Updated: 3 Feb 2007
Part 2 - Second leg - 27 January to 17 February
Benedictus (acappella)/ Simple Visions
Tears and Pavan
Man who called Himself Jesus
Oh How She Changed
Two Weeks Last Summer
Hero and Heroine
We'll Meet Again Sometime
SQUARE CHAPEL CENTRE FOR THE ARTS, HALIFAX, THURSDAY 11 JANUARY 2007
This was the first night of the tour, and to be honest that's how it sounded for a lot of the time. There were problems with the sound mix, tuning and balance of the set list. It represented a good performance rather than hitting the heights that we have previously witnessed. That having been said there are many good moments, and I expect that future dates will be better.
It's clear that for his recent birthday DC received a new shirt and a joke book.
The first set seemed to be rather too evenly paced in tempo, and at this point the band seemed perhaps a little subdued: even DL didn't seem to be strumming with his usual vigour. DC and Chas seemed to be unamplified at times, while DL was rather loud in the mix. DC had a couple of choking bouts, perhaps because he was having to sing loudly to compensate for the lack of amplification. The high point of the first set was a new arrangement of "Witchwood" featuring banjo and some wonderful vocal harmonies.
The second set showed the return of the normal vigour we associate with Strawbs. There were many high points: DL's guitar on "Oh How She Changed"; a haunting "Two Weeks Last Summer"; and a storming "Hero And Heroine". There was even a new joke.
The encore was "We'll Meet Again Sometime": very intense.
There was a noticeable improvement in the second set, and I'm sure this will continue through the tour. Afterwards Chas said that there were two additions planned for later in the tour, one of which was very complex.
Halifax photo by Alison Brown - more pics from Alison.
Just a quick note to say my brother (Steve) and I went to the Square Arts Chapel in Halifax last night - what a fantastic evening!! As you may recall I had pre-ordered A Taste of Strawbs, so Steve was able to ask Dave to infill his name and got Dave and Chas to sign it too! and - even better than that - I took a photo of them all with Steve.
As for the music - it was very special and their opening track ("Benedictus") reduced me to tears! - don't know why - I was totally choked (how embarrassing - but don't think anyone spotted, until Steve whispered to me that it was his favourite track - which he later told me he wants playing at his funeral (good grief) hope it's not too soon!!), but recovered enough to enjoy the rest of the evening!!
It was certainly an evening we will treasure.
Tears and Pavan
The Man Who Called Himself Jesus
Oh How She Changed
Two Weeks Last Summer
Hero and Heroine
We'll meet Again Sometime
HIGH BARN, GREAT BARDFIELD, FRIDAY 12 JANUARY 2007
It's probably wheeled out every time anybody who ever put a rhyming couplet together gets anyway near Essex, so forgive me, but working on the principle that the old jokes are the best, can't resist starting a review of the High Barn without saying, "If Typhoo put the tea in Britain, who put the Great Bard in Great Bardfield?"
What an appropriate name for last night's venue. For a start it featured the nation's favourite Great Bard, and secondly, it seemed to be in the middle of millions of acres of windswept fields. And boy was it windy. A very rough night to be out in the back of beyond, with wind-speeds regularly hitting 33 and a third kilometres per kilo second, with occasional gusts up to 45 rpm.
Sadly Calli was full of cold, last night, so we had to get away soon after the concert, so didn't have much time to stop and chat with many, but despite the weather and the remoteness it was a very well turned out event.
Yet another beautiful building. The Strawbs seem to specialise in finding these amazing places. No idea why an old farm building should have such good acoustics. Was it an original design aim when Farmer Giles was knocking up a shed to keep his cows, that the sound quality of the mooing should be preserved? Towards the end, Calli felt a fit of coughing coming on, and so went to the back so as not to disturb anyone, and she reckoned it sounded even better at the back. To me, it sounded pretty good at the front too.
My only negative comment on the building was that their tables were too large. We were all sat round groups of eight, but as there was no food, everyone had moved their chairs to get the best view of the stage. With such large tables it left little room for movement to get through to the bar, or to get to another table to socialise.
We were treated to an unexpected support act from a guy called Michael Berk (I asked him whether he spelled his name as in the Newsreader and he told me it was with an "E", - he probably gets asked that a hundred times a day).
He is part of a trio of guitarists called Acoustic Madness. They must be well worth a listen to if you get the chance, as Michael is an amazing guitarist, and one of the other members of his band has been awarded an Emmy for their playing. (He wasn't jealous at all).
He mainly played his own compositions, in various styles (Celtic, classical, heavy) with a variety of techniques, including slide and also a technique I have not seen before, in which both hands played on the fret board, the right hand picking out the bass strings, so as to accompany his left.
Then on to the main course of the evening.
Because of the support, they played without a break, but it lasted for around an hour and a half, so it was only a slightly reduced set.
Highlights of course included "Witchwood", and "We'll Meet Again Sometime" as they are new to the setlist, but I must must also add "Simple Visions". Definitely detected some new Dave Lambert guitar work there. The crowning glory had to be We'll meet again, though. All three sang it and they were inspired. At one time Dave Lambert was singing with such vigour that he seemed to jump out of his chair. Someone, I'm pretty sure it was Chas, added some beautiful higher harmonies.
A storming end to a storming concert on a stormy night.
Just a couple of weeks and the Great Bard will be at Stratford Upon Avon. How poetic is that?
Photo by Pete Bradley - more pics from Pete.
Ah yes, I was looking forward for weeks, to my trip into the Fields of the Great Bards.
A venue particularly suited for the eagerly awaited New year's appearance, of our very own trio of present day Bards. It was my first show of the tour and like during the first days of spring, there was a spring in my step with the anticipation of the coming delights - thoughts of meeting old friends, young friends and the timeless songs from the band.
The fact that I am only just writing this account is because those strong winds blew me off course on my homeward journey and have only just navigated the raging seas of the M25, reached the shoreline and landed. Pete Bradley has already written about the intensity of those winds in his review, but how he managed to stand still and hold his anemometer above his head, I just don't know.(was it that lady in the glove box again telling you the way of the world Pete? ) I tried to turn my face into the wind and hold my anemometer just once on the way over and I damn near almost took off, such was the intense helicopter effect.
I stood still once, upon the open road, having left the sanctity of the car, gazing longingly across the open fields at the twinkling lights in the distance. Then on the darkened evening approach to the village, mysteriously the clouds overhead parted and a starlit sky then revealed tons and tons of aircraft buzzing about and going about their daily chores. They all seemed to be randomly heading in so many different directions.
Inside the venue, a quick bump in to Pete and Calli and later by Lindsay, Joe and the rest of her entourage - Gill and Lesley and later still with Bernard of Spilsbury . A warning was given, not to get too close to Calli, because of some 'orrible lurgi. I took the appropriate precautions, minimised the bump and quickly settled into my seat, ready for the night's entertainment, but not before a wistful thought for those who could not make it.
And what entertainment, the opening act possessed some real quality, but I am afraid it was lost a little in my mind as I eagerly awaited opening harmonies of "Benedictus" followed by "Simple visions". Perhaps I need to find a supplier of my hearing aid, as although played perfectly I thought it may have been a tad low in volume. (but no-one else did !) In all probability it was fine, I had given my ears a good old bashing, on the way to the show in the car.
Some venues really suit "Tears and Pavan" and this is definitely one and the added intro to "The Man Who Called Himself Jesus"..just sublime, as the set list says "Oh How She Changed" came next and the night was growing strong. By the time "Midnight sun" came around we were transfixed and the venue adding an ethereal atmosphere and feel to that song.
"Two Weeks Last Summer" has been a great addition to the set and "Ghosts", is just a classic, but the surprise on the "Witchwood" gave the feel of a medieval mystery that entranced us all. Like Lindsay I'm not going to spoil anyone's surprise over this, but it does give the feel of more than a couple of centuries ago and the mysteries of that time that persist.
Many a toe in the audience, tapped out a rhythm during "Cold Steel" and "Autumn" brought its own delights. The single set, meant, that after "Lay Down", we just had a rousing "Hero and Heroine", to close the night. Responding to an enthusiastic call, the boys returned for an intense, "We'll Meet Again Sometime", which we surely and hopefully will and with the lighting once again providing an atmospheric and visual backdrop (on the ceiling and roof struts), a great ending to the evening.
A great way too to start this year, - so now you know how I feel.
Photo by Lindsay Sorrell.
It really was a Great Gig - sorry if you had some first-night sound problems in Halifax Big Pete and Ali - none of that tonight, it was perfection. Faultless set - only gripe being that it was slightly shorter than normal because there was a (very good) support act.
Strangely enough, after a Witchwood post I made a couple of days ago of a link to a guy playing guitar and banging it simultaneously, the support act did just that! Not quite as dramatically as the guy in the clip, but he was still very, very good. I found a lot of his act quite mesmeric.
Anyway, Strawbs were brilliant. Absolutely stunning actually - I'm sure the acoustics in High Barn must add to the richness of the sound or something like that, but whatever the reason, it sounded faultless to me. My son Joe loved it too which delighted me, as did everyone else - think the place was sold out actually.
Tears and Pavan
The Man Who Called Himself Jesus
Oh How She Changed
Two Weeks Last Summer
Hero and Heroine
We'll meet Again Sometime
CHEQUER MEAD THEATRE, EAST GRINSTEAD, FRIDAY 19 JANUARY 2007
The first thing you notice as you drive into East Grinstead is a sign advertising an acupuncturist clinic. The second thing you notice is a sign advertising an acupuncture college. Aware that these East Grinsteadians specialise in sticking pins in people, we decided not to sight-see but to go straight to the theatre.
The tickets said 8:00pm, which we assumed was the "doors open" time, but it was actually the time that the concert started. Hence we got there with little time to spare, and so did not have much time to look round the art gallery attached to the theatre. We had a very quick look, and were very impressed with the exhibits. Then we noticed that all the work there was done by school children. Some as young as ten. Absolutely incredible.
Despite the difficulty in obtaining tickets (you can't buy them on the net), there was a good turn-out. The theatre has both Stalls and a Balcony, with a reasonable slope so that you'd still get a good view even if someone tall sat in front of you. Sadly, they have a no cameras policy in the auditorium. I did notice a couple of camera flashes towards the end, and maybe some of those will find their way to Strawbsweb. I didn't take any though.
As at Great Bardfield, they had a support act. This time, it was an acoustic performance by three members of a band called Mab. They comprised a keyboard player, a violinist, and the lead singer, who also played guitar and wrote their material. Had to laugh, as they used the Strawbs' seats, and the lead singer complained that his seat creaked.
Mab were very good to the extent that we bought their CD. Their lead singer sounds a bit like Dave Gilmour, and so occasionally some of their songs sounded to me a little reminiscent of the Atom Heart Mother/Meddle era Floyd.
As to the Strawbs, they seem to play better and better each time you hear them. How they can so consistently improve on perfection is mind-blowing, but they do seem to keep managing it. I must say that I don't think I have ever seen Dave C quite so happy. They all seemed to be having as much pleasure playing as we did listening.
I don't know if Dave L has been taking singing lessons, but his vocal range that he is exhibiting this tour has increased dramatically. I have always loved his voice, but some of the harmonies that he is now adding (particularly to the songs new to the setlist) just have to be heard to be believed.
HALF MOON, PUTNEY, THURSDAY 25 JANUARY 2007
The Strawbs were the first band I ever saw live. Since 1975 I have seen scores of concerts by a dozen Strawbs line-ups but for sheer musicianship the Half Moon gig on Thursday was the best I have ever seen. The arrangements were breathtaking with the trio clearly having stripped each song down to basics and reinterpreted it. "The Man Who Called Himself Jesus", "Witchwood", "The Battle" and "Two Weeks Last Summer" in particular were injected with new life. "Two Weeks Last Summer" live was completely new to me is an example of how the essence of the original can be captured and reworked and improved on.
The vocals were really strong with superb 'a capella' choruses in "Lay Down" and "Benedictus", and with Dave Cousins modulating and controlling his voice, as well as giving us the familiar passion. Dave Lambert was on fine form and a highlight was his song "Cold Steel", reminding us of his skill not only as a tunesmith but of his development as a lyricist who at his best equals the master himself. (Listen to his superbly acid "Ten Commandments" in the box set with Brian supporting on guitar.)
This was the first time I had seen Chas in the line up, having caught only the last numbers at the Xmas Party at the NPL. His lyrical 12-string guitar, driving acoustic bass and signature high harmony vocals added a new depth to the line-up. (Good to see the superb Cronk/Cousins composition "Midnight Sun" from Hero And Heroine get an outing.) Dave Cousins was working harder as an instrumentalist than he did as the fulcrum between Dave and Brian and the banjo sounded timeless on "Witchwood".
It really was like watching a seasoned baroque chamber orchestra. Not a note wasted, but intricate and utterly absorbing. I hope these concerts and arrangements are going to be captured for posterity!
I took two friends to the concert one of whom had albums up to Ghosts and another who had never seen the band before. He is completely renewed in his support after 30 years and she is a convert!
Well (as Dave C would say) 'twas a great gig on Burns' night at the charming Half Moon venue in Putney next to the Thames (lots of people have played there from the Stones to Gordon Giltrap - including John Hawken's Nashville Teens whose photo adorns the walls with many others). Great size for 150 or so and a nice intimate atmosphere with ok acoustics. Chas was greeting all and sundry in the bar (they came from Hungary, Sweden, Canada and New Zealand as well as Deal (Dave C's quip). Great to meet Nigel again and Steve Pritchard (call in next time you make it to NZ mate). The songs were the same as elsewhere except they added "New World" (very powerful) and "The Battle" (wonderful) but curfews meant we missed out on "Hero And Heroine" (blast) . The spooky 3 part harmonies on "Witchwood" were a treat as was the acapella "Benedictus" opening, a delicate "Two Weeks Last Summer", a very passionate "Oh How She changed" and a powerful "Ghosts". "We'll meet Again Sometime" made for a fitting encore with the guys weaving guitar lines and hramonies expertly (as they did all night). Even my wife who hadn't seen the guys since 1974 and was a little unsure as to what to expect enjoyed the selection of songs, the nice relaxed and friendly atmosphere and the approachability of the band. They were most gracious in agreeing to a photo (with Dave L having to rushing back to Kent) and we had a brief but pleasant chat to Chas and Dave C before heading back to Ballham.
It came home to me that being an historian helps explain my love of the band - they too now have fun visiting 'old buildings' and Dave C's explanation that the Carillion in Tears was the only thing left standing after Mussolini's fascists flooded a valley added a whole new dimension to the song - t'aint just about the downs and ups of relationships. Huge thanks have to go to Dick too for this remarakable second wind. I have no idea how these guys keep up the pace, enthusiam and passion at an age when most want to slump in front of the telly. We enjoyed it so much that if we make it back next year to see our grandson we'll try and take in another concert. Don't miss these guys who will provide you with the best ten pounds worth you're going to get anywhere. We've seen Dylan twice now and although it was good to hear the old songs acoustically the first time I only heard one word in three and the great poet never bothered to communicate with the audience. So check out England's equivalent. Hear all the words and enjoy the marvellous interplay of guitars, banjo and pedals.
So thanks to the band, Dick and various Witchwooders.
I am now safely back home in Sweden again after a relaxing holiday week in London together with my wife Anette. The week could not have started better, booked in for the concert with Acoustic Strawbs at the Half Moon in Putney.
For over 30 years I have been a fan of The Strawbs and listened to every inch of their recordings. Suddenly, the opportunity was there to visit a live act as the gig in Putney coincided with our planned stay in London. Tickets easily bought via internet and a dream was planned to come true.
The tube took us to Putney and it was with eager steps we walked over Putney Bridge towards the Half Moon. We entered the pub 1½ hours before start of the concert with plenty of time for a beer and a cider. I had no idea what the venue would look like and if there was a chance to have a glimpse of my musical heroes. I scarcely believed my eyes when suddenly Dave Cousins stood in the bar. I took my chance to shake hands. We were warmly welcomed and already at that time I felt that our trip was perfect. And the evening had only begun.
We sat with high expectations waiting for the gig to start. When Dave C, Dave L and Chas entered the scene and started singing "Benedictus" I said to myself: This is not happening! Or am I dreaming? But surely it was no madness. It was indeed a glimpse of heaven.
I have listened very much to the Strawbs recordings, but when I now finally could see and hear Dave C sing, it really sent a shiver down my spine. His voice and his intense singing are really outstanding. Masterpiece after masterpiece followed. It was hard to concentrate as I was so enthralled by the performance.
To name a few of the songs I start with "The Battle" (I did not know it is about a game of chess). I really like those narrative songs by Dave C. After that followed a wonderful version of "Witchwood". In the recent song "Cold Steel" Dave L gave us proof of his songwriting and fantastic singing. The real masterpiece for me is "Autumn". I almost went down when Dave L let the seagulls sail out of his guitar. This song was followed by my wife's favourite "Lay Down". By that the evening really was completed also for her.
It struck me during the performance how really strong all these songs are. Cut down to the acoustic setting, still they live and the band delivers them extraordinary well. It was breathtaking.
After the performance I took the opportunity to buy the box set "A Taste of Strawbs" and I thank Dave C for his kind words when signing the box. I have now listened through the box twice and I really understand why I always have loved the Strawbs music.
This was my first live gig with Strawbs. I must see to it that I plan for more.
Photo by Gert-Inge Tapper - more pics from Gert-Inge.
Surprisingly there wasn't as many in the crowd as on other nights but we definitely made up most of the pub's customers as the bar was practically empty whilst the guys played.
There was indeed a continental contingent and I had a very pleasant chat to with (Kiwi) Tom and his wife, whom I confess to having the discourtesy of forgetting her name; they hadn't seen the band since 1974. I got the impression they went away well satisfied. And so they should as once again the guys gave there all. An excellent set, not a bum note in hearing, a brilliant "The Battle" and 2 numbers I'd not heard performed live before. So the Strawbs (acoustic) have played out my first 50 (give or take 2 weeks) and I await Bilston to open up the next 50 (give or take 2 weeks). Whatever might be said about Dave C's voice it was certainly in fine form on Thursday.
I await Bilston to see if Dave C will again tell the story about John Hawken's wife's preference for a new kitchen!! I want to see John's face.
COX'S YARD, STRATFORD-UPON-AVON, FRIDAY 26 JANUARY 2007
The Merchant of Cox's Yard
(a play by Billy Shakespeare aged 6 and three quarters)
Cox - A timber merchant
Lambert } - strolling minstrels
Badgeman } - strolling non-minstrels
For many leagues and more my lady fair and I rode forth,
From storm-wrecked Surrey, quenched by the bloated Thames
Swelled with drops saved from a thousand hose-pipe bans.
North we rode, to gentle Avon, liquid muse to a bygone Playwright.
The tarmac'd track, oe'rladen with wheeled carriages,
Delayed our flight with bottlenecks and jams.
And so, upon arrival, time for comestibles had passed.
Thou' time for ale and roasted nuts remained.
Cox, the hero of this tale we tell,
A merchant rich from timber trading
Bequeathed his name and yard to future generations
For wassailings in ale and liquor
All with a stage for lute and choir to play.
And there in the alehouse's shaded bower, was Nigel, prince of Zeal.
And Chas, an artisan in twelve stringed strumming.
Long we set the world to rights, with talk of ancient Cropredy,
And tales of Bilston past and tales of Bilston future.
Come what, come may, time and the hour ran
And Chas had strumming yet to do,
So we adjourned up winding stairs, to see the attic stage.
No seats remained, the venue heaved with revellers,
But there we met with Bob and Lou, hosts of parties famed.
A minstrel versed in blues was providing entertainment,
But long had he played ere we arrived,
And most of his merriment had we missed
So wrapp'd had we been in master Chas's tales of yonder.
And lo, soon after our arrival, three fine minstrels took the stage,
They sang like winged Angels, trapped upon this earthly realm.
Their songs were tales of benedictions, tales of visions, simply pure.
Songs inspired by alpine bell-towers drown'd in lakes compris'd of tears.
Songs about the second coming, or of maidens chang'd by time.
Or lands where sunlight ever shines, though midnight's hour's at hand.
Reminisces from a bygone summer, or a nightmare
Fuelled by cerulean light. Tales of eerie forest woodlands,
Or of a stranger's blade thrust in victims back. From Autumn mist
Or psalms religious, their inspiration held no bounds.
The minstrels sang of heroes, tempted by heroine's delight,
Then promises we'd meet anew, though roads were hard to climb.
To tumultuous applause they left the stage.
And the hour for parting dawned.
When will we all meet again? In thunder, lightning or in rain?
We were lucky enough to go to Cox's yard at Stratford on Friday evening to see the guys. The venue is set at the side of the river Avon in William Shakespeare country. The show was tremendous, a really good audience, not an empty seat in the place. Love the new version of "Witchwood" with the addition of the banjo, really went down well as did all the other songs. Nice to see "Hero And Heroine" back. Nigel and Calli and Pete were the only familiar faces there. William would have been very proud of the show in his hometown.