Deep in the depths of the splendid building that is the Sheffield City Hall lies The City Hall Ballroom. Accessed via a glass door at the side of the building a series of concrete steps leads to a hidden gem of a space; the external columns of the City Hall itself being replicated in the bar area, painted a deep blue and decorated with silver stars; the theme continuing into the ballroom itself , framed on its two long sides by similar pillars. With the dance floor covered with seating laid out for the evening’s concert from front to back, dancing space was at a premium and restricted to a comically constricted modicum of space between the pillars.
Not that dancing was a major option for tonight’s show. The set Seth has selected for this tour might well be regarded as the ‘seated’ set – a more sedate selection, suitable for seated as opposed to the festival type venues in which he spends most of his Summers – the standing venues giving him and his fans the opportunity to include some of the more high energy folk tunes he has in his repertoire. For any fans returning to see Seth and his band again from the previous tour in October (many do – he has a faithful set of followers, some of the more enthusiastic ones making up his online forum group ‘The Mire’) , there will have been few surprises in the song selection. With guest Lisbee Stainton again added to the band of usual cohorts (Ben Nicholls on double bass and banjo, the effervescent Cormac Byrne on percussion, plus brother Sean, returning to the fold after missing a the previous few gigs with his own commitments) her contribution on banjo and pump organ as well as vocals means the set can take a few twists and turns in sounds and song selection.
With the lower key numbers like Apple Of His Eye benefitting from Lisbee’s pump organ, and the ponderous Changes and White Hare not being conducive to a partying audience, the addition of Blood Red Sky and old favourite The Colliers gave the audience the chance to get on their feet and pack into the centre aisles for a shindig. Recognising the need for building to a big finish to the set, the duet with Cormac on Lady Of The Sea led straight into a frantic, almost wild High Street Rose – hard to see how this was just a bonus track on the Hearts & Minds album – with Sean running through the full range of his rock guitar god moves.
It’s good to see the set being varied in light of the fact that the last new material from Seth was his Tales From The Barrelhouse album in late 2011 (not counting the release of his recording with the BBC Concert Orchestra) and it will be interesting to see what direction he will take when he next comes to record something new. With a full season of festival appearances to come along with contributing to the EFDSS Full English project followed by more solo dates in October it looks like being another busy year.
On a slightly more lighthearted note, for the more obsessive fans the sight of Seth in a ‘proper’ shirt as opposed to his regulation t shirt and jeans, will have caused some reverberations around the Lakeman fan scene. Perhaps as a newly married man, Mrs Lakeman may be taking on the role of making sure husband Seth has his touring case packed with a greater variety of stage clothes these days!
Review by: Michael Ainscoe
Alll photos by Michael Ainscoe (Copyright 2013)