Maddy Prior & Friends in Yeovil, Somerset, UK
Octagon Theatre - April 15th, 1999

HAVING had the new album a couple of weeks I had managed to get three or four 'proper' hearings before tonight's concert. The material was therefor still fresh and largely 'undiscovered' for me, and so the scene was set for the performance.

        The theatre was a good size but by no means full and it took the audience a few numbers to get properly warmed up, a good atmosphere did however prevail as the night wore on.

        Maddy was joined tonight with the two musicians that she has worked closest with on the last two albums. These are of course Nick Holland (on keyboards) and Troy Donockley (everything else!). The three have become a band in all but name and tonight was evidence to this as they played with rich understanding of each other.

        The exhaustive performance set list was as follows:

1. Twankydillo
2. Hind Horn
3. Boys of Bedlam
4. Great Silkie of Sules Skerry
5. The Barring of the Door
6. With Napoleon in Russia
    i. Boney
    ii. Scorched Earth
    iii. Loot
7. The Rolling English Road
8. In The Company of Ravens
    i. In the company of Ravens
    ii. Young Bloods
    iii. The Masts of Morrigan
    iv. Rich Pickings
    v. Ravenchild
    vi. Dance On the Wind
9. Finlandia (Troy Donockley solo)
10. Rigs of Time
11. Bold Poachers
12. Saucy Sailor
13. Sheath & Knife
Encore: 14. The Lark in The Morning

        The concert got under way with 'Twankydillo' from the new album, an amusing, jolly song which got the evening off to a fine start which was complemented with the very Steeleye-esk 'Hind Horn' which was next up and the Steeleye classic 'Bedlam Boys'. From these relatively uplifting songs which had the audience feeling the same, without explanation Maddy dared to bring us down to almost emotional despair in the next instance with the haunting, draining 'Great Silkie of Sules Skerry'. Maddy treated us to her full range of vocals sung with real passion during this ballad and it was a dramatic reminder of the kind of performance that has made her the leading Traditional Female vocalist of her era.
        It was typical Maddy Prior then to sing with just a much relish the funny, almost comical 'The Barring of the Door' after emotionally draining the audience previously. (This song has been sung before by Maddy as part of Silly Sisters if you thought it sounded familiar).

        The half was finished with the trio of songs called Napoleon In Russia and a very powerful (and loud!) version of 'The Rolling English road' which Maddy clearly enjoyed singing a great deal.
        Before they left the stage, Maddy explained the songs collectively known as 'In the Company of Ravens' which would follow because she thought people would wonder what each song meant without any explanation between them. There was no danger of this and after the break we were treated to, what I now consider, some the best music ever penned by Maddy, and a performance the like of which I have never seen. I had an idea of what to expect from 'In the Company of Ravens' from the album but it was nothing compared to the bands electric interpretation on the night, listening to the album version after this will never be the same again.

        As the audience settled down, Troy and Nick came out and soon the lights were dimmed and a thick smoke filled the stage. The two of them started playing the haunting opening sequence to 'In the Company of Ravens'. Just as the vocals had to be delivered, Maddy stepped forward from the shadows at the back of the stage, dressed in a startling large dark velvet jacket and large dark cape following behind her. The affect was dramatic and so began the almost theatrical performance that captivated the audience for the next twenty or so minutes. During this opening song Maddy put her back to the audience, smoke still filling the stage, held out the cape to its full extent (it was supported by long poles along the arms) and the light from below created a huge Raven shape on the back wall, dramatic stuff indeed! Maddy then danced like a Raven in flight (using the 'wings'of the cape) during Young Blood, held the cape over her face (and sang through it!) for the Masts of Morrigan, held the cape like a baby for the brilliant 'Ravenchild' and finally danced again for 'Dance on the wind'. All the songs are great in their own right and combined with the musical abilities of Nick and Troy, it created a tremendous display which had the audience roaring their approval after it was over.

        Following this was almost impossible, and Maddy did not try! It was left to Troy to play his amazing Uileann Pipes, which made frequent appearances during the evening, with his interpretation of Finlandia (which convinced me to but his solo album after the concert!). It is worth noting here that Troy is an extraordinary musician, who played among other things during the evening, the Cittern, acoustic guitar, various Whistles and even a couple of Electric guitar solos.
        Old Steeleye songs appeared regularly during the evening and once the audience had persuaded Maddy to reappear for an encore (I was leading the cries!) she confessed that the next song was her oldest and best friend from her Steeleye days. The song was 'Lark in the Morning' and her powerful rendition, meeting all but the highest of high notes, was a real joy and a fine example of a fine singer at ease with her voice and its capabilities.

        I left the theatre wanting to get back and listen to it all again from the albums, although I knew it just was not going to be the same.

Greg Easton