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Bellowhead

Leadmill

IT almost goes without saying that when the annual BBC Radio Folk Awards are announced, Bellowhead are among the nominations for best group and best live act. And they often go on to win, too.

No change this year, with the 11-piece making both shortlists.

And very little change with an appearance at the Leadmill on Saturday night, a year after they stormed the place on the back of the success of the album Hedonism, which has cemented their reputation with folk fans and many others for whom folk is usually a dirty word.

Not that this is folk music in the purest sense.

Yes, the songs have centuries-old themes of sailors, prostitutes, beggars and factory maids, and there is a generous scattering of traditional tunes, but the appeal of Bellowhead is a formula that embraces everything from jazz and music hall to classical and funk.

It makes for an exhilarating performance, led with theatricality by singer and fiddle player Jon Boden, now based in Sheffield (and nominated for Folk Singer of the Year).

Not that there is much to surprise the sold-out audience who greet songs such as Yarmouth Town, New York Girls and London Town as old friends, singing and jumping along.

Over the past year, the band has broadened its appeal by playing many of the big festivals and with regular appearances on TV and radio.

There’s a new live DVD but there is no sign yet of the next album, which will be a test of just how far Bellowhead can go critically and commercially.

Peter Kay

Smashing Pumpkins

O2 Academy

FRONTMAN Billy Corgan is all that’s left of the original Smashing Pumpkins line-up.

His voice – good as ever – thrills the audience, sparking multiple crowd-surfing attempts and an excitable mosh pit.

A selection of new tracks and older material from Siamese Dreams and Pisces Iscariot feature in tonight’s show. It’s a set list for hardcore fans and those less familiar with one of the Nineties’ biggest alt rock/grunge acts.

The crowd warms up to Starla – this is in spite of the fact Corgan clearly hasn’t changed clothes since the 1990s. And, along with his fashion legacy, there’s another Nineties overhang evident tonight – Corgan’s ability to captivate his audience.

But the crowd is never formally addressed by the frontman or his new compatriots.

One of the few moments in which Corgan interacts with the crowd is when he holds the microphone high so the mosh pit could scream the chorus of Bullet with Butterfly Wings, as part of the encore set along with crowd favourite Zero.

For this, whirling lights and themed background music kick in as equipment is tweaked and swapped over between songs. But it is cohesive.

Sounds ranging from a wailing merry-go-round to general guitar shrieking link one piece to the next, binding the entire set to create one long anthemic song in a weird and wonderful way.

Tonight’s unique, an experience which many Pumpkin fans thought they would never see in Sheffield.

Steven Wilkinson