Cambridge People competition evaluate – a protected however charming return

Deep into his Sunday night time primary stage set, Billy Bragg is midway by one in every of his oldest hits, Shirley, when an ecstatic roar spreads quickly by the gang, all the way in which again to the meals stands: the England girls’s soccer crew have gained the Euros remaining. It’s no disturbance to Bragg – on the contrary, he’s been receiving fixed updates on the match all through his set. Whooping and yelling, he instantly leads the viewers in a rousing rendition of Jerusalem. Having already ranted passionately about trans rights, world warming and male violence, he expounds on why we must always all rejoice in England’s win.

It’s an apt microcosm of a completely good-natured occasion. Cambridge People competition is basically celebrating its very survival after the pandemic, and the viewers flocks to tai chi and willow-weaving workshops to find, with no small sense of reduction, that the simple allure that has sustained this compact competition for 57 years has been unhurt by a two-year hiatus.

That’s partly as a result of this 12 months’s is a comparatively protected invoice, one closely reliant on the tried-and-trusted names with not one of the edgy Nick Caves or Julian Copes of current years. As a substitute, there’s Clannad, now into the third 12 months of their farewell tour; the feverish Spanish rhythms of Gipsy Kings; Present of Fingers main the gang in rousing choruses; Seasick Steve thrashing out his inimitable blues with attribute eccentricity.

Seasick Steve.
Thrashing out his inimitable blues … Seasick Steve. {Photograph}: Aaron Parsons Pictures

Warmly applauded for her prime hat earlier than she has even sung a be aware, Suzanne Vega delivers a consummately intimate set that even features a fetching cowl of Lou Reed’s Stroll on the Wild Facet. It might have been the competition’s finest cowl model had been it not for the Spooky Males’s Chorale’s wondrous reinvention of Bohemian Rhapsody as a saucy cowboy music. The reliably entertaining Australian choir additionally present the weekend’s most emotional contributions with two conventional Ukrainian songs.

The place Cambridge People will get adventurous is in its extra global-leaning bookings. Afro Celt Sound System have been by a myriad of modifications since Simon Emmerson dreamed up their groundbreaking mixture of Irish and African music within the mid-90s, however the spectacular sight of Johnny Kalsi attacking his dhol drums nonetheless stirs the blood. N’famady Kouyaté from Guinea is a spotlight, attacking his balafon – a resilient type of picket xylophone – with spectacular frenzy whereas a big band blazes away behind him. There’s sheer pleasure, too, within the exhilarating Chilean band Chico Trujillo, and the ebullient American roots rockers Dustbowl Revival, full of massive, chunky brass and an distinctive singer in Lashon Halley.

Dustbowl Revival.
Ebulliant … Dustbowl Revival. {Photograph}: Aaron Parsons Pictures

That mentioned, trying again usually proves fruitful. The Mary Wallopers invokes the raucous ghosts of the Dubliners and the Pogues to startling impact and Scotland’s Elephant Classes raise the roof with relentless Celtic rock of an older classic. New band the Magpie Arc present that previous canine can study new methods with venerable acoustic guitar grasp Martin Simpson going electrical. In the meantime, the unaccompanied Copper Family – probably the most venerable identify in English conventional music – showcase their latest technology of household singers. The music might stay the identical, however the telling is all.

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