Fairport Convention: Maidstone 1970
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This film, directed and restored by renowned British film director Tony Palmer, captures the band at the Maidstone Fiesta during the summer of 1970 as they run through their set of the time which included various jigs and reels and the songs 'Sir Patrick
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This was shot on lushly toned color video (and it looks GREAT) on very short notice and intended as a short-subject in UK cinemas, as was quite common for rock bands of the era. We're brought back to the days when we all had flat stomachs and lots and lots of hair, and the feel is undated, warm and joyous. Appearing in front of a low key family audience at a small country fair, the band is having a great time and this is fully reflected in the music made. What brilliant players they were, here in absolutely top form, and Dave Swarbrick's fiddle and mandolin work is simply blinding, a perfect compliment to the flawless and quite moving vocals.
While rejoicing that Fairport are still out there trodding the boards, always to be relied upon for the highest quality performances, one does feel a tug at the heart, wishing that this quintessential lineup of Pegg, Mattacks, Nicol, Thompson and Swarbrick had not had such a short run.
(This is the band I saw open for Traffic at the height of their fame, delivering such a scorching set that Winwood and company wouldn't take the stage for well over an hour.)
Thanks to Fairport for 39 years of fun. What great times they were!
But be aware that - though the running time is listed as 46 minutes - this is a 31 minute film (shot on film, not video) plus a new 15-minute interview with Director Tony Palmer done in 2007. And of the seven musical numbers, two are by Matthew's Southern Comfort (whose leader - Ian Matthews - was previously in Fairport).
This was a performance at a May Fair for families and Palmer's camera crew give you plenty of shots of families and little children (including the end of a diaper change!). The print was remastered but the sound could never be considered hi-fidelity.
As we learn from the Palmer interview, he was hired to make the film as a tax loss (!) by Producer Stanley Baker when he found his film "Zulu" becoming a surprise hit! No mention is made of a longer film of Maidstone though the film was produced for, and appeared in, "Cinemas" in the UK.
So, if you are a Fairport completist, this is one for you. They are still a great band. Otherwise, know what you are getting inside this package.