A cold rainy Monday night in Manchester (there's a song title in there somewhere!) was considerably brightened by another astounding performance by Seth Lakeman and his band. I was a relatively late adopter of his music, first hearing 'Take No Rogues' as my son and I drove north to the whisky isles of Islay and Jura about eight years ago. It was the second song of seventeen they delivered this evening in a hundred minutes.
This is a continuously maturing outfit, with Lakeman and tower of strength Ben Nicholls on bass guitar and double bass, have been joined over the years by some terrific musicians, each of whom seem to slot in as easily as the next. Opening the set with 'Bright Smile' (also the opening song of his new album 'The Well Worn Path'), the addition of drummer Evan Jenkins and Kit Hawes on electric guitar gave the band a feel of Fairport with Gerry Donohue. Yes, really that good!
This was a carefully constructed set, fluid and confident, comprising new and old songs: solo songs forward of the mic where the audience was encouraged to take part; classic songs such as 'Bold Knight', 'Solomon Browne', 'Setting of the Sun', 'Poor Man's Heaven', and 'The Colliers'; a stunning rendition of 'White Hare' (one of the highlights of the night); atmospheric songs like 'The Gloaming'; and if the bar hadn't been raised high enough by then, probably the best version of 'Kitty Jay' I've seen Seth Lakeman perform on the four occasions I've seen him live.
Songs from the new album included the punchy 'Fitzsimmon's Fight', a song for those who give us knowledge 'The Educated Man', and a drinking song 'Drink 'til I'm Dry', the first of two hoedowns to finish the set. These carried a rockier sound that I'd heard Seth Lakeman use before, very much evoking the electric atmospheres of those Fairport gigs back in the day. Never one to leave his audience remotely disappointed, to pull off a performance of that quality on a miserable Manchester Monday night, all topped off with the audience getting off their seats for 'Race to be King', was quite an achievement.
Go and see this band live.
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