Youthful trio Alden Patterson And Dashwood kicked things off with a rousing set of covers and original material. Ones to keep an eye on.
Show of Hands took the stage with a new member, percussionist Cormac Byrne as long-time bassist Miranda Sykes is on maternity leave. He brings a new dynamic to the sound compared with their last visit to New Theatre Royal.
The two-hour set mixed newer songs like the excellent You’ll Get By with old favourites like openers Cousin Jack and Country Life.
My favourite was the Bhangra-inspired Battlefield Dancefloor, a very different, upbeat melody despite the lyrics referring to the drunkenness of various generals before historic battles like Agincourt and the Spanish Armada.
Of course it’s not just about the music with Steve Knightley and Phil Beer. The between-song tales and anecdotes are just as much a part of the night. Cormac gave as good as he got too, comparing the black-clad, silver-haired Phil Beer to a ‘big pint of Guinness’
The haunting Santiago, always a fan favourite, was sung beautifully by the band with the audience encouraged by Steve to sing along.
We were treated to their cover of Leonard Cohen’s First We Take Manhattan, originally featured on the 1995 Backlog collection. Cormac’s percussion transformed the set closer Galway Farmer with a real sense of the horses pounding the Cheltenham turf and the crowd clapped along furiously too.
The single-song encore was well received, a second Indian-influenced song: The Train/Black Waterside. A sublime way to spend an evening.