Review of Phil Beer at Lowdham

Review by Mark Salter of the concert held at Lowdham Village Hall on Saturday 24th March 2012. Photos: Ed Herington

BLIMEY this is like looking out on an airport runway,” exclaimed Phil Beer peering out at the rows of tea lights in Lowdham Village Hall, adding, “Where’s my Dakota?

Beer is a towering presence in the British music scene and Warthog Promotions pulled off quite a coup attracting him back to Lowdham. Beer has performed previously as part of Show of Hands who are due to play the Albert Hall for the fourth time on 7th April. “Monday will be bedlam. We’re doing the publicity round for the Albert Hall gig. That’s why tonight is so great.”

Beer’s repertoire centred on folk and referenced such luminaries as Nic Jones, Bert Jansch, Davy Graham, Steve Ashley, Ralph McTell, Reg Meuross and Johnny Coppin.

During the evening Beer charts his route from a disastrous first performance at a PTA school event when he was pulled off-stage in the middle of a rendition of Cocaine Blues, via his involvement in folk clubs in Gloucester to the current Albert Hall booking for Show of Hands. In the process he regaled the audience with songs like Fire and Wine, The Warlike Lads of Russia, and The Innocents

But a Phil Beer solo gig is far more than a folk concert. He recounts a raft of fantastic anecdotes. One outlined how a far too technical electronic keyboard had been installed in a Methodist church. This burst forth with a heavy and loud ‘rap style’ drum back-beat during a funeral service. Further panic ensued as the old lady keyboardist hit every button in sight whilst trying to silence the drumbeat.
Phil Beer at Lowdham

In addition, Beer visited a range of American musical greats. These included Hoyt Axton, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Steve Earle and two blues legends, Reverend Gary Davis and Blind Willie Dixon. Axton is a particular favourite of Beer’s and this concert featured two of his numbers, Blind Fiddler and Gypsy Moth. Beer also admits never being drawn to Billy Joel until hearing Downeaster Alexa which he played with a tenor guitar backing.

In amongst the musical excellence was a mini ukulele workshop, with Beer demonstrating the versatility of the instrument. For this he used George Harrison’s Here Comes the Sun, Irish Harp and dance tunes, and a version of Tom Lehrer’s satirical Vatican Rag.

The evening was rounded off by a poignant First World War medley with an instrumental of Flowers of the Forest segued into The Holy Brook, a Frank Mansell poem set to music by Beer’s friend Johnny Coppin, and finally trenches song, When This Bloody War is Over. Beer’s own Falmouth Packet was the encore that brought things to a close.