Friday, October 26, 2012

Seth Lakeman @ Town Hall Birmingham, Thursday 26th October 2012

It’s been 7 years since folk fiddle poster boy SethLakeman first plucked the g-strings of his many female fans, going on to release four more albums after his Mercury nominated breakthrough Kitty Jay and regularly wowing festival audiences across the country. This current tour’s in support of his latest release Tales From The Barrel House and it’s pretty much business as usual. Opening with an almost We Will Rock You style drumbeat the set kicks off with More Than Money, a typically meaty Lakeman number. Dry ice washes over the stage, there’s moody lighting and the hearts of several hundred ladies of a certain age are sent a fluttering. Seth’s not the first folkie to flirt with the rockier side of things of course and whilst it’s unlikely to get the crowd making devil’s horns or banging the bejesus out of their skulls it’s the kind of energy that a gig like this really needs to get started...especially at the unusually early time of 7.30 (no support act tonight). 

The set’s split into two halves, overall act one’s a little more restrained, plucking several more tracks from the newbie and introducing co-vocalist Lisbee Stainton, who’s rapidly becoming a bit of star in her own right. The addition of a female vocal softened the sound nicely, balancing the testosterone that’s often literally spilling out of Lakeman and his band, enabling more of the slower, ballad style numbers to be played more effectively. Whether the fans want more ballads was difficult to tell although the applause seemed noticeably louder after the livelier numbers. Stainton undoubtedly contributed to some of the best moments from the first half though with a beautiful version of The Sender (off Tales From The Barrel House) particularly standing out. It takes a fair few songs before Seth whips it out...steady ladies...his fiddle that is, but once it’s out that's when his real...wanky marketing speak ahoy...USP shines through and whether he’s in full flow or just plucking out some simple notes as on pre break homage to the art of the cider maker, Apple Of His Eye, that’s when the show really comes to life.

The second half of the set is much more of a greatest hits selection kicking off with firm fan favourite The Bold Knight, ably backed by percussion maestro the permanently smiling Cormac Byrne. Lisbee returns for a haunting run through The White Hare before the tempo shifts up several gears with Blood Red Sky, the stage stained a deep dark red as the dry ice machine goes into overdrive. I reckon it would make an interesting cover for a genuine rock band or perhaps even a collaboration? After teaming up with Birmingham rap outfit Moorish Delta 7 a few years back I’d half hoped Seth would perhaps mix things up a little and songs like this could offer intriguing possibilities to break out of the folk scene a little more. Just a thought. Setting Of The Sun gets the post drink interval crowd up and clapping for the first time thanks in part to an impressively groovy double bass solo from Ben Nicholls. Predictably the biggest cheers of the night though were reserved for the pairing of Lady Of The Sea and, yes, the biggie...Kitty Jay. 

These are pure, unadulterated Lakeman, full on furious fiddling and an equally up for it crowd clapping along until their hands fell off. Yes, literally.

The encore included an awesome howdown showdown with Lakeman and a now be-banjoed Nicholls doing their very best to set their respective instruments on fire on Blood and Copper and a roof raising Race To Be King.

Seth's at an interesting stage in his career, seemingly settled into his role as folk’s fiddler in chief and darn good he is at it too but he’s got a passion and energy that frankly deserves to be heard by a much more diverse audience. If that requires some deviation from the folk scene, a la Imagined Village or some of Eliza Carthy’s poppier moments, then perhaps it’s worth a try eh?    

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