They were only together for a few years, and last night's concert was part of the first tour of the original Pentangle line-up for about 35 years. None of the members of Pentangle are spring chickens, and neither, it has to be said, were most of the members of the audience.
I think a lot of people who came to last night's concert would have been here mainly to hear if Bert and John could still play together. I think they sounded fantastic – Bert Jansch playing beautiful complex loops of finger-picking to establish the rhythm, and John Renbourne, as lead guitarist, adding solos and big, beautiful strums. They way they play together is quite incredible sometimes – the interaction of their guitars often sounds so elaborate that you think it's on the point of collapse, but then they'll show you where there going, and you feel sure they knew where that was all along. John Renbourne seemed a little shy and awkward being on-stage, so it was really nice to see him being prepared to get down on the floor to play the sitar for one number. Danny Thompson's fabulous double bass playing adds to the complexity and richness of sound.
The songs are mainly minor-key, traditional folk songs, or songs inspired by the English folk tradition. As Jacqui McShee tells us, they usually have 'doom and gloom' lyrics about maidens being drowned in the river. But they also include blues, jazz, and other American influences, with folk-y versions of Charlie Mingus and Miles Davis tunes. They were perhaps best of all when they upped the tempo a bit for quite rocky (in a relative sense) tunes like 'Wedding Dress'.
At other times, if you let your attention stray from the guitar work, you can find yourself drifting off into a dreamy, hippy haze, but that's probably not a bad thing. I don't think this was how last night's set was appreciated by most of the crowd. A lot of them must have been real die-hard folk fans, and they hung on every note. I really enjoyed last night's concert, the perfect wind-down after a hard day's rocking at the Cowley Road carnival.