Seth Lakeman creates a certain expectation amongst his most ardent followers and whilst his performance rarely faltered technically, tonight lacked the kind of electricity and rampant charge he and his band revel in. On the opening night of a one month ‘mini-tour’ of the UK and ahead of the release of Seth’s fifth solo album Hearts and Minds, you could be forgiven for questioning the decision to play this kind of toe-tapping, crowd whipping, folk fiddling music to an all seated crowd. Much as you might question putting a gazelle on a treadmill.
That being said, the first half of the set was sublime and perfectly encapsulated the mood of some of his softer songs. From Freedom Fields he offered jewels such as Send Yourself Away and Fight For Favour, before granting the audience the poignant Solomon Browne. New tracks such as The Circle Grows and Changes equally highlighted Seth’s ability to step over to the emotional realms, denying any possibility of being typecast in a set style. There were some obvious omissions to the set list and the likes of Lady of the Sea made way for stand out tracks from the new album See Them Dance and Preacher’s Ghost, both marking Seth’s measure of versatility and musicianship.
It was after a somewhat redundant interval however, that the limitations of the venue really began to take their toll and I found myself chewing my upper lip with frustration. At a real Seth Lakeman hoe-down the opening bars of How Much or Riflemen of War should be enough to lash the audience into a foot stomping, heart thumping furore of cheers. But, despite the few who ventured out of their seats to do some hand clapping after a frankly awe inspiring solo performance of Kitty Jay, the mood remained relatively sober. Even Seth seemed affected, fluffing the second verse of Poor Man’s Heaven and rarely engaging in the kind of care free banter which usually connects him so well with his audience.
For the real Seth Lakeman experience MTTM recommends waiting until April when the standing tour begins.