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REVIEW: A triumph for Show of Hands at Sidmouth FolkWeek 2017

PUBLISHED: 15:11 11 August 2017 | UPDATED: 15:16 11 August 2017

Show of Hands. Picture: Paul Strange.

Show of Hands. Picture: Paul Strange.


Show of Hands + Geoff Lakeman, Ham Marquee, Sidmouth

Show of Hands. Picture: Paul Strange. Show of Hands. Picture: Paul Strange.

The Ham marquee was solidly packed for Sunday night’s FolkWeek 2017 performance by Show of Hands, one of British folk’s leading forces.

Although Geoff Lakeman was clearly humbled to be supporting at such a prestigious gig, the ‘stalwart of the West Country folk scene and father of a virtual folk dynasty’ rarely looked phased as he delivered an assured – often humorous – set on his duet concertina.

Drawing material from his debut solo album, After All These Years, he opened with The Farmer’s Song, gave us a powerful Tie ‘Em Up and an elegant rendering of The Green Cockade. After a superb performance of Reg Meuross’s England Green, England Grey, he turned to Americana, including Randy Newman’s Louisiana 1929 and Buddy Miller’s Wide River to Cross.

Show of Hands' Steve Knightley. Picture: Paul Strange. Show of Hands' Steve Knightley. Picture: Paul Strange.

Lakeman’s intimate set was magic, and in stark contrast to Show of Hands’ turbo-charged performance. On blistering form, the duo of guitarist Steve Knightley and multi-instrumentalist Phil Beer, accompanied by double bassist Miranda Sykes, gave a powerhouse show that stadium rock bands would be proud of.

Kicking off with the anthemic Are We Alright?, they fired on all cylinders for a superb The Long Way Home. After a delightful ‘Twas On One April’s Morning – with beautiful harmonising vocals – the show took on big-production values as Knightley introduced The Lost Sound Chorus, an amateur choir who have supported them at bigger shows.

With nearly 30 people on stage, it was an impressive sight and sound that worked well for The Old Lych Way, The Gamekeeper and other material commemorating the recent centenaries of the Battle of the Somme and Battle of Passchendaele.

Miranda Sykes had her own vocal showcase with the choir – a majestic The Lily and the Rose – but as the band regrouped as a trio, they lost their way with a misjudged take on Don Henley’s Boys Of Summer.

Show of Hands' Steve Knightley. Picture: Paul Strange. Show of Hands' Steve Knightley. Picture: Paul Strange.

Fortunately they powered back with a solid Arrogance, Ignorance and Greed and an emphatic Cousin Jack, with Geoff Lakeman and the choir re-joining them. At the end – with so many people on stage again – the show felt overblown. Apart from that, it was a triumph.

Paul Strange

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