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ELECTRIC STRAWBS - UK TOUR
FEB 2007

Updated: 15 Mar 2007

Contents
Robin 2 Club, Bilston, Sunday 18 February 2007
  • Rockin' Robin - Review by Dick Greener
  • Stormer Of A Gig - Comments from Les Cotton
  • Passion And Ferocity - Comments from Ralph Tonge
  • The Pleasures When We Meet - Part 3 of a multi-event review from Lindsay Sorrell
  • From The Fishpond To The Robin's Nest, They Sang With A Joyful Sound - Review from Paul Southby
  • Setlist
  • The Stables, Wavendon, Milton Keynes, Tuesday 20 February 2007
  • See And Feel Every Note - Review by Pete Bradley
  • Setlist from Pete Bradley
  • The Brook, Southampton, Wednesday 21 February 2007
  • Quieter Moments Were Fabulous And Loud Bits Blew Your Socks Off! - Review by Phil Gregory
  • So'ton, So Brilliant - Review by Calli Bradley
  • Mixture Of Acoustic And Electric Was Absolutely Absorbing - Review by Bob C
  • Comments from Nigel Bennett
  • Setlist from Nigel Bennett
  • Marine Theatre, Lyme Regis, Thursday 22 February 2007
    Cheese And Grain, Frome, Friday 23 February 2007
  • Finished All Too Soon - Review from Pete Bradley
  • Perfect In Every Way - Review by Phil Gregory
  • Setlist
  • Landmark Theatre, Ilfracombe, Saturday 24 February 2007
  • Special Evening - Review by Neil Punnett
  • Setlist
  • Princess Pavilion, Falmouth, Sunday 25 February 2007
  • Starshine, Angel Wine - Review by Dick Greener
  • Setlist
  • Falmouth, Ilfracombe & Frome
  • Witchwood Out West - a poem by Lindsay Sorrell
  • Westward Ho - Recollections from the last three shows by Dick Greener
  • The Whole Electric Tour
  • That Extra Edge - End of tour reflections by Nigel Bennett
  • Reviews of most recent gigs at the top of the page - scroll down for earlier shows


    THE WHOLE ELECTRIC TOUR

    THAT EXTRA EDGE - End of tour reflections by Nigel Bennett

    So much happened in the short space of time on the recent tour, it was impossible to write individual reviews of each of the shows. So here are my general reflections of this fantastic week in February.

    Of course there were real moments that stood out - that goes without saying! But it is really was true. In my eyes the tour was just how you would have made it if you put it together in a dream filled moment it was definitely, all that you would have wanted it to be and more.

    We have, in between the electric tours also had opportunity to enjoy the intimacy of the Acoustic line up but the addition of John and Rod allow the acoustic three, to turn seamlessly into a 5 piece hard rocking outfit.

    Was it fortune that favoured the brave, or all of the joy of joys that we found all the way, as from Bilston down to Falmouth as the band worked like Trojans on the stage. They rocked hard and long and once again and just like those memories we all remember from many years ago. This time though, the tour always seemed to have that extra edge and for this was so much the better.

    Gauging audience reaction (and we talked to quite a few of them throughout) in the after show embrace, whether they were young or old the "wow" factor always seemed to be there. Have no doubt the delivery was full of energy and power from the long and final high note scream of DC at the end of "Round And Round", in a lung bursting crescendo of sound, sustained so long, that eardrums almost went the same way.

    Of course there were also moments of supreme elegance as John played those melodic themes on piano and Rod with his crashing symbols and drums and outstanding solos. At Ilfracombe, Rod seemed to be enjoying himself on the solo that I wondered if he would ever stop. Meanwhile, John's contribution also added a wonderful embellishment to the songs with powerful chords and technical wizardry.

    Dave Lambert was just how you expect him to be dynamic, hardly standing still and adding that level aggression in his performance that transforms the balance and music of the show into one of additional visual splendour. The steely aggressive finger pointing scowl in "Ghosts" to the pose at the end of "The Winter Long" translated the music into much more than song. Even though "The River/Down By The Sea" has been played countless times, this time it was extra special as it took off once again thanks to the frantic guitar of Dave and the rest of the band's contributions.

    And there was Chas (photogenic according to Ali and many more) and playing along with the pace and keeping all in check. It's always so difficult to describe his playing, but he's very fluid and always there when everyone needs him, you are never aware of a note out of place. Then a surprise from time to time a hint of a little bass solo when you think , "hey, that was great" coupled of course with his angelic singing and good grace.

    And off stage, all the camaraderie and I mustn't forget Neil and soundman Paul too and friends we met again along the way and also those friends made new. Not forgetting my West country travelling companions Ali, Lindsay, Dick (the glass man trick) so let's hope we all meet again sometime and yes please, let's make that very very soon.


    FALMOUTH, ILFRACOMBE & FROME

    Witchwood Out West - a poem by Lindsay Sorrell

    I've unashamedly plagiarised Pete Rand's idea of writing a pome to record a few moments from the last three gigs of the electric tour - don't think I'm going to have time to write reviews unfortunately, so here's my little ditty (which has taken me as long as a review anyway!).

    Must just say that all the gigs were absolutely brilliant and I think everyone was a tad surprised at just how well the band were received at these unfamiliar venues - there were loud and very prolonged calls for encores and some clapping at the beginning of songs as well as the end etc. Quite a few young people were there too, including teenagers, and it was great to see some of them buying dvds and cds.

    Ok, here it comes, goodbye.

    Nigel's face was gaunt and tanned
    He met my coach in Bath as planned
    His Peugeot solely by him manned
    Was parked by Tesco's side
    Ali wore her navy fleece
    And talk of Strawbs meant little peace
    `Til pizza made our chatter cease
    At Frome, Dick we soon spied

    Pete Bradley, too, my eyes did meet
    And Calli, sitting on a seat
    Yelling "MORE!!" she was not discreet
    "Best ever!" Nigel cried
    Posters beckoned from the wall
    "Help me, Rod, for you are tall"
    Cried Ali, "and I am only small"
    Her saviour soon obliged

    Enticed to Ilfracombe next day
    Irresistibly the band did play
    The Landmark Theatre looked so grey
    But `twas not bleak inside
    Great sound and lights we grew to love
    Loud cheers descended from above
    Then we ascended to the pub
    "Best ever!!" Nigel cried

    Britannia followed, funny tricks
    Glassy spectacles did not wake Dick
    Some discussed the sound and mix
    A drink or two was offered
    New fans begged they wanted more
    While guzzling Cheddars by the score
    Crushed and broken bits on the floor
    Those beauties did not suffer

    To Falmouth on the Cornish coast
    One more night to raise a toast
    The Princess beckoned, would we like this most?
    We wondered what we'd find
    Nigel's champers we did drink
    Then staggered out to boat masts' clink
    Ali could no longer think
    Her ticket stayed behind

    Strawbs rocked, another night to treasure
    Neil and Rod prolonged our pleasure
    The barman didn't even measure
    "Best ever!!!" Nigel cried
    Trashed my room broke curtain hooks
    Thanked Neil and Paul for care they took
    Politely signed the visitors' book
    "Rock and roll", the manager sighed

    Lindsay, joining Sneaky Pete in exile


    WESTWARD HO - Recollections from the last three shows by Dick Greener

    The chance to join Strawbs on tour in the West Country (in February when it's quiet) was too much to pass up. And what a long weekend it was - the band I enjoy most in all the world, in finest form, and one of the finest shows I think I've ever seen them play, where sound, performance, lights and energy all came together in a perfect whole.

    I'd hoped to make the Lyme Regis show to meet up with an old friend, but work pressures made that impossible (sorry Catherine - next time!), so Frome was the first stop on the western trail (where, very soon, "all my friends were tired and pale" {grin} .... Driving out from home, pass the view of Stonehenge on the A303 and then through torrential rain, with clear sky to the right of me and deepest gloom to the left, the cloud formations were ahead almost biblical in their proportions, huge roiling great beasts, and then a shaft of silver struck through to light the far hills: "Stormy Down" and "Shine On Silver Sun" rolled into one.

    After checking in at the B&B, Nigel provided hospitality for the travelling Witchwood crew (Nigel plus me, Ali, Lindsay) at his home close by and then daughter Sarah gave us a lift to the venue (thanks Sarah). The Cheese & Grain - nice bar, good local beers, always welcome! - is an interesting venue - large space, high roof, which doesn't always lend itself to good sound, but I'm happy to report that the sound was pretty good, though, as often the case a bit thunderous near the front where the photography team had taken up position. (I moved about a bit during the show, finding, unsurprisingly, that the best sound was not far from the mixing desk. Nice one Paul.)

    The show was very very good indeed. My photo spot was pretty much in front of Chas and his bass amp, so I had the pleasure and opportunity to listen more closely to what Chas was playing than I have done before on this tour. Speaking to DC later that evening about bass players in general, he commented on another well-know name " I bet he doesn't play as many notes as our Chas", and, having watched closely I'm more than convinced he's probably right. Chas is a very melodic bass player, often taking the melody line (as in "Ghosts") and a very inventive one - in one passage he creates a sort of cello sound by using just the left hand on the fretboard and the volume controls to swell the sound. All clever stuff.

    The two numbers where Dave puts down the guitar continues to be standout numbers this time out - the mixture of piano, bass, e-bow/lead guitar in "Burning For You" is stunning and DC's rendition of it got more powerful as the tour went on; and "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow" has proved an outstanding closer. On earlier tours (certainly when Deja Fou was first out in 2004 in the US) it had been a three-hander with just Cousins, Hawken and Lambert, but during the course of last year's touring it was rearranged to bring in bass and drums part way through, which has proved its making as a live number. Observers have commented that, even in venues noted for noise and chat, you could hear a pin drop during this encore.

    The acoustic "set within a set" has been very successful: "Cold Steel", then "Witchwood" and "Benedictus", C shifting between banjo and dulcimer - his "signature" instruments. Amusement at Falmouth when DL broke a string during "Cold Steel", sending Neil haring off to change it whilst DC's monologue about Savernake Forest ran its course, culminating in a threat to take the band back there on the way home where they might lose another band member .... "Witchwood" works very well with Hawken's keyboards, which were particularly fine at the last two gigs, very clear, very audible, but not overshadowing the other instruments. "Autumn" too has had some very very positive responses - long applause and cheers lasting well past when DC expects to bid the audience to the bar for the interval in a 2 set show. "Hero And Heroine" in its electric guise no longer has the splendid abrupt ending which is a feature of the acoustic version, but really rocks; but the newly transferred "We'll Meet Again Sometime" more than makes up for it with the rousting choruses and the accapella harmony close.

    A few other musical recollections: that splendid noise that DL comes up with at the end of "Heartbreaker" with left hand twiddling on the upper frets, whilst the right hand sweeps down the fretboard on the lower strings from top to bottom; the small child in full view in the front row at Falmouth which we knew would cause DC mumble "those" lyrics in "Out In The Cold"; Lambert's three thrashing chords at the end of "Autumn", where he takes a pose (referred to generally as "the crucifixion" moment) not unlike that on the cover of Grave New World (though of course, fully clothed!) and, last but by no means least, Rod's extraordinary drum solo. Now, I'm not a huge fan in general of these, but I have to say I could watch Rod for far longer than this - starting off with hands, developing some extraordinarily complex rhythms. Throughout the show he's an astonishingly inventive drummer, heavy on the cymbals (in fact for most of "The River" he does nothing BUT play the cymbals, standing up to reach for the far side of the larger cymbals, stroking them with padded sticks, and then flipping for the harder-tipped sticks as the song develops.

    In particular the Landmark Theatre in Ilfracombe was for me the best gig of the tour (though the following night at Falmouth was very impressive too), and possibly IMHO the best gig I've seen this line-up play. The theatre itself from the outside is a bit of an eyesore - Lord alone knows why the local planners of Devon allowed what looks like a pair of cooling towers to spoil the quaint, otherwise rather attractive, Ilfracombe skyline. However, inside it was pretty perfect acoustically, and with excellent lighting - crumbs you could even see DL! And my congratulations to the lighting people, they did a splendid job - loads of colourful spots, good light on stage, even a smoke machine/dry ice generator, which added a superb ambience to a musically spectacular show. The best I've seen for a long time. The band were well up for it at Ilfracombe - you can tell how the night is going by watching the interaction between them, DC grinning at Hawken., Hawken acknowledging as DC shimmied towards him during an instrumental break, and at the Landmark the whole thing was cooking like a pressure cooker and they knew it.

    The Avalon Hotel in Ilfracombe was a splendid stop-off - perched on the cliff above the crashing waves (a real "house on the headland overlooking the sea" with an absolutely stunning view from their breakfast room) - the only downside being that their normal car park was at risk of flooding with the high water, so we had to park down at the council harbour car park - mind you, when they showed us the photos of the waves pounding over the side where our cars might have been that seemed a pretty good call. Mind you, as we and the band headed off post gig for R&R in the local late night hotel bar at the Royal Britannia Hotel, we didn't spend all that much time in the Avalon. I'll confess now, though Lindsay has alluded to it in her poem already, that I fell asleep in my chair, affording my so-called friends and colleagues the opportunity to put beer mats and shot glasses on my drooping shiny head and take photographs. Still at least it was nothing too embarrassing, not like last time {grin} - revenge, when it comes, will be sweet ....

    And in the final hotel of the tour, where the Witchwooders and Strawbs were both staying, the management had thoughtfully left out a couple of house guitars, which were picked up by various folks - Rod showing that he's certainly not "just" a drummer, duetting for part of the night with Neil, who's certainly not "just" a tour manager. The bar stayed open long past expectations, the friendly barman introducing us to a number of local bottled beers, and most of the survivors finishing off with port and brandy all round (a great drink for a singers' voice, according to DC - and I agree - and not a bad way to finish off a splendid and highly companionable evening).

    We also took the opportunity to do some "Strawbs Heritage" visits along the way - Neil and Chas had independently come up with the idea of a tour of various significant Strawb-related places, though I think their suggestions for inclusion in the itinerary may need work {grin}. On the way to Ilfracombe, we'd had a trip to Alfington to have a drink in the Alfington Inn opposite Dave Cousins old cottage, where, back in 1973 this band relaxed after rehearsals in the local village hall and nearby Feniton. The landlord and landlady, Dennis and Mary, are still there and Lindsay had a good chat with them about the old days and her previous visit back in 1974. She promised to return in another 30 years, wonder where she got that from...... Then travelling between Ilfracombe and Falmouth we took the opportunity for a pit stop in lovely Padstow - busy for the end of February, but not as horrifically tourist-infested as it becomes during the summer. Deciding not to sit in crowded discomfort in Rick Stein's fish and chip shop on in the harbour area, we found a nice pub further into the town - no shortage of nice pubs, good beer and good food anywhere in the West Country - must be why it so appeals. And, on the way out of Falmouth, after a gentle stroll round the town and after bidding farewell to Nigel and Ali, Lindsay and I happened across the "scenic route" out of town (not necessarily the right direction, but then who cares) and stopped off for a quick ice cream at the truly spectacular Pendennis Point, before hitting the road for the gruelling journey back to London to drop Lindsay off at Leyton Midland station, bound for Southend.

    Tired but happy, thrilled by some fantastic performances, great music and the best company. Sincerest thanks to the Strawbs for their exceptional playing, and their highly enjoyable company. Now, when are those Cropredy tickets coming out .....


    Setlist

    Lay Down
    New World
    Burning For Me
    Ghosts
    Cold Steel
    Witchwood
    Benedictus
    Autumn
    Out In The Cold/Round And Round
    Heartbreaker
    The River/Down By The Sea
    Drum Solo/Hero And Heroine/Round And Round Reprise
    We'll Meet Again Sometime

    I Only Want My Love To Grow In You
    Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

    PRINCESS PAVILION, FALMOUTH, SUNDAY 25 FEBRUARY 2007

    STARSHINE, ANGEL WINE - Review by Dick Greener

    The final show of the tour - Falmouth's Princess Pavilion was an attractive venue with a decent sized stage, though quite high up if you're sitting in the first two rows (unraked seating). Nice little twinkly starshine lights in the black backdrop reminded me of Chas's song which is the title of this review. What about bringing that into the set at some convenient point, chaps - it's been pretty popular when Chas has done the first half acoustically and it's probably the only number from Ghost apart from "Where Do You Go" that hasn't really had an outing ....

    Nonetheless, Ali, Lindsay and I took up residence in row two centre left, whilst Nigel "Golden Ears" muttered something about the sound being better further back and deserted us. Sounded pretty good to me where I was ...

    Pretty fantastic show to finish on - nice though not spectacular lighting (hard to beat previous night's display at Ilfracombe). Our stars definitely shone. One further recollection, prompted by the photos I just loaded - nice to see the band enjoying DC's quips - first photo below has Chas and John grinning broadly.

    The last show allowed me, finally, to get some half decent pictures of Rod and John, so I've added a solo gallery each for them as well as the general one. It remains difficult however to get decent pix of Dave L, as he moves about so much and is rarely well-lit, though hopefully Ali (and I, using Ali's camera) may have got some decent DL pix from this and the previous show .. watch this space. Only trouble is, now that I've had a go on Ali's camera, my own seems pretty pathetic - there may have to be some unbudgeted expenditure before the next shows ... ah me, ah my - all in a good cause !

    And, as noted already, the angel wine was the port and brandies in the hotel bar early the next morning ....








    Photos by Dick Greener - three galleries of pix (general, Rod Coombes and John Hawken) from Dick from Falmouth .


    Setlist

    Lay Down
    New World
    Burning For Me
    Ghosts
    Cold Steel
    Witchwood
    Benedictus
    Autumn

    Out In The Cold/Round And Round
    Heartbreaker
    The River/Down By The Sea
    Drum Solo/Hero And Heroine/Round And Round Reprise
    We'll Meet Again Sometime

    I Only Want My Love To Grow In You
    Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

    LANDMARK THEATRE, ILFRACOMBE, SATURDAY 24 FEBRUARY 2007

    SPECIAL EVENING - Review by Neil Punnett

    Following a day of showers, sunshine and more showers, we arrived at Ilfacombe and parked outside the Landmark Theatre well in advance of this evening's concert. Depressed by Sheffield Wednesday's undeserved victory over the Shrimpers (a last minute disputed penalty), we searched for a place to eat and chanced upon a nearby Nepalese restaurant (in Ilfracombe???) and had an excellent meal washed down with Cobra lager. So, back to the uniquely designed theatre, truly a landmark in this North Devon resort. We took our seats in the Circle and awaited events. I'd searched briefly for Wirchwooders - they must have been there, but they eluded me - perhaps they were already under the table? The theatre filled slowly, but was still two-thirds empty when the Strawbs took the stage. As soon as they broke into the acappella start to "Lay Down" it was clear it was going to be a special evening. The boys looked as well as I've seen them for many years, and God bless John Hawken for appearing to age, gracefully, at the same rate as the rest of us (Lambert, Cronk, Coombes and even DC still look younger than their years). John's presence behind the keyboards was very welcome and he produced a magnificent performance all night.

    The highlights for me were a powerful "New World", an anguished "Round And Round", a rocking "Heartbreaker", a lively "Cold Steel" (with DC playing his banjo like a Telecaster) and a brilliantly arranged, loping electric version of "We'll Meet Again Sometime". On the downside I thought "I Only Want My Love To Grow In You" was a little lacklustre (can't put my finger on the reason, but it didn't have the bounce of the original recorded version). "Ghosts" was beautifully performed and John's keyboard work was exceptional. However, I found myself wishing that it was the three acoustics of Brian and the two Daves which always created such a compelling sound on this song.

    All in all a tremendous performance, but lacking in some of the usual by-play between the boys, and between Dave and the audience. Dave Lambert's guitar work was sensational; DC's voice was in fine fettle, Rod's drumming was brilliant and Chas was as solid as ever. What a great band this is, what a fantastic repertoire they have, what a shame more people didn't turn out to see them - they missed a treat.


    Setlist

    Lay Down
    New World
    Burning For Me
    Ghosts
    Cold Steel
    Witchwood
    Benedictus
    Autumn
    Out In The Cold/Round And Round
    Heartbreaker
    The River/Down By The Sea
    Drum Solo/Hero And Heroine/Round And Round Reprise
    We'll Meet Again Sometime

    I Only Want My Love To Grow In You
    Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

    CHEESE AND GRAIN, FROME, FRIDAY 23 FEBRUARY 2007

    FINISHED ALL TOO SOON - Review from Pete Bradley

    Last year we dragged our friend Su to Trowbridge to see the Acoustics, so we thought we'd continue her education with a trip to Frome. For us, Frome is a bit too far for normal circumstances, but as it is closer than any of the other West Country venues in this tour, we decided that it was worth it.

    We arrived about seven thirty and formed a queue outside the Cheese and Grain, (the doors opened at eight). About quarter to it started to rain, by which time the queue had grown quite large, so by the time the doors opened there was a fair number of quite damp people.

    The venue is huge, with tables arranged down the sides, and space in between. The room, though, is fairly wide, so if you sit at one of the tables, your view of the stage is limited. From some unknown secret store, those locals who knew the venue seemed to magic up some chairs which they set out in the middle. Trouble is, they set them out a good way back from the stage. That meant that if you stood at the front you felt guilty because you were blocking the views of those sitting, and if you sat down you couldn't see anything. Calli and Su opted for sitting at a table, so I spent the evening oscillating between the table and the front of the stage.

    Ran into Dick, Lindsey, Ali, Nigel, Paul and Nigel's daughter. Pleased to find that Ali had managed to find somewhere to stay the night before in Lyme Regis. Those cardboard boxes can be a bit drafty at this time of the year.

    Whilst waiting for the band, like all venues, they played music over the PA, but this time, unusually, they played some really good songs, including "Mockingbird" by BJH one of my favourite non-Strawb songs.

    No point in trying to describe the music that the Strawbs played. The set was the same as at Wavendon, and Southampton, (except at Wavendon they had an interval). Dick described the music brilliantly in his review of Bilston, and I couldn't top that. Sad to say that it finished all too soon, and it was time to make the homeward trip.

    Pleased to report that Su very much enjoyed the education.

    Seemed like all the time we were in the Cheese and Grain, the Heavens had opened. The entire West Country was underwater. The roads were almost impassable, but luckily enough we had our amphibious Skoda with us, so we were able to float home. Travelled back through Savernake forest, and, of course, got lost. Hopefully by August we will have made our way out of there.

    PERFECT IN EVERY WAY - Review by Phil Gregory

    Having seen such a wonderful show at Southampton on Wednesday I was looking forward to the Frome show. Frome is only 20 miles from home so I was extremely pleased when I heard they were coming, I had been emailing the venue about having the band and so I was rather pleased that they finally did!

    On arrival I was a bit worried about numbers as only a small queue was forming outside, however by the time the band hit the stage the quite large hall was respectably full. The venue is a large market hall that still functions as a cheese market, but they have a really good PA and nice house lighting with quite a big stage, quite a contrast to the cramped conditions of Southampton and it let the band spread out more.

    The first thing to hit me was the absolutely fantastic sound, possibly the best sound I've ever heard with any line up of the electric band, powerful but able to hear every last detail (unlike Southampton where for me the drums drowned out the rest of the mix). The set was the same as every show on this tour and was delivered in one go with no interval.

    The band played really well and seemed to be really enjoying themselves, the bigger setting just made me think why aren't these guys playing theatres to packed houses, it was just incredible.

    If Southampton and been fantastic, then this can only be described as perfect in every way, except that it didn't go on for at least five hours! Hopefully the band will return to Frome on their next tour, going by this performance it really will be the must see show of the tour.



    Photo by Pete Bradley - more pics from Pete.


    MARINE THEATRE, LYME REGIS, THURSDAY 22 FEBRUARY 2007

    A WONDERFUL REASON TO FORM A TRIBUTE BAND! - Review by Alex Bowler

    [DG - Alex's Strawbs tribute band Benedictus will be playing a show in Taunton on April 28th]

    On a very wet night I travelled to Lyme Regis in Dorset with Dave Usher, our keyboard player, to see the Electric Strawbs at the Marine Theatre. As we drove through the narrow winding streets of this picturesque seaside town looking for the venue, we saw a man looking in a shop window and decided to ask him the way to the theatre. When he turned round to speak to us I realised it was none other than Dave Lambert! After parking the car down by the sea, we made our way to the venue. Upon taking our seats in the old theatre, we waited with great expectation for the gig to start and when it did we were not disappointed! On came the band and within moments we were greeted with the wonderful "Lay Down". What really made it sound so outstanding were the glorious harmonies of Dave Cousins, Chas Cronk and Dave Lambert. The next song "New World" then echoed through the room sounding as fresh and dynamic as ever. The excellent Chas Cronk gave that song his own stamp of authority whilst keeping something of the feel of the original John Ford bass line. (Purists (or bass players) may have noticed how the fourth note of the fanfare held to the root of the chord unlike John's original bass line on Grave New World - but they will have to wait to see Benedictus live for that!) What a joy it was to see the classic "Hero And Heroine" band in action as they took us on a journey of musical excellence and cherished memories. Quite simply, this band is superb. Drummer Rod Coombes is a bass player's dream and his technique on the bass drum and ride cymbal is stunning (and that comes from someone who played in Ted McKenna's band!). Dave Lambert played the guitar with his usual fiery passion and precision, always seeking to capture the beauty of the original recordings. John Hawken played the keyboards with his special mixture of sublime sensitivity and stark aggression, giving the band that ethereal and dynamic quality that made "Hero And Heroine" and "Ghosts" so special. A great keyboard player indeed.

    Chas Cronk, who combines superb vocal harmonies with solid and flowing bass lines which could transform the most ordinary of songs, was a delight to listen to and it was a privilege to hear a man who inspired this writer as a teenage bass player in the 1970's! Dave Cousins was Dave Cousins! A true performer, he gave 100% throughout the whole concert. He was, as always, outstanding in every respect.

    For me the highlights were the aforementioned songs and "Autumn", "I Only Want My Love To Grow In You" and "Witchwood". The Strawbs remain a truly great band and a wonderful reason to form a tribute band!


    Lay Down
    New World
    Burning For Me
    Ghosts
    Cold Steel
    Witchwood
    Benedictus
    Autumn
    Out In The Cold/Round And Round
    Heartbreaker
    The River/Down By The Sea
    Drum Solo/Hero And Heroine/Round And Round Reprise
    We'll Meet Again Sometime

    I Only Want My Love To Grow In You
    Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

    THE BROOK, SOUTHAMPTON, WEDNESDAY 21 FEBRUARY 2007

    QUIETER MOMENTS WERE FABULOUS AND LOUD BITS BLEW YOUR SOCKS OFF! - Review by Phil Gregory

    Having been let down for the second Strawbs gig in a row by my friend Mike ordering a ticket and then deciding he couldn't go (who would have thought a holiday in Morocco booked by his wife would be more important than seeing the electrics?), I decided to persuade my 16 year old son Max to come along for his first "real gig", so I hoped the band would blow him away and make a new convert.

    We were a bit anti social and stuck to position dead center about 10 feet from the stage, when perhaps we should have mixed with the WW crowd front right, but I was determined that this was "the best position". Visually this was probably true but sound wise, possibly not as the drum sound was so powerful from that distance that it swamped out a lot of the PA mix reducing a lot of the marvelous keyboard and guitar work to the background, I think the venue was a bit small for the power of the performance. That said the quieter moments were fabulous and loud bits blew your socks off!

    I don't want to cover every song, but so many were fantastic, "New World" was fairly awesome, "Burning For You" eerily magnificent, "Cold Steel" is one of the new numbers that gives me shivers - I love it and it was great tonight. The highlights for me though were the acoustic-ish numbers "Witchwood" and "Benedictus" - bit biased as they are both up there near my favourite songs ever. It was great to hear a "proper" "Benedictus" played by the full band with original sounding keyboard parts - I've very rarely heard that live - and the return of the dulcimer, hurrah! "Autumn" was nothing short of magnificent with John's amazing Moog sounds.

    Before the show started Max asked me "why would anyone need so many cymbals?" and I think Rod showed him - absolutely incredible drumming and cymbal work - but he makes it look so easy, almost like he's doing it unconsciously.

    I don't think there was a bad moment or anything I would have wanted replaced (although I'm not a huge "Heartbreaker" fan) but it would have been nice to have another couple of songs to satisfy those of us not giving up on a third or fourth encore!! Given the line up it would have been nice to hear "The Life Auction" and "Grace Darling", but never mind.

    Did they blow Max away? He "enjoyed it" which from a lad of as few words as him is something, but we'll have to wait and see if he asks to borrow any CDs.

    Looking forward to Frome on Friday, hope to see lots of you there - it's a very big hall - about 600 capacity so we don't want to be lost in it!


    SO'TON, SO BRILLIANT - Review by Calli Bradley

    Again, the whole humour thing has bypassed me - you can't knock a girl for trying. After dropping off emergency cleaning supplies to our son, (they got stacked in in a corner his accommodation with the other gallons of cleaning fluids and washing powder - again you can't blame a Mum for trying!), we drove round to the Brook, to get into the usual line. What a fabulous surprise - there at the front of the queue was Nigel, offspring and Ali - brilliant.

    Feeling a little jaded after a late night the night before (Wavendon - which was jolly good and already reviewed by TYP Pete), kept to soft drinks, but enjoyed catching up and chatting to fellow Witchwooders. The chaps joined the stage and any tiredness just disappeared as soon as the first bars of "Lay Down" started. Suffice to say, for me the evening was as near perfect as possible. Each DC gesture, each pensive note from Chas, every ivory addition from John, all additions, both electric and acoustic from DL, Rod's drum solo - the costume, the drama, the everything was dazzling.

    I always love the Brook, even though it can have a lot of background noise, but to cut a long review short, the Strawberry talent, charisma, marvellous songwriting and general genius kept it away - yep no loud background noise - or I was completely mesmerised - who knows, who cares, the gig was fantastic.


    MIXTURE OF ACOUSTIC AND ELECTRIC WAS ABSOLUTELY ABSORBING - Review by Bob C

    After last year's show, which you may have seen a previous post, where I was ill and struggled to watch the gig at The Brook, I was looking forward to this gig even more so that I could witness a great show in full health! Unfortunately, a day or so before I contracted some other malaise but, on my first drop of Guiness, had revived myself to such a degree I was able to stand and watch in relative comfort - and witnessed a fantastic show indeed.

    I was apprehensive about how my daughter (never heard a Strawbs song in her life but is a staunch Wishbone Ash fan) would receive DC's voice (of which a recent debate on Witchwood had caused further doubt). But I need not have worried, as she thought it fine and appreciated the sustained notes and great harmonies. Being heavily into guitar music, I thought she'd be watching DL all the time, but no - DC must have had some fascinating allure after all! She did love DL's playing of course! I knew a few songs, but as I explained to my daughter Strawbs are a band which are immediately accessible on a number of levels and so you can appreciate the relative intricacies of the music even upon the first time of hearing. Back in the 70's my mate had From The Witchwood and I later bought Grave New World, but after the Hudson/Ford uprooting(!) fell away from the band, so even the older subsequent material was quite new to me. Just to say that it really was a great performance - I wish I could have conveyed that to the band later, but had to leave just after the show. The mixture of acoustic and electric was absolutely absorbing, and Sara was amazed by the drum solo. I surely hope to see the boys again. I simply must catch up with some of the studio albums though.


    Comments from Nigel Bennett

    Life out here on the road is fun - yippee another show tonight and very soon and if you all thought Bilston and Wavendon were very good, then Southampton seemed a greater delight too.

    The audience certainly captured the mood that evening and were calling for many encores hard and long and even after the finish of "Here Today" they all wanted another song.










    Photos by Pete Bradley - more pics from Pete.


    Setlist from Pete Bradley

    Lay Down
    New World
    Burning For Me
    Ghosts
    Cold Steel
    Witchwood
    Benedictus
    Autumn

    Out In The Cold/Round And Round
    Heartbreaker
    The River/Down By The Sea
    Drum Solo/Hero And Heroine/Round And Round Reprise
    We'll Meet Again Sometime

    I Only Want My Love To Grow In You
    Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

    THE STABLES, WAVENDON, MILTON KEYNES, TUESDAY 20 FEBRUARY 2007

    SEE AND FEEL EVERY NOTE - Review by Pete Bradley

    Won't describe Martin and Debby as "old" school friends as I'm older than Martin, but suffice it to say, they have been very good friends of ours for a long time. Despite that, we had never taken them to see the Strawbs, so it was clear it was high time that we rectified the situation.

    Arranged to meet at 5 o'clock in a restaurant very close to the Stables in Wavendon, but as so often happens, things went wrong, and we finally all met up at the Stables about five mins before the concert started.

    As I'd just bought a new camera, I was disappointed to discover that the Stables has a strictly no photography policy. Dick very cleverly managed to persuade the staff there that this was not just one of their average run-off-the mill concerts, this was a major historical event and that it was important that it was recorded for posterity, so they relented and gave him permission to take pictures for the web-site. Had to wait till Southampton before trying out my new toy [sorry Pete - you can be official Strawbsweb photographer another time - DG].

    In recent years Martin and Debby have seen groups such as Oasis and Coldplay, where you are a hundred miles from the stage, so I don't think they had been expecting to get so close to the band. (We were in the second row). There you could see and feel every note, rather than just hear them, and I think they really enjoyed it.

    There were one or two technical glitches, which meant that this wasn't the best of the three concerts that Calli and I saw on this tour, though it was still stunning.

    In the opening number, "Lay Down", Dave Lambert found that his microphone wasn't working. He waved frantically at the sound engineer, who seemed to turn up the volume of Dave Cousins' microphone instead, so that "New World" was just above the pain barrier. The Strawbs were all looking very stressed, and it looked like they were not enjoying themselves, but after a change of microphone, John launched in to the introduction to "Burning For Me", and the guys relaxed and things seemed to go much smoother. I think after that, the reason for the sound balance was down to the skill of the band rather than to the acoustics of the venue.

    The odd technical glitch though just proves that it is live music. If you don't want glitches, go and see some band that mime to studio enhanced records. Strawbs music is far more intricate than most of the tunes played by modern day bands and it never ceases to amaze that they can play such complex music live.

    We had told Martin and Debby that the Strawbs liked to meet up with their audience in the bar afterwards, but they were stunned when John Hawken leapt off the stage at the end of the show and came over and hugged Calli and Lindsey, and thanked them for coming all that way to see them. Like it was us doing them the favour! You don't get that from Oasis, do you?

    A really good show, despite the shaky start, and I'm pretty sure that we've added two new members to the ever-growing group of fans.



    photo by Dick Greener more pics from Dick.


    Setlist

    Lay Down
    I Only Want My Love To Grow In You
    New World
    Burning For Me
    Ghosts
    Cold Steel
    Witchwood
    Benedictus
    Autumn

    Out In The Cold/Round And Round
    Heartbreaker
    The River/Down By The Sea
    Drum Solo/Hero And Heroine/Round And Round Reprise

    We'll Meet Again Sometime
    Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

    ROBIN 2 CLUB, BILSTON, SUNDAY 18 FEBRUARY 2007

    ROCKIN' ROBIN - Review by Dick Greener

    The Robin 2 was laid out with seats, with a huge space between the front seats and the stage (a bit like a dance floor) ! Not what I'd expected - the last time we were there for the DVD filming it was standing only. We took up a position along the side where we could wander to the front at the side of the stage to get a closer vantage point when the time came.

    [DG: To forestall any DVD-related e-mail queries, no I do not have any date for the Bilston DVD's release yet - when I do I'll let everyone know.]

    "Lay Down" is such a powerful opener, this electric re-arrangement emerged in 2004 when this line-up first reformed, the accapella start (which subsequently spilled over into the acoustic treatment) bookended nicely by the strong accapella finish of the last song "We'll Meet Again Sometime". I did wonder that the set was quite that dark - but the light dawned on me (and someone on the lighting crew!) and the brighter lights were turned on about half way through the first song. Nice to see "I Only Want My Love To Grow In You", the hit that never was but should have been, back in the set - it moved later on towards the end of the second set at MK.

    "New World" bitter and harsh vocals, some nice guitar from DL. A highlight for me of the current electric set - "Burning For Me" , DL's sinister e-Bow and Chas's deep bass over Hawken's haunting piano figure, DC to the fore with more impassioned vocals, and plenty of "hand signals".

    "Ghosts" - a tour de force, the interweaving of the two guitar figures, the bass (I'd forgotten that one of the figures played on guitar acoustic-wise used to be done by the bass - maybe that's why Chas finds it so easy !!!) and the harpsichord keyboard sound - just classic Strawbs.

    "Cold Steel", saw Cousins donning the banjo and DL switching to acoustic, the song as bouncy and powerful as ever. Sticking with the banjo, but taking to the "acoustic stools", the acoustic "set within a set" continued with the new haunting version of "Witchwood" with John Hawken providing a new set of eerie keyboard sounds as a backdrop to the intricate mix of banjo, 6 and 12-string guitars - the three vocalists harmonising well. Staying seated, DC switched to dulcimer for a stirring "Benedictus".

    A change of gear back to the electric band material, with a splendid "Autumn" (which would earn prolonged applause for a faultless, defining performance at the end of the first set at MK the following night), not in any way diminished by Dave's realisation at the start of "Deep Summer's Sleep" that his guitar was in the wrong tuning. "That must have sounded [somewhat] awful" he commented as he hurriedly retuned and started from where he left off. Another Hero And Heroine favourite followed, "Out In The Cold/Round And Round", the first part gently melodic, the second, a sinister interplay between Hawken's synth and Lambert's electric followed by impassioned Cousins vocals and thrashing Who-style guitars, all underpinned by crashing cymbals and drumming from Rod. Particularly impressive was Cousins' harsh screamed "Round and round we go!!!!" at the end of the "It's not the revolution, I despise" section.

    Feedback electric took us promptly into "Heartbreaker", a great Lambert showcase, with some nice swirly synth from Hawken and powerhouse drumming from Rod. And then into the "River/Down By The Sea" sequence. Not having had this in the acoustic set for a while now, it's great to hear it again - rather than the duelling guitars of the Lambert/Willoughby era, it now gives Lambert an opportunity to dazzle with some belting guitar work, over some nice keyboard from John.

    Coombes' solo, starting off with just his hands, is brilliant to watch, he darts all over the kit and really shows how good a drummer he really is, then both hands and drumsticks raised, the set proper finished with "Hero And Heroine" - a song that has become so powerful in its acoustic clothes with that amazing finish, that I almost wanted them to "do it acoustic" - but it was good to hear the electric arrangement again, with its segue into the echo drenched reprise of "Round And Round".

    The first encore, a surprise "We'll Meet Again Sometime", reintroduced to great effect for the acoustic band on the immediately previous tour with strong folky three part harmony vocals, translates well into an electric environment, with some laid back piano and organ and light touch drumming, building to the final repeated belted-out choruses. The central guitar riff round which the verse is constructed and Lambert's slide part sound as good on electric as they did on acoustic. And the accapella finish is superb.

    And to take us down, a plaintive "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow", just keyboard, Lambert's guitar and Dave to start, then adding bass and drums for the second half of the song. A fine ending to a superb show.

    The Robin is a great blasting rock venue - a curved high roof, the stage quite high up, but I suspect it can be a bit of a barn for soundmen to cope with - the mix was loud and punchy, so congrats to Paul for a great effort (he had a harder job the following night at the Wavendon Stables, possibly a venue better suited for folk/jazz rather than full on rock, and therefore better for the acoustic incarnation of the band). Lambert's guitar, despite the many changes of volume, tone etc which he constantly puts into effect (you try getting a photo of him in poor light - his hands are never still) and John's keyboards were clearly audible , and with such a powerful drummer as Rod and a melodic bass player like Chas, it's a tall order to keep all those elements in place and still leave room for the all important Cousins vocals and guitar sound.

    It's a tribute to the boys that they can switch from the acoustic arrangement of such complex songs as "Autumn" and "Ghosts" to the electric version, on this occasion with only 24 hours to separate the two, and that both shows (Matlock Bath and this one) can be quite so stunning in their different ways. The new (re-) entrants to the set seem to me to blend the best of the acoustic and electric Strawbs together into a fascinating and rich mix, possibly what makes the Strawbs for me "the best band in the land"; let's hope that long may they so continue.


    STORMER OF A GIG - Comments from Les Cotton

    A stormer of an Electric Strawbs gig, thunderous mix, loud but clear, outstanding Drum and keyboard sound...Dave Lambert's Les Paul sounding the best I've ever heard it heard via his new Line 6 Pod pedalboard and trusty Marshall. Welcome return of "I Only Want My Love To Grow.." to the set, newly arranged "Witchwood", and a very mellow "We'll Meet Again Sometime" as encore...then back to our base at the Quality Hotel for the odd drink till around 3 am....excellent.


    PASSION AND FEROCITY - Comments from Ralph Tonge

    DG: Check out Ralph's comments on the marathon Strawbs session that preceded this show: The Strawberry Mousse Boys and Girls event.

    I ferried Lindsay, Heather and Dick to the venue The Robin 2. It's a good venue, but we were a bit bemused by the ferocious zero tolerance on photography, as well as the weird seating layout. The band came on at 9.00pm by which stage we were fired up ready for another great gig, and of course the band delivered.

    The standing area at the front of the band was left empty, although Lindsay, Heather, Nigel and myself did edge a little forward, but being truly British we only ventured a few feet before our inhibitions kicked in.

    It was really a strong gig, with all band members on great form. There were a couple of technical glitches, this being the first night of the tour, but all were dealt with as professionally as always. The sound was great, an improvement from last year, and John Hawken's keyboards were a little louder than last year. Dave Lambert's guitar set up really sounded sharper and clearer than before. Dave Cousins was in superb voice, as were Chas and Dave Lambert. The harmonies were crisper and accurate than I've ever heard them I think. Two new additions to the set "I Only Want My Love To Grow In You" (when is this song going to be selected for a Viagra commercial??!!) and "We'll Meet Again Sometime". Every song was a treat, performed with a real passion and ferocity. All of the band play like they are 18 years old, something I couldn't always say of the 1980s lineup; and I really appreciate Rod's role as drummer in this sound.


    THE PLEASURES WHEN WE MEET - Part 3 of a multi-event review from Lindsay Sorrell

    DG: For Lindsay on the previous night's acoustic show at Matlock Bath, see Part 1 of this review and on the Strawberry Mousse Boys and Girls Event see Part 2 of this review

    As time isn't on my side here I'm going to have to abbreviate the events which followed and will jump to the gig itself - the Robin 2, Bilston. Ralph (I really enjoyed our chat too) kindly ferried Dick, Heather (lovely to meet up again) and me to the gig, which was an absolute stunner. Just as I would put last year's gig at the same venue right near the top of favourite Strawbs gigs I've been to, so this was another amazing performance. The energy, passion and presence of all the band members made for a truly electric performance. Admittedly there were a few little glitches, but they paled into complete insignificance in the scheme of things, with the band rocking the way they did. It was wonderful to see so many Witchwooders there - too many to count, and, like me, many have made great friends with others as an added bonus of their fandom of this amazing band. After the gig so many came back to the hotel that the initial arrangement of about 4 sofas and half a dozen armchairs had to be expanded over and over again to accommodate everyone - I think Paul Brazier may have the odd photo or hundred as proof - the Robin 2 had not allowed photography, so Paul was determined to make up for the lack of camera action at the get-together (and very grateful I am too, Paul - I was only joking!). The guitars came out again for a while and, tonight, it was Chas's turn to have a little strum along with various others. Everyone enjoyed having the opportunity to chat with Rod and John Hawken again in the very relaxed atmosphere of the large and obliging bar - one thing which this Hotel definitely does provide.

    Lots of goodbyes again next morning, though hopefully I'll see several Witchwooders and other fans elsewhere on the tour. A thousand thank-yous to Dick for allowing me to join him, and getting me safely back to London (Dick told me we covered 450 miles on our scenic route to the Derbyshire Dales and back - I only remember talking for 449 of them - must have dropped off I suppose). Massive thanks to all the Witchwood crowd for being such a warm and friendly bunch, and there's not much I can say about the band that hasn't been said over and over, but I know I am unbelievably fortunate to have fallen in love with Strawbs' music three quarters of my life ago and still be having times like these - some friends asked me yesterday what I'd been up to at the weekend as I couldn't stop smiling - how could I begin to explain? "Whatever it was", they mused, "we want some of it!" The pleasures when we meet are indeed priceless.





    photos by Alison Brown more pics from Ali.


    FROM THE FISHPOND TO THE ROBIN'S NEST, THEY SANG WITH A JOYFUL SOUND - Review from Paul Southby

    What a weekend - two really fabulous, but contrasting shows, and two great venues. The Fishpond at Matlock Bath was a really nice little venue, a lovely room, really full, and I would say the best performance I have seen from the Acoustic line up. Full of light and shade and delicacy of touch. A friend who met me and my daughter there who liked the band in the early 70s but has seen nothing since said they were a revelation, and on the night he was right. Dave C was in full on storytelling mode and was clearly enjoying himself immensely. I hadn't planned on going to Bilston the following day, but my daughter, aged 17, made me take her as she enjoyed Matlock so much!

    Bilston was a contrast. Again very full, and very loud (in a good way) and very little chat this time, but again they were all clearly enjoying it hugely, even when it transpired after the first instrumental section of Autumn that DC had forgotten to retune - taken in good humour by the band and the crowd alike. It was great to hear the keyboards higher up in the mix than previously (meaning I could hear them well ... or in contrast with the Boardwalk at Sheffield last tour "at all"), and I must say that the sound at both venues was really really good - congratulations to both sound men who did a grand job.

    At the end of the Bilston gig, there were boos when the band failed to return for a second encore ... now that's a good sign! As Dick says, long may all of this continue.


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