Live at Saul Festival (NSBHDVD001 2005)
Bluehorses – Live At Saul Festival is the definitive showcase of a band at
the height of their career. In 2005, they were undoubtedly the stars of the Saul
Festival weekend, and the 1200-strong crowd who gathered in the marquee to watch
them perform proved it.
The show was recorded using 24-track digital technology, and was directed by
David Wheeler with the help of a team of professional TV cameramen, and the DVD
was put together by Mike Furmston.
A two-disc set, the first contains the show itself, lasting just short of 80
minutes, and begins with some backstage footage of Liz Prendergast preparing for
the concert. Overlaid with some exquisite violin playing from the lady herself,
this is like the warm-up you would have experienced had you been there, and is a
deceptively calm introduction to a rocking show, which begins with Cabbage
Train, from their Cracking Leather Skin and Bone album, and follows on
with the previously unreleased Billy Boy, a traditional song which has been well
and truly Horsed. This is where we first get to hear the Space Mandolin, and the
sound it produces is, appropriately, out of this world.
Barbara Allen leads into the mosh-pit friendly Blackleg Miner, both
traditional songs which sport that uniquely Bluehorses arrangement. Ms.
Prendergast’s Bridge electric violin holds the stage during both these tracks,
and on Barbara Allen in particular, Nic Waulker’s drumming is truly spectacular
– it has to be heard to be believed.
Black is the Colour, from their latest EP Skyclad, showcases Nathan Waulker’s
bass, which sounds like a beautiful throbbing heartbeat, and is followed by the
live favourite Witch in Wedlock. The roar that goes up from the crowd as Jay
McDonald’s guitar starts the intro is testimony to its lasting popularity. With
barely a pause for breath, we are treated to another previously unreleased
track, instrumental Viv Aldi’s Hot Metal Lucky-Dip Extravaganda. It seems as
though the violin really will start smoking at this point, but, no, Liz being a
true professional manages to keep it under control.
Another instrumental, Gravel Walk/Beltane/Litha (illustrating the band’s
pagan sensibilities), shows off Liz’s Baby Blue Electric harp to full effect –
it may be small, but its sound is enormous. This gives way to a track previously
recorded by Last Night’s Fun, The Night Visit. This is a storming song, allowing
Liz’s vocals to come shining through and, even for Bluehorses, this is dark (and
the band are famed for their dark songs). This is powerfully illustrative of
what people mean now when they say, “Bluehorses”, and could give some of the
more famous rock bands a run for their money. A nice effect here is produced by
four bars of guitar, four bars of guitar and drums, four of guitar, drums and
bass, joined finally by the fiddle, for an absolutely raucous sound.
Ostara/Morrison’s Jig, another live favourite from Skyclad, really brings out
the beauty of the little harp before Nic ups the pace and the violin takes over
once more, and Mad Tom’s Song, Bluehorses’ version of the famous Bedlam Boys,
also has its dark, fantastical twists representative of sheer insanity.
Sitting Pretty is yet another crowd-pleaser, leading into one of the band’s
most political songs, Bigger Gun, with a lyric that wouldn’t have been out of
place at Woodstock, being a general protest about the state the world is in. Its
attention-grabbing half-notes make certain that all ears and eyes are on the
band, and the message comes across.
With a short pause for Liz to toast the crowd, they finish off with Skyclad
itself, which has the most beautiful lyric ever written (“Burn like the stars in
the blackened sky and breathe the silence of the night”), courtesy once more of
Mr. Nic Waulker. The mandolin again takes the stage, here, whisking the listener
away to some unknown and unexplored place. Unexplored, that is, by everyone
And that’s it. The shortest 80 minutes of your life has just flown by, and you
haven’t even realized. So you turn to the extras disc, which contains some
bootleg footage from the Newton Beer Festival 2005, lots of messing around from
band and crew in the performers’ camping area (you’ll never think of the Derby
in the same way again), and special messages from each of the band members.
Watch out for Mr. Neddy during the crowd shots – blink, and you will certainly
This is a stellar DVD by a professional band. Bluehorses are a breath of
fresh air, a beacon guiding travelers on dark nights – I suggest you follow that
beacon, and let yourself be led. You never know where you might end up.
© TaffetaPunk 2006.
[Buy the DVD (European system only),
Bluehorses – Live At Saul Festival .