Live: Cropredy Convention

Fairport's annual convention returns to the Oxfordshire countryside.

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The annual folk and roots festival can put plenty of its attendees down to its PQ (prog quotient). First there’s Fish, third on the bill on Friday evening, on his Farewell To Childhood tour, performing, in its entirety, Marillion’s Misplaced Childhood. This will be, he announces, the last ever open-air rendering of the opus. It’s bookended by various Fish and Marillion tracks: Pipeline and Long Cold Day at one end and Market Square Heroes and The Company at the other.

The man himself is in buoyant form, inviting audience participation even when the music takes a sombre turn. He jokes about the weather, telling us not to worry about getting drenched because, after all, “I’m a rain god”. He recounts a tale from his misspent youth that starts with sex in a car and ends with Sandy Denny. He succeeds in getting a field full of festival veterans to participate in a mass, communal ballet dance, to which he returns the favour by doing a Scottish jig. “My name is Derek,” he declares at the end, “and I am a Fish.”

Fairport Convention are in a no less playful mood, starting their Saturday top-of-the-bill show with an amusing video, showing them pretending to be in the film Mission: Impossible. Talk about Myths And Heroes (the title of their latest album) – if anything, notwithstanding their totemic status in the world of folk/progressive rock, they debunk the idea they might be either, let alone both; less legends than blokes you might meet down the pub.

The set is a mix of new songs and classics, with a revolving door policy regarding auxiliary musicians. Joe Broughton’s Conservatoire Folk Ensemble enhance The Gallivant, while Dan Ar Braz (guitar) and Clarisse Lavanant (vocals), drenched in dry ice, bring a forbidding atmosphere to J-avais Cinq Enfants. Simon Nicol, Dave Pegg, Ric Sanders and Chris Leslie revel in their roles as the joint-CEOs-cum-MCs, taking it in turns to introduce songs and guests for numbers.

Fish is invited to sing Denny’s Solo, and for a climactic Meet On The Ledge at midnight, Nicol, Pegg, Sanders, Leslie and drummer Gerry Conway are joined by a cast, including Broughton, Iain Matthews and, well, anyone else who happened to be passing and bearing an instrument. “The way is up”, indeed.

Paul Lester

Paul Lester is the editor of Record Collector. He began freelancing for Melody Maker in the late 80s, and was later made Features Editor. He was a member of the team that launched Uncut Magazine, where he became Deputy Editor. In 2006 he went freelance again and has written for The Guardian, The Times, the Sunday Times, the Telegraph, Classic Rock, Q and the Jewish Chronicle. He has also written books on Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Bjork, The Verve, Gang Of Four, Wire, Lady Gaga, Robbie Williams, the Spice Girls, and Pink.