You write the reviews: Show of Hands, Bloomsbury Theatre, London
Friday 25 April 2008
The mighty English roots duo Show of Hands attracted a loyal audience of cutthroats, crooks and conmen to their show at London's Bloomsbury Theatre. "Is there anything left in England that's not for sale?" blasted the band's front man and singer-songwriter, Steve Knightley, flanked by the multi-instrumentalist Phil Beer and the pair's regular guest, the fiery-haired Miranda Sykes, on double bass.
England, after all, is what this West Country-based band is all about. They champion its culture and defend its underdogs, actively fighting the closure of anything from the last Cornish tin mine to the post offices of rural Devon.
"Cutthroats, Crooks & Conmen" was just one top song in an exuberant set littered with them. Quite how a band as good as this can slip under the mainstream media's radar, while their legion of fans continues to grow, is an ongoing question. It's telling that the only time this much-nominated duo triumphed in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards was the year they opened the Best Live Act vote to the public.
But maybe the message is getting through. This show was introduced by Bob Harris, and there was a posse of household names in the audience for a two-hour set that spanned the band's eclectic back catalogue. Yes, they "do" folk, but they can turn up the heat and do so much more. They launched straight into "Country Life", their rock rant about the desecration of English rural life, with an audience onside and on song from the start.
Polished and theatrical, and aided by striking lighting effects, they breezed through Knightley originals, from "The Dive", a true story that has a touching parent-child theme, to "Roots", a rasping riposte to the MP Kim Howells's remark that his idea of hell was being in a pub "listening to three Somerset folk singers". Knightley's hell would be "pubs where no one ever sings at all".
New to the set was the stand-out "Keys of Canterbury", a traditional folk song given an arresting arrangement and featuring brilliant guitar work from Beer. And no show would be complete without their anthem to Cornish miners ,"Cousin Jack". Sublime covers included Little Feat's "Willin'" and Peter Gabriel's "Secret World", proving that they can work their magic on material other than their own.
They play a host of instruments between them, have an enviable rapport with their audience and somehow manage to make each gig fresh. Conmen they're not. If you can find a more inspired, engaging and professional acoustic roots duo in Britain, take me to them.
Pat Cullen, Management trainer, Mirfield, West Yorkshire
E-mail your 500-word review of an arts event of your choice to firstname.lastname@example.org. For terms and conditions, see www. independent.co.uk/freelanceterms
Review: A panoramic account of the hacking scandalbooks
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Mystery of the Siberian holes at the end of the world 'solved': Scientists offer explanation
- 2 Pope Francis issues top 10 tips for happiness
- 3 Disney heiress Abigail disowns her share of family profits in West Bank company
- 4 Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire
- 5 Sean Hannity reacts to Russell Brand's Israel-Gaza criticism: 'You're a dumb actor known for your failed marriage to Katy Perry'
New Netflix releases: Films and TV shows coming in August 2014
The Walking Dead season 5 will see deaths of 'favourite characters', suggests Andrew Lincoln
Best movies on Netflix UK and US: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
Coolio has sold his soul to Pornhub
Secret Cinema Back to the Future, review: Interactive cinema experience finally arrives
Land for gas: Merkel and Putin discussed secret deal could end Ukraine crisis
Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
Richard Dawkins tweets: 'Date rape is bad, stranger rape is worse'
Putin is 'thuggish, dishonest and reckless', says British ambassador to US
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – Britain as others see us
A new Russian revolution: The cracks are starting to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
- < Previous
- Next >