of John Renbourn and Jacqui McShee

John Renbourn & Jacqui McShee - In Concert (DVD)
Pentangle Ltd/Hard Road Recording 2005 HRDVD003

More and more of the Folk Glitterati are bringing out DVDs. The benchmark (in terms of sheer enjoyability) was set for me a couple of years ago with that stunningly good, posthumous arrival of a DVD of the great Steve Goodman in concert.

Since then I have encountered several other Folk DVDs. And the first thing that occurs to me is that one must emphatically NOT review it as though it were a CD: after all, the whole point of it coming out in DVD is to make other additional demands on the audience there at home.

So straight away let me say that this production does not make the elementary mistake that the Goodman made. (Yes, that Austin concert might have indeed made for a sensational DVD: but that was wholly down to the genius of Goodman. The filming broke the most elementary rule.)

You see, this DVD wisely gives you close-up after close-up of the dazzling hands of John Renbourn (and also guest Clive Carroll). Most of the time when Steve was cooking on gas, we had cutaways to the AUDIENCE. After an hour or so, I knew the faces of the audience much better than the fretboard of his guitar.

Not so here. Apart from the back of one or two heads, you never see the audience at the venue (The Buddle in Wallsend, Tyne & Wear , England ). Good sense on the part of the filmmakers. (Although that said, the somewhat laid-back applause, leads me to think that half the audience were stoned: I would have rather enjoyed seeing them sprawled in their seats glassy-eyed!)

Jesting apart, this is a DVD that is worth the ride. McShee is in as good voice now as she was 35 years ago, and Renbourn's guitar work is as authoritative as ever. And if anno Domini has staked a claim on the latter's youthful good looks, McShee eerily still looks much like she did all those years ago.

The songs that work best are the traditional ones. The contemporary numbers fall short a little. Both Dave Goulder and Archie Fisher have written much stronger songs than those of theirs chosen here.

Best of all I liked John's instrumental version of " Dark Island " (for some reason not listed on the box cover). But the whole thing is appealing, and his bonus talk/demo is fine trip down memory lane.

Dai Woosnam