Irish Centre, Leeds
Reviewed by Dave Hobbs
© Folk Roots No.78
I was all of two years old when Steeleye Span embarked on a long, illustrious career. Twenty years on they are still plugging away, and I have become a devoted follower. At a packed Irish Centre I eagerly awaited their set.
This tour coincides with the release of a twenty year celebration album. 'Tempted And Tried', a collection of musical gems which are a testament to the band's continued musical and artistic prowess.
On stage Steeleye Span clearly enjoy themselves, something which the audience is compelled to join in with. Appreciation of songs both old and new never waned, and Maddy Prior's giggling fit during 'Gaudete' (who did spike her drink?) earned the biggest cheer of the evening. The wealth of songs which Steeleye Span have at their disposal means that numerous old favourites can be brought out, dusted and aired. 'Black Jack Davy', 'Thomas The Rhymer' and the brilliant 'Cam Ye O'er Frae France' still sounded as fresh and crisp as ever.
So what of the new material? Well, when I first heard 'Padstow' last year I was hypnotised. This time the tune from the Cornish town's May Day celebrations touched me just the same. Above a thumping, infectious rhythm glides Maddy Prior's lilting voice - obviously a good party in Padstow! A lack of space in the Irish Centre meant that my frustrated dancing feet had to be content with tapping.
Versatility was well shown by the dramatic reduction in tempo and heightened intensity for tracks such as 'Searching For Lambs' and 'When I Was On Horseback', a powerfully evocative piece. Other notables included 'Seagull', 'Two Butchers', 'Shaking of The Sheets' and 'The Fox', the latter being a lively tribute to the animal - you could actually feel the pace of the chase!
Many of Steeleye Span's finest moments come in dance tunes such as Padstow' and 'Reels'. The band used to perform dances, but sadly this is no more, except for Maddy Prior's welcome frolic amongst the audience. However, their performance on this night was one of exceptional quality and I look forward to more. Finally, I beg them to play 'Sir James The Rose' next time.