Gig Review: Show of Hands @ Salisbury Cathedral
by Danni Gillespie

Folk duo Show of Hands kicked off their cathedral’s tour in Salisbury cathedral with a spectacular show. The song choices were softer as opposed to “thrash-y” (as Show of Hands singer-songwriter Steve Knightley put it) numbers, which echoed beautifully throughout the cathedral entrancing the audience. These songs came to life with the stunning acoustics this building was built for.

Show of Hands formed in 1987. The duo consists of Knightley and Phil Beer; Knightley a folk singer-songwriter and Beer a man who seem to be able to play almost every and any instrument known to man. The pair have released over twenty albums including collaborations and live albums and even 3 retro cassettes! 


Knightley introduced the support act, Kirsty Merryn. Knightely told the audience about how he had taught Kristy and believed in her musical talents from early on in her career.

This introduction gave the audience a chance to see the personal history between both acts performing. Knightley joined Merryn to perform one of her songs and later invited Merryn onstage to sing one of their songs, demonstrating the musical fusion and appreciation.

One of the highlights of the night was Merryn’s cover of murder ballad ‘The Outlandish Knight’; her voice and intricate piano notes filled the cathedral with a haunting and serene start to the evening. She followed with a selection of songs from her debut album She & I, focusing on strong women of history. Noting that it would be a shame not to make the most of the incredible acoustics of the hall, she performed without piano accompaniments and her voice filled the cathedral, captivating the audience.  

The stage itself was lit with beautiful red, purple and white lighting, draped in a smoggy haze. Joined on stage by double-bassist Miranda Sykes, Show of Hands enchanted the audience with a beautiful folky selection of original songs and covers. Chris Hoban joined the trio on the accordion to play some of his original melodies with the group, the highlight being ‘Hallows Eve’.

Singers took it in turn to take the vocal lead; Sykes performed a haunting version of the ‘Lily and the Rose’ and Beer performed a chilling rendition ‘Crow on the Cradle’. Knightley’s original song ‘Home to a Million Thoughts’ was inspired by his favourite building (the Royal Albert Museum in Exeter) which resonated strongly with the walls of the old cathedral; it was almost as if the song had been written for this space. ‘Cold heart’ depicted small English country towns and the life that goes with it, which again spoke to the beautiful town of Salisbury they were performing in. Each part of the performance emphasised the phenomenal surroundings.

They saved the ‘The Flood’ till last – a beautiful song filled with various stories and the encore saw the four (Knightley, Beer, Sykes and Hoban) appear centre aisle lit by a single light and sing an acapella version of ‘Keep Hauling’. They sang and walked through the crowd, letting the soft and soulful music flow through the audience. They then reclaimed the stage for the lively (and rather thrash-y!) ‘Lay me Down’. Spectacular! A magical end to a magical evening.

Their song ‘Roots’, a song that wasn’t played on the night, states ‘the minister said his vison of hell is three pub singers in a pub near Wales’. This lyric couldn’t be further from the truth that quiet night in Salisbury.


She & I by Kirsty Merryn is available from the 9th of November.

Catch Show of Hands on the rest of their Cathedrals Tour here.



Image Credit: Hackney Empire.

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