The Bad Shepherds – Cox’s Yard, Stratford Upon Avon – 22nd December 2008


A bunch of forty-somethings, a couple of kids and at least one passable Vyvyan Bastard look-a-like made Cox’s Yard a sell out for this, the last leg of The Bad Shepherds‘ resurrected mini tour.

There could have been a danger that Adrian Edmondson‘s thrash mandolin versions of punk and new wave standards could be as smelly as Neil Pye’s lentil stew except for three things: the audience loves the songs, he really loves the songs, and he also has the good sense to surround himself with some of the best folk musicians around; not that Mr Edmondson is any slouch on the mandolin himself in spite of what he might say.


Ella Edmondson and her band , fresh from supporting Jools Holland on some of his tour dates, formed the support, arriving out of breath from across the road and seemingly disconcerted by the amount of grey hair in evidence. After a chaotic start the she quickly moved into gear with Breathe, Sing for You, Capable and Hold Your Horses, being the highlights of a short set featuring songs from her forthcoming album Hold On To your Horses.


The Bad Shepherds took to the stage in darkness to to enthusiastic applause – “but you cant see us yet” – and when the lights came up there was that bloke from Casualty looking a bit wild-eyed, a bit rougher around the edges and ready to get stuck into I Fought The Law, Teenage Kicks, and Down In The Tube Station At Midnight. The songs lost nothing because of the intensity of the playing and the obvious enjoyment of the men on stage. Broken strings and tuning were masked by tales of “Ovarian Pipes” and bad nights out in Banbury

It’s a weird kind of nostalgia when the songs are so familiar but at the same time so different, and the audience found it hard to recognise the songs from the opening bars and then cheered and laughed loudly when the penny finally dropped. Amongst these, TRB’s Up Against The Wall, PIL’s Rise and The Stranglers’ No More Heroes vied for attention with various biblical parables and at least one psalm; all with a distinctly sheepy theme.


Anyone portly and called Bob had the misfortune to be in the firing line of a the vitriolic acapella The Bob Son – not connected in any way with another Bob “of this parish” who may have had something to do with the demise of the original tour, and the band then turned the tables with a punk version of All Around My Hat – “it’s none of your f***in’ business, and its my f***in’ hat!”

With the likes of Maartin Allcock, Mark Woolley, Andy Dinan and Troy Donockley gracing the stage, there was a fair bit of musicianship on show particularly during Kraftwerk’s The Model and Talking Heads’ Once in a Lifetime. Maybe ironically the highlight was the simplest of songs, Wreckless Eric’s Whole Wide World – two chords of flawed genius in the original transformed into a folky classic on the mandolin with those same two chords. Squeeze’s Up The Junction was followed by a blistering God Save The Queen and then they were off.


If there was to be a downside it was that the crowd were up for toe-tapping rather than leaping about when the songs deserved a more energetic approach. Perhaps it’s not the done thing in Stratford.

The encore saw the return of the virtuosi with a medley of folk tunes with Dinan’s violin and Donockley’s Uillean pipes taking centre stage before the whole thing descended into comedy and Hurry up Harry, complete with false endings and the rolling eyed “we’re going down the pub — I hope”

Here’s hoping that Fat Bob wasn’t in the room.


Set list:

I Fought The Law

Up Against The Wall


Down in The Tube Station At Midnight

Whole Wide World

The Model

All Around My Hat

Teenage Kicks

No More heroes

London Calling

Once In A lifetime

Up The Junction

God Save The Queen

Medley Reel

Hurry Up Harry

Review – Ian Gelling

Photos – Steph Colledge

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