main page tour dates live reviews and photos news downloads buy albums 45s video books lyrics gallery features history and timeline memorabilia related bands and artists sessions/covers links help using Strawbsweb search site tell a friend book Strawbs get Strawbswebnews join Witchwood change your e-mail Facebook etc

MARCH 2006

Updated: 10 Mar 2006

Tour overview, March 2006
  • Bennetdictus - Comments by Nigel Bennett
  • National Physical Laboratory, Teddington, Thursday 2 March 2006
  • Hard To Imagine How It Could Have Been Better - Review by Dick Greener
  • Pictures from Laura Wiggers
  • Tightened To Fever Pitch - Review by Neil Lamb
  • Setlist
  • The Brook, Southampton, Friday 3 March 2006
  • In The Court Of The Crimson Dave - An Observation by Dick Greener
  • Astor Theatre Arts Centre, Deal, Saturday 4 March 2006
  • A Great Deal Of Fun - Review by Lindsay Sorrell
  • Robin 2 Club, Bilston, Sunday 5 March 2006
  • Went Down A Storm - Or Should That Be Went Stormy Down ? - Review by Dick Greener
  • From The Heart And From The Soul - Review by Ralph Tonge
  • Twin Peaks - Comments from Lindsay Sorrell
  • We Always Give You The Cream On This Programme And Tonight Here Are The STRAWBS!" - Review By Bernard Spilsbury
  • What A Day...What A Night - Comments from Les Cotton
  • Best Strawbs Performance I Have Ever Seen - Comments from Pete Madeley
  • The Best Was Ours And Welcome - Comments from Peter Rand
  • Comments from Stephen Lambe
  • Comments from Mike Barker
  • Comments from Dave Kennedy
  • Comments from Louise Richardson
  • Comments from Adrian The Rock
  • Setlist


    BENNETDICTUS - Comments by Nigel Bennett

    Others have written eloquently and with passion about last weekend's events so it is high time I got around to my few words of thanks and appreciation.

    Can I ever remember four consecutive days of such energy, power and accomplished musicianship that was witnessed from NPL to Bilston. As others have stated -and I am not about to disagree, it was a truly remarkable experience.

    Each of the 4 venues has its own special memory and the number of venues should really be 5, if you include the hotel foyer at junction 10 of the M6.

    To pick out my own highlights from each set is irrelevant, but what was so moving was the reaction of the audiences at every venue to what was being delivered from the stage. The smiling faces, the long lasting and very, very generous applause, the dancing in the aisles and the scrums at the merchandising table, delivered far greater testament to the performances, than anything I can say, or put into these few words.

    March 2006 has been another high point in the life and times of Strawbs, which we all know has evolved over many years and has touched many thousands of individual emotions, in differing ways.

    So to the two Daves, Chas, John, Rod and of course John. F. (who surely deserves a pay rise for that impromptu session at 4.00a.m), Neil (Mr. immaculate planning) and the sound guys who were with us all the way, a huge thank you, for the lasting memories that will be shared many times over in the coming years.

    And of course to all the Witchwood crew, travelling companions and friends met along the way, both old and new - you also, helped to make it, that extra and very special weekend too !!

    [DG - And so say all of us !!!!]


    Full band Opening Set

    Lay Down
    I Only Want My Love To Grow In You
    Shine On Silver Sun
    Visions Of Southall From The Train/The Life Auction
    Remembering/You And I When We Were Young
    Cold Steel

    Acoustic Set

    * The Man Who Called Himself Jesus
    ** Tears And Pavan
    ** Kissed By The Sun
    ** Heavy Disguise

    Full Band - Closing Set

    Out In The Cold/Round And Round
    Grace Darling
    Just Love
    Autumn Suite
    Drum Feature
    Hero And Heroine
    Round And Round (Reprise)


    *** Part Of The Union

    *(Acoustic Strawbs)
    **(Acoustic Strawbs with John Ford)
    ***(H&H line-up with John Ford)



    The NPL shows tend to attract the "usual suspects " - fervent Witchwooders and many of those borderline obessives (like yours truly) who will travel the country to turn up at other shows as well - so the band were always assured of a warm welcome; but never have I seen such happy smiling faces on Strawbs fans as they were treated to a truly fabulous evening's entertainment. Even compared against the last H&H line-up tour, the whole dynamic has been cranked up several more notches - this band really cooks!

    Opening with the accapella-introed "Lay Down", powerful in the acoustic format with the three handed vocal line-up, it rocks somewhat electric. Next, the first new re-entrant, the "should have been hit" "I Only Want My Love To Grow In You", with some excellent tasty guitar from Lambert bringing back the heady days of 1976. "Shine On Silver Sun" is another which translates well between the acoustic and electric sets - gentle banjo in one, solid pop-rock in the other; again the vocals, which are such a trademark of this grouping, strong and clear.

    A big surprise - the return of "The Life Auction" with its spoken word introduction "Visions Of Southall From The Train", an opportunity for Cousins to "weird out a bit". Dave was on great voice tonight pretty much throughout, and soon relaxed into the obvious enjoyment that he obviously gets from playing with this punchy line-up. The complex rhythms of the main part of the song demonstrate just how stupendous a drummer Mr Coombes really is - a thought to which we will return later. People were really thrilled to see this one back in the setlist, especially those lucky folks who'd seen it live lo these many years ago (around 1975) and had travelled from as far as the US and Essex to see the band again tonight.

    Another Ghosts track, the stately, melodic "Remembering/You And I (When We Were Young)" gave John Hawken a chance to shine audibly. John is mostly hidden away on the NPL's modest stage behind his towers of keyboard power, so virtually impossible to photograph as ever, but Chas wandered to the back of the stage for this one to give us a view of JH. Hawken is great to watch, twiddling knobs and making adjustments to his technology, from time to time a huge grin displaying his pleasure with the thrill of it all. He's certainly not hidden in the show's excellent sound. (Good news is that the sound man will travel on this tour, which will make a huge difference, IMHO.)

    Motoring on with an excellent, driving "Cold Steel", saw Dave Cousins standing up to play banjo for the first time nigh on 30 years (with fingerpicks), and with Chas's bass pedals synth sounds handed over to Hawken on the keys, Chas added fluid bass. The final number of the first set, the epic "Ghosts", struck several chords (ouch) Lambert flailing at his trusty Les Paul like a man possessed and singing his heart out in the loud middle section.

    Reactions at the interval from those gathered together were very very positive indeed - the band had visibly relaxed a number or so into the set, and were now clearly having a ball; the audience certainly were.

    The stage was re-arranged for an acoustic set - first up the Acoustic Strawbs with the recently re-arranged "The Man Who Called Himself Jesus" - an excellent choice to retain, fitting very well with the majesty of the electric set so far. And then "not-too surprising guest" John Ford joined the band on the stage, Chas moving to 12-string and handing over the bass to John (not without difficulty in the cramped surrounding) for him to join them for "Tears And Pavan", which drew heartfelt applause.

    I'd known that a John Ford song "Kissed By The Sun" and "Heavy Disguise" were coming, but was expecting more of a John Ford solo approach. Instead we were treated to band versions of both songs, Cousins turning to banjo for the former, and on the latter taking just the vocal harmony part (the first time, as in the past it would have been John's perennial partner in crime, Hud, in that role). John's already powerful acoustic guitar on "Heavy Disguise" further augmented by Lambert on thrashing acoustic and Chas on the bass. A tour de force and, for me, a splendid highlight of the night.

    Another interval as the stools were removed, then the electric band returned to the stage to open with "Out In The Cold/Round And Round", following by a lovely version of "Grace Darling" with lovely churchy organ sounds from the Hawken department and incorporating a tasteful electric solo from Lambert.

    Next, another much wished-for surprise, the return of "Just Love". My American chum Laura was particularly delighted by this. Coombes and Cronk drive this song along in the verses, with Lambert hugging the mic stand, his hands then leaping to the power chords. Very tight, considering it's not been played for 30 years or so.

    Photo by Dick Greener - more pics from Dick.

    "Autumn" is an absolute requirement for this line-up and was as well-delivered as ever, followed by a Rod Coombes drum solo of breathtaking proportions. I had retired to the back, suffering from "sitting next to the big speaker fatigue" and thought I'd go and stand behind the mixing desk (where the sound is always best, for obvious reasons), but wished I hadn't as my view was obscured somewhat. But it gave me a chance to watch the audience soaking up this artistry and I'll make damn certain I get a good vantage point on the next few night. As in days of yore, it segued into a lively "Hero And Heroine", which in turn led to a brief reprise of "Round And Round".

    There was never any chance that there wouldn't be an encore and with its author present, "Part Of The Union" was an obvious closer, with John returning to the stage with his acoustic guitar. Everyone singing along with enough passion to terrify a corporate fat-cat.

    The buzz amongst the crowd throughout the whole show was fantastic and in the bar afterwards, whilst NPL usually generates a great feeling, this was a quantum leap beyond any previous show. Generally agreed that it had been an epic performance, promising well for Bilston, where hopefully a fitting visual record of this stellar set will be preserved for all time and made available to those who sadly couldn't be with us on this tour. Me, I didn't want to go, but eventually had to set off - late night tomorrow night at Southampton, where, knowing this lot, it could even be better, though it's hard to imagine how that could be.

    Should be a good night for photos (NPL usually is), as there were various pro-photography types around with permission and encourage to capture the vision of a band I full flow. Watch this space .....

    Pictures by Laura Wiggers

    Photos by Laura Wiggers - more pics from Laura.

    TIGHTENED TO FEVER PITCH. - Review by Neil Lamb

    Congrats as usual on such a full and insightful revue Dick, and I would endorse the fulsome praise for a barnstorming performance. If this was merely a build up to the Bilston gig and the DVD recording, I for one can't wait for Sunday night! If there are any of you out there still umming and aahing about wether to make it to Bilston or not I'd recommend any sacrifice involved - in the closing set the band went up to a level not seen for sometime I suspect and all the numbers that featured from the last electric tour had tightened to fever pitch.

    As Dick mentioned as a first play for some 30 years ,"Just Love" was gobsmacking and was my personal highlight of the evening.

    There's always an interesting discussion on the Witchwood between the Acoustics and the Electric combos, and although the acoustics have reached undreamt of heights in recent times, most of us die-hards grew up with the electric progressive rock combo, and last night was a timely reminder to me that this outfit can generate a wall of dynamic and artistic sound that can quite literally lift you off your feet. I (still) vote Electric.

    "Life Auction" was a nice surprise but needs a bit of work still on the mix and effects to match my on-vinyl recollections - I can't help feeling perhaps the time would have been better used in more representation off the recent Deja Fou album. On current form I can't help feeling thay could produce an excellent live version of "Russian Front" - am I alone in seeing the live potential of this Deja Fou track ?

    John Ford was a great "surprise" guest and "Heavy Disguise" was a delight and reminded everyone of what a magnificent voice he has - another set of vocal chords which seems to have got better with time, how do these guys do it ?

    It was good to hear from Dick that the same sound guy will stay with them for the mini-tour and hopefully he will be able to fully master them by Sunday - always a tricky problem with the Strawbs. I thought he was spot-on with John, Dave L and Chas in the mix. I thought in the loud full-band sections (and there where plenty of those !) DC was too low in the mix and the drums too high. Mind you the latter did highlight what an outstanding drummer Rod Coombes was and most certainly still is - and that he takes full credit for the incredible drive and rhythmn that propels this particular Strawbs line-up forward so spectacularly. Mind you I still have my reservations about the drum solo , amazing enough as it was, it's perhaps a bit of the past rock regime that might be better left in the past - it was a bit overlong, and my personal preference would be to use the time for another song - he was so outstanding (and obviously so) with the rest of his work that Rod doesn't really need an individual showcasing.

    Anyway these guys were a credit to the era they came from and I was dead proud to be able to watch them entertain so many obviously younger faces than mine in the audience - they can still rock with the best of them and they can sure kick ass in inspiring fashion.

    Can't wait for Sunday


    IN THE COURT OF THE CRIMSON DAVE - An Observation by Dick Greener

    Dave looked resplendent in bright red last night - hope that doesn't come out TOO luridly on the video on Sunday {grin}. Last night at The Brook, the band, unbelievably, had cranked up their performance yet another notch from the NPL show the previous night, starting confidently from the outset, with a captivating version of "Lay Down".

    Led astray by the presence of other Witchwooders led by the all-knowing Mr. Bennett to a pub up the road (the venue wouldn't let anyone in before 8.00pm, I failed to grab my hoped for vantage point on the balcony, at the stage front - an excellent view and I suspect good sound. The Brook is a big rock club space - lots of standing space on the floor, quite a bit of seating upstairs, but the sound and sightlines not too great from all parts of the space. Bar is noisy, with chattering staff, never a good thing.

    From balcony right (looking from the back of the room) you could peer round others who got there first and over the parapet for a good view of everyone but Lambert, again a man of mystery shrouded in gloom - we need to sort this out for the video shoot! For me, the only big criticism of this show was that the lighting was random at best, with some members of the band hardly lit at all during obvious solos and focuses. A shame as otherwise a pretty good venue for electric Strawbs. Especially good to watch from above Rod Coombes at work, usually hidden away behind Dave Cousins, and also to peer over the various boxes of tricks Mr Hawken brings with him (some fully working, some not so on this occasion).

    Highlights for me (I'm not going to do the full review again) have to be:

    "The Life Auction" - Cousins animated, as he was throughout the show, thoroughly in command of the song, even when he's not using the acoustic much and the syncopated and tightly interlocked rhythms of Cronk and Coombes which drive the instrumental sections are much to the fore. Dave switched between his red Gretsch and the black open tuned Gibson, to avoid lengthy retuning in the first set - a good call. John Ford had his own Dean acoustic bass this time too, avoiding the need to have to borrow Chas's.

    "Just Love" - the younger crowd at the Brook were transfixed by Mr Lambert's performance on this. Again, interesting to note how much bass and drums take this forward - DL doesn't really play at all in the verse, though he makes up for it elsewhere. The mddle eight deep vocal is different to the record and makes for a greater mood/temp change than the recorded versions. Have to listen to a copy of the Fire original demo to see what happened there. Lambert definitely in guitar hero mode tonight, leaping in the air to deliver thrashing power chords, playing to the audience par excellence.

    "You And I" - the synth wasn't operational, and after a few unsuccessful twiddles to rectify the problem, "Hawkwind" as DC dubs him, true professional that he is, just swung into action on the keyboards available to him, without turning a hair. "Cold Steel" for the same reason lacked the underlying growling synth, but had instead a unique rousing piano backing. Rock'n'roll.

    "Kissed By The Sun" - the delicate banjo part offered up by Dave was more audible than the previous night - a nice arrangement. Banjo was also more prominent on "Cold Steel" as well, and welcome.

    "Heavy Disguise" - by this time watching from the front, this was absolute undiluted magic. The guitars of Ford and Lambert in absolute clock-sync timing, Ford's vocal perfermance superb, and that splendid little gesture of victory at the end of the last strum, hands high from Ford and Lambert in the sure and certain knowledge of a peak performance.

    And I got to watch the Coombes drum solo from close up front. Now you either love 'em or loathe 'em, and I'd probably say in most cases that I'm definitely not a drum solo bloke (despite have several drummers as good friends, sorry guys!). But Rod Coombes is just such an inventive drummer, with such a staggering range of different rhythms already deployed during the rest of the set that you can scarcely believe there's more to come in the solo; but there certainly is. The one handed soloing (well if you discount the feet), drum stick twirling with the other work, better of course when the lighting isn't dimmed to the point of emergency lighting - hardly Rod's fault, of course. And of course it was such a feature of those late '74/early '75 shows along with the "Round And Round" closing reprise, nice to see it revived here for this.

    Nice to see Wayne Herrschaft over from the US (photographer at various John Ford gigs, including the Bristol CT shows last year). With the longest lens I've ever seen (and bravely dressed for the English weather in tropical shorts) I'm looking forward to seeing what Wayne produces and will upload a selection as soon as I can.

    Without a shadow of a doubt, worth the long trip - 2 and a half hours there from work in North West London, and the long trip back home to East London - on which, as an act of sheer folly (but there were nice people to talk to!) we did not set out on till well after midnight, and didn't draw up to the house till just after 3.00. Next time I stay !!

    Next stop Deal.

    Photo by Dick Greener - more pics from Dick.


    A GREAT DEAL OF FUN - Review by Lindsay Sorrell

    I can see that following the excitement of our mini-tour nobody has written a review for the gig at the Astoria Theatre in Deal which is a ludicrous state of affairs given that it has to rank as one of the best Strawbs' gigs the H&H line-up has ever done, with the addition of John Ford as very special guest.

    Having attended all four gigs it's hard to remember the songs individually, but it was without doubt superb, actually I'll use Dick's "sublime" too. As I mentioned in my review of Bilston, some band members wondered whether they'd peaked at Deal, as their nerves were building before the filming. Pointless to compare in my opinion: Deal was a wonderful gig which could not be improved upon and I feel incredibly lucky to have been there.

    The pre-gig get together – Carole, Gill and I arrived, in my car, which I myself had driven (may not sound much to you, but it's an achievement for me, believe me!) around 5ish I think. Parked at the theatre, then had a brisk little walk "down by the sea". Took photos of us standing in front of the "seaside pier, iron girders gaunt and still", (shame, you cant see the pier). Then took photos of us standing in front of a "tiny boat, across the dark seas of my disbelief" (shame, etc.). We were starting to "shiver in the bitter wind" so we wandered along Middle Street, having asked directions to The Ship a few times in our subconscious attempts to get to know all the locals. Opened the door to the pub but could hardly get in for the canine convention taking place. Eventually managed, and found the table at which Sue and Mike, Dick, Ali and Laura were comfortably seated. Carole, Gill and I made them squeeze up so they were no longer comfortably seated, but they didn't complain. Great to catch up with Mike and Sue (caught up with the others the previous night at NPL). Seriously hope I haven't left anyone out….apologies if I have, not intended! Oh God, just remembered Nigel!! Inspected his Witchwood badge for bugs (007 type ones) before opening my mouth. Of course it had to be happy hour, with incredibly good value half price drinks - I was driving and therefore sober. Never mind, the atmosphere was brilliant, really warm and friendly in the way only Witchwood gatherings are. Eventually made our way via the chip shop to the Astoria - a lovely theatre (think I remember reading that Norman Wisdom is its patron) – some great artwork painted directly onto the walls.

    Gig was brilliant from start to finish, exactly the same running order as Bilston, with "Ghosts" and "The Life Auction" having just swapped after Southampton. Met various Strawbs fans who I know by sight but cant remember the names of, sorry. Heard someone say "Smurfy" which caught my attention - Smurfy having recently cast aspersions about my honour on Witchwood. I confronted the guy who I had guessed must be Smurfy about it, but he looked at me blankly as he wasn't Smurfy. I had another go after careful detective work listening in on a couple of conversations and realised who the true Smurfy was. We chatted and I think we're sort of sorted, well we were after I christened him with my glass of water anyway. He told me he was with his aunt, and she boogied along next to me and the speaker all through the gig - obviously Strawbs addiction is in the Smurfy family blood. At the end she turned to me and said "Young ones today don't know good music when it hits them on the head" or something like that. I assured her I did.

    After the gig…'s all coming back now…..Ali came with Gill, Carole and myself as navigator to the hotel where the band and several others were staying (and cos we wanted her company too, of course!). Oh yes, broke my credit card in half trying to get the frost off the windscreen, must do something about that. Unfortunately Gill, Carole and I couldn't stay the night due to a few million unavoidable commitments between us which had to be slotted in between the Deal after-gig party and the Bilston pre-gig party a few hours later, such as the weekly shopping treks and school uniform ironing marathons, but never mind. Had a brilliant time just chilling with everyone, and a personal highlight for me was when John Ford played me a new song on his walkman.

    Everyone was so relaxed, band and fans seem to have morphed into one at these gigs, so different from the days of backstage passes etc. and so much fun for everyone with such lovely fans as Strawbs have. I think Strawbs' gigs mirror a lot of areas of life generally now really, where so much is of an interactive nature, and the audience have become participants.

    "Or is it but the character Of any single member of the audience That forms the plot Of each and every play?"

    or something like that.

    Anyway, sorry to ramble but I can't remember when we left, pretty late I know and the journey home was ok thanks to Carole and Gill's navigating and Carole reminding me just once or twice when I ought to switch main beam on or off. Managed to avoid an enormous tyre in the middle of the motorway too I'm pleased to say. Slept for about 2 hours I think, took my daughter to Sunday School then Carole was round for the off to Bilston, or Blisstown as Paul Brazier has rechristened it (much more apt after what happened there on Sunday night of course).

    Fin (well Deal is very near France isn't it)


    Full band Opening Set

    Lay Down
    I Only Want My Love To Grow In You
    Shine On Silver Sun
    Remembering/You And I When We Were Young
    Cold Steel
    Visions Of Southall From The Train/The Life Auction

    Acoustic Set

    * The Man Who Called Himself Jesus
    ** Tears And Pavan
    ** Kissed By The Sun
    ** Heavy Disguise

    Full Band - Closing Set

    Out In The Cold/Round And Round
    Grace Darling
    Just Love
    Autumn Suite
    Drum Feature
    Hero And Heroine
    Round And Round (Reprise)


    *** Part Of The Union

    *(Acoustic Strawbs)
    **(Acoustic Strawbs with John Ford)
    ***(H&H line-up with John Ford)



    The Real Deal

    As commented by many othes - the best Strawbs show I have seen, and believe me, I've seen a few now. I'll come back to that, but meantime, what else happened ?

    After the Astor Theatre show in Deal last night (and subsequent after show party at the guest house where we and the band were staying), a gentle start to the day, with a walk up the seafront and back down the quaint old streets - Deal is an absolutely lovely place, and the weather - glorious sunshine, though a tad cold - was perfect for it.

    A long journey to Bilston - after a quick diversion down to Dover for Wayne to have a "White Cliffs Experience", I was kept awake by my two American co-pilots, Laura Wiggers and Wayne Herrschaft, we motor past the oast houses of Kent, and the water towers visible from the English motorway system.

    Pre show

    Arrive to find the Witchwood "Experience" already under way - Andy Slack, Ralph Tonge and Les and Sue Cotton in the bar area, two guitars, and the strains of Strawbs covers on the wind. My co-webbie, Alison's beaten us to it, and has already checked in. Time-out for an hour or so to refresh myself (sadly, much of it spent at the hotel check-in desk, which seemed to be manned by muppets unable to process guests checking in or to provide them with a key that worked - the name of the hotel chain - "Quality" caused a few wry comments at this point).

    Back to the bar, where I'm persuaded to pick up a guitar meself, if only to prove the allegation false that no-one present knew anything but intros or seemed to be able to finish a song (only did the middle, mind, but not sure anyone cared too much) !!! Claridge, the man who cannot be bought (but may be rented out quite cheaply - Witchwood joke!) arrives suited up, and then changes into his own stage shirt - he changed later too - is this man the new Dave Cousins ? Surely not, as I don't think Dave knows the chords to Postman Pat ... and if he did he wouldn't play them!

    Pete and Lynne Madely turn up and we all take turns at not sitting on her hat, which she cunningly leaves on a chair whilst in search of sandwiches. Lindsay and Carole are early, all gobsmacked, though probably no-one but Nigel Bennett would dare comment (!) Kevin West is still operating as bus driver, and heads off down to the venue with Jo. Taxis organised by Sue C turned up more or less on time, and off we go to the venue, which is still in sound-check mode so we are all shoe-horned into the rather small space of Woody's Bar next door (as Ralph commented, "never thought I'd see a Roy Wood theme pub ....")

    Into the venue and a dash to the front for pole position - various tasks for the photo crew tonight - not least to capture that final triumphant double strum from Ford and Lambert in "Heavy Disguise". The venue is brightly lit and it looks as though we'll be able to manage without flash, which would interfere with the video shoot. Seven cameras are in play, including one on a rolling track across thefront of the stage - we can see that that camera operator is frequently concentrating on the two guitarists, so those guitar nuts hoping to pick off the chords and solos will be in for a treat.

    Witchwood's very own police presence, Steve Pritchards (aka Sgt Pilchards in Witchwood-speak) arrives at the venue, along with the Usual Suspects from Brum .... Bob and Lou have orchestrated a good promo piece in the local paper and the crowd is building up well. Neil from the Beeb also turns up, later pressed into service to deliver DC back to the hotel, as does Witchwood co-moderator Adrian the Rock. If I've failed to mention anyone, my apologies - you can see them all on the great stage front Witchwood group photo below.

    First half

    Now ensconced in the camera/press pit in front of the stage, Wayne is in a great position to get loads of extremely professional pics, which I'll be getting from him in due course for the site. In the meantime, mind, the lighting's bright enough so that even a bozo like me can get some half way decent shots without too much effort, so see several galleries from me here.

    Cousins emerges with a red jacket rather than the lurid red shirt we've been treated to thus far on tour. Opening with "Lay Down" a confident start, followed by "I Only Want My Love To Grow" and "Shine On Silver Sun" - the "singles sequence". All three are rewarded with loud cheers, the audience immediately hooked, and playing up well for the cameras/soundtrack. No doubt that the cheers are genuine, the artistry of this line-up winning over the crowd effortlessly despite a couple of false starts, which Cousins nevertheless carries off with aplomb. He's determined to make sure that what is captured on "film" is the best it can be - he just laughs - the crowd laughs with him - and then he starts again.

    "Ghosts", now pulled forward in the set, is majestic tonight, followed by the moving "Remembering/You And I (When We Were Young)". "Cold Steel" picks up the tempo again, leading to the culmination of this forst set, "The Life Auction" which is a huge tour de force, crashing mellotron/guitar chords, Dave C in fine voice and those rhythm boys Rod and Chas - a tightly harnessed powerhouse underpinning it all.


    The stage is reset with four stools, "The Man Who Called Himself Jesus" is a great opener, well-received on the recent acoustic tour where it made its debut, extremely well received here. Then John Ford joins the Acoustic band on stage. "Tears And Pavan" needs a couple of starts, again the audience is so onside they just laugh, but the song is beautifully done. "Kissed By The Sun" follows and then possibly the final joyous rendition by this unique line-up of "Heavy Disguise". Dave Lambert tells me in the bar afterwards that the "hands high" gesture from Dave and John, captured on the front cover of Bursting and reprised here, was originally a signal to their sound man that they wanted more volume, but eventually became a bit of a trademark gesture. A fine end to a splendid Acoustic + John Set.

    The Height Of Their Power And And Passion

    "Out In The Cold"/"Round And Round" has the band leaping immediately back up to full pitch, and "Grace Darling" keeps the ball in play before Lambert's showcase "Just Love" draws a huge response from the crowd. The whole of the second set is at a peak - "Autumn" is particularly good tonight (having heard it many times over the last few years, electric and acoustic, it's possible I've become a little blase about it, but tonight it is just perfect). The front row is almost entirely made up of Witchwooders/regulars, the opportunity to disrupt/enhance proceedings with a Witchwood "group sway"during "The Winter Long" is too much to resist. The cameraman spots it and captures it for posterity - a new Strawbs legend - or possibly as evidence in our trial, watch this space.

    The rest of the band, Lambert apart, leaves the stage for Rod Coombes' drum solo, which, building, fading, speeding, slowing, generally running through an astounding variety of rhythms and styles, fascinates the audience until, sticks held high, he gives the signal for the band to crash into a barnstorming "Hero And Heroine" leading all too soon to the "Round And Round" closing reprise.

    Of course, there's more, with John Ford making a sprightly return to the stage for the encore - a singalong (and with this audience, I MEAN singalong) version of "Part Of The Union". Cheers and cheers from the audience and the Strawbs line up to take their bow, a great job well done, and captured on video for posterity.

    General consensus after the show seems to be that we've all just witnessed one of the best shows the Strawbs have ever put on. Time has not dimmed their powers in any way; in fact some of those who did see them back in '74/'75 comment that they are even better now than then. I never saw the this band back then, and am delighted to have had the opportunity to see them at a new peak of their powers.

    After the ball was over

    All back to the hotel for R&R - standing both for "rest and relaxation" and, as it turns out, " rock'n'roll". Rather than fiddle around with loads of sandwich orders someone gets a few big platters for the tables, which we re-organise into a long communal space. It all goes on into the very small hours - Wayne and a couple of the youngsters around lasting till 7 am before he decides to grab a couple of hours sleep before taking a ride back with me to London, in order to shoot the London Eye and Westminster.

    John Ford and Jill Morrison are late back to the hotel having got comprehensively lost and directed to another Quality hotel, but John is persuaded nonetheless to get his guitar out. I am allegedly just about to go to bed (emulating Mr Bennett, who has been talking for ages about going), but can't miss this (nor does he!). We're treated to some Beatles covers, "Together Apart", "A Whiter Shade Of Pale", the Monks hit "Nice Legs, Shame About The Face" and an acoustic "Benedictus". Willing backing vocalists quickly recruited by Neil include Chas and myself. A fabulous and unexpected ending to a superb evening. And eventually I turn in at about 4.00 ish, after one of the most enjoyable Strawbs days ever.

    A singluar pleasure to enjoy the band's music at the height of their power and and passion. A privilege to share some time with the Strawbs - I've heard many comment just how great bunch of fellas they are, what great company and how much pleasure their fans get from meeting them and spending time in such informal surroundings. And a joy to see all my friends - Witchwood and otherwise - over the course of the last few days, and particularly those who turned out for this landmark show. The last few days I've been in the company of a great bunch of people, and had a lot of fun. It's a wrench to have to turn back to "real life".

    But, ... the guitarists amongst the Witchwooders are spoiling for another session, so watch this space and we'll see if something can be arranged later in the year.

    FROM THE HEART AND FROM THE SOUL - Review by Ralph Tonge

    Well the dust has settled, the bags under the eyes have deepened, and Claridge's intro repertoire now includes a few more "classics" (incidentally who could have guessed that Claridge is a closet John Denver fan....").

    Journey to the "Quality Hotel" in Walsall was uneventful, thanks to borrowed Sat Nav. Walsall seems to be an area made up entirely of slip roads, roundabouts and motorway.

    Great to share a drink with Andy Slack and Peter Rand - this was truly the calm before the storm - little did we know that Claridge was on his way from Newbury. A bit of gentle philosophy, bonhomie and Strawbs chat soon elevated with the arrival of Allie and her dazzling committment to make all these gigs. Gradually the Witchwood throng was increasing and my terrible memory for names was beginning to get the better of me - safe to say though that everyone there had a Strawberry glow about them. Glad to meet the Strawbs Web Guru Dick Greener after almost 10 years of correspondence. Great also to meet Nigel - who provided me with emergency replacement badge - and I've just realised that I still owe you for it Nigel!!!

    At this stage the sky visibly darkened, and I could have sworn I heard the sound of budgies tweeting - yes Claridge had arrived. Its rare to say that someone really lives up to their reputation, and boy, what a reputation Claridge has - witnessing his introduction to several Witchwooders was a highlight of the night. The conversation soon decendended into innuendo, smut and general depravity, and I think we also talked a bit about the Strawbs...

    Les and I had both bought guitars with us, which dictated the path of the next section of the pre-gig gathering - all kinds of Strawb based doodling, and comparing of "How do you play that one then?". Claridge's understanding of musical theory was just jaw dropping - "Yeah, thats E shoved 2 up" and "Yeah I can play that, its all the white notes on the piano". We were quite poor on the vocalising front really until Dick really showed his strength with some sterling renditions.

    It was a lovely relaxed atmosphere, and one of those afternoons that you wished could have lasted a bit longer.. Having committed to driving back to Nottingham after the gig, I happily volunteered to take Andy, Pete and Claridge to the gig in my car. Tragically the sat nav began to play up, and only after Claridige had fiddled with my stylus did things begin to pick up. We bravely made our way to Bilston which was as Andy pointed out several times "3.74 miles away". Bilston Robin2 is a delightful place; and I was really thrilled to see that the bar is dedicated to local hero Roy Wood. I enjoyed a chat with Dick about life, work, Strawb life, and fans.I was really pleased to meet Lindsay and Carole at last, after nearly meeting them last year in Skeggy. Great also to see Mike B and meet Steve Pritchards - who Claridge insisted on calling "Pilchards" all evening. As a sub plot to all this, we had the added excitement of Pete's lost ticket which he miraculously replaced for the price of a bag of crisps!!

    We were waiting in the venue itself for what seemed like ages. I can honestly say that the anticipation has never quite built up like this for a long time (I think it was AC/DC at Sheffield Ice Arena!). I was overjoyed to see the band take the stage, and secretly I felt that it was even more special as I had missed the chance to see them last year and had dreaded it would be my last chance to see this glorious line up.

    There is no other suitable word to really sum up the first thing I noticed - this lineup really has BALLS! I noticed it first on "Lay Down", but it was really most noticeable in "Cold Steel" and especially in "Ghosts" which was jaw droppingly good. Chas and Rod are an absolutely formidable rhythm section - Rod especially stood out as an amazing musician. He never seemed to break sweat - even during the drum solo which was as good as any I've seen. Chas and Rod are similar musicians to my mind, extremely tasteful musicians, not too showy, but with an intuitive understanding of the dynamics of the music. I remember when I first heard Hero And Heroine, probably about 1990, and thinking how sad it was that I wouldn't get to hear this lineup perform - especially John Hawken, who seems to add something unique that I couldn't quite put my finger on. He certainly is a very classy musician, and has the dignity of a Professor of Music - playing "Round And Round" like a Rachmaninov rhapsody. His playing was particularly superb in "Cold Steel" which really benefitted from his input - a far greater version than on Deja Fou I thought. His keyboard sounds were always appropriate and he plays with such sensitivity. You and I was so tender and the notes were caressed from the mood with so much delicacy. He's less flash than the likes of Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson, and although I enjoy their playing, I think I would always prefer to hear John Hawken's playing.

    DC was on great form vocally and with his onstage chat - a couple of enjoyable fluffs which I do hope remain in the DVD were a highlight.

    A moment of dread occured when DC announced a surprise special guest, and Claridge moved towards the stage threatening a Strawbed up version of Postman Pat; but relief to see John Ford. What a fabulous singing voice he has - it seems unchanged over the years. Great performance from John, particularly the song he dedicated to his daughter - I bought his New World CD after the gig on the strength of this. Really nice banjo work from DC here too - its so great to see it back in the band.

    "Heavy Disguise" really benefitted from Townshend influenced thrashing from Dave Lambert who was on great form tonight. Although he did make a couple of fluffs, his playing overall more than compensated. It's always passionate and inventive and he has a great and unique guitar sound. Vocally he was absolutely spot on - especially on "Just Love" which was one of the highlights. I'll be honest in that it's far from my favourite track on Hero And Heroine, but it comes into its own in a live environment. It really rocked!! "Grace Darling" was wonderful to hear back in an electric background - John Hawken really shone here, and thank god the PA was loud enough to drown out Claridge and Pritchards "you have been the anchor" castrato tribute to Charterhouse choirboys!

    "The Life Auction" was something I don't think many of us expected to hear played live, I'm so grateful to have heard it. It's such a passionate and complex song - really showing the power and muscle of the band well. DC's vocals were top notch - belting out the high notes with such determination.

    "Part Of The Union" is a song which divides Strawbs fans and confuses the layman as to the true nature of the band, but as Claridge rightly said "Its a bloody great singalong". Perfect end to the evening.

    It was great to gather the Witchwood clan together for a photo, and great of John Hawken to join the throng. I wished Dave Cousins had joined the group for the photo; but can understand him not wanting to. Pity that the other band members were busy packing up etc. The gig analysis started straight away, and Lindsay really summed it up by just saying that words weren't enough...

    It was about midnight, so back to the Quality Hotel for more merriment and guitar playing. Tragically the snow came down and I set off at about 12.40 - getting back to Nottingham at about 2.00ish. Wish I'd stayed and just driven straight to work, but no use talking about it now.

    I have to say that this would have been a great day if we had just gathered and played a few albums; to have a great social gathering topped by a stupendous gig is a wonderful experience. I'm sure I haven't mentioned everyone by name; whatever I would write wouldn't do justice to the lovely bunch of people I met yesterday. Thanks to Dick for creating Strawbs Web which started things off, and of course thanks to the band for inspiring Dick and the rest of us and restoring our faith in humanity with their wonderful music. It isn't pompous, it isn't pretentious. It's from the heart and it's from the soul, and I for one will always be grateful for 5th March 2006.

    TWIN PEAKS - Comments from Lindsay Sorrell

    What an excellent review Ralph – you really have hit lots of nails on the head as far as I'm concerned about the Bilston gig. I'm afraid after four consecutive gigs which involved exceedingly late nights I've now reached burn out, but just want to add that every one of the gigs was absolutely incredible, though it seemed the meaning of incredible climbed a notch each night somehow in a way which hadn't seemed possible.

    Just as everyone else seems to feel, I think the amusing little hiccups of the night undoubtedly added to the magical cameraderie as they portrayed the warmth and humour of Strawbs' band members which we all know and love, rather than allowing them to be represented (uncharacteristically) as a band where clinical precision rules. Yes, they are human and can make the odd mistake under pressure just like the rest of us - and doesn't that make us love them all the more!

    As usual I feel it pretty pointless to try and single out individual band members' performances as for me the cohesiveness of the entire unit is what makes Strawbs such an outstanding band. Must just say that I was standing, at times crushed against the barriers (reminded me of pile `em high gigs like Thin Lizzy or Deep Purple at places like Southend Kursaal in olden days before Health and Safety had been invented), right in front of Dave Lambert. Like everyone else it seems, I can't think of anything he played that didn't sound brilliant as ever to me – certainly an incredible amount of feeling came across in his performance and if he's right (I suppose he may just possibly know better than me) and there really were some slight imperfections, that all-important "feeling" definitely wasn't affected in the slightest. Dave Cousins put across as passionate a vocal performance as I think I've ever heard, Chas's bass and guitar playing were charmingly champion, and as Ralph mentioned, totally tasteful also, Rod really rocked and his drum solo was blindingly brilliant each night, John Hawken was, as ever, a genial genius throughout each gig.

    I've gone and done it haven't I, mentioned them all I mean and I cannot possibly sign off without saying what a wonderful special guest John Ford really was – his voice is terrific (so glad you've bought your first JF album Ralph and I'm sure you won't be long in buying the others, well I hope not anyway, they've all got several excellent tracks on them). The addition of "Kissed By The Sun" (the beautiful song John wrote about his daughter which Dave Cousins introduced as his own favourite JF composition, and then said what a pity it had never been recorded by Strawbs – it's on John's album Heading For A High by the way - not sure which night Dave said that, all a bit blurry I'm afraid and how much longer can this sentence get??) and the way John managed to follow DC and hold the crowd in the palm of his hand was no mean feat IMHO (and obviously in the humble opinions of everyone else packing out the Robin 2).

    Must mention that the mass singing along which has started occurring at gigs absolutely amazed me – not just "Part Of The Union", but "Hero And Heroine", "Heavy Disguise" and other songs too. It felt like being transported back to the buzz of some of the UK "stand up" university gigs where there were highly appreciative audiences in the 1970s to me - I do wonder how things might have worked out if the H & H line-up had toured more in the UK at the time – I know they went down really well in the States and Canada but so many mega fans over here have told me they never even got to see this line-up at the time which seems a tragedy to me (not that I'm biased or anything).

    Witchwooders – where do I start - just look at the group photo and consider yourself being virtually group hugged at this moment if you were in it (thanks for the lift Adie), plus of course the many other Witchwooders at NPL, Southampton (where did you get the idea I wouldn't be charging interest Roy??? I know it was money for a good cause, to be spent on a John Ford CD, but be serious please!), Deal – what a fantastic night that was too (and many thanks for the brilliant photos Sue) - thanks to you all for an amazing few days. It was lovely to meet Laura from NY, thanks for great company and I don't know how many times we exchanged beaming glances at each other as we stood watching the band while crushed against that barrier, and also Dave Something from Somewhere near NY too. He was off to visit all the "Strawbs" sights of London in the morning, like the London Apprentice pub (back cover of "Antiques and Curios") and various other monuments to the glory of Strawbs – he wasn't in the slightest bit interested in visiting the usual tourist haunts like Buckingham Palace, definitely got his priorities right that man. An amazingly interesting character and a real pleasure to meet.

    I can't even think about reviewing Deal properly at the moment , let alone NPL or Southampton – hopefully Nigel will soon publish his much-threatened Volume II of Tales on the Road and save me having to think back that far – don't remember that night too well probably as I was stone cold sober (yes you read that right Les) - suffice to say that some band members worried they may have "peaked" in Deal which I think hints at how good it was. It was definitely a case of twin peaks in my opinion, and these past few days have been some of the best of my life - even those two surprise trips the wrong way up and down the M1 were fascinating, thanks so much for thinking of that added extra Carole.

    Lindsay, still buzzing


    Incredibly it is the 28th anniversary of the Golders Green concert. Almost the same week and on a similar night, we fittingly find the Strawbs playing a packed gig, which is again being recorded for posterity. We now await the DVD, but whilst the technology has evolved the lads themselves have weathered the changes remarkably well and certainly better than some members of the audience!

    Back in 1977 Dave Cousins was interviewed in the NME. From my recollection he spoke about how he could listen to the Watersons all day-long and a little about the contemporary music scene. That popular music was just that. People would be attracted to pop music because it related to their experiences-if that music reflected their feeling of alienation, (Thatcher's Britain) so be it …and Punk reigned. From the interview I felt that perhaps Dave thought the Strawbs as we knew them could not match the onslaught of changing fashion and the popular music genre of the time.

    So pack up bags and do an acoustic tour with Brian. Indeed at the concert at Keele University I recall a classic punk with a Mohican haircut being loud during one song and Dave having to tell him to be quiet. The musical culture clash was self evident. But I do wonder how many of the artists of that day or those that my daughters listen to today, will be capable of maintaining their catalogue of music and performing with such sublime professionalism in 30 years time? Indeed, only quality stands the test of time and that is why we came to Bilston.

    The glorious difference between Golders Green and tonight is the line- up. Back to the full Hero And Heroine assemblage, this time (Mr.Hi Karate) on the drums was Rod Coombes. Playing on the ivories (all the way from New Jersey not Newcastle under Lyme) was, at long, long last, the phenomenally talented John Hawken - made more special because John did not attend Chiswick. Many of us have seen the "Bursting at the Seams" line up in recent years, but the last time I saw anything resembling a full power-on Strawbs set (excluding Chiswick) was at the Flamingo club in Plymouth during the Deadlines tour in 78. I couldn't see that well because I was trying to impress a young lady (hope you are well Rose wherever you may be) and did not wear my NHS glasses. So if patience is a virtue a wait of 31 years must make me a Saint Bernard!?

    Whilst waiting for the start of the show I had a brief conversation with a fellow enthusiast who reminded me that the Bursting at the Seams line up really rocked. What I think we can agree about is that there is no one line up better than any other. Each has contributed in a formative way to the pleasures we get when we listen a Strawbs album. But the production of Hero And Heroine took the portfolio to another level. If ever the Strawbs had a collective thumb print, for some, many of the tracks on this album and its line up are it.

    However, harmony and balance were restored in the space/time continuum by the appearance of Mr. John Ford as a surprise guest. The performance of "Heavy Disguise" was flawless, with its mirrored acoustic duet with DL. It is a worthy testament to his song writing abilities-and the guy has not aged!

    The venue itself was in sunny Bilston, just off junction 10 of the M6. Unbeknown to me, the place is apparently quite famous for having links with Roy Wood and Noddy Holder? Certainly judging by its programme it attracts some class acts-a fitting venue then for the Strawbs.

    Having parked at the rear I did have minor palpations as I walked to the front of the buildings and could not see any posters of the lads on the billboards, for the briefest moment, right place – wrong date? Once inside calm was restored when I could see the lads doing the sound check. The young staff were very polite, and on observing me they started to pull out some tables and chairs. The Leisure and Tourism GNVQ courses run in schools is clearly working as the staff swiftly identified that some members of this audience might be the types who fall asleep whilst watching Countdown on the telly - or might be capable of falling off ladders whilst attempting a little simple DIY.

    Attending a Strawbs gig gives one a sense of tremendous solidarity. As a member of my local allotments association I am actually the youngster! At a Strawbs gig I am with kindred spirits and blend in to perfection. I just hope that my silver (not grey) and balding head did not cause too much reflected glare for the cameras.

    Now I have a confession to make. I actually joined in the encore with gusto. I slipped; I got carried away, clapping to "Part Of The Union". For years I have detested this song. This is the one song that many people recognize. An albatross. In all the previous shows I have upheld my principles and resisted. I was caught off guard by the moment (I must be suffering form some musical malnutrition) and its rollicking refrain. Forgive me.

    There were so many highlights to this show. The polished skill of the performers was absolutely phenomenal and one had to watch admiringly. However there were two personal pleasures, due to the fact that I had not seen them done before. At long last (I didn't know they did requests) Mr. Lambert performed "Just Love". I have wanted to hear this for so long, thank you. It just bounced along, as it should, with Chas on the bass and Rod driving through and of course Dave L coordinating everything with his brilliant vocals and crashing chords. I was in too much ecstasy to concentrate on whether that superb thumping drum pattern was being used as on the album but it seemed to match my beating on the legs. (Flagellation?)

    The second song and perhaps the biggest surprise was "Southall/Life Auction". This is a really quirky DC number and whilst I enjoyed it on the album when it first came out, it is not something that I would often pick out to listen to. But my goodness, LIVE, how the band pushed this song back into the consciousness and with a VENGEANCE. Really powerful chord play and DCs vocals, something for everyone to get their teeth into. As a band their polished skills were self evident. I was knocked out by this.

    It was encouraging to see so many dedicated Strawbs fans at this concert and the 'mosh' pit filled rapidly once the doors opened with an eager and suppliant audience. Being somewhat vertically challenged I was resigned to achieve the best possible view from the sedentary position occupied since 6.00pm.

    "Tears And Pavan" must be amongst everyone's firm favorites and helps to reinforce my intellectual inadequacies, knowing that I could never write anything so beautiful or in such emotive terms. I should like to thank the girl who requested this song for its first airplay back in June 75 on Fluffs Saturday show. I was sat in the garden watching the grass grow with the radio on full volume. The delivery of this song was just as we have come to expect. Particular to this song is the vocals. The vocals are so much more important and should be advanced unless they get drowned by the instruments. I want to savor the passion of the lyric and allow my emotions to be moved. Bless DC and his voice, how he can maintain a powerful gentleness is beyond me. Some of us like to take our Pavans a little more slowly these days - like everything else! Of course I know that in our heads we were all clapping along as well.

    By arriving a little early (and I am always thankful no-one objects when I do), not only was I able to give myself time to adjust from my first journey out of North Essex in 6 months, but was also able to witness some of the extraordinary efforts put in by everyone to make the show such a brilliant success. There is a tremendous coordinated activity to put such a gig on. When you see the apparent ease that the lads have on stage it appears effortless. It is easy to forget the adrenalin pumped stresses they must put through beforehand. After all these years the tension and nerves were clearly in evidence. I never cease to be impressed by the detail that Dave C and the rest put in to maintain their professional standards and artistic credibility. And once on stage, as always, consummate professionals, calm and collected-keeping it real. (My daughter tells me I should not be allowed to use this phrase because I'm too old!)

    A lot of us present have obviously attended some of the acoustic gigs, which we could consider (under New Labour) to be the healthy, organic alternative to a somewhat heavier sound. I must say that just before I am shackled to the kitchen sink by my wife, I put on Painted Sky, and then don my Marigolds. For the performers it must be so nice not to be encumbered by all the electrics - not quite plug and play though. For the audience we get a better view as the stage is liberated of its clutter and aurally we can enjoy the vocals and narrative of the songs. This was NOT AN ACOUSTIC gig but I was not prepared for the tsunami of sound that hit us when the band let rip with the opening set. Isn't it astounding at how the senses can be overwhelmed when the volume gets cranked up as Mr.Coombes lets rip on the drums, driving the songs along as he did on the albums, with an absolutely commanding virtuoso performance on his kit. Yes, electrics can be cumbersome and problematic at times, but hey, it's nice to have your socks blown off sometimes.

    His drum playing is wonderful with tricky off beat moments and strikes where you don't expect them. And yes, the drum solo is alive and well! I didn't mid this at all (especially if it enables the lads to have a quick comfort break.) It is interesting to see how he can achieve the consistency and variety of beats and rhythms without the build up of significant amounts of lactic acid in his muscles. Perhaps we should all take up drumming as part of our personal fitness regime.

    Since this was the Hero And Heroine line up perhaps the group might like to consider "Sad Young Man" - it does fit snuggly onto the first side of the album. Go on give it a try.

    If you empty a room of its furniture not only does the sound echo more but it also becomes thinner. The title track "Hero And Heroine" in its various guises has always been like this for me and I never liked the sea shanty version. I apologise, I don't think that such a triumphal piece should be played if it's going to be thin. Tonight at long last, it wasn't. It was loud, thick with full body and magnificent. Every instrument in collective harmony to drive this song to its sublime conclusion, just as nature intended.

    John Hawken was somewhat hidden from my view by the 'mosh pit' crowd and the instrumentation. He gave the impression of a potter at the wheel, but instead of creating beauty out of the raw earth his arm gestures created gorgeous sounds from the ether. If something identifies what he bought as a key board player to the Strawbs then "Remembering/You And I" are just inseparable Strawbs classics. "Grace Darling" was also superbly done with the choir sound this time instead of the church organ. It would be interesting if the organ work Chris Parren produced on the channel four 'Powerhouse' concert could be superimposed on the choir version to deliver "Grace Darling" in all its magnificence.

    How does Dave Lambert do it? This high energy electric guitar playing. If only we could wire him up to the national grid as a clean renewable energy resource. His thrashing chords and precision picking on "Ghosts" perfectly juxtaposes DC's gentle lullaby.

    In an evening of superlatives what more could one add? I know, how about musical Viagra in the form of "Round And Round". Just what the doctor ordered. I wanted to turn that volume up louder and burst my hearing aid! The fantastic synthesizer opening was absolutely brilliant. The introductory drum beat with the distinctive one, one, one two on the cymbals would have made this perfect but who cares. The entire band is able to express there individual creativity, whilst producing a perfect whole. Even Chas Cronk, (who normally has a mild and reserved demeanor on stage) let slip with a partial pirouette.

    As were all aware Chas took over from Brian who has a warm place in our hearts for the lovely guitar work with Dave.C and the Strawbs. Chas naturally fitted in seamlessly with the acoustic set up. His artistic credibility is for all to see and not just on stage. He's been responsible for writing some of the finest Strawbs songs with Dave Cousins. You cannot be anonymous on stage,especially when you add as much as Chas does to the sound either on bass, twelve string guitar, or vocals.

    To set up a full bodied track as "Round And Round" you need a fragrant bouquet and just as on the album we were treated to "Out In The Cold". I cannot express how much this song still stands out as simple perfection-and can this wine travel? Whether it is acoustic or rock it doesn't suffer in the slightest. Dave's vocals were as magnificent as ever. Perhaps some day we just might be treated to the harmonica introduction as well.

    The gig tonight gave us a comprehensive and highly representative selection of what is a phenomenal catalogue of creativity. After such a show and these reviews Rod, the two Johns and the two Daves cannot be in the least bit ambivalent about there achievements and the high regard in which they are held. They can be genuinely proud of there commanding contributions to a showcase that has featured 'The Cream of the Strawbs.'

    After the show the band members were as affable and approachable as ever. Almost foregoing the chance for a brief break to reflect on there personal achievements and unwind. For me it was a quick drive through the snow back to the Travelodge at junction 10 for a cup of Horlick's and a beta blocker. In the morning I saw the biggest car park I've ever seen.-my mistake, it's the M6 motorway.

    And finally I would like to say a big thank you not just to the band members for a superb night but also to Dick Greener- for being the 'conduit for our passion.'

    WHAT A DAY...WHAT A NIGHT - Comments from Les Cotton

    Pre-show, the WW gathering was great fun, Ralph and I had our acoustic guitars to hand, and we had a laugh with intros/duos/Claridge and Postman Pat.......

    Gig was simply awesome, as described elsewhere, and EVERYONE was singing! (The PA is 7.5 kilowatts, and was only up to a third power.....any higher would be meltdown I'd say!!) I too nearly lost my voice, shouting, singing, and,err, swaying. Here's what could be the biggest Witchwood group photo ever...I can count 25, and I'm not going to label it, but you will notice the usual suspects I'm sure...

    That was the gig...the aftershow party was something else....the hotel was packed with the Witchwood gang, band, and crew. We party'd on till around 3am...I was just off to bed when someone said "John Ford's gone for his guitar..."....and it was true. We remaining 12 or so were treated to an exclusive, unscheduled JF performance...just John, a guitar and a chair.....Beatles covers, "Together Apart", "Whiter Shade Of Pale", "Nice Legs, Shame About The face" and a very moving "Benedictus", with the whole party singing along, and Chas and Dick [and Neil] on harmonies....absolutely and utterly fantastic, money can't buy this stuff! Huge thanks to John and Jill, who had only just got back from a long post-gig journey, and I believe also got lost en route back to Bilston. Here's the photo, in the background, Jill, Nigel, and Wayne with camera -

    I staggered to bed at 0420am.......


    3.20am. Just back from Bilston.

    Absolutely brilliant.

    The Best EVER!!

    The guys rocked: all the guys were immense. Unfair to single one band member out, but Rod got my man of the match award for driving the guys on, an incredible drum solo and all done with a torn muscle in his arm.

    A couple of false starts to songs by DC and JF, but some very funny quips. It seemed that the "pressure to get the DVD right" was telling. DL wished he'd done better but I can honestly say I can't see how: talk about gilding the lily. I really do feel this is the best Strawbs performance I have ever seen.

    Large Witchwood Contingent (duly photographed). A DVD of the Witchwooders will be released and may feature the occasional shot of the Strawbs.

    Best Witchwood performance goes to Dave Claridge for his rendition of Postman Pat.

    A bloody good day.

    THE BEST WAS OURS AND WELCOME - Comments from Peter Rand

    Hi everyone - left at 6:30 this morning and was in work for 9.00 - I'll leave those more gifted in the storytelling and setlist dept, but I would just like to echo what Ralph and Pete(AT)Best have said - this was for me the best electric performance I've seen over recent times and what a bonus it's going to be on DVD.

    Quick personal highlights in no particular order:

    The Life Auction
    Cold Steel
    The Man Who Called Himself Jesus
    Heavy Diguise
    The kind lady who gave her spare ticket to me in exchange for Ready Salted Crisps..
    The guitar workshop in the hotel beforehand
    The group sway!
    The crowd (lots of them!)
    Crash Barriers (in case we got a bit carried away)
    Dave Claridge's Intro Workshop
    Dave Claridge's musical terminology:
    "It's E up a bit" - Guitar Instructions
    "It's all the white notes" - how to play "you and I (when we were young)"

    And not forgetting... Ralph for giving us all a huge lift using the latest Satnav Gizmo, which only tells you where you're going once you've got there.

    I only wish I could have stayed up later afterwards....

    Thanks to the band for a great performace, thanks to everyone for your company as always and special thanks to Neil for arranging the rooms.

    Comments from Stephen Lambe

    While I am a bit of a Strawbs novice (comparatively, at least), I thoroughly enjoyed the gig at Bilston last night.

    Bilston is a great venue for photos, but thanks to the enhanced lighting for the DVD, it was even better than normal, so I got a fair few decent shots. They've been cropped and sharpened, but not altered in any other way, and I've posted them at:

    Stephen's photos

    You can consider them copyright free, so steal them as you see fit!

    Comments from Mike Barker

    I reckon they were definitely being overly self-critical!! IMHO this was the most cohesive performance I've seen from this line-up, certainly an improvement on last year at Bilston.

    The sound was perfect - we took up position in the seated area near the mixing desk - John Hawken's keyboards were excellent especially on "Autumn", "Round And Round" and the piano behind "Cold Steel". I thought DC's vocals withstood the pressure of signing above the band - I think I only spotted one occasion when his voice went - the power he maintained throughout was astounding.

    I was on the DL side of the stage and wasn't sure what he was disappointed about in his own performance - "Cold Steel" was magnificent and the ending to "The Winter Long" was sublime [to use a DG phrase].

    The acoustic set was interesting - hearing the songs come through a proper PA set up for a rock performance added something especially to the vocals - the fluffs definitely need to be on the DVD. The cleverly disguised DC fluff on the intro to Grace Darling was amusing i.e. he forgot the John Hawken choir intro.

    I thought the band seemed extremely pleased with life with many smiles in the second set shared between Cousins, Cronk and Hawken.

    It's impossible to pick out the highlights as I really thought the quality of the performance was that high [that's from a Witchwooder who's not been afraid to criticise in the past].

    Comments from Dave Kennedy

    What a great gig last night, a real party atmosphere! I do hope the DVD has some out-takes as there were some priceless moments. Poor Dave Cousins, I mean the number of times he's performed "Tears And Pavan" faultlessly and then come the night of filming and d'oh! However, he handled it very well. And then starting off "Kissed By The Sun" when John Ford said 'it's normally longer than this' and the lady in the audience who shouted "that's what they all say!"

    Enjoyed hearing "The Life Auction" but would have also liked to have heard "Burning For You" and "Heartbreak Hill" or perhaps one more track off Deja Fou but otherwise a great selection.

    I think we all did well in the audience too, what a great response to "Part Of The Union" after all these years.

    Comments from Louise Richardson

    Superb night, great selection of songs. The lads really worked hard on Sunday evening and everyone went away happy!! Looking forward to seeing the DVD. There was a four star review in the Birmingham Mail which was excellent reading and said it all [no longer online]. What a wonderful night, may the Electric Strawbs keep on rocking and the Acoustic Set keep strumming !

    Comments from Adrian The Rock

    Even after having only made it to two of the four gigs I'm really grateful to Dave and all the others for their superb efforts. The other WWers have described it far better than I could, but I enjoyed Teddington for the nice intimate atmosphere while at Bilston the guys really rocked. A great privilege to have had the chance twice to hear "Heavy Disguise"; John F was in particularly good form at Bilston where "POTU" made a great climax.

    Please enable Javascript to view Strawbsweb

    . Click on my name to e-mail me.