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
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Michelle Rodriguez: Fast & Furious actor apologises after telling 'minorities' to stop taking on 'white' roles
- 2 The black and blue dress: Makers considering a white and gold version
- 3 This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
- 4 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
- 5 The remarkable archaeological underwater discovery that could open up a new chapter in the study of European and British prehistory
Broadchurch series 3: David Tennant and Olivia Colman to return for third season, ITV confirms
Eurovision 2015: Finnish punk band with learning disabilities applies to raise awareness
Drake matches The Beatles' record with 14 singles in top 100 chart at the same time
Aidan Turner interview: 'being a sex symbol is a little awkward'
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Russia's roadmap for annexing eastern Ukraine 'leaked from Vladimir Putin's office'