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I went to see Show of Hands recently at the Guildhall in St Ives and the local rag (The Cornishman) has published my review. It’s corny in places, but it’s the style that the paper likes. It’s not available online, so I’ve reproduced it here:
“They may be from across the Tamar, but Cornwall loves Show of Hands as much as the rest of Britain. Tonight’s gig, with a band who’ve played the Royal Albert Hall many times, was always going to be a sell out – it was just a matter of whether the band could live up to expectation. As it happened, they were simply magnificent. One reason might be that music as social protest and commentary is as needed now in these harsh times as it ever was and the intimacy of the venue enhanced communication between band and audience. The band was certainly as passionate as any of the punk bands I saw in my youth. A unique folk duo – in that Steve Knightly and Phil Beer usually appear with double-bassist Miranda Sykes – tonight, with the audience singing along loud enough to raise the roof, it was more like a band of five hundred.
The night had begun well, with Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin in the support slot, providing some very contemporary folk music. Their recent album ‘Singing The Bones’, a mix of original and traditional songs arranged in their own inimitable way, is justifiably causing a stir and I wonder how long it will be before they’re headlining at the September Festival. Definitely worth seeing if you can.
From the moment Show of Hands took to the stage, however, the night was theirs. They seemed fresh, relaxed and very happy to be there. I usually scribble notes and a set list at gigs but I was too busy clapping and stamping along to the songs to write anything. I do know that they played plenty of favourites such as Santiago, The Napoli, Country Life, The Galway Farmer, Youngs Town, The Falmouth Packet, Boys of Summer and a very emotional Blue Cockade, as well as a couple of new songs and their still very topical comment on the banking crisis and the mess it’s left us all in – Arrogance, Ignorance and Greed. This wasn’t a lecture, though – the seriousness of the recession, the recent riots and the terrible mining tragedy in south Wales was all there, but the night was about having a good time and the songs were interspersed with stories from the band’s many years on the road and even a joke about Camborne. Just in case there was anyone left to win over. When they returned, to play their West Country ballad Now You Know and finish, appropriately enough, with Cousin Jack, the story of Cornish miners emigrating to find work, the crowd was quite euphoric and many were on their feet at the end.
Someone said that hard times can bring out the best in song-writers and the so-called revival in folk music includes plenty of people capable of reflecting life, injustice and current events. Show of Hands are right there with the best of them. They write beautiful, moving songs. And seeing them live is like sitting down with old friends.”