Sunday, April 20, 2008

Millbrookers trek to Truro for Steeleye Span

Yesterday saw a small exodus from Millbrook as Mrs The Millbrooker, Dong and Shazzerooneypoos drove westwards on the highways of Cornwall to Truro where they met up with yours truly (I'd used the train having worked all day) for a drink or two before seeing the great Steeleye Span in concert.

Regular readers will know that I am something of a fan of this mob; the evening's entertainment simply confirmed my admiration for the folk-rock quintet. Even if they didn't play Rick Kemp's marvellous Ned Ludd Suite (bah).

But let's start at the beginning.

After a very decent pint of Doom Bar at The White Hart Crab and Ale House we enjoyed an excellent meal in a restaurant of Auntie Sharon's choosing (she'd been there before). It was called something Italian and was directly opposite the pub.

Here's the Millbrook z-listers about to tuck in...

Just to prove that Mrs The Millbrooker was there too, here she is about to tuck in with some gusto...
So, on to the main purpose of the trek. Steeleye Span played at the Hall for Cornwall, still with the line up that graced the Carnglaze Cavern in December 2006. From left to right in the shot below: Rick Kemp (bass and vocals), Liam Genocky (drums and vocals), Maddy Prior (vocals), Ken Nicol (guitars and vocals), Peter Knight (violin, electric violin, mandolin, keyboard and vocals).
Rather delightfully we were accosted as we got to the venue's bar by the lovely Deborah (Peter Knight's partner) who had been on the lookout for tall blind blokes and Millbrook glitterati. She kindly asked if we'd like to have a drink or two after the show, but in the end we had to make a sharp exit; we's none of us as young as we used to be and it would be well gone midnight before we got home as it was. Sorry, Deborah, we're looking forward hugely to seeing you properly in July. Perhaps we can enjoy a beer or two then?

The band played two sets comprising a mix of traditional folk and self-penned folk-rockers. Each and every one a delight, despite a couple of self-admitted "mistakes"; Peter Knight at one point told the audience that they had a "mistakes jug" (along the lines of a swear-box) backstage and after the tour each of them should have enough in it to buy a house. To the (relatively untrained) ear, those "mistakes" were completely unnoticeable.

Maddy Prior was entertainingly attired through the first half in an idiosyncratic pink ensemble, topped with what Shazzerooneypoos tells me is called a "shrug", which I believe translates in English as "shrunken cardigan". As is almost traditional the wonderful vocalist changed during the interval. She spent the second set resplendent in a bouncy-flouncy gown having arrived on stage to wolf whistles from the audience. Maddy is a true national treasure - a strong, controlled vocalist with an onstage persona full of bonhomie and enjoyment. Her enthusiasm and obvious pleasure in what she's doing spills out and infects the audience; you can't help but be entranced when she's performing.
And Maddy was in fine voice, her clear tones cutting through even the more rock-powered sections of music. I was particularly taken with a piece in the second half which she and Peter Knight performed alone: Peter's lyrical playing punctuated with Maddy's almost chanson style vocals. It broke the overall sound up very well, giving an insight into the other styles which the band is capable of. Another highlight was the Peter Knight penned "Seagull", a calypso based on the game of shove 'apenny as played in Hastings. There was a moment or two of pure comedy as Ken Nicol introduced the song King Henry, telling us about how the king was out hunting and stayed overnight in a castle. During the night he was accosted by the ghost of a hideous old woman who demanded to have her wicked way with him. No matter how much he protested the ghost kept up the haunting until he agreed and they made the beast with two backs. When he awoke in the morning, the ghost had turned into a beautiful young woman.

From here, I'll just try and quote what happened:

Ken Nicol: "...that was the sort of excuse they obviously used in those days."

Audience chuckle.

Ken Nicol: "...But it doesn't work as well now..."

Voice from Audience, absolutely deadpan: "Oh yes it does"

Laughter from audience, band start to giggle.

Ken Nicol: "..You haven't met my first wife"

Voice from audience, still deadpan: "oh yes I have"

Maddy Prior now finding it very funny.

Ken Nicol, smiling broadly and pointing in general direction of voice: "I'll get you..."

Voice from Audience, still deadpan: "Oh no you won't"

Round of applause from audience, more laughing from the stage.

Ken Nicol (wisely) starts playing the song...normality is restored.

I can, from a safe distance (because I know that this will get back to at least one band member), exclusively reveal that the voice from the audience was Millbrook's own Dong. As Dong put it, Ken rather led with his chin when he said about not having met his first wife. To assist Mr Nicol, should he wish to pursue the matter here's an identification photo of the deadpan master-heckler:
I can't really do a straight review of the show; I almost regard the Steeleyes as friends (that's me and most of the audience, I expect - they have the knack of engaging everyone). Steeleye Span put on one hell of a good show and deserve much wider recognition than they get for "All Around My Hat". Give them a listen; better still - buy a ticket for a show.

They're touring until 16th May - you can find the dates here; if you can make any of the concerts, you'll have a whale of a time. Musicians don't come much more accomplished nor more friendly and fun than this lot. Get your yourself a ticket.

Us Millbrookians, of course, have the pleasure of Peter Knight in Gigspanner on July 04th and 05th at Kingsand Hall. There's a link to his website on the right, or go straight to ticket purchase here Gigspanner is not in any way a "poor man's Steeleye Span", far from it. Gigspanner make a tremendous sound blending English traditional music with styles from all around the world. If you were at the local gig last year, you'll already know. If you weren't - just take my word for it and get a ticket.
To round off, a couple of notes about Steeleye Span:

Bassist Rick Kemp will be 67 this year and still looks cool as hell playing his "two bits of wood and some string".

And in their early days...

"...Thanks to their connection with Mike Batt, band members appeared in Womble costumes on Top of the Pops, performing the Wombles hit "Remember you're a Womble". "(wikipedia)

This legendary performance can be viewed at, assuming wikipedia has the truth of the story.

I just thought they might like to be reminded of this interesting factette.

All of the band photos have been stolen from assorted websites 'coz the Hall for Cornwall doesn't allow cameras during concerts. Sorry to anyone whose photo I've nicked, if you're offended please send me a comment and I'll either remove the shot or put up a proper credit).

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