As one of the founding bands of the British folk-rock movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Steeleye Span has long been recognized as musical pioneers. Mixing traditional folk music with electric instruments might not seem all that unusual today, but when the band’s first album, Hark! the Village Wait, came out in 1970, it was nearly unheard of. The band has gone through numerous line-up changes over the years – husband and wife duo Gay and Terry Woods left after that first album (performing as a duo for several years; after that, Terry was a founding member of Irish folk-rockers The Pogues, and Gay returned to the Steeleye fold briefly for a pair of albums in the late 90s), then after their third album, Ten Man Mop, Ashley Hutchings left to form another seminal folk-rock band, Fairport Convention.
In fact, the band that came to The Birchmere on Tuesday night has not (yet) recorded an album together, with only singer Maddy Prior continuing to represent the original group and drummer (and sometimes guitarist) Liam Genockey, who originally joined the band in 1986 rounding up the old guard. New members Julian Littman (guitar and vocals) and Jessie-May Smart (violin) have managed to integrate themselves into the band’s sound, though, and last-minute fill-in bassist Nils Petersen handled the pressure of having to play a whole concert of songs he’d just learned with ease (Prior’s son Alex Kemp, who was supposed to be with the band on bass for this tour, had visa issues and was unable to join them for their US shows).