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Last Updated: Monday, 1 August 2005, 09:57 GMT 10:57 UK
Folk rocks at Cambridge festival
By Nic Rigby
BBC News, Cambridge

KT Tunstall. Pic by Bryan Ledgard for BBC Radio 2
KT Tunstall brought the Cambridge audience to their feet
The 41st Cambridge Folk Festival has proved once again why it is one of the premier UK festivals.

The line-up showed what an eclectic mix can be loosely (sometimes very loosely) described as folk.

Highlights were performances from Irish folk star Christy Moore, singer-songwriter KT Tunstall and the exciting rhythms from The Cat Empire.

Other acts included an unplugged set from Scottish rock group Idlewild and gospel legend Mavis Staples.

There was a time when Cambridge festival-goers were content with sitting on the grass to watch the acts.

Perhaps if they were a bit posher they sat on picnic blankets.

Mavis Staples. Pic by Bryan Ledgard for BBC Radio 2
Gospel legend Mavis Staples started singing in a band in 1950

Now I gazed upon a field of a thousand collapsible chairs as the artists took to the stage.

But the chairs were surplus to requirements when KT Tunstall's performance brought the crowd to their feet.

Opening with Another Place to Fall she soon showed with her sassy lyrics and strong voice why she's won a Mercury Music prize nomination.

She's already a star, but soon she's heading for superstar status.

With a backing chant of "Woo hoo" she went into her song Black Horse and the Cherry Tree.

A rousing song that brought loud "whoops" from the crowd.

She said its was "absolutely marvellous to be asked to play" Cambridge where audiences "really listen" to the songs.

If you haven't heard of her yet, you soon will.

Cool for cats

The Cat Empire are such a musically diverse fusion of styles that they are difficult to describe.

Think Ian Dury and the Blockheads meet the Streets and the Buena Vista Social Club.

In fact, the Australian six-piece combo recorded their latest CD Two Shoes at the studio in Cuba used by members of the Social Club, the band's Felix Riebl divulged.

"We went to Havana to record. The studio has a great atmosphere and doesn't have the digital technology other studio's have. That's what made the recording exciting," he said.

The mixture of Latin-American rhythms and hip hop provided the eclectic mix we've come to expect from the Cambridge Folk Festival.

The audience lapped up the sounds of some the coolest cats around.

This year with the acoustic shows we're done the response has been amazing
Roddy Woomble, of Idlewild

The final day of the festival saw performances from Idlewild and Christy Moore.

Roddy Woomble, of Idlewild, said the acoustic set at Cambridge fits in well with the direction the band has been going since its punk beginnings.

"This year, with the acoustic shows we've done the response has been amazing. It would not be surprising if that was the direction we went with the next record, but, that said, we are still a rock band," said Woomble.

He said it was quite odd seeing the band's old punk CDs for sale.

"It's like looking at a photo of me when I was 13 with a perm," he said, adding quickly: "Not that I had a perm when I was 13."

'Love' in air

I first saw Christy Moore live at the Cambridge Folk Festival in 1993.

He was the highlight of the festival then and his appearance on Sunday again saw him venerated by the crowd, who fell into an almost church-like silence as he began his first song.

His first song - Burning Times (by Charlie Murphy), about the burning of witches - was a bit of wordy dirge.

It's a problem with a few of his songs that sometimes put a simplistic political message before tune, rhyme and rhythm.

Having said that festival-goers loved the song and he soon got into his stride.

His anthem songs of the harsh 1980s Missing You and Ordinary Man stand as strong today and the audience enjoyed singing along with these favourites.

Moore's singing and guitar skills are superb and he wooed the audience - one fan shouted: "I love you Christy Moore." It was a sentiment in the hearts of many on Sunday night.


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