Spanning the Years, Steeleye In Shropshire

Steeleye Span

Theatre Severn

Monday 8th April 2019

 It is inconceivable but nevertheless true that Steeleye Span are this year, celebrating fifty years in the music industry. Yes that’s fifty years. Admittedly the line up has changed many times over those five decades but throughout it all steadfastly leading from the front is the inimitable Maddy Prior.

Over the fifty years music styles have come and gone, we have had Rock, Glam, Bop, Punk, Funk, Physchadelic, House, Garage, and even Grunge. Through all those manifestations of Pop, the slightly quieter Folk Rock band Steeleye Span, have worked on.  No axe to grind no point to prove, but anyone hearing “Gaudette” or “All around my Hat,” back in the day, (The actual day was the late Seventies) might have been forgiven for thinking the novelty act with their one hit might vanish as soon as they appeared, wrong.  As all those other forms of music lie like a spent force along the way who should hove into view still going and still playing? Answer the extremely exciting Steeleye Span.

That said Ms. Prior’s voice occasionally seemed a little spent, but at Seventy Two she can still give plenty of bang for your buck. She is also one of those instantly recognisable voices, immaterial of Steeleye’s many line ups and many styles one thing has been constant. The sound of Maddy Prior’s voice. There has been a plethora of women whose careers began in the Folk Scene but it seems that when fame and fortune beckoned they turned their back on the music that presented them to us. No such finicky ways with Maddy Prior, she has a distinctive voice and it always seemed to be a part of the folk scene first: with chart success coming  in second place. Good on her for that.

Right back from the days when Maddy Prior and Tim Harte started their folk act in the Sixties it was obvious she would be around for years. The folk clubs were growing and modernity had paradoxically reignited an interest in British Folk Music. People were waxing lyrical about whistling gypsy boys, farmers, sailors and the Grenadier with a roving eye. All innocuous fun but that was what people were seriously buying into just as we were putting a man on the moon and the first computers were appearing.  The time was right for what we call the Folk Revival. This is where Steeleye came to the fore.

 With the second generation of Shropshire’s own folk star family, The Kirkpatrick’s, serving the band, John Kirkpatrick between 1974/78 now we have son, Benji Kirkpatrick (Bellowhead, Faustus) Bringing a return feeling of folk roots for the band, Benji looks as much at home on this stage as on any other I have seen him on. Finding the balance for a folk rock band is difficult. If anyone felt that previously the band had tipped too much towards the rock style then Benji has brought them again back into that wonderful acoustic sound of all our folk music.

Splitting the two sets between new material and material that Maddy called catalogue numbers. That is just another word for classics, such as “Tam Linn,” (New arrangement of Tamm Linn not quite having the clout of its original counterpart) “Thomas The Rhymer” and “All around my Hat,” to name a few. Both sets romped along to an acceptable 60 minutes and 75minutes respectively. Don’t let it be said that they don’t give you your money’s worth. They most certainly do, I slipped away after the second encore so I could write this but as far as I know they finished, but who’s not to say they might still be there next week promising to make this, “their last one?”

Steeleye has been around for a very long time and seeing new and younger energy coming into it displays that there is no reason why it can’t go forever, in fact they probably will so they can incorporate their very final encore! That said, this is a band who works and reworks their numbers. They have an ear on what is going on around them in the music world and they keep delivering a distinctive and very unique sound.

This is a Four Star Review

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Owen Lewis Owen Lewis

Owen Lewis was born fifty something years ago in the land of the black puddings. For the geographically challenged that is in Lancashire. Moving to Shropshire From 1970 Owen was brought up in Church Stretton. His first real job was in radio. After starting on BBC Radio Shropshire he became known on Marcher Sound, broadcasting throughout the North West for several years. After a university degree course in Theatre, Owen became an actor and went on to play "Pirate Bill" in The Alton Towers Hotel. He also made several television appearances. Returning to university he took his PGCE enabling him to teach. That saw him on the Essex coast as a drama teacher and latterly as a Creative Educational Liaison Officer making films and creating new teaching methods to employ on children in need of more help in their fundamental learning skills. Published playwright Owen ultimately wants a house boat in Amsterdam to focus on his work as Playwright and Poet. Follow hos blogspot at https://owenscribblerlewis.blogspot.com

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