Last March, in part as a warmup for their prestigious Royal Albert Hall gig, Steve and Phil performed a series of five concerts in small venues within the Devon village of Topsham (“very much “home territory” for the lads), aimed at a purely local audience (even so, they were sold out despite almost no advance publicity!). The intimate and convivial spirit of the gigs was captured “fly-on-the-wall” style by hand-held cameras, and this 90-minute DVD presents a sequence of highlights. What comes across big-time, complementing their consummate professionalism and musicianship, is the tremendous rapport the lads have with their audiences and the unequivocal support they command from all quarters (fans through to technicians, management and venues).
Even though I’ve seen Show Of Hands countless times, they always come up with a fresh slant on their material, and the sparkling accomplishment of their instrumental work is on particularly fine form on the fifteen selections here (I’d single out Phil’s fiddle embellishments on their cover of Willin’, the inspired plaintiveness of No Woman No Cry, the feisty Cousin Jack and some stunning guitar interplay on Cocaine, but it’s all both typically brilliant and stimulating). They’re joined by “third man” (!) Miranda Sykes for three of the gigs, and her excellent contributions provide further cause for celebration. Finally, the disc contains some bonus material in the shape of footage of rehearsal and preparation for the RAH show, and including a split-screen montage (limited use of that technique during one or two of the earlier gig sequences, although not exactly “fly-on-the-wall”, proves commendably undistracting too).
Show Of Hands don’t need to prove themselves, yet their ability to present a constantly refreshing angle on their music will continue to win them new admirers, and this DVD provides further persuasive evidence that SoH are still a supreme class act, showing no signs whatsoever of getting stale.
David Kidman – fRoots