30 November 2011
“We want people to come away saying ahab and not Bellowhead. We want them to say 'how have we not heard of them?' We mean to steal the show!”
Seebs Llewellyn - ahab
Steal the show? From Bellowhead? That will the same Bellowhead who have won Best Live Act at the BBC folk awards five times, best group twice and, unsurprisingly, are nominated in both categories again for 2012? Not too much of an ask then?
It had been a long time since I last saw ahab, they were playing as a duo - just Dave Burn and Callum Adamson. It had been a very long time since I first saw them, a four piece (Burn and Adamson with a bassist and drummer whose names I’ve long since forgotten) playing a packed, sweat laden, Enterprise in Camden. They had also drafted in Adrian Roye and Beth Dariti to help out on harmony vocals and it was those vocal arrangements that so impressed me then and now; with Seebs Llewellyn (bass and vocals) and Luke Price (mandolin and vocals) stealing the show was not such a flight of fancy.
Opening track ‘Lucy’ was one of several up tempo tracks where foot tapping was the bare minimum requirement and full scale dancing was hard to avoid. Llewellyn’s statement of intent was actually slightly tempered just before the ridiculously catchy ‘Lightnin’ Bug’, “We know you’re here to see Bellowhead, but we’re gonna play like you’re here to see us”: and they did.
ahab’s thirty minutes stage time flew past. Each track had the same six and twelve string acoustic guitars, electric bass, mandolin and drums but each track seemed a little bigger than it’s predecessor. As requested, everyone clapped along to ‘Rosebud’ and few stopped as ‘Call A Waiter’ started'.
The most impressive thing about ahab was the way they went about winning new fans. They looked like they were having a ball and that’s infectious. I couldn’t say that they stole the show as Bellowhead were on top form. Opening with ‘Yarmouth Town’ closing with ‘New York Girls’ (folk’s take on “floor fillers” I suppose) and fuelled up on ‘Sloe Gin’ and ‘Whisky [is The Life of Man]’ in-between, when it comes to delivering a high energy show there are few their equal. But if ahab put in performances like this on the rest of the tour they surely be moving on to bigger things.