The Guardian, by Dave Simpson, 9th July 2014
‘Heartfelt, fascinating and funny’
Garforth Arts Festival, Leeds
‘Edmondson brings poignance to punk songs by reworking them as folk’
Everyone has a favourite memory of Ade Edmondson’s peerless comedy alongside Rik Mayall: blowing up the set of University Challenge on The Young Ones, or fielding darts thrown at his head in the bonkers sitcom Bottom. Three weeks ago, the pair made their last appearance together when a tearful Edmondson was a pallbearer at his friend’s funeral. Thus, the Bradford-born comic tweeted that this previously booked tour would now be “different in tone”. Mayall, one suspects, would have approved of his preparation: “I’m pissed,” Edmondson announces.
In The Young Ones, Edmondson drew on his punk past to play Vyvyan Basterd with uncanny realism, and the Bad Shepherds take his favourite songs from that era and rework them in an English folk tradition. It’s not pastiche, but heartfelt and fascinating. Edmondson’s plaintive delivery unearths the tragedy in Sonny Curtis’s (Clash-covered) I Fought the Law and finds new seams of melancholy in the Jam’s Going Underground and the Members’ Sound of the Suburbs.
The between-songs humour makes the musical poignancy more startling. “Some people think punk songs are three-chord wonders. This has two,” he chuckles, before Wreckless Eric’s Whole Wide World. However, performing the songs with pipes and bouzoukis has rekindled the rage in songs dulled by familiarity, particularly the Sex Pistols’ God Save the Queen.
“This was a favourite of Rik’s,” he splutters before Motörhead’s Ace of Spades, revealing that Mayall had been proud when his 1998 quad bike accident left him technically dead for five days before coming back to life.
“Well, I buried him myself, and this time it doesn’t look like he’s coming back, so you’re all safe,” he quips. Lemmy’s lyrics – “I don’t wanna live for ever” – have never sounded as poignant. There is a momentary silence as lumps fill throats. Then everybody cheers.
1-94 BAR, Robert Brokenmouth
The Gov, Adelaide, Australia, 22nd April 2014
Seeing the Bad Shepherds is like seeing these fine songs, and their original vocalists, wearing only a towel after stepping out of the shower.
I venture to suggest that most of the audience would’ve had a passing familiarity with most of the set but I can tell you this, most of us there would not have heard them all as they came out, full of stylised piss and vinegar. Stripping back these songs back to their guts, humour, romance and fury is one of the most astonishing, wonderful things I’ve seen on a stage.
And they make it seem so easy up there. Troy Donockley works his backside off, swapping his uilleann pipes, cittern, whistles and flutey things about; watching him frantically struggling to put one instrument away while singing and tying on the pipes (they look like a Dalek’s bagpipes, if you must know; either that or made from a Dalek’s pissy cannon arms and a fuzzy Dalek spleen and a leathery Dalek bladder), or, worse, singing, untying the pipes and grabbing up the whistle or flutey fucking thing… jesus, Troy looked like he needed a drink by the end.
Terl Bryant sat on a cushion on a box which… was the percussion. Marvellous creation this, there’s a foot pedal but mostly Terl uses his fingers, hands and sandshoes…
And our hero, of course, with his twin neck mandolin (‘ordinary’ and ‘octave’ mandolins) which, once you get past the idiot Jimmy Page comparison, makes perfect sense for the songs because Ade swaps between the two mandys effortlessly; essentially the band has a greater breadth because Ade had the thing ‘custom made to save weight on tour’.
So. Were they any good?
By Christ they were fabulous.
They took us by storm, treating us to a world we may have rather missed, lyrics which swept by us, in an intimate emotional storm. The bellows for encores were close to being the loudest I’ve ever heard at the Gov, and that was because for once almost everyone in the room was howling for more – you know how there’s always about fifty people begging for the encore and everyone else just can’t be buggered because you know they’ll come back? Wasn’t like that tonight. We weren’t sure. But they did – just two songs, then skipped back to their dressing room clutching illicit beer and a bottle of pepperjack like naughty, grateful children.
We loved them, they loved us. Rather a superb night out.
02 Academy 2, Liverpool, 16th November 2013
There are few gigs you come away from with that genuine feeling that you have not just witnessed a decent band but have been included within an experience; however, and being acutely aware how trite this sounds, when leaving the Academy following a magical set from The Bad Shepherds I genuinely felt I had been fortunate enough to have been included in such an event – what’s more surprising was the fact that this was not some ramped up, pyrotechnic orgy of noise and choreographed ‘mayhem’, this was three middle age blokes with an array of violins, mandolins, Uilean pipes and all manner of recorders and whistles.
Opening with ‘Anarchy In The UK’ – the track is barely recognisable, The Bad Shepherds have turned the Pistols incendiary rage into a haunting almost drone like masterpiece, for many in the capacity crowd its only when Edmondson breaks into the lyric that they recognise the source; the Pistols were all about amphetamine rage, The Bad Shepherds are subtle nuances – however watching Edmondson deliver those infamous lines it’s obvious he is channelling Lydon’s energy with a delivery that equals the intensity of anything from back in 77’.
Edmondson welcomes the audience, runs a quick poll to establish who had seen the Bad Shepherds previously, and to newcomers “where have you fuckers been?” before visiting Dury’s ‘What A Waste’ from the Bad Shepherds current album ‘Mud, Blood & Beer’ – either side of Edmondson are two of folk music’s finest musicians; Troy Donockley and Andy Dinan who are effortlessly able to realise Edmondson’s self-confessed ambition of being a musician; he peppers the set with humorous anecdotes, this time referencing his father’s despair when a teenage Ade declared his intention to earn a living strumming a guitar – his Dad saying he would never get a mortgage , Ade announcing did get one some 10 years later “for a quarter million pounds” he also took a swipe at Status Quo regarding a merchandising opportunity in Australia suggesting that Rossi and Parfitt had been “sucking the Devil’s cock”.
Pulling material largely from the punk and new wave genre, we get a stunning interpretation of The Adverts ‘Gary Gilmores Eyes’ with an equally amusing suggestion to “the horrors of light entertainment” as seen through Gary Wilmot’ eyes, Edmondson is immersed in the music – despite his projection that he is a barely competent musician, he is in fact a very fine mandolin player; also his voice – for so long I have associated Edmondson with the characters Vyvyan Bastard and Eddie Hitler that to hear his impassioned and genuine vocal delivery is invigorating.
The reference to Edmondson’s Vyvyan Bastard creation is I believe significant; Vyvyan was the violent punk in the early 80’ ‘Young Ones’ sitcom, it’s clear he opted for this role as the characters musical preference matched his own, indeed the Young Ones regularly featured bands whose material The Bad Shepherds now cover; Madness made two appearances; tonight we get ‘Our House’ before a cover of Costello’s ‘Shipbuilding’ – the music is dramatically mournful, Edmondson’s delivery of the lyric is intense, which then contrasts with the rush of both ‘GSTQ’ and da brudders ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’.
And then ‘Mud, Blood & Beer’ the title track form the recent album, the first Bad Shepherds composition which stands shoulder to shoulder alongside other genre defining tracks such as ‘London Calling’, ‘Rise’ and ‘Once In A Lifetime’
Encoring with a very recently arranged ‘Girlfriend In A Coma’ and then into the visceral assault of ‘White Riot’ this was a performance to savour; despite the perceived ‘no future’ ethos of the punk movement The Bad Shepherds have demonstrated the importance of both the music and more importantly the lyric; this was a night of exceptional music, and stunning delivery which in his own words included “the twat on the telly”
LEICESTER BIG SESSION
“…not just the hit of this festival, but probably every other festival this summer. It’s not a totally original idea to play punk classics in a folkie stylee but there’s something engagingly sincere, almost touching, in the way they deliver everything from Whole Wide World to The Model. Surrounding himself with musicians of the calibre of Troy Donockley and Andy Dinan is an Ade Edmondson master stroke which lifts it far beyond a comedic level. Not that there isn’t comedy too – their reinterpretation of All Around My Hat proves that and Ade’s irreverent asides are very funny.
MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS
“AND you thought you didn’t like folk music” states musician and comedian Adrian Edmondson after the crowd have lapped up several of his and his bands interpretations of punk classics filtered through the medium of folk …at the top of the show you’re wondering just how The Bad Shepherds are going to pull this off – the answer is beautifully.
THE DAILY TELEGRAPH
Adrian Edmondson and the Bad Shepherds (“There are no sheep on stage. That’s how bad we are”) stirred up memories of Vivian from The Young Ones by bringing a technically accomplished set of punk and other songs from the 70s and early 80s set in folk style, with clearly enunciated lyrics. Thus there was The Model by Kraftwerk, decked out in twiddly Uilleann pipes and mandolin, a medley of Teenage Kicks and Whiskey in the Jar that finished up with a Davy Spillane-style Irish hoe-down and a genius cover of Once in a Lifetime by Talking Heads that was mesmerisingly bucolic and lilting. “And you may ask yourself� where does the M40 go?” I became aware about three quarters of the way through that I was crying with laughter and then they did the punk version of All Around My Hat. I won’t spoil it, but it was worth every prick of sunburn and insect bite of the weekend.
Playing well known punk tunes on folk instruments may read very strange but in reality it’s absolutely brilliant. We loved it and by the looks of it so did the other 19,997 people watching.
Adrian Edmondson and the Bad Shepherds performed a great set, his re-working of the Sex Pistols’ ‘God Save the Queen’ and the rest of a punk back catalogue was inspired.
MOSELEY FOLK FESTIVAL
Folked-up versions of punk and pub rock classics shouldn’t have worked, but displaying surprising virtuosity as “the world’s only thrash mandolin player”, the ex-Young Ones star really got Sunday under way with an evocative version of David Byrne’s ‘Once in a Lifetime’.
On to the Big Top for one of the band’s I’d been wanting to watch Adrian Edmondson & The Bad Shepherds. They don’t disappoint, singing punk songs, but with a fluid folk musicality, we get a bunch of well known tunes, a little amicable banter from Edmondson, and some wonderful musical performances. Highlights include a rendition of ‘Teenage Kicks’ with the instrumentation to ‘Whiskey In The Jar’, genius. I particularly like that in some perverse way the original ethics of punk have returned to its roots – Joe Strummer would heartily approve.
The Bad Shepherds came about after Edmondson woke from a drinking session in Soho to find he’d purchased a mandolin. Challenged, he started to learn his favourite punk songs on it, and so was born folk-punk. The Shepherds’ lead singer is a resident of the Exeter area, and like the City Football team he supports, his band played a promotion-winning 90 minutes. Man Of The Match was All-Ireland fiddle champion Andy Dinan. Promoting Yan Tyan Tethera Metheral (‘one, two, three, four’ in the Celtic language, Cumbrian – overdue a revival), The Shepherds reinvented punk classics with a fun Celtic edge that took the packed room and made it sway to intricate reworkings of threechord classics.