Its official! Fairport Convention are more metal than Black Sabbath, so declared Dave Pegg during the Union Chapel concert. Midlands’s rivalry maybe, but Fairport have had a bell cast with their name on it, and that’s pretty heavy metal. Taking the metal/hard rock a little further there were times when Fairport’s twin fiddle leads brought to mind the patented Thin Lizzy twin-guitar attack.

On first was Fake Thackray or John Watterson and his interpretations of Jake Thackray’s comic songs. These are an acquired taste but made more palatable by Watterson’s anecdotes and introductions. For his last song he was joined by Fairport Convention who ever so smoothly then started their set with the evergreen John Gaudie and the aforementioned double-violin, which featured later on in The Hexamshire Lass.

The band covered all eras and more than happy to acknowledge the songs written by departed members Messrs Thompson and Swarbrick. Rosie in particular was excellent as was Farewell, Farewell. The Wood and the Wire was a bounder and perfectly complemented a ‘heavy’ version of Doctor of Physick.

Of course, there’s another past member of Fairport whose shadow is ever present, and that’s Sandy Denny. Fotheringay, having been recently re-recorded, was suitably reverential. As to Who Knows Where The Time Goes, it’s easy to understand why the band had steered away from performing it for a while, as Sandy had made it her own. Tonight, they pitched this beautiful song absolutely right.

The newish Festival Bell album was well aired with Mercy Bay being particularly moving, and a solid version of Ralph McTell’s Around the Wild Cape Horn. Taken with the instrumental Danny Jack’s Reward, which gave the band a chance to really let go, they dispelled any notions that they are living in, or off, the past.

Heavy metal? Well, there weren’t any devil’s horns, V-signs, head-banging or crowd-surfing in the audience. They did conjure up an atmosphere that was never less than genial; the inter-band banter was a delight, and while audience participation, was minimal it was always good natured. A thoroughly enjoyable evening.