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Oysterband with June Tabor, at Parc & Dare Treorchy – 23rd February 2013
Waiting for Show to begin - Oysterband - - Parc and Dare - Feb 2013 - _0073l

Once again Parc & Dare a gem of a venue in the heart of the Rhondda Valley is playing host to a class act, The Oysterband on the last night of their eighteen month Ragged Kingdom Tour featuring June Tabor. This is a night of farewells as June Tabor leaves guesting with them; but that was an integral part of this tour. This is also the time that “Chopper” will be playing with the band ending a 24 year association and will leave a huge gap and we are informed the new Oysterband post Ray Cooper will be different and we all look forward to hearing and seeing the new band very soon. This is a band that produces a very full interesting sound using array of instruments both acoustic and electric and confounds being placed in any genre. They have their own sound and take on their own music and when they re-arrange songs from a wide variety of sources, my term for them is “Folk with Attitude!, Rock with compassion”.

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The scene was set with the Oysterband members minus vocalist John Jones the music started to play and June took centre stage, the early numbers showcased the power of her voice as she led the band, with several witty hot political asides delivered in an open manner bringing stage and audience closer together with the harmony humour brings. John then joined the stage with his accordion and vocal talents bringing a complete package of vocal textures of warmth, high, low and mellow notes delivered by the two vocalists imparting, sorrow, hope and joy that makes the band’s performance an emotional roller-coaster of life’s highs and lows. This is not ‘folk’ music stuck in the past, looking back at life with rose-tinted glasses this is tales of reality of tears and lost chances. The covers chosen are interesting and bring out the best of the individual talents and collective whole as demonstrated when they delivered Velvet Underground’s ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’; Ian Telfer’s fiddle adding a haunting quality. Then came a perennial favourite ‘I’ll Take You Over the Water’, and the wonderful harmonisation of John and June during, ‘False True Love’. The highlight amidst the vast array of delectable tunes was the ‘Bells of Rhymney’ with John’s voice soaring up to the Edwardian theatre’s rafters and out into the valley’s night air; tonight with audiences who had experienced the pain of the 1980’s in the heart of the ex-mining district of South Wales and a stone throw from Rhymney itself where Idris Davies was born this poem is the best known of his verses from his 1938 ‘Gwalia Deserta’ literally ‘Wasteland of Wales’ this song touched the hearts and souls of many. Found and set to music by Pete Segar and kept alive by this magical band, who have bought it home and the audiences re-acted with tumultuous applause feeling the emotion and the poignancy of the song being sung in this theatre tonight. To bring the first dynamic hour to an end the band led by June Tabor sung a cappella – what a heavenly harmony of 6 voices delivering the power of the voice as the most amazing musical instrument, ‘ Banks of the Sweet Dundee’. . The second set opened with anticipation and no one was disappointed as one great song followed another with a glorious mix of cello, fiddle, acoustic/electric and bass guitars voices and the percussive delight of drumming; gives the sound a three-dimensional texture with greater depths of tone. With conversation that informed, delighted and warmed the audience to the band as June Tabor introduced ‘Son of David’ a traditional song that would have been lost without the oral traditions of the Gypsy that saved this treasure like many others for us to enjoy today. Joy Division’s ‘Love will Tear Us Apart’ was given the Oyster treatment which they recently played on Jools Holland, winning them even more fans. Only at an Oysterband event would you hear from the stage Gaelic, Welsh and English and songs from far and wide all too soon the night was drawing to an end and John Jones gave emotional farewells to first June Tabor who I am sure will be back and then to ‘Chopper’ who has delighted audiences for the best part of a quarter of a century, the standing ovation given to him was full of respect, love and fellowship as we wished him well on his ventures in his solo career. The band played on with an added frisson of emotion as they launched into ‘Native Son’ with audience participation and the atmosphere went up another notch and Parc and Dare was really partying and then they left the stage and all you could here was the demand for more no-one wanted this moment to end. The band came back on and did a stunning encore ‘The Dark Eyed Sailor’; Bob Dylan’s ‘Seven Curses’ and to end this evening a fitting Gaelic a cappella number reminding us of the power of the voice an end to a truly magnificent gig the musicians left the stage leaving Ray “Chopper” Cooper to take a final bow as part of team Oysterband.

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