Maddy's Last Night
Steeleye Span at Tewkesbury, 19th October 1997
OW DO I report on Maddy's last gig with Steeleye? It's not an easy task! Alot of people have said 'Of all the places for Maddy's farewell gig why Tewkesbury?' and 'It's a bit bad, no venues north of Coventry, what about all the fans who can't afford to travel!' Well, in some ways Maddy is to blame. When she rang up Adrian Hopkins to tell him she was leaving the band, the Autumn tour had already been arranged. However those of us who where lucky enough to make the trek to Tewkesbury where rewarded by a wonderful setting and an excellent concert to end a good tour. Tewkesbury is a very pretty town/village in the heart of Gloucestershire and has a really superb Abbey dating back several hundred years, it is well worth a visit just to see the Abbey.
Due to the size of the venue (350 seats) they put on two shows, 5pm and 8pm. I was too late to book for both so I along with fellow subscribers Betty Glover and Peter Clark had to make do with the front row at the 8pm performance! (Chas was there, but I am not sure where he was sitting).
Having already done an early show the band were well warmed up and raring to go for the last performance. The Roses Theatre is a fairly modern venue and the acoustics are superb, also the sound engineer Clive, has done an excellent job at getting the mix right throughout the whole tour, but for the last night he excelled himself. Anyone worried about Maddy being drowned out by Gay need not have feared. If anything it was the other way round, even in 'Old Maid' where Gay always lets rip, Maddy's harmony came over loud and clear.
The set list was the same as the rest of the tour with two notable exceptions:
I can now die a happy man! Way back at the beginning of the tour I asked Maddy if she would do 'The Weaver and the Factory Maid', as it is my all time favourite. She said she might save it for the last night, which is just what she did. It was magic........ Now it has been said that my reviews tend to be a bit like 'looking through rose coloured glasses' in that I never really find fault with the performance, well there is some truth in that I suppose! (I am a loyal fan!) But, it has to be said that Maddy did struggle a bit in 'The Weaver and the Factory Maid' it was just a 'tad' to high for her 'new' voice. But it was still magic!! Especially when you consider they didn't rehearse it, and she only decided to do it ten minutes before coming on stage. Also it was only the top most notes that she fluffed, other than that it was wonderful, awe - inspiring, as good as it always is! Even if after the show Maddy herself told me it was 'crap'!!!! (But then Maddy is a perfectionist!!)
It was also good to hear 'My Johnny' one last time, that one was note perfect by the way, again the balance between the voices was good with Maddy coming through well in the mix. In 'Old Maid' at the point in song where Peter Knight plays the intro. to 'Here comes the bride' he decided to pluck it instead which came over really well. During the whole tour there have been lots of high points, in particular Bob Johnstons new guitar amp, a ‘Mesa Boogie’ which incredibly is only twenty watts output! Yet it cuts through the mix really well without sounding overblown. Also Gay and her bodhrán have been excellent, she has developed it really well particularly in ‘Ireland Love of My Heart’ where she does quite a long ‘percussion duet’ with Liam to end the song.
You could tell throughout the whole performance that Maddy was enjoying herself, I am not sure whether it was before 'Gaudete' but certainly late on that Peter Knight publicly announced what a pleasure it had been working with Maddy all these years. During the jigs after ‘Hat’, whilst Maddy and Gay were doing their brief dancing in time routine before Maddy went ‘racing down the isles’, Adrian Hopkins and most of Rock Salt and Nails danced across the back of stage whilst linking arms, this caused much laughter from the crowd especially when one of them (I think it was Paul Johnston) tipped a great wadge of confetti over Liam’s head! Liam being a ‘pro’ carried on as if nothing had happened even when Adrian started messing about with his drum kit bashing everything in sight!! Then at the end of the show whilst we all stood clapping wildly in the hope that they would do one last song, Adrian Hopkins came back on stage with little 'Connor' (Rock Salt and Nails front man Paul Johnston's five year old son) and presented Maddy with a portrait of her that he had had painted and framed, he told her that when she out on the road on her musical pursuits her family would be able to look at it and remember what she looked like! The band then went off and Adrian told the only two jokes he knows which soon cleared the house!
After the show Betty Pete and I presented Maddy with a joke 'certificate of qualification' that we thought up between us. It reads as follows:- (I wont try and format it I shall leave that to Eduardo!)
Certificate of Qualification.This is to certify that Maddy Prior has completed a twenty eight year apprenticeship on the bus and is now a fully qualified 'Clippee' (bus conductor). The bus which belongs to the St. Eeleye bus company in the Elfland village of Span, has stopped at many stages during its long journey including:
Hark the Village Wait: Well it was maddy's first bus and it was only ten minutes late!
Please to see the King: The King of Elfland was most impressed with Maddy's Bus.
Ten Man Mop: The pubs where chucking out, the punters where chucking up but Maddy cleaned it all up in no time!
Below the Salt: Salt is a great stain remover and Maddy kept her bus spotless.
Parcel of Rogues: Maddy is qualified in self defence and can handle anyone.
Now We Are Six: Despite many staff changes Maddy took them all in her stride!
Commoners Crown: Prince or Pauper Maddy treated everyone the same.
All Around My Hat: And back again! Probably her biggest achievement.
Rocket Cottage: Maddy even trained as an astronaut!
Storm Force Ten: The work is hard, the weather gets rough but Maddy is a fighter.
Live at Last: Her own ticket machine at last!
Sails of Silver: Maddy's bus was like a streak of silver lightning through the streets of Elfland!
Back in Line: The bus only got lost once, but Maddy soon had it back on track.
Tempted and Tried: She was tempted and tried and found innocent on all counts.
Tonight's the Night - Live. Maddy's chance to go solo. Did she pass? With flying colours!
Time: After twenty eight years on the bus Maddy prior has served her time and is now qualified to conduct on any bus she chooses!!
Imagine it formated on a sheet of A4 paper in a nice frame! It was done for a laugh and it went down well with Maddy! So all in all it was a great night, and yes a slightly sad night and a late night, but well worth the six or so trains to get there and back and the overnight stay! I am now looking forward to the end of November, Maddy and the Carnival band.
The legend lives on!!!!