“It’s fantastic to play before an actual three-dimensional crowd,” reflected Jon Whitley, the musical force behind pre-eminent Poole folkies Ninebarrow.

A show of hands indicated that for the vast majority of the audience it was, too, their first time watching actual 3D musicians in a live format since, well, forever.

So here we were in the naturally man-made amphitheatre down the side of Poole’s Lighthouse arts centre for the return of live music.

And what a treat it was too. Frankly, Ninebarrow could have played a series of nursery rhymes with an acid jazz beat and I’d have still been happy.

Thankfully, though, they did not with Jon and constantly bouncing partner Jay LaBouchardiere providing two sets scattered with oldies, goldies and a passing nod to the newest album.

The last time I was in this setting was eight years ago when my elder daughter’s wedding pictures were being taken on the grassy knoll, but this was a more musical utilisation of a previously underused space.

As the soundman battled the traffic and seagull background noise it was a like a mini festival with bag chairs and rugs scattered in a socially distanced manner.

John said it was the first time they’d played opposite a bus station, which much have felt like luxury since the previous evening’s gig had been in a Milton Keynes shopping centre under a giant globe – in any case it was a top deck performance and the hottest ticket in town.

Last time I saw Ninebarrow they were lugging their shopping up Waterloo Road as I was driving out of Tesco at Fleetsbridge…the first time I saw them was at Purbeck Folk Festival’s old venue aeons ago and I compared them then to the young Simon and Garfunkel.

That view hasn’t changed, but Ninebarrow have matured so much in the intervening years, working exceptionally hard, particularly during our many lockdowns, to bring their music to the masses. It has worked well, with the duo now regarded in the top echelons of English folk.

Not bad for a couple of former Poole Grammar School boys who gave up good careers to turn professional in the belief that their music would see them through.

They stay true to their roots, singing extensively about Dorset, inspired by the county’s landscape, history and folklore.

Thus we had Come January, an oldie about arriving by train into Poole and glimpsing the Purbeck hills, Zunshine in the Winter, based on a tale by Dorset dialect poet William Barnes and Halsewell, an epic story of Dorset’s worst shipping disaster off Winspit.

Further nods to Dorset included To the Stones, about a hard-to-find Neolithic long barrow at Long Bredy near Abbotsbury (coincidentally part of the band’s book of walks) and Row On, a traditional song put to music by Dorset musician and storyteller Tim Laycock.

Nature is everywhere with Ninebarrow – reference Hour of the Blackbird, Weave Her a Garland (a folk song of the Upper Thames, would you believe), Summer Fires/Padstow May Song, John Barleycorn and the sublime, unaccompanied While Gamekeepers Lie Sleeping.

This leads us nicely to the title track from the latest album A Pocketful of Acorns, a song about Vice Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, second-in-command to Nelson at Trafalgar, who was so worried that the Navy was using all the land’s timber for ships that he carried the aforementioned acorns and scattered them on bare ground on his estate to generate new oak trees.

Which in turn leads us to Ninebarrow planting, with help from just two people (in the audience tonight) 1,000 trees on three acres in North Dorset to help offset their carbon footprint driving to gigs.

There was still time for a contemporary-ish song about refugees in Calais, a sea shanty, a cautionary tale about a woman escaping the hangman’s noose and an audacious cover of Nick Drake’s River Man, which worked, absolutely.

Now Ninebarrow have done a rare cover, is it impudent to suggest Simon and Garfunkel’s The Only Living Boy in New York might be next?

Great occasion, great chaps – nice to see you back.