Thursday, 12 December 2013

SHOW OF HANDS

Live Review

Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton

The lucky fans of Show of Hands were given a double treat at the Wulfrun Hall in Wolverhampton as the Devonish trio of Steve Knightley, Phil Beer and Miranda Sykes provided their own support with each doing a solo spot as "warm up" acts.

Show of Hands, Miranda Sykes with
Steve Knightley and Phil Beer
Knightley, who opened the first triptych, was suffering somewhat from a chest infection which was evident as his voice occasionally struggled but he battled on, only having to leave the stage once and still provided a good performance both solo and with his fellow musicians.
Company Town was his first offering, his gravelly voice perfect for the gin house blues sound which moved smoothly into Hook of Love, a gentle ballad which showed off Knightley’s precise guitar work and for his final offering he did an A Capella version of Low Down in the Broom, before introducing Phil Beer what was jokingly referred to as the main course, Knightley of course being the starter.
Beer opened on the mandolin with a song from Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson, Weathercock, before moving on to the guitar for some fantastic blues picking with Cocaine Blues from the Reverend Gary Davis and finished his set with a bluegrass sound on his fiddle and Devil’s Right Hand. Then of course on came Miranda Sykes, as the “desert” for her trilogy which included the gentle sound of Window box and the haunting My Sister the Moon.
When they were back together on stage for the second part of the set they pulled out the traditional and haunting Crows on the Cradle with Beer on mandolin and Knightley on bouzouki. His voice holding up remarkably well and filling the hall with his clear tones. Knightley then gave a lengthy explanation on the events behind their next song, The Napoli before playing the light-hearted tune about a cargo ship which ran aground and caused all sorts of problems for the authorities as opportunists tried to get their hands on the goodies which spilled from the ship.
The jaunty opening was followed by Knightley’s easy and jumping lyrics as he told of the procession of people who descended on the stricken vessel hoping to make a killing, which of course included gangs from the North and lads from the moor.
He handed over to Beer who took the opportunity to treat the fans to some incredible slide guitar and finger picking with a romantic number, well as romantic as Sidmouth can be, with You’re Mine. Beer’s guitar playing introduced sounds akin to Fleetwood Mac’s Albatross but overall the song had the feel of a Bruce Springsteen special which may have been a conscious move because it gave way to their version of The Boss’s Youngstown with Knightley handing the vocals over to Beer, whose sound is slightly more raucous than Knightley’s, having a gravelly edge to it. Knightley with Sykes, on her double bass, provided the harmonies as Beer also filled the hall with the sound of his slick fiddle playing.
Phil Beer on fiddle and Steve Knightley on guitar

Which was not bad considering that it fell to pieces while Knightley was introducing the song. Beer was behind trying desperately to put the parts back together while maintaining some sense of dignity.
Youngstown, Ohio is known as the incredible shrinking city as it’s reported to have lost more than two per cent of its population in just two years.
Beer moved back to the guitar for The Blue Cockade which was a slow ballad that was filled out wonderfully by Syke’s voice and Beer’s precise finger picking. Tradition says a cockade is a braid of ribbons or threads with a variety of signifying colours often worn by those in the military and in this case it was a cockade worn by a seafarer.
Knightley then left the stage to give his throat a rest and Beer took the opportunity to show off his fantastic skill playing blues guitar. Knightley came back on and between him and Beer they indulged in some musical tomfoolery with a fantastic hoedown sound which had the hall toe tapping and clapping along.
Without doubt the next song was the highlight of the night, the trio’s version of Katrina, inspired, if that’s the right phrase, by the incredibly destructive storm, the after effects of which are still being felt.
The sound the trio made was highly evocative and emotive and featured a genuine storm which they recorded as wild track when laying down the song in their studio. Sykes provided some highly effective sounds on the double bass as Knightley sang the song and the lighting, although quite simple, was superb and perfect to the mood set by the band.
The band's latest album
It had thought-provoking lyrics such as “We never saw it coming, until it was too late. Some would call it arrogance and some would call it fate.” Beer’s slide guitar added an incredible strand to the tune and he gave a final flourish with The Lakes Of Ponchartrain of which Christy Moore does a fantastic version if you want to check it out
They then toughened up with the biting lyrics of Country Life which was followed by another session of tomfoolery from the patio of sound in which Isla St Clair was in the firing line, (you had to be there).
They closed the set with a damn good version of No Woman No Cry, thankfully not in Jafaican, and blended it seamlessly into Are We Alright? Show of hands will be off the scene for a while now but don’t worry too much as if you start to get withdrawal symptoms, you can get hold of a DVD which was filmed at Shrewsbury Folk Festival and they will be back in circulation towards the end of 2014.

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