Little more than a month ago came the unexpected and sad announcement that financial considerations (aka audience reluctance, with numbers one third down) had precluded this autumn tour from being the all-singing, all-dancing newish look Show of Hands four-piece line-up.

Thus no Miranda Sykes on bass and vocals, nor Cormac Byrne banging things – instead, it was the core of SoH, Steve Knightley and Phil Beer left to their own devices to prevent fiscal catastrophe.

That in itself is no bad thing since the deadly duo have been treading the boards for 30 years, have released umpteen albums and sort of know the ropes by now.

Hopefully, if and when the world settles down, the foursome may hit the road again, adding a different dynamic to well-loved songs, as evidenced by the stunning Now We Are Four live album.

Back to the now – named after lockdown single, summer anthem The Best One Yet, this 22-date tour has two sets, firstly featuring signature tracks from a long and winding career – as will be featured on imminent album Singled Out – followed by rarities and classic SoH songs.

The set was interesting, made up like a front room complete with dresser, hat stand, umbrella rack, standard lamp, drinks cabinet and two stools – and like an Agatha Christie play opined Knightley (or Phil’s front room) – for no apparent reason.

SoH entered from side doors, unmiced singing Keep Hauling, clambered on to the stage and launched into Roots. Good start.

Knightley explained that the first half would be a series of singles the band had put out over the years. Although not know as a singles band, SoH did have a go at mainstream stardom and have released a fair number of 45s (sorry kids), few, if any troubling the charts or playlists.

That they are all gathered on the new album is entirely coincidental. The rarely heard Crazy Boy is a highlight of an interesting first half featuring the likes of Columbus (Didn’t Find America), The Gamekeeper, Aunt Maria, Company Town and Arrogance, Ignorance and Greed.

All is punctuated by witty repartee between the protagonists, stories behind the songs and even some jokes regular SoH fans had not heard before.

Refreshed, in Knightley’s case, by herbal tea, as evidenced by his interval facebook posting from backstage, the Devon duo reappeared for a stimulating and different second set staged in mini themes – the nautical, the Irish, the Cajun and, ultimately, back catalogue classics.

Lost was followed by Cold Frontier, which gave way to Roaring Water Bay, then to Ralph McTell’s The Setting/Mary From Dungloe – which prompted a previously unheard, by these ears anyway, story of when SoH were touring with McTell in the early ‘90s and arrived in Bournemouth – where at the same venue Take That were also appearing, on the main stage.

Girls mobbing the entrance were decidedly unimpressed when Knightley and Beer emerged from the tour bus, but the screaming picked up when McTell appeared – a hero to young people from his kids’ TV show – and seemingly as worth of adoration as Robbie Williams and co..

Knightley then hilariously attempted to play his guitar without plugging it in before SoH ran through You’ll Get By, Are We All Right and Best One Yet (including snatches of Drift Away, Here Comes The Sun and I Can See Clearly Now) before the inevitable last number, the singalong Cousin Jack.

It was good to have the boys back – it’s been a long time. Catch ‘em in Bridport of November 17 if you missed this.