There can’t be many gigs with a central singalong of “There were many lost in the dark and dust. When the colliers called out “hold your fire!” but then, there aren’t many artists like Seth Lakeman.
That song, “The Colliers”, is important for three reasons. Firstly, its brilliant (but to be fair, so is everything else he plays here) but secondly, it is an example of his songwriting modus operandi, given that it takes the terrible Gresford mining disaster as its story. And thirdly – probably the most important – in this live setting he makes it joyous.
A little later on in the set, Lakeman plays solo (his fabulous band back him through most of this) and turns the mic off for a gorgeous “Raise Your Glass To The One You Love” and again asks the crowd to join him. I look around as he does, and I am struck by the cross section of people that are here, enjoying themselves in their own way, and the only conclusion to draw is that Seth Lakeman has touched many, many people with his work.
Easy to see why, too when it is good as the stuff from his new album – the just released “Well Worn Path” – there is a fair chunk of it played here too. “Fitzsimmons’ Fight” and “The Educated Man” are obvious highlights, as is “She Never Blamed Him”, which shines even without the voice of Kathryn Roberts. However, it is “The Gloaming” that really steals the show. Evocative fiddle playing from Lakeman, before the track springs into life.
For all the subject matter and the darkness of some of these tunes, Lakeman is capable of whipping up a real storm. “Last Rider” sees new boy Kit Hawkes (who along with drummer Ethan Jenkins has slotted in seamlessly to things) play some incredible banjo, while “Poor Mans Heaven” is as close to rock n roll as the night gets.
Actually, that’s unfair. Because “Kitty Jay” – just Lakeman, his fiddle and his feet – absolutely thumps. It also provides the last moment in the main set, before the band return – joined by slide guitar wizard Martin Harley for an uproarious “Drink Till I’m Dry” before the whole thing ends with yet another singalong – in the folk tradition after all – of “Divided We Fall”.
And if ever you were looking for extremes, then consider this: this gig ended at 9.30 so the all night rave could start at 10pm. I don’t know, but I’m willing to bet you all the money I have that no one from the band was there with their glowsticks. This, you see, is real music. Real and superb.
As Lakeman and the band exit – and we all stampede out before the rave gets going – the music that plays is telling. Willie Nelson’s classic “On The Road Again”. And for all his studio albums, and even for how good they are, you can’t help feeling that Lakeman, the band and these songs, just belong on stage and in the moment.