NETTLEBED FOLK CLUB 2nd.
PHOTOGRAPHS by NICK CLARK.
USED HERE BY THE KIND
PERMISSION OF THE PHOTOGRAPHER
STEELEYE SPAN AT NETTLEBED FOLK CLUB OXFORDSHIRE
2nd August 1999
It was a stifling hot day in Summer when our party
headed down 'sarf' to Oxfordshire and the sleepy village of Nettlebed for a rare
Steeleye home gig - one of only a handful of live appearances in the run up to
the thirtieth anniversary tour. We (being myself, wife Hazel and twins Hazel jr
and Carolanne) arrived at the venue early enough to catch the soundcheck and
were treated to a rare 'thrash' version of 'Bonny Birdy' After an hour at the
front of the queue we got pretty good seats in a two hundred capacity hall.
Having not seen the band since Maddy and Gay Woods sang together I was
interested to see how the latter would take over the role from the genres 'first
We were not disappointed. As usual the band used the gig to run through a
greatest hits type set list. In the show were 'Black Jack Davy'' ,'Long
Lankin','Seagull' and a host of others.Predictably also there was a healthy
range of tracks from the last two records,'Time' and 'Horkstow Grange' - thus
resting all the stalwarts from 'Tempted And Tried'
Gay Woods was very different to the last time we had seen her. Her influence was
very much on the band with its adoption of traditional Irish styles particularly
during 'Erin' as she pounded away on the Bodhran to great effect. She also
introduced many of the songs and was clearly at home in the more intimate and
friendly setting of the club. Her wild and soulful voice greatly enhanced many
of the old favourites and won new admirers including myself.
Behind her the band were prepared to contribute equally with their own
particular songs. Bob Johnson became very popular with my twins when he
introduced 'Tricks Of London' as being "For Hazel and Carolanne".
Peter Knight was, as ever, note perfect in the haunting 'Water Is Wide' and Tim
Harries stepped forward for an excellent 'One True Love'. Perhaps one of the
most outstanding songs of the evening was 'Bonny Birdy' - played this time at
normal speed and used as a vehicle for each of the members to solo. The total
set lasted over two hours - no mean feat in the blistering heat. Guest drummer
Dave Mattacks sweated profusely from early on - see the picture to prove it.
When the show finally ended, the calls for encore were a good deal more than the
usual politeness. The club members and visitors agreed with Gay Woods when she
came back onto the stage and praised the bands ' great musicianship. The
obligatory renditions of 'All Around My Hat' and 'Gaudete' wrapped up the
After the show we were fortunate to be invited backstage where Gay Woods played
the mother hen in rounding up the rest of the band for a photo and Bob explained
that he thought 'Tricks of London' hadn't really worked that well and probably
wouldn't be used again.
In conclusion, the 30th anniversary tour will be a chance to see Steeleye
absolutely at the top of their game. They are clearly comfortable with each
other and their standard of musicianship has never been higher. The input of Gay
Woods and the strong Irish influence to their new songs has given a lot fresher
feel to their material. Although it is probably heresy to say so, the band were
better live than at anytime since 'Tonight's the Night'. If you are thinking of
seeing Steeleye Span live, now is a pretty good time to do so.