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Review of Steeleye Span at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

This Sunday I rather fortuitously found myself at the performance of folk rock band Steeleye Span. Folk is a genre that don't know a great deal about and indeed have rarely listened to. It did however have a huge prominence in one of my favourite films The Wicker Man and provided a wonderful atmosphere to that film like perhaps no other style could. Therefore I was ready to be fully educated with my first full evening of folk.

The line-up on the night consisted of original member Maddy Prior on vocals (and briefly ukulele), Rick Kemp and Spud Sinclair on guitar, Julian Littman on guitar and keys, Liam Genockey on drums and Jessie May Smart on violin. Together they combined to create a quite spectacular evening of music, all but one track completely new to me.

I found from the evening a quite surprising variety of tunes, varying from ballads, pastoral and very strong rock tunes with riffs in action. The only track of the evening I was familiar with was of course All Around My Hat. I had however not read the brief of audience participation, the knowledgeable audience however had and did not let them down and the Derngate was briefly and wonderfully filled with the singing of the crowd.

As a convert to storytelling as a performance style, I was also impressed by the crossover between the two styles as folk perhaps; and maybe country, tells stories like no other music.

A good part of the show consisted of work from Wintersmith, a collaboration album with the late Sir Terry Pratchett and the work of his Discworld novel. Many of these were exceptional pieces and generally a bit more upbeat than some of the other songs covered. Of these Crown Of Ice was my particular favourite.

Outside of that Hat song and a couple of the Wintersmith tunes, my absolute favourite was New York Girls, a glorious toe-tapping song if there was any. Another particular favourite was that magnificent musical end to the skull song (cannot remember its title!). A simply stunning period of music.

The entire evening was stylishly performed with such emotion etched across the face of the performers (and from my second row seat, I could well see it). I have to say that like when I attended the ELO Experience, the eye was drawn to the bow and string department. On this evening it was Jessie May Smart. Like at the ELO one, and perhaps even more so with the violin, so much performance can be put into the show, so yes Jessie May Smart was indeed a true star among all of the stars on the stage.

A magnificent evening of music new to me and I am so grateful that the opportunity arose for me to be there. It wasn't something that I would before that night has chosen to go to, however now I would happily see Steeleye Span again.

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Performance viewed: Sunday 29th November, 2015 at the Royal & Derngate (Derngate).

Steeleye Span are currently touring and details can he found here: http://steeleyespan.org.uk/

For further details visit the Royal & Derngate website at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/



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