Review: Folk on the Pier festival opening night

Lindisfarne who played at the Folk on the Pier 2015 festival for the first time this year. Picture:

Lindisfarne who played at the Folk on the Pier 2015 festival for the first time this year. Picture: SUBMITTED - Credit: Archant

There was no Fog on the Tyne but plenty of storm clouds over the North Sea when Lindisfarne closed the first day of this year's, 17th, Cromer Folk on the Pier festival.

The wind and rain were lashing outside but the enthusiastic Pavilion Theatre audience only had ears for the Newcastle-based musical legends.

They belted out a stream of well-known songs from their first two albums, Nicely Out of Tune (1970) and Fog on the Tyne (1971), which kept fans in the packed theatre more than happy.

Meet Me on the Corner, their big early chart hit, was in there of course as well as Clear White Light – kept for an inevitable encore.

Rod Clements (guitar, mandolin and vocals), the only remaining member from that original line-up, and Ian Thomson (bass) quietened things down for an evocative (and retitled) Train in E Major.

The later chart hit Run for Home yet again proved a rock anthem for fans and there were many songs during the performance by Alan Hull, the group's original singer, guitarist and main songwriter.

A surprise inclusion was Wake Up Little Sister from the group's third LP, Dingly Dell (1972), but – so soon after the General Election result – the band chose not to play Hull's Bring Down the Government.

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Earlier in the day Cromer Pier folk-rock 'no-nonsense' favourites Little Johnny England pleased many with many old favourites but opinion was divided about the use of a laptop computer to play bass, drums and keyboards to augment the performance by the Maartin Allcock Trio.

Maart (ex-Fairport Convention and Jethro Tull) on guitar and vocals, Chris Parkinson (ex-House Band) on squeezeboxes, and guitarist Andy Mackenzie are all recognised as fine musicians and perhaps did not need the sometimes, distractions of the backing music.

The festival first day also saw theatre performances by three talented but contrasting singer-songwriter guitarists.

Clive Gregson, who opened this year's three day festival, could draw on 30 years of songwriting for his band Any Trouble, his very successful partnership with Christine Collister and his more recent solo career.

Pete Morton is one of England's best, but sadly under-rated singer songwriters who not only produces new material of high quality but regularly breathes new life in songs from the folk tradition.

There was an especially warm reception for Teesside performer Vin Garbutt, back on the pier after a five-year-break, who only recently started performing again after serious illness.

He delighted all with a fine choice of his own, and others' songs and of course his mastery of keeping an audience laughing.

Friday evening also saw a host of festival fringe events including a lively and enjoyable session at the Albion pub and a busy Cromer Folk Club session at The Cottage where performers were recorded for possible local radio broadcast.

Tickets for all the festival theatre concerts have been long sold out but the wide range of fringe events continues both today and Sunday.

Highlights include Richard Penguin's Tea Time Showcase at the Hotel de Paris (5-7.30pm, both days), punk-folk singer-guitarist Anto Morra at The Wellington (Sun 1-2.30pm), and festival patron Ashley Hutchings and Friends, a Friends of Norfolk Dialect (FOND) session, and the Richard Davies Memorial Session, all in the Cliftonville Hotel Ballroom from noon to 4pm tomorrow.

Folk on the Pier continues today and tomorrow. Visit www.folkonthepier.co.uk for details.

BRIAN GAUDET

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