Gig review: Steve Tilston and Friends – St George’s

Friday 24th September 2010

It was a double celebration for one of our finest singer-songwriters.

Steve Tilston was marking his 40th anniversary as a professional singer and songwriter as well as the publication of his first novel, All For Poor Jack.

And where more appropriate to hold this than in the city where he began building his reputation and which provides the background for the characters in the book.

To help him celebrate this milestone year he’d brought along members of his musical family and a bunch of musical friends to share the stage with him.

Introduced by Keith Warmington, Tilston opened with a solo performance ofRocky Road before taking us back to 1975 for The Light Tonight.

For song three, his thoughtful time-passing song The Road When I Was Young,Tilston was joined by noted accordionist Chris Parkinson and double bass player Hugh Bradley.

And then it was back to just him and Keith Warmington on harmonica for Dust From My Heels from his days as a member of the folk band Waz!.

That was pretty much the way the rest of the gig panned out, with various guests popping up to accompany him, play in his band, sing one of his songs or perhaps get the chance to sing one of their own.

His youngest daughter Molly and son Joseph both got to do their own songs, Wizz Jones dropped in to join him on his rewrite of Blind Boy Fuller’s Weeping Willow Blues and solo on his own Do What You Please.

While former partner Maggie Boyle sang Tilston’s Reaching Out as well as accompanying him on flute on the very dancey Willow Creek that closed the first half.

In the second half he was also joined by the exceptionally talented American guitarist Brooks Williams.

A real standout was the lovely After The Summer Rain, which illustrated just how good Steve Tilston is at a painting vivid images in words.

His normally relaxed rich voice was put to the test on the fearsomely difficultNaked Highwayman which like so many of his songs sounded almost as if it had come from the English folk tradition.

Madame Muse, another standout, was about a period of writer’s block, though it is difficult to imagine that such a prolific artist ever experienced such a time.

Daughter Martha Tilston had charged down from doing a gig in Cheltenham to join her dad in the second half with a version of I Really Want You from his very first album and then he and Maggie Boyle accompanied her on her own well-known song Artificial.

The show came to an end with his musical friends and family, including a first appearance by third daughter Sophie, joining Steve Tilston on stage for a great version of Slips Jigs And Reels.

Predictably an encore was loudly demanded and he returned with his wife Margaret who took the lead for a singalong version of Guantanamera before Steve Tilston ended the gig as he began it, just him and his guitar, singing the brand new, rather moving The Reckoning.

It was all refreshingly relaxed but it was also a little bit random, a tad under-rehearsed and inevitably the accompaniments lacked the tightness you’d get from a proper  touring band.

But you can’t imagine that any of the legion of Steve Tilston fans who turned out to help him make this celebration such an enjoyable occasion cared one single jot.

Keith Clark