Show of Hands

Live Review | CAST Theatre, Doncaster | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Photos by Phil Carter

The foyer at the CAST Theatre was packed tonight with some familiar faces, many unfamiliar and all looking forward to the return of Show of Hands to the town.  Doncaster turned out for the third show of the band’s current Battlefield Dance Floor tour at the prestigious Doncaster venue.  The newly expanded Show of Hands, now includes both Miranda Sykes and Cormac Byrne rather than just either one of them, who got off to a good start with a full four-piece performance of the optimistic “You’ll Get By” a song from the new album. 

Rather than bothering with a support act, the first half hour was made up of engaging duet performances, with songs, tunes, an odd blues and a superb bodhran/ukulele duet, courtesy of Cormac Byrne and Steve Knightley, which drew possibly the loudest cheer of the night just for the pure cockiness of it.  Meanwhile, Miranda demonstrated her own versatility as a double bassist, with some jazz inflected walking bass runs, all of which sat well behind Phil Beer’s informed guitar playing, as he delivered a standard blues. The instrumental duets continued with a little Irish jiggery and a lilting waltz, with both Phil and Steve taking turns to spar with the percussive pyrotechnics of the new boy. 

The new dynamism of Show of Hands’ current line-up continued in the much longer second half, which essentially introduced material from the band’s latest album Battlefield Dance Floor, including the highly infectious title song, a mixture of English folk balladry and Indian Bangra, with both Phil and Steve making effective use of the bouzouki and mandolin’s nether regions.  If Bangra proved an inviting influence, then Reggae soon followed with the jaunty “Dreckley”, a Rasta alternative to the conjunctive ‘directly’ and a song which drew smiles for the audience.

If Steve Knightly was to tip his hat to Leonard Cohen with a fine reading of “First We Take Manhattan”, then Phil Beer would give a heartfelt nod to the late Little Feat guitarist and friend Paul Barrere, who died earlier in the week, choosing Richard Shindell’s “Next Best Western” as a suitable tribute, both Shindell and Beer being massive Feat fans.  For died-in-the-wool Show of Hands fans, the set mainstays “Country Life” and “ Cousin Jack” both received perfectly timed airings during the ninety-minute set.

With great sound, great lighting, a comfortable atmosphere, plenty of friendly banter, notably between Steve and Cormac, together with one or two tongue-in-cheek Yorkshire references, the current line-up of Show of Hands found a warm reception in Doncaster, demonstrated by the spirited ovation after the final song “Lost”, also from the new record and a fitting conclusion to an excellent and uplifting show.

Details of other shows can be found here: