Live Music + Gig Reviews

The Green Man 2008: Day 3 @ Glanusk Park, nr Crickhowell, Brecon Beacons

17 August 2008

Sunday night provided the conundrum we’d hoped never to have to deal with; the ultimate clash between old and new.

Between the established past and the vital present, the vintage and the modern, the reflective and the frenetic.

It was, of course, the battle for fan attention between Pentangle and Caribou, who were headlining at the Main Stage and Folkey Dokey Tent respectively.
It came down to who we’d seen the most; Caribou four times to Pentangle once. So Jacqui McShee and her evergreen band of brothers it was.

Pentangle had just been touring to mark the 40th anniversary of their Sweet Child album. So tonight, their only festival appearance, they naturally concentrated on the sprawling jazz-folk of that record. In a band of virtuosos, amid the dexterity of John Renbourn’s finger-picking, Bert Jansch’s soul and McShee’s just awful banter between songs, the most impressive stage presence and enthusiastic musician is easily Danny Thompson.

The bassist had earlier that evening been interviewed in the literature tent where he sniffed at being called ‘legendary’, and at the Lifetime Achievement awards rained upon him and the band. So to bang on about the ‘seminal’ qualities of Pentangle seems pointless, but let it be said that they remain tight as ever, and imaginative musicians without peer. Then again, so are Caribou…

Earlier on it was Bowerbirds who provided the afternoon highlight. The North Carolina trio’s songs are odes to nature, and indeed suggest they too might have enjoyed a good lecture on smoking Mugwort. But Phil Moore is a songwriter of some considerable talent – their song Hooves is as moving an example of nu-folk as you will find, and their instrumental simplicity along with Moore’s forceful voice is all very reminiscent of Bon Iver; a good thing. (And where was Bon Iver this Green Man, by the by?)

Apart from Bowerbirds and Pentangle, this final day saw sterling efforts from Damien Jurado, The National and Iron And Wine. The latter have come a long way, and are now sounding more like a band than ever before, rather than merely the solo whims of Sam Beam. Beam himself admitted to wanting to get off stage pretty smartish in order to get Bert Jansch on, leaving no doubt that Pentangle still rule all.

No other festival has the ability to combine the arts of the past with the undeniably fascinating musical age we currently live in. From Richard Thompson to Laura Marling (yes she played on Sunday) to Mugwort, Green Man still has all the bases covered.

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