REVIEW: Show of Hands, Pyramids, Southsea

Show of Hands                 Picture by Richard Corkrey
Show of Hands Picture by Richard Corkrey

If anyone could write a modern folk song encapsulating Portsmouth’s 21st Century plight, it is surely Steve Knightley.

The Show of Hands singer/songwriter referred to Portsmouth’s 500-year shipbuilding traditions and maritime heritage. The sad tale of its demise and dogged determination to fight on would fit neatly in the band’s repertoire.

This is acoustic folk with an edge. Songs of modern life with a social conscience.

Instead of cornfields and ruddy-cheeked wenches there is red diesel, shut-down pubs, and images of village greens juxtaposed with foot-and-mouth funeral pyres.

Lighten that with a great sense of fun and add fantastic musicianship and singing from Knightley, Phil Beer and Miranda Sykes and you have the unique alchemy that makes Show of Hands.

The band provided their own support, with each member performing a solo spot before the main show, paving the way for a newcomer like me to fully appreciate their talents.

Multi-instrumentalist Beer plays a mean fiddle, but can also play a soulful guitar solo.

Sykes has a beautifully expressive voice and skilfully provides rhythm and punctuation with her double bass.

Then there is Knightley, with his richly textured voice lending brightness and shade to each song, where every meaning is heard.

To me, a revelation. To the faithful, yet another great night. I’d love to hear Knightley’s dockyard song.

ALAN COOPER