Show of Hands are on the road this autumn for their Now We Are Four tour, with dates including Portsmouth’s New Theatre Royal on Wednesday, November 20 at 7.30pm.
Steve Knightley and Phil Beer, the Show of Hands core, team up with their long-term special guest Miranda Sykes – with bodhrán player and percussionist Cormac Byrne coming in to make up the foursome.
“I’ve known the guys for a long time,” says Cormac.
“I did a record with them in 2012 called Wake The Union, and we tried to make a tour happen back then, but it just didn’t work out with the schedule. I was really busy touring with Seth Lakeman at the time.
“But I was talking to Steve and it just got to the point where I said ‘Let’s make this happen’, and it just seemed the right time. I toured with them last year before we did the new record. That was supposed to be myself and Miranda and Phil and Steve, but then we learnt about Miranda being pregnant and not being able to do the tour, and it was just the three of us last autumn, the three of us without Miranda… though we did a secret show where she came and joined us.
“But it is really nice now to be doing the new tour with the four of us. But it was good to be touring as a three-piece because it gives you a bit of space.
“It was a big difference to be touring without the bass and Miranda’s vocal and bringing in percussion. We had a blank canvas, and the guys were great.
“Unlike some artists who are very, very set, Show of Hands are really collaborative. They are very laid back.
“It was just like ‘Bring to it what you feel.’
“I was asking them to send me versions of their classic tracks, but they were saying that they wanted to do something new. It took the pressure off.
“I was coming into an established act and didn’t want to ruffle feathers, but actually I was quite shocked with the enormity of Show of Hands.
“I was blown away by the audience singing the songs so loud back, Cousin Jack particularly. I could not hear the band the audience were so loud. I was just surprised how incredibly popular the band are.”
Now they are touring on the back of the new album, Battlefield Dance Floor: “It was all four of us, a proper four-piece album, and it has been very well received. There are some new songs and some non-original songs. There is a Leonard Cohen song on there.
“But the album has a different feel.
“It takes on a very band perspective to the sound. It is a much bigger sound, and it goes into… well, I hesitate to say popular… but I want to say popular with all the positive connotations of the word. It has got a really great sound.
“The album is grounded in the classic sound of Steve and Phil, a collection of songs, some new, some not new that we were working up on tour last year.
“It just kind of extends the journey.”
As for the future: “Well, Show of Hands are Steve and Phil with Miranda as a special guest – a kind of permanent special guest… so who knows? But I still tour as a duo and I have got a new duo record.
“In fact, we toured with Show of Hands. We supported Show of Hands on some dates around the UK.
“But I am certainly very enthused by what we have done musically.”