Archant

They were the anthems of a generation. The songs of anger, disenchantment and nihilism which poured out from the “lost youth” of Britain and America.

Anarchy in the UK, London Calling, Going Underground – the rallying calls of the punks.

Or were they just good pop songs disguised in a musical genre dismissed by many as having more style than content?

The Bad Shepherds, formed by “punk comedian” Ade Edmondson (Vyvyan in TV’s classic The Young Ones) take a fresh view of those songs – playing them acoustically in “folk style”.

It was a mixed bag with mixed results.

The works of some of today’s surviving songwriters from the late 70s alternative scene – Paul Weller (Jam), Andy Partridge (XTC) and David Byrne (Talking Heads) - still sounded exceptional.

But sadly the Sex Pistols’ Anarchy and Ian Dury’s What a Waste for me seemed pale imitations of the originals.

It was obvious they all meant a lot to Edmondson (vocals and mandolin), Troy Donockley (vocals, bouzouki, uilleann “elbow” pipes, and whistles) and Tim Harries (double bass).

Even without their usual percussionist they were a powerful musical trio – moving easily from belting out songs of anger like The Clash’s White Riot to more reflective classics like the Jam’s Down in the Tube Station at Midnight and XTC’s Making Plans for Nigel.

The audience at Holt’s outdoor Theatre in the Woods may have looked respectable and middle class – but it obviously included many of that very same “lost generation” of more than 30 years ago.

Songs of anger and rebellion at the end of a beautiful summer’s day in what is usually a patch of quiet north Norfolk woodland (instead of some dark and seedy 1970s’ club) was indeed incongruous – but I was very glad to be reminded of classics like Public Image Ltd’s Rise, Kraftwerk’s The Model and Talking Heads’ Once In A Lifetime.

Never mind the genre – here’s the punk classics.

Singer-guitarist Wreckless Eric of course was there at the time – alongside Stiff label colleagues like Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe.

Thirty years on he is still in good form, writing and performing his own quirky songs of anger and observation on the bizarre world in which we live.

Eric proved a great opening act with his homage to pop pioneer producer Joe Meek, the amusing funeral ride story The Last Taxi and his own punk era hit The Whole Wide World.

Brian Gaudet

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