The reunion of 1960s folk-jazz supergroup Pentangle coincided with the closing night of Glastonbury, depriving the gig of the media attention it deserved and might otherwise have generated. As a comeback concert, it was every bit as accomplished and successful as those performed by Cream in London three years ago.
Pentangle, once dubbed the “folk Beatles,” played its first concert at the Royal Festival Hall in May 1967, so this occasion could have easily slipped into a nostalgic binge. Fortunately, Pentangle’s music sounded as fresh, vital and inventive in 2008 as it did back then in the first summer of love.
Now, as then, Jacqui McShee dressed in a loose-fitting floral ensemble that could have been bought in Carnaby Street four decades ago. She looked not a bit surprised to find herself sharing the same stage as the male virtiousi who accompanied her.
“This is our hit,” she announced self-deprecatingly, two numbers into the first of two sets. Playing “Light Flight” early in the proceedings suggested that Pentangle wanted to quickly move into the serious stuff.
Band members’ consummate artistry cast a spell that couldn’t help but remind the audience, most of whom were well into their sixth decade, of gentler, more freewheeling and less musically conservative times.
Seated opposite one another, Bert Jansch and John Renbourn effortlessly brought folk, jazz and blues styles to a mix of original and traditional songs from both sides of the Atlantic. At the lower register, bassist Danny Thompson, by far the best dressed of the four men on stage, and Terry Cox were equally distinguished playing with genuine imagination. Each musician’s solo was a joy.
Standouts included the jazz groove of “I’ve Got a Feeling.” based on Miles Davis’ “All Blues,” and “House Carpenter,” featuring Renbourn on sitar and Jansch on banjo. Throughout, McShee’s vocal embraces were exquisite as her singing belied her somewhat gauche stagecraft — or lack thereof.