Reviewer: Helen Jones
Steeleye Span were formed in 1969, and during the 1970s was the most successful of the folk rock bands. It also made them one of the best known. The line up has changed a bit since those very early days but there is still a solid core of brilliant musicians keeping the band alive.
With only a few breaks in their history, Steeleye Span have a huge back catalogue of music ranging from versions of traditional folk music through to some of their own written tracks and their current concert selection covers not not only tracks from the last forty odd years but also a variety of both traditional and self penned.
Opening with an accapella track, the band show that they have lost none of their power and harmonies in the intervening years between starting out and the mature performers of today. They then roll into a folk song and onwards through familiar tracks from their history. However to call them a folk band would be doing them a disservice. There are folk elements to their arrangements – especially with the astounding fiddle playing of Peter Knight – but with Rick Kemp’s bass guitar, plus electric guitar, acoustic guitar and drums, the band can be a close to rock as to folk.
Notable tracks included Peter Knight’s Let Her Go Down, a truly beautiful number, anad the traditional The Story of Tamlyn. However the most interesting section was a selection of four songs which the band have written in connection with Terry Pratchett’s Wintersmith series of books starring trainee witch Tiffany Aching. The four tracks: I Shall Wear Midnight; Band of Teachers; Crown of Ice and The Dark Morris range from haunting to pure rock and leave you wanting to hear the whole sequence – apparently due out later this year.
Maddy Prior has always had the most distinctive of voices and age has not dimmed the power of her vocals. It was lovely to see her dancing around the stage as she has always done, displaying a pure enjoyment of the music.
As a curtain call the band performed the songs that gave them the most commercial popularity, the catchy All Around My Hat, complete with audience participation, and the dramatic Gaudete, finishing as they had started in acappela format.
Steeleye Span might have been making music for the last forty three years, but last night showed that they are still one of the greatest folk rock bands ever producing and that time has not dimmed them.