Live at The Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester
7th November 2018
Whilst it’s almost impossible, intentionally or otherwise, to track down a Show Of Hands concert review that doesn’t praise the consummate musicianship of Steve Knightley and Phil Beer or celebrate the strength of Steve’s song-writing (and rightly so) – one fact that often goes unmentioned is how this most skilful and hard-working of bands never allows the grass to grow underfoot.
Following the cathedral tour ‘Sanctuary’ and the spring duo shows, the current ‘Joint Venture’ tour sees long time Seth Lakeman percussionist, Cormac Byrne, join the line-up, replacing bass-player and vocalist, Miranda Sykes, currently on maternity leave. With an array of percussive instruments, including cymbals and bodhran, Byrne’s deft, rhythmic touches allow for new song arrangements of audience favourites such as openers Cousin Jack and Country Life. The Knightley/Lakeman co-write, Haunt You, is an obvious choice given Cormac’s place on the stage and the subtle and succinct reworking of older material is a notable feature of the set, drawing new textures from stage favourites like Santiago.
The smattering of new songs being road-worked from the soon-to-be recorded ‘Joint Venture’ album also benefit from Byrne’s presence: Battlefield Dance Floor is a Dhol Foundation-inspired, world music romp and the playful Dreckley, a “Cornish-Caribbean tale of clotted cream” - alliteration gone mad! Pick of the new songs on first hearing is You’ll Get By, which is simply one of those fine songs that Steve conjures up for every album, apparently effortlessly.
Cold Frontier and Exile (sung by Phil) allow Cormac a backstage breather - which he probably needed ahead of a dynamic set of Tunes that his bodhran-playing propels ever onward and which showcases the brilliance of Phil Beer’s fiddle-playing, a feat repeated on set closer, The Galway Farmer. If there was a scribbled note on Cormac’s set list for this one, it must have simply said “as fast as possible”!
The Joint Venture tour runs through November and into early December.
Photo Courtesy of Martin Reynolds