A gig in an 800 year old church is not quite like your usual rock venue. Being an Anglican church, there’s still a bar, but it doesn’t sell any beer, only wine. And the acoustics are always wonderful, because medieval architects knew what they were doing. Peter Knight’s Gigspanner came to All Saints’ in Wokingham on a cold Friday night, and pulled more than double the crowd that had attended their gig in Reading back in November.
Though billed as a folk act, Gigspanner cannot be contained within narrow genre pigeonholes. The opening number was a case in point, beginning as an evocative classical-style violin solo which slowly morphed into a folk jig. The dark “Death and the Lady” took on a rock feel with Peter Knight on electric violin and some Dire Straits style guitar flourishes. The instrumental encore even had touches of jazz with everyone doing a solo.
The set drew heavily from their most recent album “Layers of Ages”. “Mad Tom of Bedlam” was an early highlight, as was “Bows of London”, the latter telling the tale of a drowned girl made into a violin exemplifying just how dark some traditional folk ballads can be.
It’s really Peter Knight’s show; his evocative and lyrical playing makes him to the violin what Steve Rothery is to the guitar, and he sings lead on the vocal numbers. Though guitarist Roger Flack and percussionist Vincent Salzfaas hahaved their time in the spotlight, including a Frampton Comes Alive moment with talk box guitar on “Mad Tom of Bedlam”, they both play more more of a supporting role. But what comes over strongly is the trio’s near telepathic understanding of each other on stage, such that often complex arrangements still retained an air of spontaneity.
Gigspanner are on tour for much of the next couple of months, though quite a few dates in small intimate venues have already sold out. If you get the chance to see them, go, even if you’re not a hard-core folk fan. They really are an excellent live band.