Steeleye Span, Palladium, London

4.00

"Pity them who see him suffer, Pity poor old Steeleye Span."

"Pity them who see him suffer, Pity poor old Steeleye Span." No need for pity: for punters of a certain vintage, this joyous concert was unalloyed nirvana. The 35th anniversary tour of the Sixties/Seventies folk-music doyens Steeleye Span continues until 30 December, when the group make a Tyneside appearance to celebrate the opening of Gateshead's new Sage centre.

As lead singer Maddy Prior points out, this electrifying folk group took its name from a Lincolnshire ballad, which narrates the story of an argumentative carter, Jon Span, nicknamed Steeleye.

Steeleye's musical argument is impeccable. Grizzled master-violinist Peter Knight and bass guitarist Rick Kemp may not look like the students they once were; but they are at heart. These astute musicians' star remains firmly in the ascendant. Mostly in their fifties, with a partly revised line-up including drummer Liam Genockey and their seasoned new acquisition, lead guitarist Ken Nicol, Steeleye rank among the most stylish and patently musical performers in any genre.

They made us wait agog until the second encore for "All Around My Hat". But then this audience in thrall would have stuck out for coat, scarf and wellington boots too. Steeleye's latest tour draws young punters, too, yet you mostly sensed performers and audience had grown up together, sharing music for three decades.

Narrative ballad and poignant delivery make Steeleye Span the fabulous ensemble it is. You feel their civilised, informal, urbanely shambolic act and beautifully honed performing plug into six centuries: 14th-century folk song; "Greensleeves"; the New England 18th-century West Gallery tradition of William Billings; or the Thomas Hardy tradition zestfully fostered by The Mellstock Band.

It's difficult to cap "Down in Yon Forest" or "Sing We the Virgin Mary" - Prior at her best - or even that now-dated chart-topper, "Gaudete". Knight's fiddle descanting brings its own special poignancy. Several of these seasonal pieces hailed from their new Park Records album, Winter. Only where Steeleye went for big noise did they lose their edge: the group's subtlest performers, Prior and Knight, were simply drowned out; it became folk-disco.

Old friends Tim Harries, Martin Carthy and Ralph McTell emerged from the woodwork to join in. McTell's "Streets of London" sounded truly wonderful. Words glowed like crystal; all voices were impeccably tuned, as intimate as a string quartet.

But nobody can touch Prior: pure, genuine, a truly gorgeous voice. Peter Knight promised us they'll tour again soon. Don't miss them.

The Stables, Wavendon, Milton Keynes (01908 280800) tonight; The Sage, Gateshead (0870 703 4555) 30 Dec

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power