The last time Seth Lakeman was in town, he was part of Robert Plant’s large entourage of Sensational Space Shifters band. Tonight, he is front and centre, the main man, in an energetic tour de force of musicality.
Support act on the night, Malojian (aka Stevie Scullion) deserves a review of his own. Many of the audience had clearly never seen Stevie perform before, and there seemed a wariness at the woolly hat clad figure, sitting to the side of the stage bathed in red light came to the stage.
This was soon blown away, by Stevie’s charm and self-deprecating humour, and a fine, fine set of songs that entrap the crowd, who were attentive to the beautifully played and sung songs from the Lurgan man. The set, bravely, consisted of much new material, which quickly won over the audience. Songs of great wit and observation.
‘Chinooks’ is a song only Mr. Scullion could have written. It’s a collection of short memories from his childhood in Lurgan during the troubles and a yearning for a more peaceful place. Other highlights include the jangly ‘Walking Away Singing A Love Song’, and a high point of the night, a beautiful song about loss and acceptance, ‘And The Thief Came In’.
This all augurs well for Malojian’s new album, which promises to be the best of his career. So far!
It’s one thing to read that someone is a multi-instrumentalist, another to see a display of such adroitness and comfortable dexterity over a number of instruments. Violin, bouzouki, tenor guitar and foot-operated drum, are all handled with deftness and skill that is a joy to watch. That is not to forget his most potent instrument, his voice. At times a strong strident vocal, at others a calming whisper.
From the first violin notes of ‘The Hurlers’ to the last of the rather lovely, ‘Portrait of my Wife’, the crowd is fully engaged. ‘The Hurlers’ shows Seth at his fiddle playing best, and the frenetic pace rarely lets up for the next hour.
His next album is ‘A Pilgrim’s Tale’, which will also be a theatrical piece commemorating 400 years since The voyage of The Mayflower to the new world, and we are treated to several tracks from that work. ‘The Foreign Man’ and the dark ‘Bury Nights’ suggest an intriguing piece of work awaits his fans. As with most artists, it’s the old songs the audience has come to hear, and they are not disappointed.
Tales steeped in history and fable. No mystery why Seth is such a firm favorite with an Irish crowd. ‘The Bold Knight’, ‘Lady of the Sea’, and ‘The Courier’ are all met with cheers from the Empire crowd. ‘Solomon Browne’, Seth’s homage to the 16 men who lost their lives in the self-named lifeboat, trying to aid the Stricken Union Starship, still carries a huge swath of emotion with it and remains one of the most affecting songs in his extensive repertoire
On an exquisitely played tenor guitar, the haunting tale of ‘The White Hare’ is played, to great excitement. The tale of a witch who takes the form of the eponymous white hare, and goes out looking for prey, seeking to catch their eye, and hence able to steal your soul away. I think we all have had nights like that!
‘Kitty Jay’ is the tune that brought Seth Lakeman to the attention of a wider public, via a Mercury Music Prize nomination, and is played with great gusto and power, and we are treated to a fine display of virtuoso fiddle playing. An encore sang from the edge of the stage was a stirring way to end the show, with the crowd all joining in the refrain:
Raise your glass to the one you love.
And there was many a raised glass to the talented Devon man, and the hope that it won’t be too long before we see him again. Here’s to you Seth!