THE BEVIS FROND + DAVID LANCE CALLAHAN – THE LEXINGTON, KINGS CROSS, LONDON 13.11.22
Right, I’m not going to beat around the bush – I’ve been waiting to see The Bevis Frond for around thirty years and I’m super-excited!!! However, my excitement isn’t sufficient to blunt my enthusiasm at seeing David Lance Callahan from The Wolfhounds, who is this evening’s support act. Tonight he is promoting his debut solo album, ‘English Primitive I’, which was released last year.
David initially takes to the stage on his own, fingerpicking a Gretsch electric guitar with much use of hammering-on. When I speak to David later he tells me that the guitar is tuned to open G “with one or two extra notes”. Fair enough. The songs seem very much to deal with real life, one song being a dialogue between an errant father and his daughter for example.
After three songs a drummer appears (he’s not introduced). He’s wearing a Bogshed T-shirt. He plays with brushes initially, but quite quickly gets a lot loader. He plays various percussion instruments whilst playing the drums, but still apparently only has the two hands. ‘She’s The King Of My Life’ is a particular highlight, whilst ‘Born Of The Welfare State Was I’ is “a paean to the welfare state”, or what’s left of it anyway. The guitar is largely fingerpicked throughout, and it’s probably the most raucous fingerpicking I’ve heard. This has been a brilliant performance of some great material.
Tonight’s show is the de facto last gig of The Bevis Frond’s tour. However, that tour seemingly ended some time ago, and as they couldn’t book a London venue for the tour, they tagged this show on after it had finished. Whatever, it has comfortably sold out. The Bevis Frond are the brainchild and vehicle of singer, songwriter and guitarist Nick Saloman. Accompanied by an ever-changing roll call of musicians/partners in crime, Nick has released somewhere in the region of thirty albums as The Bevis Frond. In theory, the tour that this show is theoretically part of is promoting the 2021 album ‘Little Eden’. However, only two songs from that album, ‘And Away We Go’ and ‘Dreams Of Flying’ are played. Nick is not influenced by commercial requirements. Why should he be? He can sell out The Lexington almost by word of mouth.
The extent to which The Bevis Frond is a cottage industry is demonstrated by the fact that Nick seems to know quite a lot of the audience. Nick is every bit the guitar hero that I hoped he’d be, and the musicians in his band match him every step of the way. I believe the line-up is as follows: Louis on bass, Paul Simmons on guitar, and Dave Pearce on drums. The Bevis Frond at times reminds me an awful lot of Neil Young and Crazy Horse. They’re every bit as good as that storied band, and possibly even better. Nick and Paul frequently trade solos, as well as playing harmonised lead parts. This band are probably the best kept musical secret in the UK.
Many of the songs are considerably extended, so although the setlist doesn’t look particularly long, they are unable to finish it before curfew. Therefore the last song played is ‘Dreams Of Flying’ from ‘Little Eden’. ‘God Speed You To Earth’ and ‘Eyes In The Back Of My Head’ are omitted. Nick is very apologetic about this, but rules is rules. Suffice to say that tonight has been a revelation. I knew that The Bevis Frond would be good, but how this band (and Nick Saloman in particular) are not far more well known absolutely beggars belief!!! Still, they seem happy enough, so more power to them. Rumour has it that they will play the Lexington on 31st January. Watch this space!
The Bevis Frond setlist:
‘Hole Song #2’
‘And Away We Go’
‘Lights Are Changing’
‘Pale Blue Blood’
‘He’d Be A Diamond’
‘Stain On The Sun’
‘Dreams Of Flying’