Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick – Kings Place

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No video from the night, but this (from a different venue a year ago) pretty much sums up what it was like.

Why this gig?

I’ve talked many times before about why you should go and see Martin Carthy (and, indeed, any member of his family) whenever you can. When he’s playing with Dave Swarbrick the show becomes even more essential. They first played together about fifty years ago and the partnership is still as strong as it ever was.


I didn’t expect a support. These shows tend to be two sets by the main artist. But it wasn’t like that this time. I hadn’t realised that the show was part of the Kings Place Festival – where they have a number of acts playing separate shows in the same venue on the same day (a lot like the way that, say, the Assembly Rooms is organised during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival). This meant that the show was only an hour long. I should have realised something was up when the ticket was only £6.50.


With a repertoire going back fifty years or so, you can never be sure what you’re going to get from a Carthy/Swarbrick show. They both have hundreds of songs to choose from.

They opened with “Sovay” and closed with “Byker Hill”. These two seem to be semi-permanent fixtures in their set. The space between is up for grabs. I recognised a few songs (Carthy’s “My Son John” is a particular favourite) but a lot of it was new to me (but not, of course, new material – many of these songs go back centuries). Carthy and Swarbrick remain consummate musicians. The only real change is that Swarbrick now sits down throughout the show.

But, all too soon, it’s over. An hour flies by. Next time I see them I hope they will be playing a full-length show.

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