Pentangle in London: for this I miss the European football final?

Pentangle at London’s Royal Festival Hall on Sunday didn’t engage me. I left at the interval to catch the end of the Euro 2008 football final.

I’d booked because I’m keen on early Pentangle recordings. The eponymous 1960s album is a classic; 2001’s Sweet Child is fine, too. I rate Bert Jansch’s 1960s heyday stuff, and his guitar picking has few equals.

I’m not averse to folk/roots music: I’ve swooned at gigs by folkies like Jim Moray, the Copper Family and the Waterboys. And Dylan’s early LPs are favourites round these parts.

The playing of the four-piece was competent-going-on-accomplished.

But therein lay my problem. I’m used to watching virtuoso players, whether in poprock, jazz, orchestral or whatever, who – and here’s the rub – take wing and visit exciting new places.

Pentangle’s music last night had too little invention, insufficient vitality for my liking. Even the solos, on guitar, bass and drums lacked ambition – they sounded pre-planned, improvisation-free. I found singer Jacqui McShee’s constant swooping, with nary a melisma-free line, irritating after only about ten minutes.

The first half sounded as if it could have been played circa 1970. Maybe the second half was different – brim-full of recent creative endeavour – but I’ll never know, as I escaped to catch the end of the final, which saw Spain claiming their rightful place at the peak of European football. Viva Espana!

Pentangle in London: music for grown-ups? Naah: it hurts to admit it, but it looked like folkpop for easily pleased nostalgic oldies to me.

Gerry Smith

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