"Let them all have music, Let them all drink beer, Let the seasons roll around and bring us all good cheer..."
By now, the decree which leads off any Merry Hell gig will be familiar to many. Whether it's the full plugged-in ensemble, or the cut down version for acoustic gigs, the Kettle Family and Co, have been putting it around (in the nicest possible way) for the last five years, so the new live DVD, A Grand Night Out, recorded in late February 2015 seems a logical idea.
The venue is well chosen. The Grand in Clitheroe is a top class place, big enough to host the more popular acts, but not so cavernous that you need a telescope to see them. The product is well packaged containing a booklet with photos and a potted history of the band. The DVD has a full length concert along with pre-performance interviews with the artistes, conducted by some hairy bloke with a big microphone*
The crash, bang, wallop stuff (Drunken Serenade, My Finest Hour etc) works as well as ever, but with the Paris atrocities only a few days ago at the time of writing, there's a real poignancy to the quieter material. Bob Kettle's excellent The Old Soldier - "If it's murder and torture that makes a good soldier, I really don't know what I was fighting for"; Emerald Green about two lovers separated who dream of the war's end; a version of Lean on Me Love, with sparse instrumentation that begs for audience participation.
A Grand Night Out neatly encapsulates the history of Merry Hell so far. The audience, and the band having fun and an extraordinary number of tuneful compositions, delivered with a defiant social message.
"Ladies and gentlemen of Clitheroe. It's February 2015. The peace of the World hangs in the balance. It's time that we made our voices heard. Merry Hell are proud to be anti-violence, anti-intolerance, anti-war," declares Virginia Kettle.