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Concert Review: Bert Jansch and Pegi Young At The Triple Door, Seattle, WA, 6/10/10

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Sixty-six year old Scottish folk singer/songwriter/guitarist Bert Jansch (it's pronounced "Yanch") is a living legend who has had a profound and lasting influence on rock musicians ranging from Neil Young, Jimmy Page and Johnny Marr, to Pete Doherty and Devendra Banhart.

Yet, he is all but unknown in America outside of a small, but quite rabid group of devotees. However, that may be changing.

Jansch, a guitarist who Neil Young once called "as great as Jimi (Hendrix) was," has been opening the shows on Young's current Twisted Road tour. And despite the reputation of some of Neil's more boisterous fans for drunkenly yelling out things like "Rawk N' F**in' Roll" during the quieter moments of his shows, audiences have not only been uncharacteristically respectful of Jansch — quite a few of them also seem to be actually getting it.

Judging by Jansch's solo acoustic performance this past Thursday night at Seattle's Triple Door, it's not hard to see why. As a guitarist, Jansch is absolutely spellbinding to watch — a fact which became even more apparent in witnessing him work his magic in the small, intimate confines of Seattle's Triple Door.

Best known in the States as a founding member of sixties/seventies British folkie cult faves The Pentangle, Jansch's music is a product of that same indigenous scene which spawned the much better known Fairport Convention and its offshoots Sandy Denny and especially the great Richard Thompson.

But at the risk of offending Thompson fanatics everywhere, Jansch's guitar work is simply in a class all its own.

Watching Jansch's amazing guitar skills up close and personal at the Triple Door on Thursday night was almost like seeing two virtuoso guitarists doing their thing at once.

In a lot of ways, it reminded me of the first few times I saw Jeff Beck play live. In the same way I once was hypnotized by all those crazy things Beck does with a whammy bar and a Strat, the combination of Jansch's full-throttle hand strumming and intricate five fingered style of picking was something I simply couldn't take my eyes off of.

As a vocalist, Jansch sings in a gruff sounding, heavily accented, deeply voiced sort of timbre. On Thursday night, the songs themselves veered from the ultra-traditional British and Scottish folk of "Rosemary Lane" and "The Old Triangle" (from his current album, The Black Swan — which the normally stingy Mojo Magazine recently afforded a rare five star rating), to darker, bluesier-based fare like "Duck In The Diamond" (a song Jansch said he wrote after spending a few nights out with notorious lunatic Pete Doherty).

Opening up for Jansch was Pegi Young, who was backed by a great six-piece band, including such notable players as bassist Rick Rosas, keyboardist Spooner Oldham, and multi-instrumentalist Ben Keith — all of whom are veteran sidemen in bands fronted by Pegi's famous husband, Neil Young.

Having seen Pegi open for Neil Young in much larger venues, I was particularly struck by how much better she comes across in a more intimate space like the Triple Door.

Her vocals were not only much stronger than I remember from the arena shows with Neil I've seen, but her stage presence also came across as much warmer — although she needs to work more on letting the audience know the names of the songs being played, especially when they are newer ones.

Concentrating on new songs like "Blue Sunday" and the title track of an upcoming album called Foul Deeds, Pegi also performed songs from her debut album, including the Spooner Oldham penned "I'm Not Through Loving You Yet."

While the band all sounded great playing Pegi's mostly twangy, folk and country-rock influenced songs, the always great Ben Keith was a particular standout on pedal steel and dobro. Guitarist Anthony Crawford also had some fine moments though, and Phil Jones more than passed the Old Grey Whistle Test on drums.

Both Pegi Young and Bert Jansch will resume opening the remaining shows on Neil Young's Twisted Road tour next month — including a return date in Seattle — following a round of headlining club dates on the west coast.

If you make it out to any of these shows, be sure to get there early. Because whether he's headlining in a club or opening for Neil Young in an arena, Bert Jansch is not to be missed.

About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at The Rockologist, and at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.
  • http://neilyoungnews.thrasherswheat.org/ thrasher

    Glen,
    Thanks for review. Just caught Bert opening for Neil a couple of times on the Twisted Road. Yes, great guitar work. I was never sure about the clawhammer technique though?

    Thrasher

  • taint

    i think the song was “ducking and diving”, not “duck in the diamond”.

    great show last night. saw neil’s manager, elliot roberts, chatting with the fleet foxes between sets.

  • tom civiletti

    “Jansch’s guitar work is simply in a class all its own.”

    Have you heard Jansch’s old bandmate, John Renbourn? Both are wonderful guitarists.

  • Greg Barbrick

    Sounds like it was a great show. I agree with Tom that Renbourn is also a huge talent.

    Not that he is a Brit, but another amazing acoustic player who is a must is John Fahey.

  • LM

    According to his bio: The family name is pronounced “yansh” by almost everyone except Jansch himself, and some close members of his family, who pronounce it “jansh”.

  • Joe

    “Both Pegi Young and Bert Jansch will resume opening the remaining shows on Neil Young’s Twisted Road tour next month”

    Is that correct? I thought it was just Bert opening for Neil the 2nd leg.

  • Lindy

    Unless they just decided that, it’s wrong. Advertising just lists Bert Jansch as opening act for the rest of the tour. Pegi’s website only lists a few dates opening for Bert and that’s it. Hope it’s not true, 2 opening acts would make a long night when they always start late anyway.

  • http://www.myspace.com/tangograss Chris L

    Excellent review. It was a wonderful show, and the talent level was extremely high the entire night. While it is very nice to see Pegi step out on her own, the real treat was seeing Ben, Rick Anthony and Spooner in an intimate venue. For those of us to have spent time studying the mastery of Keith and Oldham, seeing them walk out on stage was amazing!

    What else can you say about Bert? Neil hit it head on, he is very much an equal of Hendrix, in a different venue. What an amazing performer.

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    It’s possible I was mistaken about Pegi closing out the tour with Neil and Bert.

    As for “Ducking and Diving” (or whatever it’s called), I must’ve been going off of Jansch’s accent, cause it sure sounded like “Duck In The Diamond” to me…LOL.

    Thanks for commenting everyone.

    -Glen

  • Alana

    Bert Jansch opened for Neil Young in Austin, TX. Mr Jansch was so powerful on stage. Then came Neil Young. That concert was June 5th and I am still in the ‘after concert high’.
    The two of these men together put on such a show I am not sure I need to ever see a concert again- I don’t think anything can touch these performances.

  • Anonymous

    Just a note to Glen Boyd regarding the opening paragraph to this review.

    Anthony Crawford should have been included here….he has been playing with Neil Young since the early ’80′s and was completely overlooked. I think he has put in some major attributes to both Neil and Pegi’s bands over the years and deserves the mention.

    “Opening up for Jansch was Pegi Young, who was backed by a great six-piece band, including such notable players as bassist Rick Rosas, keyboardist Spooner Oldham, and multi-instrumentalist Ben Keith — all of whom are veteran sidemen in bands fronted by Pegi’s famous husband, Neil Young.”

    As a Rusty myself, I was enamored by the whole show. Anyone in the area of one of these concerts should definitely get out and see them. Awesome night! Thanks Bert, Pegi, and the band.

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Anthony Crawford is referenced, and singled out for praise, later on in the review. I couldn’t mention everyone in that first paragraph.

    -G

  • martin lav

    If Jansch played Needle of Death did you hear the similar sound as in “Ambulance Blues”?

    To quote Neil Young: “I was especially taken by Needle Of Death, such a beautiful and angry song. That guy was so good… And years later, on On The Beach, I wrote the melody of Ambulance Blues by styling the guitar part completely on Needle Of Death. I wasn’t even aware of it, and someone else drew my attention to it.”

    Seems like a real good show.