Offering the first live music at the revamped, redeveloped venue, Show of Hands showed they were more than worthy of the honour – a great night from a great band.
And New Theatre Royal, how lovely to have you back.
The extensive refurbishment has restored a proper stage to the venue for the first time in decades – a refurbishment which has been done so seamlessly and tastefully that you sit there trying to remember just how it was before in a venue you thought you knew so well.
The point is that it looks and feels absolutely right – and Show of Hands set the seal on it all with a performance which upped their game beyond their usual dizzying standards.
I’ve got a feeling this is the best I have seen them in maybe a dozen or so gigs across the years.
The thrill of it was the boldness with which they introduced a whole raft of new material in the first half. Usually no one particularly wants to hear new songs at a gig, but Show of Hands carried everyone with them.
Frontman Steve Knightley talks of the band as a shared journey with the fans, seeing how much they want to travel with him, Phil Beer and Miranda Sykes. In Portsmouth, we were all happy to go wherever they wanted. The first half was a terrific mix of returning to their roots and taking us somewhere new – before they offered what Knightley joked was a greatest hits set after the interval.
As ever, double-bassist Sykes was the icing on the cake, her gorgeous backing vocals adding hugely to every moment. It remains the great Show of Hands unanswered question: why on earth don’t the chaps consider her worth a couple of songs in her own right each night?
Meanwhile Phil Beer gave his usual dazzling performance across his range of instruments; and as usual Knightley’s easy chat and humour gave everything the context it needed.
These are musicians who instinctively make a proper, profound connection with their audience, and it’s that, at this level, that makes the big difference. The sheer quality of their musicianship will only ever take them so far; it’s the rapport they create with everyone in the room that takes them into the folkie stratosphere.
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