Monday 13 October 2014

Gig Review: Steve Harley at The Stables MK

Steve Harley at The Stables Milton Keynes

Last night, Sunday 12th October 2014, Steve Harley performed as part of an acoustic trio at The Stables in Milton Keynes. Steve is perhaps best known for his time in the band Cockney Rebel back in the ‘70s, so his smaller acoustic sets of late are very different to the shows of his heyday. However, this doesn’t mean that the new direction is a flop – if anything it’s the opposite!

This was an incredibly personal show, which Steve added to by telling stories about his life and songs at intervals throughout. There was also a good balance between his older and newer songs. The first half was mainly the older songs and classic hits whereas the second half, after the interval, mostly featured songs off his latest album Stranger Comes to Town. Although the second half seemed more relaxed, the setlist was structured well so that both halves complemented each other and neither detracted from the other.

The other members of the trio are pianist James Lascelles and violinist Barry Wickens. Their friendship is obvious, resulting in the three working together really well and using each other to further their own performances. However, they are also all highly talented musicians in their own right. As well as the keyboard, James plays additional percussion instruments throughout, and Barry alternates between his violin and a second acoustic guitar. 

One of the highlights of the evening was during 'The Lighthouse', when Barry did a fantastic violin solo. You could see that he was completely immersed in the music, and the result really was something special. Another highlight was the encore where they played 'Make Me Smile', one of Steve’s biggest hits. The song was performed with such energy that the audience sang along with the chorus and a few people even got up and danced!

 It wasn’t all like that though, as Steve dedicated 'No Ordinary Man' to his elderly father. It was a moving tribute that leant a slight tone of nostalgia to the whole evening. This was added to by Steve explaining that he’d written another of the songs for his son as he left home for university. 

The only hiccups in the show were when James had a few minor technical issues with the sound, and when Steve forgot the opening lines of 'The Best Years of Our Lives' and had to restart the song. However, both incidents were dealt with light-heartedly, so they didn’t impact the rest of the evening at all.

 The beauty of having been in the music industry for so long is that Steve now has fans in every age group. Granted, being only 20 I was in the minority, but there are not many artists that can truthfully say their shows are attended by everyone from teenagers to pensioners. For me this made the night even more special, seeing people of all different ages joining in and enjoying the music together.

In addition, The Stables was the ideal venue. It’s a relatively small theatre with a capacity of only 400, so even being virtually sold out it still suited the intimacy of the performance perfectly. The whole place has a kind of indie feel, and it’s perfect for smaller acts and acoustic/folk music. It’s also really well designed, meaning you get a good view of the stage from every seat, which is becoming increasingly rarer in venues as promoters try to pack in more and more seats to generate more and more money.

If you can, I really recommend getting tickets to see Steve Harley – it’s a great night out and is definitely worth your money. Plus Steve’s one of those artists who’s always got upcoming tour dates, so there’s no excuse to miss him!

Are you a fan of Steve Harley? Let me know in the comments below!

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