THE GUARDIAN : Malcolm Jack
Monday 1 February 2016
Jazz-folk veterans, Britpop pin-ups, classic rock icons, up-and-coming singer-songwriters – how many other musicians except Bert Jansch sit at such a spaghetti junction of influence? A stellar lineup assembles to remember the late Pentangle founder member and finger-picking guitar hero in his city of birth at the first of two Celtic Connections curtain-closing concerts in his honour. An evening of fond renditions and recollections, and a lot of guitar tuning.
Graham Coxon had written beforehand of how nervous he was on meeting Jansch. The Blur guitarist looks twitchy here, too, as he performs an affectionate One for Jo and a “Bert-imbued” solo composition Latte, but returns later, much more at ease, for a tricksy twang on Angie together with Martin Simpson. Elsewhere before the interval we get songs from Jansch’s former fellow Pentanglers Jacqui McShee and Mike Piggott, and Jansch’s one-time mentor Archie Fisher doing Down by Blackwaterside – Jansch’s arrangement that he once famously accused Led Zeppelin of ripping off with Black Mountain Side.
Not one to bear a grudge, Robert Plant lends superstar magnetism to proceedings, backed by his superb five-piece band the Sensational Space Shifters. The opening notes of a whispered Babe I’m Gonna Leave You are met with an almost disbelieving collective intake of breath; his second set will end with an entrancingly amped-up Poison.
Plant’s is the heavyweight contribution, but the lighter touches shine brightest, such as Bernard Butler and Ben Watt’s shimmering electric guitar interplay on an opiated Soho. Scottish folk singer Karine Polwart jokes that she’s here for “equalities” reasons, but her mellifluous reading of Tree Song feels anything but tokenistic. The largely unknown young American troubadour Ryley Walker will be widely Googled for his fearlessly breezy run at I Am Lonely.
The full ensemble gathers at the end and, after a twangy cacophony of imperfect tuning, conclude with a wondrously wonky Dixieland jazz-dappled Strolling Down the Highway that doesn’t so much stroll as sway.