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Steve Knightley

Venue: The Atkinson
Town: Southport
Date: 19/01/18

"No Secrets- Songs and Stories" - the title of this new show by the esteemed songwriter Steve Knightley says it all. It's a candid trip through Steve's life in music, from his formative years in Exmouth through to his considerable success ,including playing at the Royal Albert Hall [twice] , with Show of Hands.

The show begins with Steve, off stage, singing Bob Dylan's "It Ain't Me Babe" .Steve recounts how he started playing the guitar and his first ,tentative attempts at writing songs. He plays us his first , heavily Dylan-influenced song ,and invites the audience to predict the last word in each line.

If Dylan was his first inspiration , another revelatory moment came when he saw Martin Carthy [with Dave Swarbrick] at the Sidmouth Festival. Steve was in awe of Martin's guitar playing and use of the DADGAD tuning.

To illustrate the profound effect that this had on his teenage self, Steve plays us superb renditions of "Polly On The Shore" and "Banks Of Newfoundland".

After Dylan and Carthy , the next major influence on Steve is meeting the poet Ted Hughes on a poetry course. Steve tells how the poet changed the way he thought about words and he plays one of his most poetic songs "The Hook Of Love".

Steve then recounts how he left "small town" Exmouth for the bright lights of ,ahem, Coventry , describing his need to escape in the song "Undertow" ["No way we'll stay trapped in the undertow"].

Steve's first set ends with the particularly poignant "Sit You Down", his Mum's favourite song ,which tells of leaving one's loved ones [ "You left an empty space and it still remains"].

The second set begins with Steve relocating to London ,trying to make it as a rock musician on the Pub-Rock Circuit ,where you have to be cruel "if you would be king".

1987 sees Steve returning to the West Country ,playing the pubs and bars along the South Coast with Phil Beer. To illustrate a typical set list, Steve gives us "Seven Yellow Gypsies" with a bit of Radiohead and Prince ["Purple Rain"] thrown in to keep the punters happy.

We then move on to success with Show Of Hands ,beginning with the wonderful "Santiago"[one of my favourite SOH songs] ,which tells of Britain's relationship with Chile.

Steve then tells us about his fourth great influence after Dylan ,Carthy and Hughes , namely , Bruce Springsteen and his "Working Man" songs. To illustrate this, Steve gives a powerful rendition of The Boss's "One Step Up and Two Steps Back".

To bring things more or less up to date, Steve sings a medley of three of his greatest songs , "Country Life", "AIG" [Arrogance, Ignorance and Greed] and "Cousin Jack". As a nod to Bob and Bruce , Steve does an excellent impersonation of each of them on a couple of verses. The medley ends with a return to "Country Life" and a lament for all of the rural pubs ,post offices and shops that have closed down.

To conclude a wonderfully entertaining evening, Steve encapsulates the whole story in the autobiographical song "Hard Shoulder" ,for which he receives rapturous applause from the packed auditorium.

Steve described his show as him "rambling on and on". It was much more than that , it was a fascinating and humorous insight into the musical life of one of our foremost songwriters and musicians and it was a privilege to share it with him. Two hours passed in a flash.

Peter Cowley

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