After side-stepping Liverpool for quite some time on his regular tour circuit, Seth Lakeman and his band honoured the grandly refurbished Philharmonic Hall with a first ever visit. Perhaps more used to the more compact theatres and clubs it seemed strange to see the band gathered on the huge stage appearing almost insignificant as they looked out into the expansive and impressive auditorium, usually more suited to the grand strains of the Liverpool Philharmonic orchestra.
It was Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin, the 2014 Folk Awards 'best duo' award winners, who got the evening off to a grand opening. Having just returned from a visit to Japan - one wonders how their brand of folk related goodness goes down in that part of the world - their brand of banjo/fiddle/dobro and Phillip's amazing harmonica skills give them an edge and variety which many duos struggle to achieve. Add to that some quality songwriting and thought provoking topics, being given a flavour of what they are about will have earned them one or two new fans of the back of this tour. Seth has a developing reputation of giving chances on his tours to some quality support acts and to showcasing emerging names, and without question, Phillip and Hannah are a pair whose star is well and truly on the rise.
Seth Lakeman and his regular band delivered their usual brand of folk dynamics combined with moments of sublety - most notably his duet with Lisbee Stainton on 'The White Hare' and stepping from the mic to perform the tribute to his wife 'Portrait Of My Wife' in a fashionably unplugged style complete with audience participation in the chorus. Taking the chance to juggle the setlist with new guitar recruit Jack Rutter now settled on board and adding unbridled enthusiasm to his typically driving guitar, we also got Seth's version of the Full English's 'Stand By Your Guns' and a surprise choice in the never before played but often fan requested '1643' - a highlight of the set. Maybe taking the chance to try out a few things in a solo setting ahead of a solo tour outing later in the year, we also got together with a solo version of 'Shores Of Normandy', originally performed at the Albert Hall's D Day anniversary show. Aside from the new selections, it was the tried and trusted piledrivers and hoedowns, Phillip Henry adding his distinctive harp to 'The Colliers' and 'Last Rider', which ended the set and finally had the audience on their feet.
From once being hailed as the golden boy of English folk music , Seth is now becoming quite established as one of the old guard in folk circles, yet it's always a pleasure to see Seth and the boys who continue to fly the folk flag high and proud.
There are only so many hours in a day and only so many gigs we can get to. We'd really like to expand our national coverage of the live scene as it remains the life blood of music.
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