My, my, haven’t Bellowhead gotten popular? When I last saw them a couple years back they were at the relatively small Komedia in Bath. Now their sold-out crowd can only be held by Brizzle’s Colston Hall – with its slick cafes, numerous levels of seating and an abundance of bellicose security men speaking through walkie talkies, threatening to remove flailing revellers immediately, and generally pretending to be in Minority Report.
Support came from Mama Rosin, an endearingly enthusiastic Swiss Folk Rock trio – think a lot of bouncing around, accordion plus washboard and a singer 93% composed of floppy Afro.
Bellowhead thrust themselves into the proceedings with Boden screeching through a bullhorn megaphone about the disgusting contents of Black Beetle Pies! Through the assortment that followed (perhaps one could term it Baroque Folk Thrash?) Boden played tambourine and whistle whilst contorting like an eel being exorcised; Kirkpatrick leaped from high surfaces at any opportunity, wielding electric guitar/bouzouki/mandolin/banjo; the wind section did a trousered can-can; and in the delirious punk of Little Sally Racket, Kelly clearly revelled in sporting retro shades whilst playing two saxophones simultaneously.
Surely one of the elements of their success has been this ridiculous overabundance of talent in the band, and the unlimited possibilities of orchestration this allows. When late in the set Boden picked up the fiddle to play with Sartin, Sweeney and McShane, I remembered with a start that he also is an extremely good fiddle-player.
Their set almost entirely comprised songs from the new album Broadside – thus depriving us of well-loved songs of previous albums, but when everything – even a couple songs which glitter slightly less brightly on the album – are rendered into an awe-inspiring combination of musical virtuosity and bone-rattling vigour, one can’t complain too much.
Rufus Wainwright once said that Kylie Minogue is the musical shorthand for joy. Well then, Bellowhead are a hairy 44-limbed Kylie – the very best sort of joy.