This was my first visit to the beautifully and tastefully renovated Royal Hall in Harrogate. It was also the second time that I have seen Show Of Hands live, but sadly the first since 2009! I promise I won’t leave it that long next time. My knowledge of folk and roots music is not vast but I do know a great band when I see one and Show Of Hands are undoubtedly a truly brilliant band. They are “not too folkie”, they are multi-talented musicians with an intelligent way with lyrics and their self deprecating humour and between-song banter is first class. The core band consists of Steve Knightley and Phil Beer and was formed in Devon more than thirty years ago. Folk singer and double bass virtuoso Miranda Sykes has been playing with Show Of Hands for more than fifteen years. In addition to that dynamic trio, they are now accompanied by an amazing and award-winning bodhrán player and percussionist for the current shows; Irishman Cormac Byrne.
There was no support act, rather inventively we were treated to a series of duo performances; Phil & Steve, Steve & Cormac, Miranda & Steve, Phil & Miranda, Cormac & Phil, and Miranda & Cormac! The sparseness of the music in these settings was beautiful. This is a group of musicians who really know how to use the space between the notes. Phil Beer’s guitar skills are extraordinary and he can move from straightforward folk to some rocking acoustic blues. Steve’s voice is close to perfect and his passion is evident in the way he sings. Some of the new songs, from their 2019 album, are a strong addition to an already magnificent set. Especially “Dreckley”, which is a Cornish word for later in the manner of mañana but not as urgent, and “Battlefield Dance Floor” which is about how soldiers used to party the night before a big battle. For me, the most beautiful song of the evening was the inspirational and empathetic “You’ll Get By”. That will be on my playlist the next time I get really down or depressed, it will provide a gorgeous spiritual lift. The cover of the late, great Leonard Cohen’s “First We Take Manhattan” was true to the Canadian raconteur and was among the most well-received of the evening. My favourite song on the night was probably “Santiago”. There were sing-alongs aplenty, the most rousing was probably the Show Of Hands classic “Cousin Jack”. All in all, this was a great musical evening and worked incredibly well even for a generally non-folkie like me. If you love good music you really need to check this band out if you haven’t done so already! There are still plenty of shows left on their Now We Are Four Tour 2019 (see the poster above), go and treat yourself!
All the photos were found via Google searches. The videos were all found on YouTube. If any of the pictures or videos are yours and you would like a credit or for me to remove them please let me know.
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I’d like to thank my friend Stuart O’Hara for suggesting the theme of this post. Edwyn Collins once said ‘too many protest singers, not enough protest songs’. Strangely that was a lyric from his 90s hit “A Girl Like You” which doesn’t seem to be a protest song itself. That dear reader is the thrust of this blog post; where are all the protest singers and protest songs? The world economy is collapsing, riot and revolution is rife, wars and indiscriminate bombings are commonplace and UK politics is at best inept and the USA is trillions of dollars in debt and dancing with the idea of electing an idiotic republican candidate far more stupid than even Dubya was. So where are all the protests from the music world?
Aside from the fact that a legitimate protest song would probably not get played on mainstream radio and would need to ‘go viral’ on-line, where the hell are they? Where are this generation’s Woody Guthries, Pete Seegers, Bob Dylans and Billy Braggs? OK I know there have been a few good attempts since the Specials summed up Britain in song in 1981 with “Ghost Town”. Notably “Killing In The Name Of” from Rage Against The Machine and perhaps “American Idiot” from Green Day. But what happened to the establishment/ ‘the man’ being scared of rock music? It’s all become too corporate and bland.
U2 and Coldplay have tried to use their muscle to protest against various wrongs in the world, but frankly are their hearts really in it? Radiohead have supported the free Tibet campaign amongst others, but could they do more? Dylan is getting too old, Bragg doesn’t have the fanbase size required (but is still flying the flag), Springsteen and Weller have been quiet of late on the protest front and Marvin Gaye, Marley, Lennon and Strummer are sadly no longer with us.
The environment must be right for a new movement to shake up the old order just like punk did in the 70s and rave and grunge did in the 80s and 90s. The charts are stuffed full of manipulated, impresario created pop muppets; Little Mix, Matt Cardle, Olly Murs etc. It is time to stand up and be counted good people of the blogosphere. We need some strong protest songs to unite all those fighting for freedom and change. Let’s shake up that complacent bunch of career politicians in Westminster and political ivory towers across the world. Frank Turner, Show Of Hands, Neil Young you can do this we need you now! Will somebody please step forward?
In the meantime here are some classic protest songs. I would love to hear your opinions of protest songs and singers;
Squeezing into that little box was easy, but Gordo, Dave and Nicky realised it was going to be bloody difficult to get out!
As I have said many times before this is ostensibly a music blog and therefore pretty much everything I write about gets taken in that direction. This post is no exception. Thursday 6th May sees another General Election in the UK, the 8th one that I have been eligible to vote at, having reached official voting age before the 1979 election.
If only it were true 🙂
I have never failed to cast my vote and I urge you to do the same. It is the apathetic voters that allow the extremists into power, we cannot let that happen with evil and deluded parties like the BNP. But this week those of us in the UK should also vote for change. I know that voting for change is somewhat of a cliché, however I believe that our first past the post system has now had its day. A system that would allow the party with fewer votes to win more seats in parliament is not right, is it?
Most of the fake posters for this election have been better than the real ones don't you think?
In many ways I don’t care who you vote for, but I do care that people actually get off their arse and use theirs. So don’t let the country down, let’s mobilise for a massive turnout!
While you consider who you vote for here are some alleged trivial facts about the leaders of the three main parties; Nick Clegg once set fire to a very rare cactus. Gordon Brown apparently eats nine bananas a day and David Cameron is a direct descendent of King William IV
As I said at the start this is not a vehicle to voice my political opinions, (well perhaps apart from my dislike of the BNP) it’s a music blog. So here are twenty political type songs for you to enjoy while watching the remaining election coverage this week. Enjoy! You can follow the election on the BBC or the Guardian(I will be). Oh and there is also a hidden track somewhere in this post, have you found it? The usual crap prize, subject to postage awaits the first person to tell me what it is and where it is!
Ball Of Confusion – Temptations. This song reminds me so much of my youth and for me is one of the greatest songs Norman Whitfield produced for the Temptations. There was also a pretty good cover produced for Tina Turner by Glenn Gregory and Martyn Ware off of the British Electric Foundation (BEF), also off of Heaven 17 and also once off of the Human League! Click here to listen to Tina’s version.
Elected – Alice Cooper. Probably one of my favourite Alice Cooper songs. Did you know he actually ran for the US Presidency in 1972? With a hook line of “They’re changing guards at President Palace, out goes Nixon and in comes Alice” Why I remember that line I don’t know, but it has been stuck in my head now for nearly 40 years! There was a cover of this song a few years ago in aid of Comic Relief which I believe was credited to Mr Bean and Bruce Dickinson off of Iron Maiden. Click here for that one!
Electioneering – Radiohead. Taken from the classic ‘OK Computer’ album and seen by many as one of the greatest political songs. It also takes a nice dig at the IMF too
Election Day – Arcadia. The Duran Duran offshoot that wasn’t the Power Station, well that’s my view. I would always prefer a band with Robert Palmer as vocalist rather than Simon Le Bon. Which one did you prefer?
The Politics Of Dancing – Re-Flex. In this list purely for the title! You know how low my opinion of most 80s stuff is! ‘Nuff said!
You Haven’t Done Nothing – Stevie Wonder. Now this is a superb song and so true of today’s politicians. If you listen carefully you can hear Stevie bringing the backing vocalists in when he says “Jackson Five come sing along” Yes, it was the Jackson clan providing the ‘doo do wops’ on this song
Abraham, Martin And John – Marvin Gaye. Motown really started to get politics in the late 60’s and early 70’s didn’t it, this was in advance of Marvin’s classic ‘What’s Going On’ album, more of which later. I believe that Dion off of Dion and the Belmonts also had a hit with this
Stand Down Margaret – The Beat. In the event her own party stood her down. Whilst I was really pleased that it happened it was pretty disloyal wasn’t it?
A Design For Life – Manic Street Preachers. For me the opening line says everything about when the working class really moved forward. “Libraries gave us power”
Police And Thieves – Clash. I will never tire of hearing this excellent cover of Junior Murvin’s brilliant song, oh and did I tell you that I consider the Clash to be the best band there has ever been? I did? I thought so
So Much Trouble In The World – Bob Marley And The Wailers. No political song list would be complete without Mr Marley in my opinion and there are so many good ones to choose from.
The President Wore Pearls – Lisa Simpson. What can I say about this? Lisa is trying to get elected but doesn’t think she will be cool enough
Anarchy For The UK – Sex Pistols. Well we may not have anarchy by Friday but we will probably have a hung parliament as opposed to some parliamentarians who should be hung. Duck islands and moats indeed!
Rocking In The Free World – Neil Young and Pearl Jam. Great combination which gives Mr Young extra added rock power, also a bloody good song too
Vote Baby Vote – Lady Kier off of Deee Lite. This was put together for an MTV special ‘Rock The Vote’ show, so it’s perhaps more a jingle than a song, but the message is very clear
I Wanna Grow Up To Be A Politician – Roger McGuinn off of the Byrds. I wonder if this is when politics became a career? I don’t know about you but the term career politician seems to be an oxymoron, with the emphasis on the moron bit for many of them!
Wake Up The Nation – Paul Weller. Is there no stopping this bloke? His last album ’22 Dreams’ was fantastic and the new one ‘Wake Up the Nation’ is even better in my opinion. Nice to hear him getting a tad angry too. How weird is it that Old Etonian David Cameron claims ‘Eton Rifles’ by the Jam as one of his favourite songs? Surely he can’t have listened to the lyrics can he?
Ghost Town – Specials. Reached number one at the height of Thatcher’s early years and amidst all the inner city rioting across the UK. It really summed up the nation at the time I think. It was the night the band performed this on Top Of The Pops that Terry Hall, Lynval Golding and Neville Staple told Jerry Dammers that they were leaving the band to form the Fun Boy Three. Whose first hit was, and still is, appropriate for politicians; “The Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum”
What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye. Taken from one of my favourite albums of all time and the lyrics and message are still sadly relevant today, nearly 40 years after it’s release
Arrogance, Ignorance And Greed – Show Of Hands. One of Catwoman’s favourite bands and she has got me into them too. The message on this one fits pretty well all modern politicians and perhaps bankers too. Most of them are arrogant, ignorant greedy bastards aren’t they?
Hello good people, especially the good people of England, my home! It’s our national saint’s day today, that’ll be Saint George! As most of you know I don’t do religion, however I do see this as a day that the English people should reclaim the flag from the far right thugs and fascists who seem to think that it is their flag and no one elses. So wear or display your cross of Saint George with pride!
The English flag it's for the English not just the racists and fascists of the BNP and their ilk
OK I’m flying the flag on the blog, now do your bit! I know there is a lot wrong with this country, but their are a lot of good things too. I’m proud to be English but not afraid to criticise it sometimes. I believe that true patriotism goes way beyond the Dubya model.
While we’re at it, did you know which one of more than 200 countries that entered the 2006 Football World Cup qualifiers does not have either it’s own passport or it’s own national anthem. OK I’ll put you out of your misery quickly, it is in fact England. I have a British passport, not an English one and our national anthem is “God Save The Queen” which is the British national anthem! It’s also so dull an dreary it would be a good funeral dirge.
So let’s choose a new English National Anthem, here are a few suggestions from me and I’d love to hear yours too;
OK the songs I have chosen are not necessarily anthemic but in their own way they do represent England, well at least to me anyway! So now it’s over to you for your selections and don’t forget to vote on mine below!
Hello peeps, long time no post, well ok some of you probably didn’t notice, oh well! Anyway I have returned to post a review of a gig I was at on Friday evening. Those of you who know me are well aware that my musical taste is seriously eclectic (everything except most opera and a lot of country). I’ve never seen myself as a folkie either, although I am a big fan of Mr Zimmerman.
Let me cut to the chase I got a ticket for the gig as a 50th birthday present from Rachel V. She and Catwoman are big fans of the band. The band are ‘Show Of Hands’ and I must admit they are excellent in a live environment. Terrific musicians, great harmonies, good songs (some superb covers too), much self deprecating humour and in great danger of giving folk a good name to non-folkies like me.
Show Of Hands with Miranda, she's the clean shaven one! Incidentally Catwoman loves your hair Miranda!
The band is made up of Steve Knightley and Phil Beer. They were ably assisted by Miranda Sykes on Saturday on double bass and beautiful vocals. There was no support act, in fact this is a band that doesn’t really need one, they’re that good, trust me! Check out the ‘Show Of Hands‘ website. Miranda also has her own website, click here to check it out
On the 'face' of it the boys were considering a more 'rock' direction 😉
The gig was at the Victoria Hall in Saltaire near Bradford in the UK, which incidentally is an excellent venue. The acoustics are supreme, the band played a couple of songs literally unplugged from their amps and the sound was incredible.
I’m very new to Show Of Hands so I don’t know much about their back catalogue. But for me there were a number of highlights on Saturday. In particular a new song called “AIG” which is based on the comments of a US senator about the finance company AIG, if I remember rightly this fabulous songs chorus included the refrain ‘Arrogance, Incompetence and Greed’ (apologies to the band if I got that wrong). I also loved their cover of Dylan’s “Senor (Tales Of Yankee Power)”, I would even go so far as to say that I preferred it to the original. The lyrics are printed at the end of the post as they are some of Dylan’s best, well I think they are! The band seem to have quite a large repertoire of their own songs and my favourite of those that they played on Saturday was “Cousin Jack”. They generated an awful lot of audience participation for that one from the fervent sell out crowd. Click here to see the band in the video for the rather excellent song “Roots” which they also played at the show
The boys were so talented they could play their instruments telepathically
They are scheduled to play a lot more UK dates between now and early July so if they are in a town near you and you haven’t seen them just do it, you will not be disappointed! If you’ve seen them before you can ignore the last sentence as you’ve already got your tickets I’m sure
Senor, senor, can you tell me where we’re headin ?
Lincoln County Road or Armageddon ?
Seems like I been down this way before
Is there any truth in that, senor ?
Senor, senor, do you know where she is hidin’ ?
How long are we gonna be riding ?
How long must I keep my eyes glued to the door ?
Will there be any comfort there senor ?
There’s a wicked wind still blowing on that upper deck
There’s an iron cross still hanging down from around her neck
There’s a marching band still playing in that vacant lot
Where’s she held me in her arms one time and said, Forget me not.
Senor, senor, I can see that painted wagon
Smell the tail of the dragon
Can’t stand the suspense anymore
Can you tell me who to contact here, senor ?
Well, the last thing I remember before I stripped and kneeled
Was that trainload of fools bogged down in a magnetic field
A gypsy with a broken flag and a flashing ring
He said, Son, this ain’t a dream no more it’s the real thing.
Senor, senor, you know their hearts is as hard as leather
Well, give me a minute, let me get it together
I just gotta pick myself up off the floor
I’m ready when you are, senor.
Senor, senor, let’s overturn these cables
Disconnect these tables
This place don’t make sense to me no more
Can you tell me what we’re waiting for, senor ?