We have concluded that all ‘classic / vintage’ bands should get some new blood!
We made this decision after seeing the worthy and always exciting STEELEYE SPAN play this Thursday 6th October at the splendid Farnham Maltings venue in Surrey.
The English folk-rockers are currently on the road for their 2016 Autumn Tour. Tickets are still available.
With a career that has taken in an amazing six decades, Steeleye Span is not just a legendary name in British music, but also a link to the classic 1970’s days where rock became vividly inventive. Like their contemporaries Led Zeppelin and Fairport Convention, the band went on to change the face of folk-rock music forever — taking it from small clubs and festivals into the world of chart topping albums and international tours.
And now with awesome & intelligent violinist Jessie May Smart [she replaced Peter Knight in 2013] and terrific guitarist Andrew ‘Spud’ Sinclair, their sound has grown to expand some excellent new prog-rock ideas.
We savoured the enjoyable fantasy mix of Wintersmith — a colourful concoction of rocking textures and carefully drawn, upbeat folk tunes that brought Terry Pratchett’s tale to life with a host of grinning licks, toe-kicking rhythms, cheeky ideas and colourful sound tapestries. [We wrote about it here] but at Farnham we were introduced to the new album “Dodgy Bastards!” — with its brash mix of moving Child Ballads, incredible instrumental moments and fiery rock signatures.
Best of these new ideas was the song ‘Cromwell’s’ Skull‘ with flourishing guitar-play in the finale and vibrant passages throughout. Also the title track — a tricky instrumental number — that was “all in threes” according to Spud.
Each member of the band performed at least one ballad, these focused on themes such as determination, obsession, jealousy and often forbidden love. The stories seemed to be based around the ‘border’ country between England and Scotland [this is where the band is based, now.]
This is, perhaps, a fitting point in time to think about boundaries and border-lines. The world seems obsessed by retaining ‘Great Walls’ such as the ancient Vallum Hadriani. Post Brexit limitations on ‘free movement’ are becoming ever-more-likely. And let’s not forget that Donald is trumpeting a great new build between Mexico and the States. We thought that historic boundaries like these were a thing of the past — but now there is a general sense of resolove to reinforce — even establish — new territorial boundaries.
“Things are quiet, on the border now …” Rick Kemp told the audience. But for how long will things remain peaceful?
There were general grumbles amongst the Surrey crowd about the song-choice. Perhaps, Maddy should have performed more solo numbers. But she seemed happy to take a ‘back seat’ for this show. She let the ‘younger members’ take the strain. And we think that made the gig more entertaining, fresher, and far more galvanizing than many we have seen in a long time.
Yes, it’s true some [most] of the band’s long-time favourites were missing… but we had the singalong “All Around My Hat.” Though we would have loved “Long Lankin” , from 1974’s Commoners Crown.
Let’s be honest, Steeleye have had their ups and downs. They have spent years in the wilderness and have sent us in more new directions than a barmy sat-nav…
But this incarnation is the best yet.
Don’t believe us? Go and see for yourself.
Words & Pictures: Neil Mach 2016 ©
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