REVIEW: Seth Lakeman gets the house hopping at Sidmouth FolkWeek 2017

PUBLISHED: 15:26 11 August 2017

Seth Lakeman. Picture: Paul Strange.

Seth Lakeman. Picture: Paul Strange.

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Seth Lakeman and The Drystones at the Bulverton Marquee

Seth Lakeman. Picture: Paul Strange. Seth Lakeman. Picture: Paul Strange.

One of FolkWeek 2017’s hottest tickets was Thursday night’s Bulverton Big Gig, featuring folk legend Seth Lakeman, supported by up-and-coming duo The Drystones.

Southampton University music students Alex Garden and Tom Collier formed The Drystones in 2011. Since then they’ve taken the folk world by storm with their high-energy interpretations of traditional tunes.

Both multi-instumentalists, Alex’s main instruments are violin and percussion, with Tom playing guitar and tin whistle. By the time they were done, finishing to rapturous applause with a virtuoso performance of three Irish tunes on the tin whistle, the audience were already dancing.

Seth Lakeman. Picture: Paul Strange. Seth Lakeman. Picture: Paul Strange.

And when Seth Lakeman took the stage, he did not disappoint them. The local boy turned folk superstar delighted the packed marquee with a mix of new songs, such as The Willow Tree, and old favourites including The White Hare and the tragic Solomon Browne, written to commemorate the Penlee lifeboat disaster.

Ably supported by his backing band, Lakeman demonstrated his own versatility by switching effortlessly between violin, guitar and mandolin to deliver a punchy set that had the house hopping.

Among the highlights was the lyrical Silver Threads, a poignant reflection on love and aging, accompanied by plucked and strummed violin. Lakeman’s commanding vocal and muscular fiddle playing dominated much of the set, particularly on The Willow Tree, where his voice and musicianship seemed to soar above the dense, complex harmonies to thrilling effect. Hold Your Fire, with Lakeman now on guitar, was another triumph, as the audience swayed to the hypnotic rhythm, shouting along with the chorus.

However, the most memorable moment was when the amplification was switched off and the band departed, leaving Lakeman and his violin alone to deliver an exquisite, acoustic version of Portrait of My Wife. As the room joined the chorus ‘Raise your glass to the one you love’, waving a sea of glasses in time to the music, the atmosphere became as intimate as an impromptu home session, connecting both performer and audience in a rare moment of folk magic.

The Drystones. Picture: Paul Strange. The Drystones. Picture: Paul Strange.

It was a memorable evening, and a reminder of why we’re so privileged to have FolkWeek on our doorstep.

Delia Pemberton

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