Gig review: JON BODEN – Cornerstone, Didcot, 5 March 2020

Back at the Cornerstone, after a very enjoyable gig here back in November 2017, Jon Boden is out on a short solo tour to promote his latest album ‘The Rose In June’.

Surrounded by three guitars, fiddle, concertina, an adapted drone instrument and a wooden board with a mic underneath to get some added percussion, Jon Boden started the set with a traditional song, followed by the first of a number of Bellowheard songs, ’10,000 Miles’ (which he advised the audience not to watch the video the band made for this on YouTube!).

Much of the set (split into two halves) was devoted to his post-apocalyptic prog-folk trilogy of albums ‘Songs From The Floodplain’, ‘Afterglow’ and as yet untitled album that will complete this cycle. He did perform one song of this album in progress, a tale of an older couple and their travel through the countryside to the seaside. More familiar to the audience were ‘Moths In The Gaslight’ and ‘Bee Sting’ from the ‘Afterglow’ album.

There were a couple of instrumentals in the set, including ‘Radstock’, which allowed him to show his impressive fiddle playing.

‘The Rose In June’, is a traditional song telling the tragic story of two fishermen Andrew Davidson and John Allen, captain and crew member of the ‘Rose In June’, who lost their lives when the ship capsized during a storm out on the North Sea in December 1872. Jon Boden sang it with passion, the song and performance highlighting the power of music.

Plenty of set highlights including ‘All Hang Down’, which Boden revealed was originally a  Salvation Army song to tempt people away from the evils of drink, however it ended up being adopted as a drinking song and its original origin had been lost over time.

Good to have the Bellowhead songs ‘Byker Hill’ and ‘Roll Alabama’ get an airing during the course of the evening. These work well in their stripped back format.

His version of the Whitney Houston hit ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)’ was a highlight. The acoustic guitar and vocal arrangement of this song work well.

The joy and interest Boden has in his music and the traditional songs clearly comes across as he gives the background to each song, including his own post-apocalyptic world he has created. The latter certainly has the chance to appeal to those who enjoy progressive music.

Coming back for a well deserved encore we were treated to another Bellowhead song, ‘New York Girls’, which Jon Boden injected plenty of gusto to keep the songs jaunty and raucous air.

The art of performing folk songs (and those inspired by folk songs), both old and new, is in safe hands with Jon Boden. A truly magnificent solo show and one not to be missed if he plays near to you.

Review by Jason Ritchie

Jon Boden


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