Not quite a rock band but with enough pizzazz, suds and showmanship to make a prancing glam star like Marc Bolan blush, Bellowhead took traditional material on a hell of a ride. After enough gongs and awards to fill a trophy cabinet to bursting, everyone’s favourite eleven piece acoustic carnival is finally over. The last tour was more a triumphal progress, so large it had to be split in two parts, there was goodbye and more goodbye. Real goodbyes came back in May with all dates sold out and much regret on behalf of their fans – and there were many- who’d seen the band grow from simple festival beginnings to chart contenders and BBC darlings, all quite remarkable since, if I recall the original premise was dreamed up by Jon Boden and John Spiers whiling away the time whilst drivng round the country to duo gigs.
Everything they’ve achieved is captured here, the huge, fat, bouncy sound with honking brass, brazen fiddles and fantastic thumping percussion, all fronted by Boden, a mutant cross of Adam Ant, a gothic ringmaster and Peter Bellamy. His flair and down-right brazen chutzpah is the icing on the commercial side of Bellowhead’s cake, if he wasn’t such a likeable sort would we think as much of them for just making their glorious, melodic racket? If you ask me that’s the attraction more than the visuals, here are a diverse bunch of musicians who’ve more or less been together for twelve years with minimum variation yet all groove and shimmy with obvious enjoyment for the music they produce. It doesn’t matter if it’s the bloke wearing a tuba or the girl waving a fiddle about, Bellowhead are feel good, feel great, party music. Now how much of the Brit roots scene can you possibly claim that for?
There are two CDs full of different tracks from the first leg of their farewell and a whole Leicester gig on the DVD, needless to say the quality is high and passion equally so. Everyone will want to remember them like this, a spectacle that laid elements of theatrics, circus and a whole heap of musicianship at the door of English sources. I doubt there will be a reunion tour so you’ll have to do all your cavorting round the lounge/kitchen/insert favourite room in the house here. All told, a right hoot.