Saturday 19 Oct 2013, 6.55pm…
…We arrive at S41 7SA; SAT NAV speak for Holywell Street, Chesterfield. After waiting a few minutes for the car park meter to tick past 7pm, we pay the £1.20 charge and head the few hundred metres up Holywell St to The Winding Wheel, the venue for tonight’s gig by Show Of Hands.
It’s a lovely little theatre, with a stunning ballroom attached. Intimate and relaxed, it’s the perfect place to see folk music. Fresh from their recent BBC Radio 2 live session and interview the band have just started a 30-date Autumn tour running through to early December. This is the fourth night and the venue is pretty full but not quite a sold-out.
Sue and I pick up the tickets, head to the bar to grab a drink, then settle down in the auditorium to soak up the atmosphere after a busy day working. The stage is set, the lighting subtle, the beer’s pretty good; so it’s not long before we are nicely chilled.
The house lights dim and out steps Steve Knightly, Show of Hands’ lead singer and guitarist. For this tour the band have expanded from a duo; Steve and Phil Beer (vocals, fiddle and mandolin) joined by Miranda Sykes on double bass and vocals. It’s the ‘Wake the Union’ Tour promoting their recent album and the band are supporting themselves; that’s to say each of them play three solo songs in a 9-song supporting set. It’s a good loosener and showcases their individual talents. A short intermission follows with the band coming out to chat to people in the foyer of the theatre. How relaxed and a welcome change from the ‘stars’ persona put across by so many less talented musicians.
Then it’s time for the main course. The house light’s dim a second time and ‘Show Of Hands’ take centre stage for what proves to be a cracking set. Old band favourites and traditional folk songs are mixed with superb songs from ‘Wake The Union’. ‘Company Town’, ‘Aunt Maria’,’Katrina’ and ‘Stop Copying Me’ are all storming live tonight. There’s relaxed banter and the odd story between songs and of course it’s a folk gig, so the audience are encouraged to join in and amazingly are largely in time with the clapping and foot-stomping!
The sound is top-notch, crisp and clear. The lighting is theatrically inspired, both subtle and beautifully simple. The musicianship is faultless. Show Of Hands are seasoned performers, but retain a real freshness too. This is high-lighted when the band leave their mics, step to front of stage to sing and play without amplification, making the most of the fantastic acoustics of the old theatre. Add to that a stunning version of Bob Marley’s ‘No Woman, No Cry’, stripped down and achingly beautiful, and you have a perfect night of live music. They certainly ‘showed their hand’ tonight and boy was it special.
The ‘Hand In Hand’ Tour continues through Oct, Nov and early Dec, before the band takes a rest for a year while they all pursue personal projects. If you get a chance go and see Show Of Hands live, it’s where they really shine.