Steeleye in Torquay
Princess Theatre, 18th October 1997
didn't know quite what to expect from Steeleye last Saturday night, what with Maddy leaving and the wild conjecture over her alleged troubles with Gay Woods. My sister and I were decidedly nervous as we clapped our way through the energetic support act: Rock, Salt and Nails. Could we expect an emotional and disheartening farewell or an exultant finale? I think what we actually got was somehwere in between.
Alex (my sister) being 18 and playing to the genre perfectly had decided to linger at the bar in the interval... and joined us in the front row just as Steeleye began. However before she sat down, she turned to see the band and let out a loud gasp as she saw Gay Woods step forward. Taking her seat she nudged me and whispered 'WOW !' Not only had Gay been transformed from shy backing vocalist into a big haired, wildly dressed (red tights and lace trousers!) individual with bags of confidence, but she was standing in Maddy's spot! Yes there was no denying it. To the irregular concert goer this would have gone entirely unnoticed, but the nights standing arrangements spoke volumes to us. Gay was clearly presented as the new front-woman of Steeleye and Maddy was retiring support.
As the songs came thick and fast ('Prickly Bush'/'Harvest of The Moon') it became increasingly clear that Gay had found her own style (very dramatic and emotional) and that the future Steeleye was going to be markedly different. Maddy still performed marvellously, particularly with her solo 'When I Was On Horseback', her powerful singing of 'Thomas' and her theatrical dancing during 'Room For Company'. Nevertheless she occasionally looked intimidated by Gay's presence and they seldom made eye contact. Before Gay began 'Go From My Window', she commented that the lover of the piece must have been a bit thick as he was still there by the fifth verse. Her performance of this ballad was amazing. Bob Johnson's efforts on 'The Elf-Knight' were greatly applauded as was Liam Genockey's drum solo.
The Cutty Wren and Old Maid in the Garrett were particularly well received by the attentive audience and Gay clearly enjoyed the latter very much, putting in her all - in a very caustic voice. She proceeded to goad the audience by calling us 'awfully quiet', which led on to an extremely enjoyable and energetic set of encores - the first of which included 'Hat' with an impressive audience verse (at least Maddy thought so) and the traditional 'Tunes', during which Maddy and Gay danced together (which was something of a relief), followed by Maddy's usual foray into the audience. At the close of 'Tunes' there was a standing ovation which was incredible.
When the band returned for the final encore, they were clearly surprised that the whole audience were standing before them. The clapping continued for some time. An emotional Maddy reiterated the fact that she was leaving as shouts of 'We'll miss you Maddy' and 'We love you Maddy' rang about the audience. She then intimated that it was likely that she would return to Steeleye at some point and remarked that tomorrow was her last night with the band. 'Gaudete' finished off the concert in style (Gay knew the words).
The audience clearly felt as though ithey had been treated to a real event. I overheard from some new fans: 'Weren't those two women great !' as we left the theatre. Fate prompted Alex and I return to the theatre minutes later to see if we could lay our hands on a poster or two and we ran straight into Maddy, who we chatted to for a moment or two. She too had enjoyed the show very much, but was a trifle perturbed that her last night with Steeleye Span was to be played out in Tewkesbury of all places!