Leading folk duos from both sides of the Atlantic will be among special guests for Show Of Hands’ 25th anniversary show at the Royal Albert Hall this Easter – their fifth Big Gig at the venue.
The phenomenally popular Devon band will mark their milestone year with a return to one of the world’s most famous stages on Easter Sunday 2017 (April 16).
Singer songwriter Steve Knightley and multi instrumentalist Phil Beer have forged one of the most successful ever partnerships in acoustic roots music and have already scored four sell-outs at the iconic London venue.
Now they will to head back to the capital to take on the gamble of hiring and selling out the historic 5,000-seater hall for a fifth time. They will be accompanied by their long term special guest – bass player and vocalist Miranda Sykes.
Miranda will also appear in her duo with top mandolin player Rex Preston. In the space of just a few years they have become one of the most sought after – and unusual – duos on the English folk roots scene.
Returning to the Albert Hall for the first time since clinching the Best Duo title in the 2014 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards will be another stand-out act – the much celebrated and innovative pairing of Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin. The alchemy of Martin’s evocative songwriting, rich vocals and fiddle and banjo playing and the much extolled skills of Henry on dobro, harmonica, lap steel and more fuse into a wholly distinctive world sound bridging blues, folk, country and Americana.
The third duo will be Canada’s hugely entertaining Matt Leonard and Leonard Podolak who supported Show Of Hands on tour in 2012. Podolak is best known for his work with the Juno/Grammy award-winning Canadian band The Duhks and is an acclaimed 5-string claw hammer banjo player.
His partnership with fiddler, clog dancer and harmonica player Matt Gordon, who took part in the London debut of Riverdance, promises a lively entertainment-packed addition to the Albert Hall extravaganza. The audience are likely to be treated to a set of old-time traditional fiddle and banjo music, punctuated by outbreaks of clog dancing and “hamboning” (traditional African American body percussion!)
Also in the line-up will be Devon’s Lost Sound Chorus who last year appeared with Show Of Hands at Exeter Cathedral in a concert marking the centenary of the first day of Battle of the Somme. Long-time collaborator, composer and keyboards player Matt Clifford who famously worked with The Rolling Stones will also be on the Albert Hall stage as will Devon teacher Chris Hoban, who has penned some of Show of Hands’ more recent songs including ‘Katrina’, ‘Hallows’ Eve’ and ‘The Old Lych Way’
Show Of Hands, triple BBC Radio 2 Folk awards winners (Best Live Act, Best Duo and Best Original Song, for Knightley’s ever topical Arrogance Ignorance and Greed), first played and sold out the Albert Hall in 1996, to the surprise of the sceptics. In 2001 their legions of fans from the UK and across the Channel descended on Kensington again, when the show was filmed by Carlton TV and, unusually, the Albert Hall witnessed a raffle! Five years later, they were back for a hat trick success in SW7 and, in 2012, followers were delighted when they returned for a fourth encore with guests including American singer songwriter Richard Shindell.
Knightley, who has been hailed as one of the country’s best singer-songwriters, says: “Hiring somewhere as high profile as the Albert Hall is obviously not something you undertake lightly but it’s a challenge we relish. We are lucky enough to have an incredible fan base, not only in the UK but in France, Holland, Germany and beyond and hopefully a lot of them will be there to help us celebrate a quarter of a century as Show Of Hands!”
The Big Gig will be as much a celebration of their DIY cottage industry ethos as anything. Says Steve: “The Albert Hall show will be very much a journey through our 25 year repertoire, featuring key songs down the years. Phil and I have played cathedrals, castles, concert venues, village halls and festivals around the world and built up a vast network of venues and an army of fans through ongoing goals of attention to detail and high live production values. We’re thrilled to be performing for thousands of the fans again at one of the world’s most famous concert halls – the experience of playing there just gets better every time.”
Beer, named “Musician of the Year” in the 2011 Spiral Awards and nominated for the same title at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, agrees: “We have had four hugely memorable nights at the Albert Hall and it will be great to see so many of our fans under one roof again in what will amazingly be our 25th year on the road!”
Show Of Hands are known for their genre-hopping music, which focuses on strong narrative songs often touching on rock, blues and country. Their success escalated after they established an early internet presence and became a perfect example of a successful cottage industry, using many West Country-based people in their support team, including David Oddy, who hand makes their musical instruments, from guitars to cello mandolins and cuatros.
They grew up on opposite sides of the River Exe and still both live near Exeter but their appeal has seen them tour much of Europe as well as Canada, India and Australia. Their success lies in their unique sound, finely honed stage presence and consistently acclaimed, often acutely topical songs, most of which are penned by Knightley.
The enduring partnership has seen a marked rise in profile in recent years, bringing numerous prime time TV and radio appearances from BBC1’s Countryfile to The Andrew Marr Show and BBC Breakfast while Steve had a programme devoted to his song writing on BBC Radio 4’s Open Country and they made their Hyde Park debut, as part of the March for the Alternative rally.
Last year, their latest critically acclaimed studio album The Long Way Home saw them returning to their musical roots and brought them a nomination for “Best Album” in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.
Travelling full circle to the songs and tunes that inspired them to start playing as a duo it revisits all the classic ingredients of traditional folk themes – songs of war, exile, invention, seafaring and loves lost and found.
Artists’ website: www.showofhands.co.uk