ACOUSTIC STRAWBS UK TOUR
SEPTEMBER 2004
PART 2

Updated: 26 September 2004
Part 1 - First leg - 1 to 16 September


Contents
Riga Music Bar, Westcliff-on-Sea, 17 September 2004
  • Strawbs Play Southend : United Like Long-Lost Friends -Review from Lindsay Sorrell

  • Mid-term report - Comments from Dick Greener

  • Setlist

    Bob And Louise's Private Acoustic Strawbs Party, 18 September 2004
  • Where's The Fuse Box, Don't Worry - review by Nigel Bennett

  • Setlist

    Renfrew Ferry, Glasgow, 19 September 2004
  • More Polished Than Ever - Review from Bob Avery

  • Tearing In The Passion Of The Storm - review by David Preston

    Rattan & Rush, Kirkby Stephen, 20 September 2004
  • Banjo And Guitars Never Sounding Better Together - review and pix by Les Cotton

  • Both Daves At Their Brilliant Best, Chas Fitting In Seamlessly - review by Ian Stobbs

  • Happy Bunny - review by Alison Brown

  • Setlist from Ian Stobbs

    Regal Arts Centre, Worksop, 21 September 2004
  • Sheer Power - review by Ralph Tonge

  • Tonight Matthew, Chas Cronk Is Brian Willoughby (Or Deja-Vu : Wot No Beer?) - review by Paul Southby

  • Gob Smacked - comments from Alan Jameson

  • Setlist from Ralph Tonge

    The Swan, Leek, 22 September 2004
    Ashcroft Arts Centre, Fareham, 23 September 2004
  • The Soundman And The Papist - comments from Nigel Bennett

  • Setlist from Nigel Bennett

    Norden Farm Arts Centre, Maidenhead, 24 September 2004 and Central Studio, Basingstoke, 25 September 2004
  • Back On The Farm (Maidenhead)/The Promised Land (Basingstoke) - review by Dick Greener

  • Setlist for both

    Norden Farm Arts Centre, Maidenhead, 24 September 2004
    Central Studio, Basingstoke, 25 September 2004
  • Here Today, Gone Tomorrow - review by Neil Lamb

  • On A Nightlike This - further comment by Nigel Bennett


    Setlist - both Maidenhead and Basingstoke

    Benedictus
    Witchwood
    A Glimpse Of Heaven
    Shine On Silver Sun
    Cold Steel
    Grace Darling
    Autumn

    Simple Visions
    Oh How She Changed
    Tears And Pavan
    Ghosts
    Blue Angel
    If
    Lay Down

    The Flower And The Young Man

    NORDEN FARM ARTS CENTRE, MAIDENHEAD, 24 SEPTEMBER 2004 AND CENTRAL STUDIO, BASINGSTOKE, 25 SEPTEMBER 2004

    BACK ON THE FARM (MAIDENHEAD)/THE PROMISED LAND (BASINGSTOKE) - review by Dick Greener

    Two late nights on the trot with the Acoustic Strawbs to close out the September tour, travelling with Canadian friend Dwight Hodge who's over in Europe on business conveniently in time for a couple of acoustic gigs.

    The first, Norden Farm Arts Centre in Maidenhead, saw us getting a late start out after work, hitting loads of traffic on the A4 and getting to the venue just in time for the gig. Very pleasant arts centre type venue, nice bar, with what seemed to be a nice bistro next door (though we didn't have time to check). The auditorium would seem indeed to be part of the farm, the barn to be precise, refurbished beautifully with a two-row balcony added in around three sides. We were at the back of the balcony (row Z!), but there can't have been a bad view in the house. The Strawbs were set up at the front of the stage, quite far forward, so that there were some unused seats to either side and behind them on each side - gave me a feeling of them being "in the round" like the Globe Theatre, which coincidentally is where Dwight had been that day.

    Unfortunately, sound-wise, the whole show came over a bit subdued, not, I think because the band were playing down, but the sound balance only rarely seemed to deliver the sort of power and oomph which we know they are capable of. At the end of the first half, with the choral finale to "The Winter Long", there seemed to be sudden burst of energy from the speakers (which looked very small, even though these days that may not be conclusive evidence that they weren't man enough for the job); other than that the first half seemed very flat indeed. After an initial improvement on "Simple Visions" where we thought The second half lifted again at the end, but even Chas's bass being introduced towards the end wasn't enough to cut through and deliver any very significant punch.

    On the other hand, whilst the playing was quiet, it forced the audience to listen extremely attentively - at some moments you could hear a pin drop, and it as an opportunity to listen to the intricacies of the arrangements without the dynamics of the performance getting in the way. Particularly impressive were "Oh How She Changed" and "Simple Visions"; a big round of applause for "If", one of the quiet tracks which held the audience spellbound. And Cousins was in fine anecdotal form, with some of his stories getting even longer, and funnier as the night went on.

    A very different kettle of fish the following night at the Central Studios in Basingstoke - a superbly more powerful delivery across the board - probably the best gig of this tour.

    After a trip west from central London which unfortunately coincided with the Twickenham rugby ground car parks emptying onto the A316, nonetheless making reasonable time (despite - as usual - finding the venue being difficult; while I remember them I'm going write the perishing directions down and file 'em!) Aim was to meet up with a few friends (Lindsay, Neil, Nigel and Duncan) before the show in the pub over the roundabout (the Golden Lion in case we need to remember it next time). A beer and a bite in there (not bad pub food) and then over to the venue. Other faces present included Bob and Louise Richardson (recovered from Bob's 55th birthday party gig last weekend) and Roy Marechal.

    Again, DC in relaxed loquacious mood, but once or twice his tongue tripping him up amusingly, prompting Dave L to question banteringly whether his medication had been changed. Highlights for me in the first half - "Cold Steel" - a blistering performance by Lambert, with Cousins on banjo licks, and Chas adding that tinkly top end (mandolin on the album, 12-string on the night) and the phasey bass pedal sound which adds underlying menace (I love it!) And "Grace Darling", where the interplay of the guitars is perfect. "Autumn" drew massive applause at the end of the first act too.

    But the second half for me is where the joy resides. Opening with "Simple Visions", where I was struck again just how much sound those two guitars and one voice can deliver - Chas powers through the 12-string based riff, with Lambert alternating between beefing up the chords with power strumming or adding precisely-judged lead licks. One of those songs where he is constantly adjusting the volume on his guitar to meet the needs of the music. And Cousins in excellent voice, with flamboyant "hand signals" as ever. A splendid opener to set 2 which ensures it starts at a pace.

    And then straight into what, for me, is becoming the best song of the tour, "Oh How She Changed". [An aside - one of DC's tongue-tied moments led to him diverting proceedings for a very funny joke, which had the other two in tucks - Lambert grimacing whilst still laughing as he prepared to sing this highly emotional song, "thanks again Dave ..." ] Opening with Cousins' harmonics on the custom-tuned Gibson, Lambert's vocals on this have never been better, and he's made the instrumental side his very own too, with a lead break which is essentially Lambert, where previously in an electric environment Brian Willoughby's lead would have been heard. The previous night gave an opportunity to hear this quietly, tonight's performance was dynamic and full, a fantastic treatment of this song. Chas's pedals add the strings, exactly the right emphasis tonight, and a perfect counterpoint to the three guitars. And of course, the key strength of this line-up, the harmony vocals, is well to the fore on this cut - with the two Daves' almost plainsong duet vocals, with Chas adding a little extra vocal at strategic moments. This was always one of my favourites of the electric band's repertoire (it rocked!) and I thought it would be difficult to do acoustically at all (but I've been wrong about that before!). In any event, I'm close to admitting that they have matched the power of the electric version with this arrangement - absolutely unmissable.

    "Tears And Pavan" is I think a simpler arrangement than the previous acoustic incarnation, with Dave Cousins picking up the lead figure he played on album, Lambert pretty much note perfect as ever and Chas taking a slight back-seat for "Tears". On "Pavan" though, his 12-string duet with Lambert is sure and confident. And, he now takes the harpsichord part, previously handled by Willoughby, with ease - as a veteran of three weeks touring with the Acoustics. [In the bar later, Cousins quipped to Chas's son "if you think he looks tired know, you see what he looks like after 6 weeks in the States - we'll pour him off the plane!" Actually, I have to say that Chas looked fresh as a daisy at that point, so I think there are no worries there.]

    "Blue Angel" - Lindsay's view, whispered afterwards: "it doesn't get much better than that" - was fantastic, especially that moment where as they kick into the third, uplifting section of the suite, Chas switches to bass with a lovely fluid run, which came over loud and clear on the Basingstoke speakers. The harmony vocals at the close are a heavenly choir, lifting the song into the clouds, towards Cousins' slowdown finish. Much applause throughout the house.

    The bass continues to be a central feature of the lovely "If", leading into "Lay Down" with its accapella intro chorus, and high-energy vocals, guitars and, again, bass throughout (with just one bum note, oops I saw you grin, Chas!), infusing this crowd-pleaser with much more power than when performed at Isleworth with Chas on 12-string.. If I have one further wish for this line-up, it's probably to see more numbers added to the set where Chas plays bass - not that I've anything against the twelve string, lovely instrument, but to hear those basslines against the two guitars, vocals and bass pedals in an acoustic environment seems to me to add that perfect balance for this incarnation of the band.

    Stomping applause from the audience led to the band's return to the stage. I'm thoroughly delighted that "The Flower And The Young Man" has stayed the course as the encore for the tour. Others may disagree, but I think, though an unusual choice, it was a good one - a breath of fresh air, and that stark accapella ending works well to bring everything to a definitive close. Special mention from DC at the close for the great job Chas had done on the tour, which I think all those who've seen the band would echo.

    Basingstoke, in my view, has become one of the BEST places to see the Acoustic Strawbs. Nice venue, near-PERFECT sound, friendly staff and, best of all - a bar which stays open for a good long chat afterwards, and serves decent coffee for those of us with a long drive home and no minders to drive us! The band felt so too, with Dave C taking pains to congratulate the young staff on the excellent sound both on and off stage (I had donethe same), and following his usual onstage promise to return within another 25 years, making clear that meant next year in Basingstoke's case, that meant "see you next year".

    It was easy to while the time away in the bar afterwards, chatting to everyone. Nigel and Duncan Bennett and Louise and Bob said their farewells to set off home - but were still chatting to each other in the moonlit car park about half and hour or maybe three-quarters later. We stood with them for 20 more minutes or so, but they were still there when we left at 11.45 to head back to East London, returning home by 1.30, at which time I confidently expect they were there still !!!


    CENTRAL STUDIO, BASINGSTOKE, 25 SEPTEMBER 2004

    HERE TODAY, GONE TOMORROW - review by Neil Lamb

    Here in Basingstoke for the last time for a while in the UK, but off tomorrow (well in 3 days), to weave their magic to our transatlantic cousins. A treat, as usual, awaits you all. There was also a large contingent of Witchwooders present to wish them 'bon voyage' (more on that I hope from Dick).

    The set was the same as previously reported on this UK tour and all delivered to the usual high expectations. I try to never take for granted, that this music, which means so much to me and others in such a devoted family of admirers is still being presented with such freshness and vitality. We are so very lucky that they are all so prepared to take on the rigours of touring, and performing live, when so many musical legends have gracefully or otherwise faded away. DC perhaps looking a bit tired, but still remaining relaxed and jovial on stage and still singing with the passion that some will never generate in the whole of their life-time, never mind in a two hour set.

    The 'studio' they were performing in was modern,small and intimate with excellent acoustics. There were comfortable padded seats on three sides and some tables up-front, and this gave it a relaxed feel. The sound was not quite up to the standards of the first night at Hampton (IMO) - but that was quite exceptional with perhaps a mixer more familiar with the Acoustic Strawbs ? The sound guys did well though here and listened carefully to adjust levels throughout - although the banjo lead in "Cold Steel" did seem to elude them for quite a while. Chas now seems fully integrated and really enjoying himself immensely. To my mind his foot pedal playing remains an area for further fine-tuning although it is more 'hit' now, than 'miss' compared to their first outing. It remarkably enhances 'Oh How She Changed' - arguably the stand-out track in the second-half - but its bassy use in 'Cold Steel' didn't go down well for me.

    Trying to pick out favourites I find completely impossible.........."Grace Darling" was introduced and sang and performed with all the emotion as if for the first time........"Autumn" remains breathtakingly exquiste and beautiful........even the over-familar (?) "Lay Down" was performed with panache and power. It's just a long list of superlatives.

    While they're here today it's a must to go and see them, you'll always regret it if they're gone tomorrow.

    ON A NIGHTLIKE THIS - further comment by Nigel Bennett

    Driving back my mind was thinking about what I might include in a review that was offbeat and usual and there was one moment during "If" that I felt was so different, it just needed capturing. It goes something like this.

    DC is renowned for the emotional delivery of his songs and during "If" it certainly touched the right nerve with two couples sat directly in front of me. At the end of the first verse almost simultaneously each gent extended their arm around their partners. As the song progressed so did heads on shoulders, it really was that kind of night.


    Setlist

    Witchwood
    A Glimpse Of Heaven
    Shine On Silver Sun
    Cold Steel
    Grace Darling
    Autumn

    Simple Visions
    Oh How She Changed
    Tears And Pavan
    Ghosts
    Blue Angel
    If
    Lay Down

    The Hangman And The Papist

    ASHCROFT ARTS CENTRE, FAREHAM, 23 SEPTEMBER 2004

    THE SOUNDMAN AND THE PAPIST - comments and setlist from Nigel Bennett

    Now if I have said enough already about this tour then I thought I would give a review of Fareham a miss.

    Sitting expectantly in the audience, before the gig, I had a really good feeling that the night would go well. Little did I appreciate the crisis that had occurred earlier in the afternoon when the art centre sound man reported sick, leaving the band and Neil to resolve issues.

    Somehow, the audience appeared ready for a performance and by Jove they got it. This tour seems to get better at every turn, Chas's influence on the set seems to get stronger with every gig. Tonight I am sure more pedals.

    Lovely little place virtually full to capacity with an enthusiastic audience. Despite the earlier problem the performance sounded pretty good to me.

    The lack of a sound man mean't a temporary cull for "Benedictus", but the inclusion of "The Hangman And The Papist", with Chas on bass for the encore worked really well.

    The reception for the performance was very good and a triumph over adversity.


    Setlist from Ralph Tonge

    Benedictus
    Witchwood
    A Glimpse Of Heaven
    Shine On Silver Sun
    Cold Steel
    Grace Darling
    Autumn

    Simple Visions
    Oh How She Changed
    Tears And Pavan
    Ghosts
    Blue Angel
    If
    Lay Down

    The Flower And The Young Man

    REGAL ARTS CENTRE, WORKSOP, 21 SEPTEMBER 2004

    SHEER POWER - review by Ralph Tonge

    Had a fabulous night at Worksop last night. I was really really impressed with Acoustic Strawbs - this is the first time I've seen the Acoustics and although I can understand that a musician of Brian's calibre is missed, I also think that perhaps Chas is a great addition because he's not a lead man - he can let DC and DL shine. DL is a fabulous guitarist and I think with both him and BW in the band that really that maybe more than enough lead, and that Chas providing the bass/12 string and bass pedals is just what was needed, not that anything was wrong in the first place!! (If anyone understands what I've just written I'll be impressed as I have droned on a bit. ) I can't see what could improve on the performance last night. The song that really did it for me was "Shine On Silver Sun" - I was literally moved to tears, the song has taken on a whole new tone and spirit in this arrangement - I'd never really appreciated its pastel qualities so much as the band arrangement on Hero And Heroine rocks it up perhaps a touch too much. Something about "Shine On Silver Sun" really got to me deep inside - the hard times I've been through recently were just taken away and I was reminded of the beautiful world we live in, where despite constant misery from things like jobs and negative individuals there can be so much joy.

    DC fumbled the dulcimer solo in "Benedictus" and admitted to an attack of "Johnny Fumble-fingers" due to being stuck in traffic for most of the day! The three way harmonies sound so warm and just the perfect blend of voices. "Cold Steel" really rocked - Lambert puts everything into his performance and DC's banjo really drove the song on.

    Chas is such a strong musician but I have to agree with Al that he needs to come forward a bit more - I think his twelve string was mixed too low and also his vocals. The pedals could even have been a little louder, as they were all played with such subtlety this wouldn't hurt. Chas's 12 string technique was great - playing some unusual chords which really showed off the 12 string sound. Mind you I think Chas must have made some unholy pact as he is the only person I have ever seen play a 12 string and not have to retune it after every blooming song. A 12 string from heaven surely? DC and DL had occasional tunings to do - DC's new Gretsch looked and sounded great but he did have to tune up after every song which seemed unexpected - maybe the heat on stage didn't help?

    The sound in the venue was not the best, I think due to its design as a cinema rather than a music venue, but really it would be churlish to complain as I could hear every beautiful word clearly and crisply which hasn't always been the case.

    "Autumn" was another song which shook me in its strength and power - that three acoustic musicians could make this sound is just incredible - the intro was just amazing with Chas and DL really using some amazing chords and dynamics to heighten the emotion of the music. DL's seagull noises are as good as ever. DL's guitar playing was phenomenal - the way he repeated electric solos perfectly from Autumn in particular was superb. His singing was also great, he has such a passionate voice and can reach the high notes still.

    DC was on great form, particularly with inter song chat, and sang fantastically well particularly on the quieter numbers.

    "Ghosts" was another highlight (yes, they were all highlights!) - Chas playing the "bell" bit on 12 string with admirable dexterity (Brian would be proud!). The dynamics on this track were just the best, ranging from thrashing power chords to gentle picking. This vocally was the best, with DC using his gentle voice for the intro and DL giving his all on the middle section. DL's solos were knockout in this track too.

    "Blue Angel" was just mesmerising and an interesting story from DC as to the moment he wrote it (after visiting a nightclub!). Anyone who hasn't heard this before will be knocked out by the sheer power of both the songwriting and the performance.

    Yes, I suppose I'm over exuberant but I truly was knocked out. I can't think of another band who could transfer their material so well to an acoustic lineup - the songs are so strong. I won't go into details of every track, safe to say they were all great. I'd give ten out of ten on all counts - a wonderful night.

    I'll try to calm down now!!

    TONIGHT MATTHEW, CHAS CRONK IS BRIAN WILLOUGHBY (OR DEJA-VU : WOT NO BEER?) - review by Paul Southby

    Unless I'm very much mistaken, I put pen to paper last time the acoustic band played this venue to praise a fine performance, but gently grumble about a poorly stocked bar. If memory serves, the draft beer ran out one pint into the interval (i.e. one pint for the audience as a whole, not just me). Well what do you know: it happened again! Last night the bitter ran out during the interval, and the lager one pint into the after show drink. Oh dear oh dear ... lovely people, lousy stocking up!

    Anyway, here's the answer. Given that (and I quote) "To be honest, we weren't sure how busy we'd be last weekend, and we only take a delivery on a Thursday", only book into Worksop on a Thursday or Friday in future. At any other time of the week, it is The Land Of Thirst. (Or you could come to Nottingham ...).

    Gentle whinges aside, it was a great night with some truly stirring performances. For me, "Shine On Silver Sun", "Autumn", "Cold Steel", and "If" all stood out, and it was just great to hear "Blue Angel" for the first time since the 1979 Dave and Brian university tour.

    At half time I was able to settle an argument between some other members of the audience:

    "It's the same bloke I tell you, him on the left"

    "No, no, there's something different about him, but I can't put my finger on it"

    "Look! I'm telling you, it's the same man"

    Chas -v- Brian - I had to agree that the resemblance was uncanny: one sang, the other never did; one played foot pedals, the other didn't; one wore spectacles, the other didn't; one played a 12 string, the other always a 6; they don't actually look alike at all! Confusing I know. In the end, and strictly on balance, the dispute was resolved in Chas' favour, but I have to say it was a close call.

    Speaking of Chas, can I say three things: What a nice bloke - as ready as the others to chat, and a real pleasure to talk to.

    My friends at work thought I'd developed a stammer when I told them I was going to see Chas 'n' Dave 'n' Dave. I shall stick to The Strawbs in future.

    His arrival in the acoustic line up has led to a return to what I would call a more authentic Strawbs sound. Less intricate in places to be sure, but in this fan's view all the better for it. The 12 string was lovely (if a little low in the mix at times), and when the bass came out it just added some nice depth to the proceedings. The previous acoustic line up was really good, but this is better, more Strawbsey. And it seems like a good moment to slip some of the later Chas-era stuff in: "Midnight Sun"? Learn those words again Mr C!

    A final word for Dave Lambert. I think the new acoustic line up provides a more sympathetic focus for his brilliant playing, and I enjoyed it all the more for that. So nice to hear some of his stories from the US electric tour. Here's my vote for a Hero And Heroine/Ghosts band tour here in the UK some time soon.

    GOB SMACKED - comments from Alan Jameson

    Just got back from the Worksop concert and all I can say is WOW "Blue Angel". Brilliant. It is the first time that I personally have heard the band and DC perform this song on stage. I was just "Gob Smacked" as we say in our country of Yorkshire. (did I say country, sorry I mean country). It was just sheer ecstasy!

    Now Chas Cronk......MMMMMMMMMmmm Chas, I think at the moment you are not being bold enough. You are good enough, and that goes without saying, but is it because you feel slightly undermined within the band or what? Let yourself go mate! The first half I came away thinking 'I'm not sure about Chas. Is this going to work?' I felt that you could have been more involved, much louder and assertive with your side of the 'business, if you know what I mean?

    The second half was brilliant. Everything seemed to gel and I relaxed more. All in all, my first visit to Worksop. The venue is a little cinema/theatre. The sound wasn't brilliant but "Blue Angel" made up for that! My friends you are in for a treat, believe me I'm a .......


    Setlist from Ian Stobbs

    Benedictus
    Witchwood
    A Glimpse Of Heaven
    Shine On Silver Sun
    Cold Steel
    Grace Darling
    Autumn
    Simple Visions
    Oh How She Changed
    Ghosts
    Tears And Pavan
    Blue Angel
    If
    Lay Down

    The Flower And The Young Man

    RATTAN & RUSH, KIRKBY STEPHEN, 20 SEPTEMBER 2004

    BANJO AND GUITARS NEVER SOUNDING BETTER TOGETHER - review and pix by Les Cotton

    The tiny Rattan and Rush Acoustic Tearooms were packed (capacity 40..!!) for our first viewing of the Chas and Two Daves/Acoustic Strawbs 2. We arrived on time, the support act was already part way thru his set. The lads must have been delayed, as they asked for more preparation time. They took the stage about 10 minutes later, and straight in to "Hymn No 173" , or "Benedictus" as we know it....note perfect, and a nice clear PA sound. Chas was very much involved, but very subtle, providing 12 string backing, backing vocals, and Synth strings via his Roland footpedals. I particularly noticed how full DC's new Red Gretsch guitar sounded, fab, it sits beautifully in the mix with Dave L's newer Washburn, both have a lot more depth of sound than the older Gibson/Washburns they used previously. Neil was busy guitar swapping throughout, DC having his old Gibson ready and pre-tuned to an alternate tuning, Chas changing between 12, 6 string and Acoustic Bass.

    Truly outstanding for me was the reborn classic "Blue Angel", a staggering performance. DC was on fine vocal form, Dave L provided a great rocked-up and bluesy acoustic lead throughout, and of course Chas with jangly 12 string and pedals, with Chas and Dave L providing lovely backing vocals, subtle "aaahs" rather than full vocal, brilliant. The other knockout track was "Cold Steel", an acoustic tour-de-force, banjo and guitars never sounding better together.

    Notable by its absence was "The River/DBTS" combo, but to be honest, the set was good enough without it. "Autumn" and the other classics sounded great too, with the end pairing of the accapella-introed "Lay Down" and Lambert-led "The Flower And The Young Man" bringing the gig to a close, dangerously close to closing time....just time to dive down the road to the Kings Arms for last orders.




    Note the "rock'n'roll mic !! - pic by Les Cotton

    BOTH DAVES AT THEIR BRILLIANT BEST, CHAS FITTING IN SEAMLESSLY - review by Ian Stobbs

    The Rattan and Rush Acoustic Tearoom is situated in the centre of Kirkby Stephen and is the ideal venue to see the Acoustic Strawbs. Being small and compact, it really was like watching the lads play in your own front room (so compact that all the instruments would not fit on stage and had to be handed out during each set) We arrived in plenty of time and found seats had been kept for us on the front table (thanks Alison). The evening started with an excellent folk singer Ian Bruce who certainly "warmed up" the audience for the main event.

    The both sets followed the usual set list but mention should be given to the five new songs on this tour. "Cold Steel" , brilliant live but the banjo riff slightly drowned out by the guitars, and "If" , sang with typical Dave Cousins sensitivity, he really looked to be enjoying singing this song. "Grace Darling" certainly lends itself to the acoustic treatment, lyrics blending with the sympathetic playing of the lads. I can't remember when I last heard "Oh How She Changed" but a welcome addition to the set .And finally "Blue Angel". What a classic, a real treat, Dave's composition and lyrics shining through.

    I must admit to be a little apprehensive on the journey over with the departure of Brian and possible change to the sound and feel of the band. This was totally unfounded because as the night progressed the sound of Chas's twelve string, bass, and foot pedals added an additional dimension to the sound. As usual both Daves were at their brilliant best and Chas fitting in seamlessly, played effortlessly, adding his stamp to the Acoustic Strawbs.

    HAPPY BUNNY review by - Alison Brown

    A relatively short, 60 mile, drive to Kirkby Stephen, I set off in brilliant sunshine to arrive in a downpour, so i headed straight into the venue, to find myself the first one there. The Rattan and Rush is a small tea-room, full of character with the walls lined with CDs and pictures of the artists who have performed there on the tiny stage. The place soon filled up and I'm still not sure how they got 70 people in!

    Ian Bruce provided excellent support and Scottish humour, then Dave, Dave and Chas squeezed themselves onto the stage and with no room for any of the other assorted instruments, Neil was kept busy swapping them over as required.

    The introduction of twelve-string, bass and pedals has given a greater depth and warmer feel to the sound and with three of the new songs being on my all-time favourites list, I was guaranteed to be a happy bunny. The performance of "Blue Angel" was just stunning, with Dave C giving it his all, a beautiful arrangement with lovely backing vocals by Chas and Dave L. "Simple Visions" sounded just as it should, with Chas belting it along on the twelve-string and it was fantastic to hear "Grace Darling" finally done acoustically. "Cold Steel" is a gem and the banjo/guitar combination make it totally infectious. I thought I'd miss "Out In The Cold/Round And Round" and "The River/Down By The Sea" but the new songs coming in more than compensated and I enjoyed "Tears And Pavan" much more than recent outings, though I still prefer the electric version. Great vocal harmonies on "Lay Down" and "The Flower And The Young Man'"to finish with.

    My last Acoustic Strawbs gig of the year and what a great note to end on. I'll be back for more in January - can't wait :o)


    Pic from Alison Brown
    For more Rattan & Rush pix from Alison, click
    here

    pic by Les Cotton


    RENFREW FERRY, GLASGOW, 19 SEPTEMBER 2004

    MORE POLISHED THAN EVER - Review from Bob Avery

    It was great to see the boys north of the border at last, afloat the Clyde on "The Ferry" – an old vessel that spent most of its working life transporting Glaswegians and their cars across the river at Renfrew, a few miles further west. Now permanently moored riverside near the city centre, it provided a novel and enjoyable venue for Scottish-based Strawbs fans to enjoy the music, even if the quieter numbers did have to compete with Hurricane McHerbert depositing several thousand gallons of best Caledonian rainwater on the roof and walls. Fortunately, the "mooring" is of a permanent rather than floating nature, for, as Dave C told us, Dave L gets dreadfully seasick!

    There were interesting and adventurous changes to the repertoire since my previous encounters with the Acoustic band. Out were Brian Willoughby, "New World", "The River" and "Down by the Sea"; in came Chas Cronk, "Shine on Silver Sun", "Oh How She Changed" and a couple of tracks from D้jเ Fou ("Cold Steel" and "If"). Welcome old classics included "A Glimpse Of Heaven", "Autumn", "Tears And Pavan", "Ghosts", "Grace Darling", "Simple Visions". The gig kicked off as usual with the superb and irresistible "Benedictus", and concluded with "The Flower and the Young Man" as the encore.

    My impression was that the performance was more polished than ever, and that the enthusiasm of the band and the fans was undiminished. Maybe it's my imagination but I thought the revised set list owed more to effective vocal harmony, though I am always amazed and delighted by how well album tracks which rely heavily on keyboards translate to an acoustic set, for example "Heroine's Theme" from "Autumn". Another hugely enjoyable evening – as normal the boys appeared in the bar afterwards and were happy to sign CDs and have a chat. I was kinda hoping they'd do their version of "Will Ye Go" (this was Glasgow, after all!) and "Queen of Dreams", but, as they say in these parts, nae luck. But another terrific gig and a wonderful way to spend a Sunday evening. Haste ye back !

    TEARING IN THE PASSION OF THE STORM - review by David Preston

    After spending a fair amount of time sending e-mails to Dick Greener and eventually the the manager of the band moaning that The Strawbs hadn't played Glasgow for a decade or three, my wish came true when I was informed that the band were booked into the venue I'd recommended - the Renfrew Ferry, which spent its early days as a way of crossing the River Clyde before the notorious Kingston Bridge was built.

    Sadly the Scottish weather lived up to its' rather damp reputation and the gig was played as one of the worst rainstorms of the year howled outside. At times the rain was so heavy that the sound of it hammering on the roof drowned out some of the quieter song passages. Despite this Dave C commented twice on what a great venue this was to play.

    I own every CD, but this was the first time I'd seen the band live. I was not disappointed! A very well chosen set full of standards and new material was delivered with verve. Dave C's voice is as good as ever and as for Dave L, I don't think I've ever seen an acoustic guitar player attack his instrument with such gusto. I loved Dave C's almost poetic introductions to most of the songs - a big improvement on some singers who grunt 'thanks' before launching into the next song (Bob Dylan anyone!). The promise that the band will return to Glasgow in 'another 30 years' (later reduced to 25 after the encore) went down well. I only hope Dave meant months!

    A highly enjoyable evening came to a perfect conclusion with a short chat with Dave in the bar afterwards and an autographed CD to take home and enjoy. I hope the awful weather won't put the band off returning to Glasgow very soon.


    Setlist

    Benedictus
    Witchwood
    A Glimpse Of Heaven
    Shine On Silver Sun
    Cold Steel
    Grace Darling
    Autumn

    Simple Visions
    Oh How She Changed
    Tears And Pavan
    Ghosts
    Blue Angel
    If
    Lay Down

    The Flower And The Young Man
    Will Ye Go

    BOB AND LOUISE'S PRIVATE ACOUSTIC STRAWBS PARTY, 18 SEPTEMBER 2004

    WHERE'S THE FUSE BOX, DON'T WORRY - review by Nigel Bennett

    [DG - click here for reviews and pix of the last "truly acoustic" (i.e.power-cut affected) Acoustic Strawbs gig that Bob and Lou held, back on 31 Jan 2004.]

    Bob and Louise Richardson's Acoustic Strawbs private function this time coincided with Bob's (5 x11) birthday so revellers gathered from all parts of the world (well Middlesbrough and Ramsgate at the very least) to enjoy a spectacular music and social event in the company of the Acoustic Strawbs. Unfortunately, Adrian the Rock, was still recovering from his recent illness and although not present, everyone who knew him had him very much in their thoughts for a speedy recovery.

    Nick Evans, opened the evenings musical entertainment, although those present for the Acoustic sound check may well have felt that the entertainment had started at that time. Nick is an accomplished guitarist and vocalist and his rendition of "Meet Me On The Corner" had a certain Mr G joining in heartily with the chorus with the rest of the audience. Somehow I think he had itchy feet and really wanted to be up there on stage, although he may be thinking he had to practice much more to reach the standard of Nick. [That's certainly the case - DG]

    Next up were Bob and Louise, after the birthday song performed by the audience, a couple of numbers including the Cousins penned "I've Been My Own Worst Friend" Wonder if Bob felt like that on Sunday, following his celebrations the night before?

    Bob then grabbed the mike to introduce the Acoooooostic Strawbs who then delivered their first set with confidence. Many of us had heard the stories of "Witchwood" and A Glimpse Of Heaven" before, (although: geriatric - did he mean Bob ?) but it didn't matter, the music was flowing as liberally as the alcohol, by the time "Cold Steel" captivated everyone with that definite toe tapping beat. "Grace Darling" sounds ever better, as the weeks go by, and the concluding number of "Autumn" tonight had the additional accompaniment from the choral members of the audience.

    Ah the raffle ! 6 down , three to go . Hey presto ! out comes Dave Lamber'ts ticket and a prize of a 2005 cricketing calendar recognising his love of that noble game. Next and Chas was the lucky ticket holder, his prize a shortened version of a traditional broomstick (the "new broom" in Acoustic Strawbs). This was a real coincidence and with just one ticket to be drawn could the band make it three in a row. Sure enough, next winner was of course Dave Cousins - could any one guess the prize? Rather ironically [DG - if you've heard Dave's intro relating to Bursting At The Seams, you'll knowwhat Nigel's on about], a vinyl version of Elton John's album Don't Shoot Me I Am Only The Piano Player, supposedly personalized by the man himself to Dave, although I was just a little suspicious of that!

    Any one attending the last Bob and Louise party will remember the terrible weather and thunderstorm which cut the power and led to the band playing totally acoustically. Lightning couldn't strike twice could it? Just as DC was delivering his intro to the second set, the lights went out. In strides Bob in white electricity board jump-suit, hard hat and torch in hand screaming "where's the fuse box, don't worry".

    Did Dave ? No, lights came on he just carried on with his intro as if nothing had happened and into a demonstrative, arm-twisting "Simple Visions". The second set had an intoxicating effect on all there, it just gets better and better.

    A magical "Oh How She Changed" followed by "Tears And Pavan", which has now been in the set for quite some time and the new line up tonight made this sound fresh and vibrant and received a tremendous reception. Then "Ghosts", a glorious sound with Chas playing that Willoughby opening and finish, to fine effect on his 12 string.

    By now everyone was in dreamland, but the delivery of a passionate and emotional "Blue Angel" took the evening to a new level as we were drawn in to the various moods before being lifted in the final section as Chas turned to his bass. That mood change, sounded the move into an emotionally buoyant ending which will live long in my mind.

    Talking of emotion and if we weren't there already "If" entranced the "well oiled" company, to such an extent that even they fell silent captured by the words of beauty in the song.

    The chorus to "Lay Down" was sung heartily in the hall before "The Flower and The Young Man" encore and the bonus of "Will Ye Go" - traditional for Bob and Louise's parties - to much flag waving.

    A final spurt from the sound desk of "Land Of Hope And Glory", and despite a song sheet everyone just sang whatever words they could remember, with of course more flag waving. Bob came back to thank everyone, sounding more like "Pinky" rather than "Perky" thanks to trickery from Paul on the sound desk.

    All was left was another 4 hours of so of convivial chat and more drinking before slumping off to bed at about 4a m leaving Alison Brown to confess later, that she hadn't felt like that since the second night at the Edinburgh festival a few years back. One couldn't help to have a little sympathy the next day for the band and Neil, who faced a five hour drive, into a storm, for their gig in Glasgow.

    What a night.


    Setlist

    Benedictus
    Witchwood
    A Glimpse Of Heaven
    Shine On Silver Sun
    Cold Steel
    Grace Darling
    Autumn

    Simple Visions
    Oh How She Changed
    Tears And Pavan
    Ghosts
    Blue Angel
    If
    Lay Down

    Flower And The Young Man

    RIGA MUSIC BAR, WESTCLIFF-ON-SEA, 17 SEPTEMBER 2004

    STRAWBS PLAY SOUTHEND : UNITED LIKE LONG-LOST FRIENDS -Review from Lindsay Sorrell

    Well, I fell in love with Strawbs' music so long ago that I got into all kinds of trouble whilst at school - the teachers were infinitely less smitten than I was and I well remember being told what a "dim" view they took of girls like me, obsessed with silly pop stars (Miss Anderson, c. 1973). I don't think they appreciated any aspect of all my work having reference to the band, their songs and their lyrics. Even my Biology "O" level paper, complete with anatomy and physiology diagrams, featured a Strawb (who shall remain nameless!). This didn't impress the examination board either and I failed the "O" level miserably. I was constantly told I'd grow out of this ridiculous phase – couldn't anyone see this was true love?

    The excitement in those pre-internet days of unexpectedly seeing the name "Strawbs" in the local paper, way back at the beginning of 1972, advertising their Southend Cliffs Pavilion gig on the "Grave New World" tour was palpable. Amazing stuff; I'd already been blown away by what I'd heard on their albums and the live experience was something else again. The following February they were there again for the sell-out "Bursting at the Seams" tour, riding high with "Part of the Union"; crowds of screaming young teens including myself pushing and shoving for autographs by the stage door after the show. I was delighted to know Strawbs were reaching a wider audience but also sad somehow in the knowledge that most of the autograph-hunters knew little about the band's music beyond the commercial spotlight.

    Over 31 years have now passed since Strawbs last graced Southend with their presence, and I have needed to travel far and wide to see them whenever the opportunity has arisen. I was deeply disappointed not to make it to any of the "electric" band gigs earlier in the summer. Last night, however, the "acoustic" format returned to Southend (well actually the very border between Southend and Westcliff) to play at the Riga Music Bar - a great little venue for live music – about five minutes walk from where they'd played all those years ago. Yet another change of personnel has recently taken place; Brian Willoughby and his delightful, intricate guitar sounds has moved on to concentrate on his own career, whilst Chas Cronk, together with his bass sounds and high harmonies, has arrived - thereby adding an altogether new dimension to the sound of the acoustic Strawbs.

    Each evolving line-up of the band over the years has served to alter the dynamics of the songs, sometimes subtly and sometimes less so, adding something fresh and exciting to what has gone before; I've loved them all in their own particular ways, and the newly formed three piece line-up consisting of Dave Cousins, Dave Lambert and Chas Cronk is no exception. Even to ears as familiar as my own with the timeless classics which epitomise Strawbs' music, the addition of the acoustic bass, bass pedals and superb vocal harmonising between the three members of the band were an absolute delight to behold. Watching and listening to Strawbs is not simply a trip down memory lane - the music feels alive and is lyrically relevant, and the obvious enthusiasm of the band for their goods last night captivated the vast majority of an audience who were largely unaware of what they had come to see, judging by many of the conversations around me.

    I can't remember the running order of songs I'm afraid, it's never really seemed of any great importance to me as an observer – I know the band began with "Benedictus", followed by "Witchwood" – after that I haven't a clue although so many of my personal favourites were included in the two sets played. [DG - see setlist below.] "Autumn" was absolutely stunning, with Dave Lambert's seagulls sounding at their very best; must have been the sea air. "Ghosts" was as atmospheric as ever and so evocative of childhood fears of the dark, lying in silence afraid to sleep for fear of nightmares, and the final relief upon waking with the dawning realisation that fearful dreams were just that. "Grace Darling" – breathtakingly beautiful as ever, "Cold Steel", from the new album "Deja Fou" - a terrific song and Dave Lambert's performance of it was superb.

    "Blue Angel" was a major highlight for me, so astonishingly gripping in its intensity, truly an epic song. During my brief chat with Dave Cousins afterwards he told me how tiring "Blue Angel" is to perform – may I suggest that Dave has about 10 cups of espresso to help him through, anything will do, whatever it takes - that song is the ultimate masterpiece. Well….one of them anyway. "Oh How She Changed", whilst never one of my favourites, sounded superbly "full". I do like the uniqueness of that song. "Lay Down" rounded off the main set beautifully. Incidentally, a song I would love to hear acoustic Strawbs play is "Midnight Sun" – so beautiful, and the vocal harmonies possible with Chas Cronk in the band combined with the instrumental capabilities of this line-up would surely guarantee it to be a popular addition.

    So, back to last night – too many delights to mention - everything sounded par excellence from where I was sitting which was right near to the stage with Dick, his family friend Irene (her first time – she raved about the band to me and strongly related to many Strawbs songs, hailing from East Devon as she did), and my friends Gill and Judy. It was Gill's first time too – she was also delighted by what she had seen and heard and rang me the next day to ask whether there might be another gig we can get to soon. We all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, as did Bill and Tina who saw the band earlier in the year at Chelmsford with me and a few other friends and acquaintances in the crowd. Nice to meet Carole, a Strawbs fan from Rayleigh, after chatting via email for a while; also Dave Kitteridge who runs the Riga (I think – not quite sure exactly what he does!) and is a member of the Witchwood discussion group was as amiable as ever. Three wishes? Ok….I hope to see the acoustic band again soon, I hope also to have the chance to see the electric band again before too long, and I hope with all my heart I never do grow out of this ridiculous phase.

    MID-TERM REPORT - Comments from Dick Greener

    Great show last night at the Club Riga in Westcliff-on-Sea, a district of Southend. Gret venue, enthusiastic staff including Dave Kitteredge of the Witchwood Discussion Group (nice to meet you Dave). Bar along one side of the venue a bit noisy, the receptacle which they throw the empty bottles at the end next to the stage, the noise of which led to a tart "thanks" from DC at one point. But afriendly and pleasant venue, and Iwish it well - now I know whre it is, I'll be back.

    An opening act, solo singer/guitarist Clive (sorry I missed his surname) with nice Ovation guitar and lots of effects: a limited vocal range and a slightly mannered delivery made up for by excellent guitar work, some nice ideas, but a bit prone to throw everything into every song - maybe a bit "less is more".

    The Acoustics took the stage from behind a curtain, Cousins in fine anecdotal form. The overall delivery continues to get more and more polished since the early days of this line-up. The standout track for me was "Simple Visions" which was little short of perfect. "Blue Angel" continues to be a highlight, with its wash of harmony vocals, as does "Oh How She Changed" with the strings on pedals from Mr Cronk.

    Sound overall wasn't bad, though a bit less volume wouldn't have been a bad idea, specially up front where we were where it was all a bit of a miasma. Probably better balance generally at the back, and the sound would have been fine for a four to the floor rock band rather than the Strawbs.


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