Royal Festival Hall, London
By pulling together folk, jazz and blues into evocative, melodic albums, Pentangle were ahead of the curve in the late 1960s. An early "supergroup", they set the scene for more celebrated artists. Long before singer-songwriters ? from Van Morrison to Carole King to Joni Mitchell ? discovered the joys of mellifluous bass and jazzy drums, double bassist Danny Thompson and drummer Terry Cox added a startling perspective to the folk club frontline of guitars and vocals, contributing gravitas and spirit to Jacqui McShee's traditional songs of lost love and abandonment. Guitarists John Renbourn and Bert Jansch were accomplished musical storytellers, who occasionally spiked the brew with sitar and banjo.
Four decades on, garlanded with awards and praise, the five original members of Pentangle have reunited to play a handful of gigs: Glastonbury, Cambridge folk festival and London's Southbank. It doesn't hurt that they have a solid gold repertoire: traditional songs Cruel Sister and Bruton Town; originals such as Hunting Song; Cyril Tawney's Sally Free and Easy; and I've Got a Feeling, their reinvention of Miles Davis's All Blues.
McShee's voice is still girlish and reedy, requiring a sound system that permits her to soar above the intricate arrangements. Pentangle tell their stories through sound, texture and feeling: they're a chamber ensemble rather than a singer with accompaniment. A fan from the 1960s seated next to me, annoyed that he couldn't hear the words, walked out.
On several numbers, including their enduring hit Light Flight, McShee's voice was supported by the high-pitched backing vocals of Cox. On other songs, John Renbourn's high guitar part enhanced McShee's tones with subtle, sympathetic phrases. Renbourn, hugely impressive throughout, is both a great team player and an outstanding soloist. The audience, of a similar vintage to the band, showed their devotion, and demanded an encore.