Bert Jansch enjoyed notoriety in the 60s as a founding member of folk, jazz supergroup Pentangle. His poetic songwriting and influential guitar work pushed boundaries within the folk scene and shook it up in a way like never before. This musical celebration at The Royal Festival Hall for what would have been his 80th birthday (he died in 2011) was a fitting celebration for a man whose musical influence crossed genres.
Jansch also had a long history of performing at the Royal Festival Hall: Pentangle’s first major performance took place here in 1967 and they recorded part of their Sweet Child album here in 1968. The original Pentangle line-up reformed to play the same hall exactly 40 years later and it was a Pentangle show at the Royal Festival Hall in August 2011 that proved to be his last performance.
"These sort of things are usually disastrous" compere, former stand-up comedian and folk aficionado, Stewart Lee prepares us for an evening of music from born-again folk hero Bert Jansch. Disastrous only because of the logistics of getting all the acts on stage, plugged in and doing their slot - all in under three hours! It could be a long night, but one filled with some terrific songs.
Pentangle singer Jacqui McShee opened and closed the celebrations as a fitting tribute to her bandmate. Former Suede guitarist, Bernard Butler is responsible to Jansch's resurgence since his death and had the honour of playing with Burt. Butler enjoyed rocking up several of Jansch's songs and shocking the 'Arran sweaters' by performing an electrified version of 'As Sweet as Sunday Morning'.
Folk favourite and worthy successor to Janch's guitar style, Martin Simpson performed several songs including backing Kathryn Williams on her powerful rendition of' Needle of Death.'
Just to reiterate Bert Jansch's genre-crossing influence and legacy James Yorkston and Indian singer Ranjana Ghatak performed traditional songs from Janch's catalogue and percussionist Sarathy Korwar performed instrumental works 'Osprey' and 'The Black Swan' in beautiful reworkings with a sax and cello.
Rock icon, Robert Plant in particular was a big admirer of Jansch and even recorded two of his songs with Alison Krauss on their 2021 album 'Raise the Roof'. Plant himself has always been another musician who has enjoyed pushing the envelope and interpolating different musical styles throughout his career. With his current band, Saving Grace, he gave a makeover to the track 'It Don’t Bother Me.'
All the performers assembled for a rousing finale, which prompted Stewart to quip: 'It's like Live Aid but less effective at assuaging world hunger'. The whole evening was wrapped up in under three hours! A glorious celebration of one of the most influential songwriters who is finally getting the air time he deserves.