LIVE REVIEW: Steeleye Span,Town Hall (Birmingham), 07.12.2011

While Fairport Convention may perhaps be the better known name associated with the British folk revivalist movement of the late 60s and early 70s, the equally popular and ever-present Steeleye Span more than made their mark at the height of folk fever. With no less than three Top 40 albums at their peak, with the Gold-status single “All Around My Hat” as their signature song, Steeleye Span have always enjoyed the spotlight.

With this Christmas tour marking their return to a sextet formation, it is only apt that they spend the first half of the evening revisiting 1974’s ‘Now We Are Six’. With the record having also featured in their spring tour, dedicated fans in the audience seem willing to accept another revisit and enjoy timely explanations from Maddy Prior, Peter Knight and Rick Kemp.

Though the record centres around the childish core of the group, the playfulness of their youth seems to have been left behind. While there is no doubting that Prior is still pitch perfect, her composed vocal delivery fails to send shivers down the spine. On the whole the opening half is enjoyable but lacks wow factor.

Thankfully the second half kicks it all into gear. Performing an array of songs from their eclectic back catalogue, Steeleye Span seem to suddenly come into their own. While Kemp’s rock tinged vocal steals the show, it is Knight’s humour and audience interaction that allow everyone to relax – including Prior, who no longer seems on edge. By the time she delivers “All Around My Hat” she is dancing and smiling like the star she really is.

Though the evening may have been one of two very distinct halves, the audience leave the Town Hall with their toes tapping and talking treats. Steeleye Span have never faded into obscurity and tonight’s second half shows why.

Reviewer: Jeremy Williams
Rating: 3.5/5

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