Review: Steve Edwards @ Library Theatre

Words: Nick Harland 

Steve Edwards is Sheffield royalty. Since roughly around the time of the Big Bang, he has been churning out relentlessly upbeat tunes in various projects, side projects and side side projects. He has been a producer, songwriter, singer, backup vocalist, guitarist and everything in between. He has been twice Grammy-nominated, written number one hits and performed all over the world.

Yet there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of him. 

Maybe it’s because he has so often been the guy behind the guy (behind the guy) – often a songwriter or producer, not as often a frontman in his own right. But tonight is different. Steve has worn many hats over the course of his colourful career, but this gig is simple enough: An Evening With Steve Edwards.

For tonight is a celebration. Five years ago, Steve was diagnosed with cancer. And for a short while, he admits he thought he might never have another chance to play his songs live again. So this is indeed a celebration; a special one-off gig to raise money for Weston Park Cancer Charity, as well as a chance to raise a glass to the superhuman staff at the Northern General and Cavendish Cancer Care.

It’s at the Library Theatre – WHERE? – yes, the Library Theatre, which is a 200-capacity all-seater venue tucked inside a secret corridor behind, well, the library. It’s certainly one of the lesser-known venues in Sheffield, but it feels like a good metaphor for Steve’s still-underground status in the city.

On stage tonight, he almost breaks down as he recounts the moment he first heard his cancer diagnosis. It’s the first time there’s anything other than a huge grin on his face all evening. It’s a struggle for him to recall that moment, but it’s evidently not a struggle for him to be on stage. Backed by his 7-piece Momentum of Love backing band, at times the set seemingly survives solely on that relentless feeling of love and positivity that Steve has preached for so long. 

“For tonight is a celebration.” Photo: Mal Whichelow

As the set progresses you’re reminded once more of the diversity of his work: there’s funk, there’s soul, there’s gospel, there’s pop, there’s pretty much everything here. ‘Northern Black’ – a proud proclamation of his dual heritage – soars on a tidal wave of Sheffield and Black pride, whilst ‘World, Hold On’ – ahem – Grammy-nominated ‘World, Hold On’ draws a huge singalong from the now-standing crowd.

Steve’s back catalogue is as diverse as they come, but if there’s one theme that connects all of his songs together, it’s that very Sheffield of declarations: love. It seems to imbue everything he does and every song he writes. And just like Sheffield itself, Steve has had knockbacks, been underestimated, even underappreciated, but simply gets up, dusts himself down again and calls you love.

Say it again: Steve Edwards is Sheffield royalty.

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