Live reviews on this site attempt to bring a flavour of a particular performance to the page. We can tell you what was played (though we won’t spoil an entire setlist), but more importantly we hope to convey what it felt like: the standout moments, elements of virtuosity or joy or fun (or the opposite of those things) that popped up on the night – and might pop up on a future date.
Of course, often readers will have been to the same shows as we have, but though you might be able to see the artist perform elsewhere, you can’t see the exact same show. Except with this online performance by Seth Lakeman and his band, which is available via Stabal.
The gig is a celebration of Lakeman’s third album, Freedom Fields, marking its 15th anniversary this year. So it kicks off, as the album does, with two bangers in succession: a swaggering version of The Charmer, and Lady of the Sea (which you can enjoy below).
Lockdown evidently hasn’t dulled the musical edge of any of the performers: Lakeman is as powerful on guitar and busy on fiddle as ever, while Toby Kearney and Ben Nicholls make a superb rhythm section: see the slinky bodhrán and bass combination on Childe the Hunter for evidence. Alex Hart adds subtle harmonium and beautiful backing vocals (The White Hare is gorgeous, as is King & Country), while Benji Kirkpatrick (who has done this online gig lark before, with Bellowhead) offers punchy bouzouki and guitar, as well as a smattering of banjo.
At first the between-song silences seem strange, but as the show progresses and builds momentum, the band relax, and it’s interesting to observe the way they work together – perhaps playing to please each other a little more in the absence of a physical audience.
The setlist isn’t exclusively reliant on Freedom Fields. This band was assembled to tour A Pilgrim’s Tale (which we reviewed here), and Lakeman encourages some remote audience participation on its 1643, while there are visits to Poor Man’s Heaven and Kitty Jay, too – the latter’s title track a thrilling element of a solo section.
Sure, it’s not the same as an in-the-flesh performance, but until we can do those it’s worth taking advantage of some of the positives of that: the show is crisply directed by James Green on an appealingly decorated stage, with timely close-ups of band members doing their thing (no tall people to stand in front of you!). The sound is excellent, so you’re always hearing the best mix – and you can turn the volume up or down as required. Need to visit the loo or queue for the bar (okay, ‘get a drink from the fridge’)? Simply hit pause and Lakeman and co will politely wait for you.
And while you can see the exact same gig as I did, you can of course have an even-more-different experience than usual: watch it in bed, on a laptop or even a phone if you like. Best of all, perhaps, would be to play it on a big telly with a good soundsystem, with a few drinks and everyone from your social bubble. It really does feel like an occasion.
Another bonus is the presence of a raft of bonus material. There’s an encore and two live acoustic session tracks, performed by Lakeman and Hart in a potting shed – both of which include some new songs. Meanwhile, in a 14-minute interview Lakeman talks about playing live again, his musical upbringing, the 1990s dance scene in Plymouth and joining Robert Plant’s band.
You can get it all for 30 days, to enjoy at your leisure. Click here to find out about tickets and how to watch.