Review: Lyn Guy reports on Show of Hands - Cambridge Folk Club - Cambridge on 30 October 2008

Show Of Hands
Besides their consummate musicianship and intelligent approach to song writing, Show of Hands are also renowned for playing anywhere from a rural folk club to London's Royal Albert Hall. Tonight is part of their ‘Spires and Beams' tour, a series of intimate dates in old, religious buildings, and is in total contrast to my summertime brush with this celebrated combo. Check out Moving Tone's review archive to find Rychard Carrington's review of Ely Folk Festival.

With a mere smattering of seats unfilled, there is a palpable sense of anticipation in this rather beautiful church. The pitched wooden roof is so high that the amplified sound - to quote Mr Knightley - "resonates", filling the entire space as they open with "Bristol Slaver". Even when he sings ‘off mic' his voice reaches far into the audience.

Performing in front of the altar, the trio are lit from behind by an ever-changing cycle of soft shades - blue to green to red to purple. The stage is set for a more reflective show than usual, especially in their song cycle for Remembrance Day. But first comes a treatment of "Widdecombe Fair" that harks straight back to the 18th or 19th Centuries. Out of the darkness Steve's voice wafts towards the front as he walks down the aisle singing. Phil Beer's un-amplified fiddle completes a lonely moorland atmosphere, which is highly appropriate both to this song and the night before All Hallows Eve!

Though the entire evening is a memorable one, it is their use of the venue's natural acoustics that makes it exceptional. During "The Song" (part of the aforementioned Remembrance cycle) Phil's quasi-classical guitar playing is punctuated by his retreating comrade's muted harmonica. Returning down the aisle, Steve delivers "The Keeper" to an absolutely absorbed audience. It's no wonder we all sing lustily with "Cousin Jack". There's no better way to prove our appreciation than join in on request!

Encoring with "Haul Away Joe" unplugged; Steve, Phil and Miranda (Sykes - double bass) bring the concert to a very personal end. In a word - marvellous.

Writer: Lyn Guy

Show of Hands