Seth Lakeman perfected the art of writing indulgent, lively and textured songs for an array of string instruments some time ago. Five albums in to a solo career, the charm of his genre remains much the same, and demand for change seems scarce – it’s hardly necessary when Lakeman can leap from instrument to instrument, utilising each with equal precision, while continuing to consistently invoke such enjoyment in his audience.
Following Sam Carter’s notable support act, Lakeman breezed on to stage with his band, launching enthusiastically in to ‘More than Money’, an instant crowd-pleaser. It’s rare to find an artist who appeals to his audience so flawlessly; each song maintained the audience’s enamoured state and toyed with the atmosphere, moving from almost haunting banjo solos to full-frontal violin harmony.
The only lull in interest came with the evening’s slower, more sombre contributions. ‘The Sender’ and ‘Changes’ are both beautiful tracks with ethereal, melancholic undertones weaved in to their narratives, but performed live seem to draw away from Lakeman’s blatant strength: the ability to belt out riffs that implore everyone in the room to start clapping and swaying.
Fibbers seemed a somewhat odd setting, but bizarrely effective in its further encouragement of audience movement – as Lakeman remarked jokingly: “We love the lighting in here, it makes us feel like we’re 21 again.” While tracks like ‘The Colliers’ and ‘Hard Road’ maintained the tone that defined the evening, they offered beautiful, confident vocals and a winning combination of instruments; the double bass player in particular deserves serious kudos for his solos.
The evening’s highlights came with ‘Lady of the Sea’ and ‘Kitty Jay’, each provoking an audience descent in to hoe-down. At the risk of sounding blunt, Seth Lakeman is amazing at the violin. His melodies are so rich and enchanting, there’s practically no criticism that can be offered in terms of riff. The experience of these songs can only be fully appreciated live, in the heart of a crowd of loyal fans; with each crescendo the listener is transported further in to the world of Lakeman’s music.
While these energetic pieces are essentially all the same in structure, Lakeman and his band held the audience in the palm of their hands, and ultimately what better can a musician offer than precisely what the audience want, time and time again? All credit to the man, I say.