Les Barker8pm, WednesdayJune 6th '07House ConcertCall 604-736-3022
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They say you can tell a man by the links on his website (well they do now). Les Barker's are folk, trains, meals away from motorway services and peace: the quintessential fodder of any self-respecting Northern English working class hero in an anorak (check the Oxford not the Webster's for that one).
It's a good dozen years or more since I first stumbled across Les Barker delightfully bemusing an audience in a beery cloister of Manchester University. I can still vividly picture him reciting his "Occasional Table", or how Jason and the Arguments sailed "by the light of the Morecambe Bay prawns" - a gag not lost on anyone living downwind of the aforementioned bay's dubious nuclear reactor. I was at the venue to see full-on folk band, but this single unaccompanied, bashful and rather odd spoken worder stole the show.
While his stage persona is half Mancunian (or is that Welsh?) wit and half village idiot, his deft wordplay and beguiling delivery show again and again that he is absolutely nobody's fool. Indeed his disarming but deceptive simplicity is frequently described as comic genius. There is, though, as much serious political and social commentary as there is comedy, and his delivery throughout mingles the hilarious with the poignant.
And then there is the music. He has kidnapped many a familiar melody and transformed it with his irresistible punning, or just simply improves on the words he replaces. Indeed, folk luminaries such as June Tabor, Dave Swarbrick and Martin Carthy have appeared on his recordings, placing him firmly within the British folk scene. It is this mix of music, spoken word, comedy and social commentary that makes his act so at home on the folk circuit and his unique but simple perspective so widely welcomed. In his words, "I want freedom. I want equality. And I want honesty. Here, and in all the faraway places. Thus far, the ballot paper has offered none of these things. When it does, perhaps we will have peace. Here, and in all the faraway places."