Bold and bawdy Bellowhead

Announcing the 2011 season at the Open Air Theatre, which will include Bellowhead.    picture submitted  19/04/11

Announcing the 2011 season at the Open Air Theatre, which will include Bellowhead. picture submitted 19/04/11

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The eye-popping folk spectacle that is Bellowhead live rolled into a packed Winding Wheel at Chesterfield.

Voted best live folk act at the BBC Folk Awards last year, this is far more than traditional folk – this is a bawdy party.

This is 11 musicians playing 25 different instruments, chasing around all over the stage with songs that veer from folk towards rock, music hall and even free form jazz!

At one stage we had three of them trying to play the drum kit and the brass section dancing like the ‘nutty boys’ of Madness.

Bellowhead live is a kaleidoscope of entertainment and they have the audience in the palm of their hands from opening songs Scarborough Tow and A’Begging I Will Go from latest album Hedonism which is naturally played pretty much in full over the two-set two hour spectacular.

Fronted by clever duo Jon Boden and John Spiers, Bellowhead take folk into new territories while retaining its original spirit.

Lyrics are bawdy, full of prostitutes, ‘maidenheads’, sailors and drinking. One song, Boden told us, was so downright dirty that bands often missed out some of the lyrics but promised Chesterfield they would sing it all as they were purists.

Having done their homework on Chesterfield they announced that an anagram of the town’s name produced ‘Fetid Letchers’ and towards the end the inevitable ‘Chesterfield - sofa so good’ raised a few smiles.

Highlight of a dazzling show was the fantastic New York Girls, which they played to the nation on Jools Holland’s Hootenanny show on New Year’s Eve.

Some folk purists may frown on Bellowhead’s take on folk. But most embrace it as the unhinged genius it is and the two encores still left Chesterfield wanting more.

John Lomas