Mike Atkinson

Seth Lakeman, Nottingham Rescue Rooms, Wednesday April 23

Posted in gigs, Nottingham Post, Rescue Rooms by Mike A on April 23, 2008

Seth Lakeman likes the Rescue Rooms, and with good reason. One of his first gigs was at the venue, and its warmth and intimacy have always suited him well. However, times and circumstances change.

Three years after his breakthrough nomination at the Mercury Music Prize, and less than two years after his Freedom Fields album cracked the Top Forty, Seth has reached a level of popular success which no other young English folk artist has reached since the days of Steeleye Span, over thirty years ago. Quite simply, he has outgrown the venue, which by his own admission resembled a “sweat pit” last night.

There’s nothing wrong with sweat pits, of course: but for all the muscular, percussive energy on display, something vital was lost along the way. Lakeman’s songs are mostly centred around stories, and successful story-telling requires a certain degree of calm, focussed concentration – particularly when, in the case of the selections from the forthcoming album Poor Man’s Heaven, the stories haven’t been heard before.

Without that direct, personal connection between artist and audience, the newer material fell somewhat flat. Seth is an able guitar player and a more than nifty fiddle player – indeed, the solo voice-and-fiddle pieces went down better than anything else – but he is no virtuoso either, and so his performance fell rather between two stools.

Nevertheless, it was still a delight to witness further evidence of English folk’s unexpected and wholly deserved revival – and on St George’s Day itself, what could have been more appropriate?

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