Martin Stephenson and Jim Hornsby, Lantern Theatre, Nether Edge, Sheffield
Martin Stephenson was born for nights like this.
A quaint, little theatre holding just 85 people, not a spare seat in the house and a lovely, intimate atmosphere where his home-spun tunes and mischievous wit work best.
Stephenson is the folksmith who achieved a degree of fame with The Daintees in the 1980s, decided he didn’t care much for the bright lights and has done his own thing ever since.
The music is never less than charming; at its best, riveting.
Yet it’s a strange irony that some of the best songs of the last 30 years become almost incidental to the sense of fun and whimsy of a natural entertainer.
Take away his guitar and he could be a stand-up comic. This is more ‘An Audience With ...’ than a mere gig.
He loves the crowd, the crowd love him and what you end up with is two and a half hours of laughs, yarns, ad-libs and song after lovely song. Some joyous, some sad, all compelling.
His sidekick is Jim Hornsby, a player of deserved repute whose slick lead lines perfectly complement Stephenson’s rhythm work and deft finger-picking.
He’s a stern man is Jim. He makes you work hard for one of his smiles but the reward is worth it when it finally emerges. Stephenson, who doesn’t make anyone work at all for one of his cheeky grins, makes Hornsby a target for his humour, but the pair obviously adore each other.
Outside, the evening temperature is still close to 70F. This is a warm, warm night in every sense.
Stephenson, a deep and clever thinker, has no problem with fame but has big issues with the effect it can have on those who achieve it.
That’s why Bill Wyman is acceptable, because he was honest, direct and happy to share a cup of tea backstage at Glastonbury with Stephenson.
That’s why Bryan Ferry – who, like Stephenson is from the working-class town of Washington in the north-east – isn’t, with his love of hunting and wearing tweed.
Don’t get him started on Alan Sugar ...
There is no arrogance about Martin Stephenson. He will have noticed Jim Hornsby shares the billing in the header at the start of this review.
And that will please him.