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December’s first Saturday, and whether you wished to celebrate the onset of Christmas, or alternatively indulge in  a couple of hours of escapism from the shopping, cards, grottos and suchlike, the artists on show provided a substantially solid night of entertainment. Fishwife’s Broadside are an eight-piece fired up acoustic collective from Bedford. Folk music began as social commentary on contemporary themes, so the bands missives on middle age in the 21st century quintessentially follow the folk tradition more closely than is apparent at first. It is easy to imagine feisty frontman Andy Driver as a modern-day Wat Tyler on tracks such as “Battle Of Boney Attic” and the arresting final track of the set “Naive Song”.

The tempo relaxes with the appearance of Terry Edwards. Playing solo performances of his covers album “Cliches”, songs on show range from the plaintive Alex Chilton number “Give Me Another Chance”, Jesus & Mary Chain’s “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” (One of many acts who Terry has recorded with) and the sax/guitar hybrid of James Brown’s “I’ll Go Crazy” – not the easiest combination or instruments to play as a solo act!  It’s telling that James Brown classed himself as ‘The hardest working man in showbiz’ when Edwards’ colossal CV of studio and live work – plus being one of the most regular participants of John Peel Sessions – surely puts him in lane for that grand title.

Amongst his catalogue of appearances is as guest on the Bitter Springs download single released earlier this year - the impossibly monickered “Gary Glitter Fan Convention”, and tonight he reprises the role on stage. Too many lines have been written and too many heads have been scratched about how the music of The Bitter Springs and the quality of Simon Rivers’ lyrics have remained inexplicably underneath the critical and mainstream radars, so tonight it just needs to be said that the band’s performance was electrifying throughout. From the family showbusiness memories of “Benny Hill’s Wardrobe” through to the sardonic observations of “Simple Life”, the movie script in waiting  “Barbara”, and culminating appropriately in “Christmas Number 1” (‘I believe in Santa Claus/He’s in the kitchen on all fours’) – the band perform on of the more enriching live shows I’ve seen this year. The band’s back catalogue is sizeable, yet finding sub-standard songs within it is all too remote a possibility.

Lee McFadden 6/12/11