Updated: 30 June 2006
Part 1 - Glasgow, Penrith and Sheffield
1000 MILE TOUR, Matt Taylor of Dead Like Harry's tour diary
Dead Like Harry's support tour with The Strawbs
18-22 June 2006
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What a great start to the week! The band's been really excited about trying our hand at a spot of touring, and who better to do it with than The Strawbs? We were thrilled when Dave invited us along as the support band for their UK summer tour.
The drive up to Glasgow was pretty uneventful. As we blasted along the M74 I casually leaned over my shoulder (leaving one hand on the wheel) to advise my trembling band mates that if they were to look out of the windows they could enjoy the beautiful mountain views that this stretch of road provides. Unfortunately nobody had remembered to bring their special Scottish mist-goggles, and so we didn't see anything at all.
When we arrived at the venue I was pleased to find that it really was a ferry, and that thankfully it was still floating. We unloaded the equipment down the gangway, put our bass player, Robin (the brave), into the loading-lift with his huge instrument, shut the manually operated doors, and then left him there while we went to find the Strawbs.
Dave and Neil were busy working out the logistics of fitting enough equipment for 11 musicians to use onto an already cramped stage. Years of stage planning paid off however as all was worked out in time for the soundcheck.
Once the equipment was in place we got back in the cars and went to check into our Travelodge. I was sharing a room with Sam. I gave him the double bed on account of his bad back, bad knee, toothache, hayfever and sinus pains, and went over to the sofa bed to have a lie down after all that hard work sitting still in a car. I made a mental list of all the things we should have to do before the gig: Have a shave and shower; find somewhere to eat; check what time we have to leave for Penrith tomorrow; write the set lists for tonight; and let Robin out the lift.
At 7.30pm we headed down to the Ferry for the show! At 7.55pm we were standing backstage sharing beer and good conversation with Dave and the chaps. Dave offered to introduce us. As Neil arrived to ask us to take to the stage Dave stepped up to the microphone and said: "I'd like to introduce to you one of the best young bands I have seen in many a year. They're a really great live band, please give a very warm welcome to Dead Like Harry!" Without a moments hesitation we launched into our first song, Sunrise. Admittedly it all fell apart by the first verse. I quickly blamed my microphone for making me sing the wrong verse but we played it perfectly the second time!
The show was all over far too quickly. We settled down to watch the Strawbs wonderfully energetic show, then loaded the equipment back into the cars and went back to the hotel to watch Monty Python's 'Holy Grail' and drink plenty of beer. The end to a wonderful day.
After 3 hours of Robin's 'Withnail and I' quotes, we finally arrived in Penrith. It was raining again, which, with the 3 bedraggled and hairy musicians crammed into the car listening to Jimi Hendrix and dreaming of future stardom, while following motorway signs to the Lake District, somehow created a very surreal feeling that we were really on our way to stay at Uncle Monty's cottage (if I have lost any of you, google-in 'Withnail and I' + 'synopsis').
The venue was a wonderful surprise. What a lovely place for a gig. I let everyone else unload while I wandered off to explore my new abode: our own dressing room! I tried out the mirror with light bulbs all round it; the full length mirror; the mirror above the sink and the mirror above the toilet, but none of them made me look any good, so I gave up and wandered into Penrith to have a quiet beer. At least that's what I would have done, but Sally found me before I could escape and gave me orders that I was to help set the stage up.
We weren't stopping in Penrith for the night, but driving back to Sheffield, where we live, so we had no hotel to relax in before the show. We warmed our voices up in the dressing room with a bit of accordian and guitar music. We were very surprised with the positivity of the reaction we got for our totally acoustic finale last night and were going to try it again tonight, and have the P.A. system turned off so it was without any amplification at all. I hoped my stomach didn't rumble too loudly during my accordian solo.
After a second highly enjoyable show we headed off as the sun was setting. The night was silent, and apart from the gentle hum of the engine, the only sound was Robin's muffled screams from the boot of the car.
Back to The Boardwalk in Sheffield then! Me, Sally and Sam did our first gig here in 1999, which seems somewhat incredible. In fact, it seems amazing that they'd let us play in 1999, as Sam was only 14. Perhaps they didn't know. Sam's back started to play up again just as we were about to load all of the heavy equipment into the venue. It's amazing how that keeps happening. Sally was very cross because she was "the one doing all the carrying of heavy stuff". I pointed out that it was not Sam's fault that he had to spend all soundcheck lying down in the dressing room, no more than it was Robin's fault that I had forgotten to open the boot of my car since yesterday, or mine that I find these kind of logistical operations totally confusing. I'm an artist, you know. I pointed out that she'd be nice and strong by the end of the week.
Despite the fact that the sound system was playing up all evening the gig was highly enjoyable. Since we had no drive ahead of us we were finally able to enjoy the whole of the Strawb's set with a large quantity of beer and wine. We were all getting our own favourite part of their set. Highlights for me were 'Heartbreaker' and 'Autumn'. Dave's voice seems to get more and more manic everyday. He has so much energy, I can see why the Strawbs have had such a wonderful following for all these years.
The venue was the hottest so far on the tour and a long cooling shower was needed before I could go to bed, satisfied with another great evening and very excited about the show in London the following day
The Half Moon in Putney. Who has not played there? Well, until tonight, Dead Like Harry. But that was about to change. We had been warned it was the smallest stage of the tour but we still managed to squeeze on. The house sound engineer was very understanding as the band tripped over each other and stumbled severally towards many expensive and precariously balanced pieces of equipment.
After a quick meal at a local Italian restaurant (it's really nice, go out the Half Moon, turn left, cross the road, there it is) we returned to the venue and played what I think was the best set yet. It went down really well. The audience appeared to be in particularly good 'spirits' at this venue, and that's something I can sympathise with. However, I was as professionally sober as always (!). The set seemed to go far too fast, and as the final bars of 'Needle' came to a close I felt a bit sad that there was only one more gig left on the tour.
We packed up the equipment and drove off into the night in search of our Premier Travel Inn experience. When, at 1.00am, we finally arrived, we were happy to find out that the check in procedure would only take half an hour and that we couldn't have breakfast unless we got up at 7.00am. This seemed somewhat unfair, especially as we had been working so hard, and poor Gratz had had a combined total of 5 hours sleep over the last two nights due to the fact that he had to return home to go to work for the first 3 days of the tour.
Saddened a little more, we bid goodnight to the giggling and overtired ladies, and retired to the boys hotel room to do grown up things like drink beer and watch Father Ted. I quietly removed a bug about the size of a Volkswagon from the bath before Sam found it and got upset. Then we fell asleep. I had been waking up at 4.00am due to the annoying habit the June sun has of rising at an astonishingly stupid time I previously did not know even existed. However, I had no such problem this night, as I placed my special sleeping eye mask that my girlfriend had made for her very temperamental boyfriend. I'm an artist, you know.
Brighton. The city where The Levellers live; where everybody likes to party; where all the pubs are open late; and where the council has closed off all the roads necessary for getting to the Komedia club's loading bay, without driving erratically and backwards the wrong way along one way roads. At least, that was my own experience. Of course, Sally and Alice had already negotiated the 'minor traffic inconvenience' and begun to unload the equipment hours before I arrived. The result of course was that me and Sam, who were travelling in my car, were unable to help with the loading in. Since this was the final night, I felt a bit sad. This soon passed however when I saw that we had a huge stage. No logistical problems tonight.
After a quick walk on the beach with an old friend I returned to the venue to do the gig. I was very excited as I waited backstage. I did a little jig. It was the most enjoyable of the gigs, but as the set came to a close I couldn't help but wish we had another week to go.
We spent most of the night after the show getting very drunk with the Strawbs in a late night bar. Dave and Neil were both very generous in the bar, and this was much appreciated by these 6 penny-less young people. Quote of the evening came from the wonderful John Hawken. He leaned across the metal fencing outside the bar to address a very large bouncer with a shiny head and calmly asked: "May I ask, is there a charge to get into this club?" As the night went on it became clear that even Dead Like Harry couldn't keep up with the Strawbs when it comes to having fun at a bar. We left at 3.00am (leaving the Strawbs in the bar!) to find our hotel, which took a while. As we approached dark, uninviting alleyways that appeared to lead in the general direction of our beds, Robin the brave would march ahead, accompanied by five of his favourite minstrels.
Eventually we were safely in our hotel. We wished Sally a happy birthday then climbed into our beds, turned off the lights, and thought back on the best week of the band's career. Thank you the Strawbs!
GENERAL COMMENTS, UK ELECTRIC TOUR, JUNE 2006
Wow, what a week......just some thoughts as I recover......
Glasgow.....a superb day all together. In the venue from 5.30pm, lovely food and drink, a good natter to Rod/Chas/Neil/Paco etc, then a great show from both DLH and Strawbs. Fantastic sound in a unique venue (a converted Ferry, moored on the Clyde). The band actually played in the lower level of the vessel, and we had a great view from the upper "deck" balcony.
Penrith.....lovely small theatre, organised by Penny from the Rattan and Rush. Comfortable tiered seating gave a great view of the stage, and it was LOUD....but exceptionally well mixed by Paul, great clarity....and the pub next door agreed to house us all afterwards, great party atmosphere, and plenty of drinks ;-) . Acquired some potential new Witchwooders too.
Sheffield.....oh dear......really best forgotten, as a major failure in the sound system made it almost unlistenable.....and our soon-to-be-explained "Fawlty Towers" episode at a certain hotel didn't help, but we all had a good laugh about it afterwards. Another great get-together in the (2nd attempt) hotel bar with band and Witchwood Mobile Crew relaxing together with a beer watching the football replay on a big TV.
Putney...Ok, it was the one I missed, and by all accounts it was a cracker...ho hum :-((
Brighton....a completley last-minute decison saw me hurtling down the M55/M6/M42/M40/M25/M23 etc etc some 300 miles to Brighton. Good move...it was an absolute belter of a gig. Another quite unique venue, the stage is in the corner of a converted cinema, and its a nice cosy setting, low lights and table seating all around the stage. We got a great view...I was literally next to John's keyboard monitor, sound was exceptional, not too loud, and very clear. Again, DLH played a great set, and Strawbs just seemed so relaxed...as John H said to me, just into their stride and then they have to stop. My only complaint was the (IMHO) very heavy handed attitude to those taking flash photos...despite the band (s) having no problem with this, there were regular visits from the "photo police" to stop us using flash. Fortunately, most of my pics used available light anyway....and then the terrible realisation that THE HOTEL BAR WAS SHUT!!!!! Oh no.....frantic striding round the streets with DC and co finding another drinking venue. I ended up with a bottle of Becks and Mushrooms-on-Toast, in the open air on the Seafront at 0130am in the morning ...bizarre or what? Great fun.
A nice day-after Brighton too, a wander round the town with WW crew, where we kept bumping in to the band in CD/Record shops and the like, all over the place! We must have said goodbye about six times....
Anyway, terrific week in terrific company, thanks again to Nigel, Carole, Lindsay, Ali, Paul Brazier (sorry I had to dash off, Paul...), Andy Slack, Ian and Sandra Stobbs, Neil from the Beeb, Paco and his brother, Mr and Mrs Dick G., and many more...and of course thanks to Dave, Dave, John, Chas, Rod and Neil for superb shows and some great laughs at the aftershow drinkies sessions. Ah well, back to normal routine now.....roll on next time!
We await The Badgeman's definitive report later....
Last as usual. We spent a fabulous few days travelling north to Glasgow, back through the Lake District and Peak District and finally to the south coast, enjoying ourselves immensely. I've erased Sheffield (the "S" place) from my memory. My humble apologies if you live there and maybe I should give it a second chance but please don't make me! I opted out of the London gig; being a delicate blossom I needed some time to recover from the "S" place.
Strawbs were superb as ever and grew with each gig, culminating in a blazing performance at Brighton. The venue was an inspired choice not only because Nigel and I could merrily jig around without being seen by anyone, but also because the sound was absolutely spot on and the lighting had some thought behind it.
Dead Like Harry's days as a support band are numbered - they will soon be touring in their own right. I'm looking forward to the next CD from them.
Thanks to all for making the trip so enjoyable and memorable. Especial thanks to Neil from the Beeb who ferried us about not once but twice in his super "with bells on" car, to Ali for getting us to the Penrith venue, and to Paul and Juliet for their hospitality in Brighton - I'm going to cultivate my hebe to look like yours.
HALF MOON, PUTNEY, WEDNESDAY 21 JUNE 2005
Saw the show at Putney last night. Brilliant. Dead Like Harry were (I think) the first time I had seen Strawbs with a warm up band since Turkey Leg Johnson supported them in the early 90s. DLH were very good.
The only thing I missed from last night's show didn't come to light till they played "Down By The Sea". First time I have heard it back in the set for a couple of years. In my opinion it really misses the twin leads of DL and BW who, as a pair, really made the playout section a joy to hear and behold.
That is a minor personal niggle. Basically, a fanastic 80 minutes worth of Strawbs. Pity about the pub 23:00 deadline which maybe shortened the set a little and left no time for an encore?
Getting too old for this but travelled down for the evening from West Somerset to The Half Moon for what must be the best Strawbs "Hero and Heroine" line up gig I have ever seen. Sound was superb, band were on top form, great Lebanese restaurant right across the road to eat in before the gig and a cheap evening as I couldn't find a cash machine so didn't have to buy any drinks! In no particular order I thought "Cold Steel" has already moved to Strawbs classic category and "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow" must be there too. "The River/Down By The Sea" never fails to move me as did "You And I" (such poignant words....). Left the Half Moon just after 11 and was tucked up in bed for 2.30am. Perfect evening out. And the next tour please?
KOMEDIA, BRIGHTON, THURSDAY 22 JUNE 2006
"That was jolly spiffing Mr. Greener and no mistake!" we Witchwooders cried in unison. Dick was sitting at the next table, grinning manically, as were the rest of the audience at the Komedia, having witnessed a stunner of a Strawbs' set. It was a pleasant club with a great atmosphere - apart from the intolerance towards flashers. I managed to take several photos of Dead Like Harry using my flash without reprimand, but only two shots of Strawbs before I received some rather queer glares from a waitress who was precariously balancing several hot dishes a bit too close to comfort. I'll send my contraband to Dick for the website when I get a chance, and will also send the DLH ones to their website too. Anyway, despite the lack of photographic evidence, an amazing Strawbs set was delivered with crystal clarity and witnessed by what appeared to be a sell-out crowd who were left begging for more.
I'd never been to the Komedia before so don't know whether the atmosphere often reaches the level of intensity it did for Strawbs, but the buzz throughout the place was phenomenal. As with the other four UK gigs on this mini-tour the band were on fire from start to finish: Rod's drumming was faultless and frequently mesmeric (I thought his solo on this night was particularly outstanding) Chas must have had "jolly whizzo" on his controls turned to 11 at least, and John was King of his Keyboards, adding the tinkliest of light and the darkest of shade in all the right places. Dave Lambert rocked and posed as only he can, (loved that jacket) - his voice sounding powerful and passionate, while Dave Cousins' wild and expressive gesticulations left no doubt that he was as absorbed and entranced by the band's cohesive musical creativity as those in the audience. These were giant performances by our Famous Five, all of whom appeared very definitely in the pink (well it was Brighton after all).
Photo by Les Cotton - "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow" - more Brighton pics from Les.
Sadly, but inevitably, the gig and the tour eventually drew to a close with an amazing performance of "Hero and Heroine" followed by "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow" as the encore, just as on the preceding four nights. "Golly gosh", exclaimed our Nige with trembling bottom lip and glistening eyes, "I jolly well can't believe it's all over. Ginger beer anyone?". Following last orders at the club our little throng then gaily sallied forth to seek further refreshments and, as Les has commented, upon finding that the hotel bar had shut unexpectedly early we eventually hit upon a jazz club. After a little deliberation whilst queuing some of us decided to part company from thirsty Strawbs and others, including Dead Like Harry folk, to try to find somewhere which looked a little less sticky and crowded, and more conducive to chilled out conversation. It would have been nice to have shared a last supper with the chaps and chapesses before Strawbs' performance yesterday at an Austrian festival of course, but while the company was very appealing the location was not. As it turned out we had several opportunities for final "au revoirs" the next morning anyway, as Les has yet again already mentioned, which pleased us all. A little café-bar cum restaurant on the seafront provided our early morning sustenance having walked round and round for a while we decided to sit out in the cold on the terrace where our breakaway sect partook of Nigel's promised lashings and some drinks too, as welcoming still brandies and fizzy lagers flowed while sea breezes blew. At some unearthly hour we made our way back to the hotel, carefully avoiding the swaying bodies dressed as schoolgirls (that's them dressed as schoolgirls, not us btw), a jolly friendly young man, and various other fascinations which Brighton by night held in store.
I must mention Neil Byford - what a trooper, doing what he had to do and ensuring everything seemed to run smoothly - quite an achievement with all those miles up hill and down dale to be covered without losing any bodies along the way. Paul the soundman also deserves a mention. While four of the gigs could be categorised as "very good" or "excellent" in my opinion, I'm afraid it is impossible not to mention the sound at the Boardwalk which, as others have commented, was well below par. Apparently the PA had blown, making the sound discordant and distorted for those of us lucky enough to have heard Strawbs perform with perfect clarity time and time again it was not a very enjoyable experience. Somewhat incredulously though, the vast majority of the audience seemed to be enjoying themselves throughout the gig which I assume must have caused something of a dilemma I noticed about a dozen walk out in dribs and drabs yet hundreds more stayed, clapping and cheering, so I can only surmise that most realised the sound problems were not a reflection of the band's musical capabilities and that even with the poor sound virtually no-one wanted to forgo the chance to watch Strawbs perform with their usual professionalism and gusto. At the Komedia I did notice Dave Lambert have a few minor difficulties, such as the first couple of lines of "Cold Steel" being rather quiet, but the problems appeared to be quickly rectified and overall the sound was extremely good with each instrument and voice coming through clearly and harmoniously. I thought the Half Moon gig was spot-on-excellent (the two friends I was with that night, Gill and Lesley, both described it as "ace" and Gill declared it to be "even better" than the last time she saw the band there). To my ears, Glasgow rated "very good" and Penrith rated "excellent" in the sound stakes. As John Hawken commented to me somewhere along the way, live musical performances (particularly intricate, multifaceted performances such as those given by Strawbs) are not "painting by numbers" each and every song requires a fusion of massive amounts of concentration, musical ability and intuition on behalf of each band member as they work as a team to achieve the levels of perfection we have come to expect of our heroes.
I shall leave Nigel, as Witchwood Intrepid Reporter Extraordinaire, to recount the many trials and tribulations of our adventures, not to mention the fun and frolics which go hand-in-hand with "being there" for the love of our chosen art. This tour really had its moments, leaving gigs aside. Having established conclusively in Sheffield that Nigel, Les, Andy Slack, Carole and I are all rather puritanical when questioned en masse by hotel staff about the "flexibility of our sleeping relationships" when rooms are double, treble and whatever else booked (Nigel explain asap please!!), I was slightly concerned that the delights of Brighton could prove unnerving, particularly to "young lad" Les, who I felt it my duty to shelter from various window displays there. I needn't have worried however, as it was a cute little battery operated puppy dog (Timmy?!) that caught his eye and seemed to give him great pleasure, not sure what it was doing in that sort of shop but it must have been innocent I'm sure.
Anyway, many thanks to Paul Brazier for reserving that excellent table near the front at Komedia those of us who resisted the urge to boogie at the back (we know what you were up to Adie, Carole and Nigel!) had a terrific view of the bands. Thanks to all the Witchwooders and fans everywhere for making it such a great week I've just had a quick mental count up and with no difficulty whatsoever, and forgetting a few names and faces I'm sure, I've thought of around 30 different Witchwood friends far to many to be able to mention of course, though I have to mention Paco and his brother Raphael's dedication to the Strawberry cause - fantastico to see you both at the Ferryboat in Glasgow and I hope you felt your trip over for the brief soundcheck was worth it! It was lovely to read your post saying that you felt like we were all old friends we all felt the same about you of course and enjoyed your company immensely. Madrid here we come! Heartfelt commiserations to everyone who couldn't get along to any of the gigs for various reasons, some of them very sad hopefully it wont be too long before we all have another opportunity to get together to feast on some more of those deliciously scrummy Strawbs - hurrah and three cheers for those jolly good fellows!
Photo by Lindsay Sorrell - more pics from Lindsay.
Thank you thank you thank you to the Strawbs for the Komedia gig at Brighton. Either there was something in the water in Brighton, or this show was the best. I don't know who to start praising first, maybe I should thank my Pete, for agreeing to come to Brighton, even though he had an early meeting the next day - My Hero.
DL - oh my goodness - Oh How He Sizzled. His voice was perfect, his playing was inspirational & his presence shone. DC - Sir, your poetry always touches me, your stories always move from mild amusement to fits of giggles - I wish I had your ability to manipulate the english language in a way to reflect accurately the magic of your perfomance. CC - A mild mannered genius, whose alter ego took over his playing and only added to the fire. JH - Each piece you played evoked a much cherished memory, but then everything you added and the subtle changes you made, almost made me think that all the tracks should be re-recorded. RC - Again a magnificent drum solo, but how much more can you take up the temperature. And of course our Mr Neil - without who, heaven only knows if each tour would be possible - Thank you Neil.
I have also got to mention Dead Like Harry. I can't remember who said it, but I agree with that wise person 100%, this band have a depth to their music that is very much beyond their years. It took a second Guiness to smooth out the goosebumps. If you have not caught them, I cannot recommend enough getting a sneaky peak at what they are offering - they are amazing.
Finally, a rip roaring stonking blazing bonfire of an evening. Once I come down from this high, I will need a lie down - this much excitement is not good for a midget of my years.
Pictures from Adrian the Rock - More pictures from Adrian on the Brighton 2006 page on his website.
THALGAU, AUSTRIA, SATURDAY 24 JUNE 2006
Was able to catch the band in Thalgau last Saturday, tied in perfectly with a week in Austria. Few pictures attached from my perch in the fourth row, only had my holiday snapper camera on me so not as good as I'd like to supply but if you don't get any others they are better than none.
The set was mainly made up of Hero & Heroine, Bursting at the Seams, Grave New World (title track) with only Here Today, Gone Tomorrow, the second encore track, from Dej Fou.
Good to see a Rod Coombes drum solo fro the first tiome since 1970 something, he stayed in his drum stall this time though, last time I saw him he played every part of the stage!! (I think it was Drury Lane about 1974).
Anyway, thoroughly enjoyed seeing the electric band again after seeing many acoustic sets.
Finally, what a great album High Seas is, from the hypnotic bass of Call To Action to the celtic feel of The Feng Shui Symphony I don't think there's a duff track
Photos by Ian Hulland- more pics from Ian.
What a nice evening! I'm glad to have had the chance to see the electric Strawbs for the first time. I came from Germany to see this open-air event and to our surprise they had lunch in the same restaurant as we were (I missed the chance to get autographs).
The weather couldn't be better. The crowd seemed to be a mix of old fans (like me) and younger ones, who maybe never heard anything about the Strawbs. What should I say about the set, it was fantastic!! The guys are in brilliant form (especially Rod's drumming, Dave on guitar and David's voice!). Setlist see the other concerts this week (except "Cold Steel"). For the encore they give the people what they want (the not well-liked "Part Of The Union") and a brilliant ending with "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow". Just to repeat David's words, I´m happy "on a night like this"!
Hope they will be soon on tour and maybe there is a chance to play a few gigs in Germany next time.