The bands of minstrels who roamed the early British countryside were a hearty lot. Armed with their instruments, poetry, comedic flourishes, and dramatic soliloquies, they traveled from village to town seeking to enlightened and entertain the populace.

Robin Williamson and his Merry Band wandered into the Childe Harold last night, bringing with them the spirit and brash braggadocio of their ancient counterparts. Their performance was a delightful minlging of old and new, with lilting, poetic touches in the graceful melodies of folk music, set to rowdy stage antics and insightful, 20th-century lyrics.

Williamson (who first gained fame with The Incredible String Band in the '60s) is a daring slaphappy entertainer. At one moment, he was a throughful musical interpreter, reworking old English styles on songs such as "By Weary Well," while at the next he was an actor delivering the alluring alliteration of the miniepic poem, "Five Denials on Merlin's Grave." On "Where Did You Get That Hat" he and his Merry Band turned the house upside down with a romping routine right out of the British music hall. Before the crowd could pick themselves up off the floor, he returned for an encore that shredded nearly every musical style from the past to the present.