Updated: 7 Aug 2006
Benedictus (Acapella)/Simple Visions
Shine On Silver Sun
A Glimpse Of Heaven
STRAWBERRY HILL HOUSE, TWICKENHAM, SUNDAY 11 JUNE 2006
A sweltering afternoon in the grounds of Strawberry Hill house brought enjoyment to many thousands enticed by entertainment including craft stalls, children's entertainment, food stalls, beer tent and of course 7 hours of music, showcased by a set by the Acoustics. All of this for the princely price of £2, with a glossy programme thrown in for free. Can you believe it cost so little, particularly as it was a fund raising event, staged to support the restoration of Strawberry Hill House. It must have been the bargain of the year and the reason it was spotted by so many.
The start time for the music was delayed by about an hour, so the acts all ended up about one hour later than the original provisional schedule, but that did not matter one jot on a great summer's afternoon, with one band [The Draytones - DG] finishing their act by performing "Sunny Afternoon", by the Kinks, as a tribute to this very day.
Lots of Strawbs friends and acquaintances were in evidence, so this was also very much a social gathering and a time to catch up on what we had all been up to since the last tours, as well as our plans for future ones.
The predicted shortened set was delivered in the midst of the plethora of , R & B and indie/ rock/ cover acts. The Acoustics were immediately preceded by The Downliners Sect, a band formed in 1963 in the Twickenham area and holding real nostalgia for a Strawbs member who had often listened to them, during those formative years.
There was a great deal of appreciation of the Acoustics, bringing the afternoon's first plea for an encore from the audience. This was not to be, given the time constraints of the day, but bringing further warmth to the already very hot afternoon.
So finally in the brief potted history of the band, you might read about the name Strawbs evolved from the Strawberry Hill Boys. With DC admitting on stage that they originally had practiced in a flat across the road from Strawberry Hill House, today was a real home coming and a perfect way and day, to start what we hope will be a glorious June for the Band.
I was the front of house / monitor engineer yesterday in Twickenham and just thought I drop you a quick line.
Yesterday was dragging on and on and on, various problems with too-quiet vocals. Then Chas turned up wanting various direct inputs - bit of a panic but soon sorted. When they came on to check monitor levels it was an absolute pleasure to sort out - almost three rounds of "yep thats fine".
On return to the FOH desk it was a pleasure to mix, three guys who can sing brilliant harmonies and all faultless musicians, no wrist slashing 12 bar blues in earshot, an absolute pleasure and to be perfectly honest the highlight of my day. It was like watching a group full of music students performing and then having their tutors show them how it should be done, definitely in a different class all of their own.
So thanks to them, one little gem of a performance made the whole trip worthwhile.
Photos by Dick Greener - more pics from Dick.
A crumbling old wreck, in urgent need of renovation, and that was just me. Strawberry Hill House itself, at least from the outside, looked in very good condition, considering that it has been around for almost as long as the Strawbs. I believe that the building was named Strawberry Hill House after a certain local band.
The house and grounds made a beautiful backdrop to the stage, and for once, even the weather was perfect. The Strawbs in sunlight! If John Ford had been there, he'd have probably had to wear sun-glasses. Whilst we, the audience, desperately tried to keep some semblance of modesty by removing as many clothes as possible, but still being too hot, the poor guy who introduced the acts was regaled in full period costume, dressed presumably as William Waldergrave, or one or other of the Walpoles. With frills, frock coat, waistcoats, and wigs, he must have been roasting.
The reason we were all there, was of course the Strawbs, but I must first mention the Groove Academy, a group formed from a local music school for 11 to 18 year olds. To say that they were very talented young musicians might be condescending, so I'll just say that they were very talented musicians. This was their first major gig, but there was no way of telling that, as they showed no signs of nerves. Not sure how many of them there were, as different students played each song, but I suspect that their total age was still less than mine. They started with "All Along The Watchtower", moved on to "Purple Haze", and finished with a couple of Alicia Keys songs, after a quick rendition of "Walking On The Moon". (Well, they're young. They probably didn't realise.)
So finally, on to the Strawbs. Because the sound dissipates outside, the volume had been turned up just that little bit too much, (Volume 11 on the Spinal Tap amplifier), and so occasionally there was a hint of distortion. I also felt that the volume on Chas's pedals was a bit too loud, as well. Rather than adding a subtle undertone to the proceedings, they almost drowned out "Ghosts".
OK, so there were minor problems with the sound quality, but apart from that, boy, were they good. Normally, when they are playing, all they can see is a bunch of drunken witchwooders, obscured by darkness, but today the stage overlooked a stunning gothic castle, and I guess the change of scenery inspired them. Dave Lambert sang his heart out, and looked fantastic, sitting there with his wrap around shades, and long hair blowing in the breeze.
Although there were no lengthy Dave Cousins rambles, he still treated us to some witty introductions to the odd song. "This one is for all the Norwegians in the audience" heralded "Midnight Sun", and "Shine On Silver Sun" was introduced with a brief tale as to how the Strawberry Hill Boys used to play bluegrass, but that Dave's fingers weren't as fast now that he had aged, so he now could only play slow songs on the banjo. Most funny of all, however, was his announcement before they launched in to "Lay Down". Apparently it was Victoria Parkinson's birthday. He told us that she was a good looking girl, but still single, so he would introduce her to anyone who popped round to the back of the stage afterwards.
Fantastic to see the guys in their spiritual home. Their set only lasted for about forty minutes, but at least it alleviated the withdrawal symptoms that we were all suffering from, and will hopefully keep us going until Putney. Hopefully, the Strawbs will make playing at the Strawberry Hill Music Day a regular event, at least until the building is fixed, or Dave has managed to palm Victoria off on to someone.
House named after band
Some guy who turned up
Photos by Pete Bradley- more pics from Pete.
Tears & Pavan
Shine On Silver Sun
Oh How She Changed
Hero & Heroine
Glimpse Of Heaven
ANTINOCK, TOKYO, JAPAN, FRIDAY 7 JULY 2006
I was waiting for this day for a long time. It is 31 years ago that they came to Japan last time. I knew their activity in the present with Internet and DVD. And I thought that it was absolutely impossible unless I went to UK.
But then dreams sometimes come true.
THE STRAWBS, Acoustic Strawbs this time, appeared in the very front us at last. Because a concert is carried out in a small but cozy live house this time, we can watch them close and are deeply impressive at all.
By greeting of "konbanwah" (it means "good evening") of Cousins, begin with "Benedictus" by a cappella suddenly to "Simple Visions". Two powerful strokes of the acoustic guitars of Chas (12 string guitars) and Lambert are shocking. I have been enchanted by a powerful vocalist accompanied with a unique hand gesture of Cousins. Even if 60 years old pass away, I seem to right prove the real ability as active play. Harmony of three guitars has overwhelming power in "Tears & Pavan" than I listen with CD. This power was shocking until the last stage. I wonder at why their performance can start such a power though it is an acoustic sound. However, the talk of Cousins seems to be the narration of a story, and it is drawn into a style of reciting of magic unintentionally.
After having sung "New World" in a loud voice, Cousins takes up a banjo, and "Shine On Silver Sun" begins. Three harmony approaches in overwhelming sound pressure. "Cold Steel" of Lambert's product is a work from album "Deja Fou". As far as I am glad in my loving this song.
As for the introduction of "Autumn" which does not have keyboards only with guitars, an image is original. E-Bow which Lambert plays has deep taste. I wanted Cousins to play "Witchwood" with a dulcimer if it was to be able to do it. Singing emotionally of Lambert in "Ghosts", the splendor of harmony of guitars.
Chas seemed to play among three members modestly, but their music still feels me by his 12 strings guitar and harmony when thickness appeared more than before. Originally "Midnight Sun" of acoustic arrangement is good to a stage of this Acoustic Strawbs. "Oh How She Changed" which Lambert sings in place of Tony hooper is dramatic and splendid.
I did not think that they played "Dragonfly" on live performance. "If" from album "Deja Fou." I seem to shed tears for a gentle singing voice full of emotion of Cousins. By the way, it is "Lay Down" with their finished harmony. I cannot help singing this song which I heard so far.
And, as for "Hero & Heroine", something arrangement is taken. It is a sound of bodhran whom Lambert plays. Three members leave it in this once. And it is an encore. Tonight's stage was finished in "Glimpse Of Heaven" of their harmony powerful as ever.
I want to see electric Strawbs by 5 or 6 members on the next time. They always do a persuasive performance by a powerful sound somehow.The passion doesn't have the change compared with old times at all.
My dream had been achieved. I am greatly deeply moved with tears. Especially, fall in love with Lambert's guitar picking and his songs. When Lambert finished singing the tune, he always accepted our applause in the smile. It was very good impression.
Thank you Dave Lambert,Chas Cronk and David Cousins. And I thank for the Vinyl Japan which invited them to Japan.
I will not forget this night throughout the life!
Photo by Mojo Jones.
Being a Radio DJ based in Osaka, Japan I consider myself fortunate that I can go to concerts on a regular basis. I get the chance to see and meet top class musicians from all over the world who come to perform in Osaka. It's not often that I'm prepared to go all the way to Tokyo for a concert. However, an opportunity to catch the Acoustic Strawbs was too good to miss.
I was scheduled to carry out a recorded interview with Dave Cousins. So, I arrived at the venue nice and early. A modest sized live house called the Antinock located in Shinjuku, downtown Tokyo. When I got there the band was just about to have a sound check…So I had a taste of things to come. The first thing to impress me was the vocal power of the Strawbs..If you wanna get the hairs standing on the back of your neck listen to the intro of "Lay Down". The interplay between musicians is outstanding. Nothing hidden in volume here, all is clear and up front… lovely! With the sound check over, I was lucky enough to get my Interview with Dave Cousins. And, despite the venue staff moving chairs around, air conditioner motors on full blast and the slamming doors…I recorded a nice mellow interview with Dave which was broadcast a week after the concert date and well received by my listeners in Osaka.
The performance was scheduled to start at 7:00pm and by the time I returned to the Antinock at around 6:30 it was filling up nicely. I should mention the high cost of concert tickets in Japan. My ticket cost 9,000 Yen with a drink voucher. That's about Fifty pounds in real money! Pretty steep.. but Japanese audiences don't mind splashing out on entertainment.
The lights went down...the Strawbs came on and it was wonderful. To tell the truth, I didn't plan on reviewing the performance. I didn't make notes, so I can only rely on my memory.
The opening number was "Simple Visions" from the Deep Cuts Album…. A note about Japanese audiences: They are always well behaved and polite. Even if they love something, you never see them over react with loud clapping and cheering. However, as Japanese audiences go they seemed pretty enthusiastic to me. I noticed that it was mostly men in the crowd, almost all middle aged. I couldn't help thinking that it would have been nice for the Strawbs to reach out to a wider audience Japan. It's a real treat to see a world class band 'up close' but, on the other hand, It's a shame that they didn't get a bit more exposure seeing that they hadn't been in Japan for thirty years.
Getting back to the music, The Strawbs played superbly in Tokyo. They played for about an hour and forty minutes and it was one of those nights that flew by far too quickly. The highlights for me were a gorgeous version of "If" which was quite breathtaking. "Shine on silver Sun" was also beautiful with Dave Cousin explaining to the audience in English that this number was inspired by the West Country ..I was probably the only one in the place who could understand…but I appreciated it… Thanks Dave! This isn't a criticism. People here like to see what happens at an English show and making an effort to explain about the songs adds a touch of culture to the event. Staying on the subject of Language, Dave Cousins did take a stab at wishing somebody a happy Birthday in Japanese. Mr Tanaka (I believe) was thrilled!
Dave Lamberts "Cold Steel" was a crowd pleaser. So too was "Lay Down" which had the guy sitting next to me singing along.
At the end of the show, after the encore, the band was presented with a bouquet of flowers (a gesture of gratitude in Japan) and a long queue was formed to buy CD's and get them signed. Even the young Japanese event staff were raving about the performance.
It was a great concert. For me it was especially nice to meet the band. I only hope that we don't have to wait another thirty years to get the Strawbs back in Japan! Let's hope that when they do return, they aren't Tokyo's 'best kept secret'. Music lovers throughout Japan should have the opportunity to witness and enjoy these wonderful musicians.
Tears And Pavan
Shine On Silver Sun
Oh How She Changed
Hero And Heroine
Glinpse of Heaven
OTTERTON MILL, OTTERTON, THURSDAY 27 JULY 2006
Mingling with the castor oil plants and petunias.
I had visited this place a few years back as a tourist and thought that the gig would be staged in one of the buildings on site. How wrong that assumption turned out to be, as on a hot summer's evening, we were treated to an open air show in the courtyard with the band housed securely under some sort of gazebo, festooned with coloured lights.
A "sold out" show started with a typical acapella "Benedictus" well appreciated by the audience many of whom had dined, well before my arrival.
It was a glorious summer's evening enhanced by song and had the additional back drop of the castor oil plants, (I think -though my botany's not brilliant), horse chestnut trees and hanging baskets full of petunias, one of which decided to shed its blossom and fell to the stage as the PA reached maximum.
The gig was held close to where a number of early '70's numbers had been written or rehearsed and many of the local song reference introductions, brought knowing nods of appreciation and acknowledgement from those in attendance.
DC seemed relaxed in this company and let out a few secrets, Chas played like an angel, and seemed to wink to me once I think as he caught my eye, (I must stop it falling out !!) whilst DL gave it all on his blue Dean.
This was indeed a glorious summer night, culminating with a giant firework show from the local agricultural college at Bicton, up the road, just as the encore started and not really mean't for us. I commented, given the frequent references to Alphington and other local landmarks - "it's the Alphington civil defence force out giving a show of their strength preventing an invasive return from those who were here in the seventies". However, if the truth is really known they were, like us, celebrating the return to those Devon roots and days gone past which are now so magnificently brought right up to date.....certainly tonight under the dark star filled night sky, they gave us all a real touch of that glimpse of heaven.
Photo by Pete Bradley - more from Pete.
It was Calli's fault that we ventured all the way to Devon. Geography is not her strong point. She was working on the principle that as it is in the South, it couldn't have been too far away from us. So glad that the education system in this country isn't better, otherwise we'd have missed out on a beautiful evening.
We arrived at Otterton Mill a couple of hours early, partly because we wanted to give ourselves time in case of roadworks, and partly so we could eat there.
When we got there, there was a small queue of like minded people, unable to get in until the boys completed their sound checks. As we stood outside, we could hear strains of "A Glimpse Of Heaven" wafting across the wall, and we knew instantly that this was going to be no ordinary Strawbs concert. We could clearly tell that they were performing alfresco.
The Mill has a courtyard which they can use for concerts in good weather, and this was only the fourth time that it had been used this year. We mentioned to Dave Lambert that they had no excuse not to play "Under a Cloudless Sky" and he said that he had only been thinking that morning that that was one song that they ought to play soon. Maybe they might add it to their set in the near future. Fabulous socks, DL by the way.
There is a small pagoda at one end, bedecked with lights and hanging baskets filled with variants of triffids or giant hogweeds or something like that, which forms the stage. (If you wanted a horticultural review you should have gone to gardeners-question-time.co.uk). Overall, the stage was really colourful. At the rear of the courtyard are a few tables for the diners, and the rest is filled up with seats. Best not to mention the seats in great detail. If they were designed for comfort then the architect was presumably thinking of someone else's buttocks other than mine.
The Otterton Mill is a working mill. They grind their own flour, and then bake it on the premises. If you happen to be down that way for the forthcoming Bryan and Cathryn gig (November 9th), I'd recommend the olive bread.
The gig was introduced by the owner of the Mill. He said that he had just moved house and during his clear up he had discovered a ticket for a Strawbs concert at the Festival Hall, back in 1972. The ticket price was £1.50!
During "Simple Visions", Dave Cousins acquired a bit of a cough, but struggled on heroically. He apologised at the end of the song, to which Dave Lambert quipped that the cough was probably due to Dave Cousins thinking about the price of the ticket.
Because the gig was outside, there was a small amount of extraneous noise, such as bird song, but this enhanced, rather than detracted from the music.
The sound system comprised two small speakers, mounted at head height at the front of the stage. There were no monitors for the band to hear, and for a lesser band this might have been a problem, but not for these guys. They were perfect, and both Calli and I agree that we have not heard them play better. Every time we hear them we think that they couldn't possibly improve, but they always do. Not sure whether Chas's microphone was louder than normal, or whether his confidence has increased, but there were times when his voice dominated.
Dave Cousins looked really well. There are times recently when he has looked a bit tired, but he looked really happy to be back in Devon. Don't worry, Nigel. I won't let DC's secret out of the bag if you won't.
All I can say, is that it was a fantastic evening. Well worth the drive. Can't wait for Earls Court.
Photo by Pete Bradley - more from Pete.
Tears And Pavan
Shine On Silver Sun
Oh How She Changed
Hero And Heroine
A Glinpse Of Heaven
GREAT BRITISH BEER FESTIVAL, EARLS COURT 1, LONDON, FRIDAY 4 AUGUST 2006
The Great British Beer Festival, held this year for the first time at Earls Court (previous GBBFs I've been to were at Olympia), offered an opportunity to sample the twin delights of an unmatched selection of real ales and a performance by the Acoustic Strawbs - unmissable, you'll no doubt agree !! Only couple of snags being that (a) the boys were taking to the boards at 1.00pm - ah well that's what vacation days are for, and (b) that made for a pretty long day's supping.
Having long since joined CAMRA I was delighted to check in at the members' only door - no queues, and went in to buy my pint glass for the rest of the day. Carting around a few tapes being delivered to DC for the boxed set project, quickly headed backstage to meet DC and get rid of my burden - only to hear that he had a few more (more than I brought!) to give me in return. We found a safe place for these for the rest of the day and caught up on boxed set news.
The performance stage was right at the back of the venue, splendid high black curtains blanking off a huge area, with pretty good stage lighting as well (though I soon discovered it wasn't really light enough for my new mini-camera to get much in the way of shots). As performance approached, headed out to see who I could see. Pete and Calli Bradley had been sat at a table near the front, but had now moved up to front of stage, awaiting the start. Lindsay and Judy turned up, and soonish afterwards, Nigel Bennett, nursing a badly sliced hand (playing with knives again after a cider or two, Nige, tut tut). Met up with Chris Parkins who'd e-mailed me a day or two before.
The boys were announced and the accapella opening for "Benedictus" started grabbing everyone's attention. As an experiment (nothing to do with my glass being empty) I wandreed away from the stage at one point and discovered that the band really can't be heard anywhere other than the band area - as soon as you head over into the main part, you lose the sound very quickly. But it was pretty clear that folks who were aware of what was going on were soon drawn in.
A rousing "Simple Visions" was followed by "Tears And Pavan" and "New World" - the latter acknowledged by DC as a rather challenging number for a singalong beer fest - but you could pick out those in the growing audience who really knew the songs, mouthing the lyrics. The banjo came out for "Shine On" (more massed mouthing of lyrics) and "Cold Steel", with "Autumn" closing the first half.
After a lengthy raffle - well attended though, so they must have been raffling some worthwhile stuff - the Acoustics came back to the stage to open with "Ghosts". "Are there any Norwegians in today ? - if there are they'll be legless by now!" quips Dave, as an intro to "Midnight Sun". "Oh How She Changed" and "Dragonfly" were just splendid - I'd not seen the Acoustics set for a while and had forgotten just how much I like these two in their new acoustic clothes.
Running towards the close, DC stopped the intro to "Lay Down" to get the audience - probably about 300 or so, milling round the audience area and tables alongside - to join in, which they did with gusto. Singalongastrawbs. And then Dave L doffed his guitar to pick up the bodhran for the shanty-style "Hero And Heroine" which ends on such an abrupt note - fantastic theatre. Huge cheers, and the boys do their encore "A Glimpse Of Heaven" straightaway as time is pressing.
A great afternoon of music and good ales. And a good show for the Acoustics to do - from the multiple merchandise sales (higher than normal) it looks as though the audience contained a new group of Strawbs fans we've not made contact with yet - possibly those with more interest in beer than music - delighted nevertheless to see the Strawbs still on the go.
Strawbs fans then mainly melted away, various reasons, but mainly I think to avoid the next performance later in the evening, an Abba tribute band, which I thought I'd have a quick listen to. I bumped into a couple of work colleagues, and at their insistence tried out the CAMRA lounge upstairs at Earls Court. Less impressive than it could be - no beers on sale there - but at least it had seats! I nursed a Belgian fruit beer for half an hour or so and gave my feet a rest. But oh my, if there could have been just a small selection of recommended beers on sale up there, I don't think I'd have left.
By then the Festival was really filling up as the Friday night "straight from work" crowd arrived, and I recalle dwhy in previous years I'd generally tried to visit on a Thursday - very hard to get to the bars and absolutely no where to sit downstairs - there really could have been plastic chairs all round the room (a la school gym discos), and a few more of the tables set out in areas away from the main thoroughfares which would have improved the situation.
Stuck around to hear most of the first set from the Abba tribute band, who were OK, but not stellar - to be honest, I've seen better. But they had a creditable go at a few of the classic Abba songs and played their characters to the hilt, with "Agnetha" introducing her husband "Bjorn" and her boyfriend the drummer (can't remember how true that was to the Abba legend, but never mind).
Unable to be bothered with the queues for more beer (and, to be honest, with such an early start, having had probably just the right amount) beat the retreat and headed back home. Great day out - getting home, picked up the chords and strummed the tune to "Fernando" - you know, I think I could have a go at this Abba stuff - Lindsay, Judy, get your sixties kit on .....
Photos by Ian Hulland - More photos from Ian.
Well, that was excellent. I mean, the Strawbs, at a beer festival, talk about a double whammy! Nice to meet you, Dick, managed to pick you out despite as you say being one of several thousand generic white middle aged beer drinking blokes (black and asian people aren't interested in real ale, apparently, I don't think there was a non white face in the whole of Earls Court, weird). Very nice for me to be able to corner DC for a few minutes and reminisce about the 1979/80 tours that I ligged on - don't think he actually remembered me, but he was pleasant and friendly nonetheless, considering he must get this sort of thing all the time ('Hi Dave, remember me from.......?' Must drive him mad, poor guy). Entertaining to discover that he lives half a mile from where I had a week's holiday last month, and that I actually walked right by his house without knowing it!
Excellent gig, despite mediocre acoustics. I haven't seen an acoustic set since the old Dave Cousins and Brian Willoughby days so it was great for me to see Chas Cronk for the first time in years, and Dave Lambert for the first time playing acoustic. On the whole I would say the second set was superior, when they concentrated on the older, more folky songs, which to me suit the acoustic format better. "Oh How She Changed" was a revelation with Dave Lambert doing the Tony Hooper vocals, what a great and versatile voice he has.
Great singalong to "Lay Down", finish with "A Glimpse Of Heaven", and then buggered off WITHOUT playing "Part Of The Union", which is fine by me, it never really sounds right when DC sings it.
Photos by Lindsay Sorrell