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Steeleye Span Tours and Reviews

Tour Dates

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Steeleye Span at Trinity Theatre, Tunbridge Wells, 2 October 1998

From: Tony Wighton <A.Wighton@nhm.ac.uk>
Subject: Trinity Theatre, Steeleye’s first gig
Date: Mon, 5 Oct 1998 09:24:44 +0100

Trinity Theatre / Arts Centre, Tunbridge Wells, England. 2nd October 1998... The first UK gig of Steeleye Span since Maddy Prior left in October 1997.

Well, having given the new album a good airing I knew that the band had some good material, so how would they perform without the person who in some peoples eyes is Steeleye Span?

Now, first and foremost there is no one who is a bigger fan of Maddy than me, well.... maybe most of the subscribers to Prior engagements, but I probably spend more money and time than is sensible or sane travelling round the country seeing the queen of British folk music.

So it was with some surprise that I can honestly say, with hand on heart, that I did not miss Maddy at all during the concert! The band did not seem incomplete in any way, They were composed, self assured and if you had not seen them before, you would have been forgiven for thinking that they had played with this line up for years!

The line up was of course, Gay Woods, Bob Johnson, Peter Knight, Tim Harries, with Dave Mattacks on percussion and drums. Who knows whether Dave will become a permanent fixture, he certainly comes with a good pedigree having played with Fairport Convention, and the great Richard Thompson.

The setting was in an old Church although, once inside, you would never have known it as it had excellent tiered seating allowing everyone a good view and acoustically it was superb.

Now onto the gig itself:-

The set list

  1. Long Lankin
  2. The Prickly Bush
  3. Erin Grá Mo Chroí *
  4. The Tricks of London *
  5. One True Love *
  6. The Dark-Eyed Sailor *
  7. Horkstow Grange

    -- Interval --

  8. The Old Turf Fire
  9. Seagull
  10. Black Jack Davy
  11. Bonny Birdy
  12. The Water Is Wide
  13. Lord Randall
  14. I Wish That I Never Was Wed
  15. Thomas the Rhymer
  16. The Old Maid in the Garrett
  17. All Around My Hat
  18. Jigs
  19. Gaudete

The band sounded good from the word ‘Go’. Long Lankin was magical. Gay’s vocals were in total control and not overpowering in any way. After the opening song the audience gave the band an extended applause. This happened on several occasions throughout the gig, along with numerous shouts of appreciation.

In the songs marked with an * Bob played a steel strung acoustic guitar, which I don’t think I have seen him do in all the time I have been following the band, although I know he does play acoustic often on the albums.

The new songs all came over very well and it is certainly hats off to Peter who managed to get through Bonny Birdy without fluffing his words! For those of you who don’t have the album yet, it is an old Scottish ballad with tongue twisting verses like ‘Then wi good white bread an farrow-cow-milk he bade her feed me aft, An ga her a little wee simmer-dale wanny, to ding me sindle and saft’! Try singing that after a couple of pints! I honestly thought he would have the words in front of him when he sang that one, but no, he did it all from memory, and it sounded as good as on the CD, in fact all the better for being live.

Bob sang lead vocals on Black Jack Davy , it was fun trying to imagine him ’kicking off his high heeled shoes, made of Spanish leather’!!

Dave Mattacks played very sensitively throughout, which in the ’acoustic guitar’ songs certainly gave the band a more Below the Salt feel, but in the ‘biggies’ like Thomas the Rhymer and Long Lankin, they still had the power to move the rafters!

Talking of Thomas the Rhymer, I thought it was brave of Gay tackling a number which is seen very much as a Maddy song, however, she performed it very well. One thing I noticed is that even though Gay is obviously the central figure, she was in no way pushy or ‘this is my band now’. It was almost the opposite, in that she seemed content to take a back seat until it was her turn to introduce a song.

Tim’s debut into the world of lead vocals went well after a slightly hesitant start, but once he got into it and relaxed he was fine! The song was One True Love.

One thing Steeleye are famous for is their close harmony vocals, and this came over excellently in Horkstow Grange, particularly Bob’s dulcet tones! This is the song where Steeleye gets it’s name.

True of all Steeleye members is a good sense of humour, and Gay is no exception, during the inevitable Hat instead of singing ‘a small sprig of thyme’ Gay changed it to ‘a small sprig of logic’! Which I found most amusing.

If I was going to make any criticism of the evening it would be that I would have liked to have heard more of the new album, and maybe a few more really old classics from years gone by, but I am nit picking really, It was an excellent gig and a relief to know that Steeleye Span despite a major upheaval have lived to tell the tale, and here’s wishing them every success for a good few years to come.

Next stop Edmonton!

Cheers, Tony.

Steeleye Span at Parr Hall, Warrington, 9 October 1998

From: Phillip Helbig <helbig@man.ac.uk>
Subject: Steeleye Span
Date: Sat, 10 Oct 1998 17:05:25 GMT

> I really enjoyed the Steeleye concert at Derby on the 7th.
> ...
> Gay was a revelation.

Let me second this. I saw them at Parr Hall in Warrington last night. Extremely tight, good mixture of talent and humour. Dave Mattacks fit in as if he had been the drummer since Hark! The Village Wait. A lot of stuff from the new album, a bit from Time and some old stuff. I was really impressed with Long Lankin and Black Jack Davy, the latter with Bob Johnson on vocals, who seems to have improved a bit (not that he was ever bad before). Tim, occasionally DM or Peter Knight, on keyboards and otherwise the ‘usual’ instruments (Tim on bass most of the time). I thought that the band were vocally outstanding. The harmonies on Gaudete, Thomas the Rhymer and Long Lankin were really outstanding. All except DM sang lead at least once, with Gay Woods, who is a truly wonderful singer, taking most of the leads. Although I’m a big fan of Maddy Prior both within and without Steeleye Span, I thought the band yesterday were so good that Maddy wasn’t missed at all. I thought it was a better gig than the last two (Time tour) I saw with Maddy, though those were good as well. The band seemed very true to the Steeleye Span tradition (two long-term members, two from the first album and only Tim Harries, who’s only been in 10 years or so(!), is ‘new’ but he seems to fit in very well now, especially vocally) and the new album is really, really good.

Steeleye Span last played at Cropredy in 1989, which I enjoyed quite well. It would be great to have them at Cropredy in 1999 in the current incarnation.

Historic Reviews

Steeleye Span in Bremen, Germany, 30 September 1977

Verwurzelt in heimischer Folklore - Stadthallengastspiel von Steeleye Span und Garry Gordon

Vor einigen Jahren hatten sie schon einmal in Bremen gespielt, damals bei einer hochsommerlichen Serenade auf dem Marktplatz, die Musiker der britischen Gruppe Steeleye Span, denen gern das Etikett “Folk-Rock-Formation” angeheftet wird. Jetzt waren sie in der Stadthalle II zu hören, allerdings in anderer Besetzung, denn bei Steeleye soll es Differenzen um die musikalische Richtung gegeben haben. Maddy Prior, die “Stimme” des Sextetts, stellte zwei neue Mitglieder vor, von denen jedochj einer schon früher maßgeblich am Klang der Gruppe beteiligt war: der Gitarrist und Sänger Martin Carthy, der den Akkordeonspieler mit vokalen Ambitionen, John Kirkpatrick, mitbrachte.

Wer die Bezeichnung “Folk-Rock” bedenkt, weiß, dass sie Diskussionsstoff bietet. Eine vom Rock ’n’ Roll geprägte Musik zu erwarten, wäre auch bei der neuen Formierung, offiziell der Besetzung Nummer vier, falsch. Eine bessere Bezeichnung böte das Label “Electric Folk”. Hauptmerkmal ist nämlich das Verwurzeltsein in der britischen Folkloretradition. Das gilt für das Repertoire, mehr noch für die wechselvollen Arrangements, durch die selbst “harte” Titel keine Rocknummern werden. Kennzeichnend sind die eher zum “Square Dance” verlockenden Rhythmen, sind Akkordeon, Dulcimer, Banjo, Flöte oder Tambourin neben Gitarre und Schlagzeug. Das alles bekommt durch die Verstärkung manchmal fast zuviel Wucht. Das Schlagzeug scheint beim folkloristischen Hintergrund der Musik entbehrlich, wird denn auch oft unbesetzt gelassen.

Vielseitigkeit war Trumpf, Volkstänze erklangen (gelegentlich sogar vorgetanzte), A-cappella-Lieder, irische oder schottische Folklore, Stücke aus eigener, moderner Schreibe, bis hin zu Maddy Priors eigenwilliger Interpretation von Kurt Weills Seeräuber-Jenny aus der “Dreigroschenoper”. Das Publikum ging mit, spendete viel Beifall, was um so bemerkenswerter ist, als eine unbestuhlte Halle nicht gerade die Konzentration erleichtert.

Zu Beginn des Konzerts hatte sich ein Engländer aus Berlin vorgestellt: Garry Gordon, der hervorragend die deutsche Sprache beherrscht und - allein mit seiner Gitarre - eine unterhaltsame Dreiviertelstunde bescherte. Seine kräftige, unbekümmert drauflossingende Stimme, der bunte Strauß eigener und adaptierter Lieder brachten auch Gordon Beifall und die Rufe nach einer Zugabe ein.

Weser-Kurier, Bremen, 1 October 1977