Sunday, 20 March 2011

Seth Lakeman Trio @ The Sugarmill 19th March 2011

Review by Sian Eardley

I’d like to keep this review pretty small; succinct in painting words of tonight’s magical evening, just as Seth Lakeman manages to capture with his two accompniants: Benji Kirkpatrick and Cormac Byrne. To both extremes of the scale, you have Arcade Fire, a band with an army of instrumentalists who achieve the most sublime, original and thought-provoking songs, and then the impeccable simplicity of man and guitar, and sometimes the violin in this case, is phenomenal.

Now, this is the first ‘real’ and ‘adult’ gig I’ve attended in a very, very long time, and what I mean by this, is that it was pleasant not to be surrounded by inconsiderate adolescents who come for social means only. The real music fans were in tonight, and the atmosphere for this particular reason was just momentous. There really should be more enchanting nights like these (for the grown ups) at Stoke Sugarmill.

Support act: Andrew Tranter, and his acoustic guy Steven (formerly ‘The Clay Faces’) charmed and warmed the crowd; his Irish folk and slightly Michael Stipeish vocals mainly for the causes of the modern world going ‘pear’, industrial decline (song: ‘Flatline Town’), and rotting America reminded me highly of The Boss, and especially when the old harmonica made an appearance at the end of the set. Definitely keep a look out for these guys – singular, and once more their refined simplicity and elegance made for a truly enjoyable experience.

I do have to confess that before tonight, I was a Seth Lakeman virgin, but, it was already deeply rooted in my brain that he was a pretty big music deal, and now I know it’s for good reason, and I also know that I’ll now be collecting his material. A frequent visitor to The Sugarmill, (and to stop by again in May), we were privileged to be the city they’d finish up on –on their latest tour, going out on a very high noted indeed.

Onto the stage with big, beaming faces addressing the relaxed crowd highlighted that the whole affair was to be special. The way Lakeman held is violin was if making love to a woman; soft, yet passionate, knowing all the hidden places and how to get the best out of it with vigor, fervency, and adoration. Even from the opener, ‘The Hurlers’, he’d put Vanessa Mae to shame, mastering his instrument and unleashing those angelic vocals, like a dove set free into the bluest and clearest of skies.

‘Hearts and Minds’, was astounding, the way the beautifully bohemian and folksy sounds richly mixed with the words, perfumed an air of imagery of former times – Medieval specifically. If you closed your eyes, you’d be carried away to these times of old, you could see the roaring fires, the battles, royalty and their subjects (‘King and Country’), and loves such as the like of Tristan and Isolde. This isn’t just music, it’s folktales, it’s legend, and you can almost hear the lutes…

Lakeman’s multi-skilled talents of swapping tenor guitar and violin, perfectly matched with Kirkpatrick and Byrne could be fit for film; their music telling these epic stories, on an equally epic scale, full of spirit, purity and nature. The ballads added variety to the jigs that could sketch the streets of Dublin, and newbie ‘The Blacksmith’s Prayer’, was reminiscent of Ashcroft at his raw and natural best. Their ability to really hold a room and keep them gripped is also to be noted as impressive.

‘Blood Red Sky’ was a favourite for its burly beat, and ‘Bold Knight’ was bewitching for its lyrics alone: ‘The bold knight above, If he see that angel with her love”, along with ‘The Watchmaker’s Rhyme’, a story of great love. This is so much more than music, it has so many levels and you just have to open yourself up to it on a spiritual level also, to reap all the benefits.

I have to say I also liked the fact that Seth made the effort to introduce every song, which may not sound life-changing, but how damn annoying is it when you hear a brand new live song that you love, and when you get in you spend ages trying to track it down!? I also liked the fact that they didn’t indicate coming towards the closure of their set. They just played well, took a bow, and went off stage, very modestly, soon to return for the encore which consisted of two songs specifically crafted for the recent St. Paddy’s Day, which heightened the already existing good mood of the crowd. Seeing the Seth Lakeman Trio was really worthwhile, and for those of you, like me, who had not really looked into them before, you should go and embrace it upon their anticipated return over the next few months to coincide with their next release.

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