sun 26/05/2024

Steeleye Span, Barbican review - party like it's 1969 | reviews, news & interviews

Steeleye Span, Barbican review - party like it's 1969

Steeleye Span, Barbican review - party like it's 1969

Celebrating 50 years with a strong new album in 'Est'd 69' and special guests from the band's past

50 and counting: the latest seven-strong Steeleye line-upStephen Rice Photography

The Barbican, a week before Christmas, and it’s British folk-rock legends Steeleye Span’s last gig of the year, a year in which its vigorous seven-strong line-up – featuring a new recruit in the shape of former Bellowheader Benji K

irkpatrick – celebrated a half century of Span by releasing a strong new album in Est’d 69. One of the highlights of that new set was blockbuster ballad “Old Matron”, featuring Tull's Ian Anderson on flute.

No Anderson tonight, but it nevertheless came with some very special guests too – Martin Carthy, coming to the stage with the mighty fiddler Peter Knight and Benji’s Dad John Kirkpatrick, all three of them veterans of Span and outstanding folk artists in their own right, for a trio of "Marrow Bones", the Winter-themed "The King" from the classic 1971 album, Please to See the King and "17 Come Sunday" from Carthy's return to the fold with 1978's Storm Force Ten.

Nostalgia isn't all that comes in to it, though – the selections from the latest album included a wonderfully sprightly cover of Dave Goulder’s “January Man” and the present line-up, especially the striking fiddle work of Violeta Barreña Vicci, stands proud beside any other, and the night's guests were all back again after the interval for the necessary encore to any Span show, “All Around My Hat”, the longlasting union of glam rock and traditional folk that reached the top five and pop immortality in 1975. 

“Wintersmith” – the folk-metal Terry Pratchett collaboration from 2016 (featuring Peter Knight’s last studio recordings with the band), made an appearance, as did that shape-shifting dweller of the deep dark woods, “Tam Lin”, whose dangerous shapeshifting Prior described wittily as "a metaphor for marriage". Benji Kirkpatrick and Maddy Prior fuelled a roistering "Black Leg Miner", while the beautiful 16th-century Christmas Carol and Top 20 1973 hit "Gaudette" was a real delight for the second half's opener, and surely the world's best Latin (dead language category) track. And with Peter Knight returning to the stage to play alongside Vicci and the rest of the band on an electrifying "Bonnie Black Hare" to close the set, this was a warm, generous conclusion to a remarkable 50th year for a great and enduring band.


A warm, generous conclusion to a remarkable 50th year for a great and enduring band


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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It was a fantastic celebration of 50 years. One factual correction to your article: Violeta Barrena covered for Smart for this tour.

Thanks to all, and thanks for reading - that is now corrected

Thanks for the review but the fiddle player on this tour was Violeta Barreña

Hi there, would be nice if you could change the name of Jessie May Smart to mine, Violeta Barreña Vicci, as I’ve been playing with Steeleye Span for the last year whilst Jessie is on maternity leave. Thanks!!

Violeta, my apologies, I will do that today, and thanks for a wonderful gig. Tim

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