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WHATEVER Seth Lakeman’s merits as a recording artist, and there are many, it’s as a performer that he truly comes into his own.
He proved that again here with an exhilarating set featuring four songs from his new album The Well Worn Path but also by dipping generously — and with ardour — into his back catalogue.
On a dark and rainy night outside the venue, all was sweetness and light within as Lakeman and his superb new band delivered a series of tunes that had the foot-stomping crowd bouncing on the sprung ballroom floor from the very off.
At times in the studio Lakeman sounds almost transatlantic, sometimes a bit too slick. But on stage his wild Dartmoor roots are clear to behold and his songs become all the better for it. Many that sound pretty good on an album gain extra patina live, raising them to something else entirely. Solomon Browne and Fitzsimmon’s Fight were two examples on this night, the latter featuring beautiful interplay between bass (Ben Nicholls) and electric guitar (Kit Hawes).
From the new album, which Lakeman describes as “psychedelic folk-rock,” we had the excellent Bright Smile as an opener and, later on, its best track Educated Man, followed by She Never Blamed Him, on which the front man and his band somehow engineered a stirring, didgeridoo-like background dirge.
Good as his band are, Lakeman’s stunning all-round musicianship can’t help but command the main attention and surely there’s no better and more exciting fiddle player in Britain. Two of the most emotional moments of the night were solos — Silver Threads, with Lakeman plucking at his violin, and the unaccompanied Portrait of My Wife, with the crowd expertly singing the poignant chorus.
In the hands of many others both might have killed the raucous mood, but Lakeman was able to deploy them to increase the emotional intensity.
The lights were directed onto the hall’s glitter ball to celebrate the encore, another from his new album Drink 'Til I'm Dry, followed by a feverish hoedown to end the night. By then it seemed not so dark and rainy after all.
For album and tour details, visit sethlakeman.co.uk
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