Updated: 29 Oct 2007
Tears And Pavan
The Man Who Called Himself Jesus
Oh How She Changed
Glimpse Of Heaven
Shine On Silver Sun
Hero And Heroine
We'll Meet Again Sometime
FOOTLIGHTS, WEST CHILTINGTON, SATURDAY 8 SEPTEMBER 2007
Well worth the trip, Saturday evening at West Chiltington Village Hall, accompanied by my regular co-pilot, Lindsay. My thanks to the Footlights crowd who organise the events, who made us very welcome indeed. Their website at http://www.footlightsmusic.com/ has various info about upcoming events as well as podcasts and pix from previous shows (they've been going 13 years and have put on over 120 shows, a virtual who's who of acoustic music. Check it out.
The venue is a beautifully looked after and appointed village hall - in the middle of the West Sussex countryside. Right in the middle! It was OK getting there in daylight but we had an interesting circular tour round the surrounding villages before ending up more back at a junction we'd been at before ("Round and round we go" was Lindsay's comment in our visitors book when she left the next day). So it took us rather longer to get home than with should have.
Acoustic Strawbs were in fine voice at the start of an interrupted Acoustic autumn tour (interrupted by a trip to Montreal as the Electric Band this coming weekend). The sound was splendid out front and the lighting tasteful, yet bright enough to see Lambert and Chas, who are often shrouded in semi darkness.
The show opened with Jerry Page accompanied by Jon (who runs his own folk club at Amberley (www.amberleyfolkclub.com) on mandolin and fiddle. A nice combination. Particularly enjoyed the singalong "Shine On" featured on his Postcard from Australia CD. See http://www.jerrypage.com/ and check out his MySpace for some sound clips.
And now to the main event: a setlist with a few old friends back in repertoire and an extended 3-song banjo session now forming a large part of act 2. First act opened with the welcome return of the dulcimer-free "Benedictus/Simple Visions" pairing, which got things off to a fine start, Cousins in fine form vocally and chat-wise - some new reminiscences about some of the songs. "Jesus" drew an amused look from Lambert to Cousins when DC started off on his own without waiting for the Lambert instrumental intro. But that was the only sign that this was the first show of the tour, which bodes very well for the next few weeks. Nice to see "Glimpse Of Heaven" back in repertoire, and very nice to see "Shine Silver Sun" back again.
"Ghosts" was very very strong, and the second act opener "New World" was powerful too, dedicated by Dave to Rhys Jones, the recently murdered Liverpool schoolboy. The banjo session started with "Shine On" and moved on to "Cold Steel". And I was sitting there thinking DC would put it down now, but no: they were off into the "Witchwood" after a story from Dave's student days.
And what about powerful endings! Autumn builds through its three parts, then "Lay Down, a huge crowd pleaser. And the acoustic "Hero And Heroine" still for me is one of the best endings in acoustic music: abrupt, powerful, splendid. And to follow it as an encore, the singalong "We'll Meet Again Sometime", which also has a super accapella ending - like a bookend to the accapella start of "Benedictus".
Now and again folks catch me grinning to myself during a Strawbs show. I'm not going loopy (well I don't think so), just enjoying the fact that I'm lucky enough to be associated with and get to hear such excellent music - it was about 9 on the Grin-ometer at West Chiltington.
Now where's my map book .....
Awesome was the word on almost everyone's lips when the Acoustic Strawbs rocked West Chiltington village hall on Saturday evening.
This was the third time the archetypal folk/rock group had been brought to the venue by Footlights so they were guaranteed to play to a packed house of devoted followers as well as many who had heard glowing reports of their previous visits. The Strawbs' popularity is growing and growing in this part of the world. And what a superb strawberry delight the audience was treated to from start to finish, spellbound by the passionate and powerful, multi-talented performance.
The chemistry between the three is amazing - producing a stunning blend of Dave Cousin's unmistakable voice and unique narrative showmanship in total harmony with phenomenal guitar playing from Dave Lambert and Chas Cronk.
It began with "Benedictus", a sheer wall of sound that led into an evening of classic Strawbs' songs, with all their haunting lyrics, cascading notes, crashing crescendos and intricate changes of mood and tempo. Dave Cousins led us on an odyssey of the group's travels and history, through the haunting "Tears And Pavan", "The Man Who Called Himself Jesus" and their first-ever single, "Oh How She Changed". Then it was yet more favourites - "A Glimpse Of Heaven", "Ghosts", "New World", "Shine On Silver Sun", Dave Lambert's stunning "Cold Steel", "Witchwood", "Autumn" and, for me the highlight of the evening, "Lay Down".
The breadth of their reportoire is amazing, words and music delivered from the heart and portraying everything from anger and despair to tenderness and wonderment. It's a magical mix that no one who loves the folk/rock genre could resist.
After a barnstorming finale of "Hero And Heroine", the audience simply wouldn't let them go. Minutes of foot-stamping and clapping finally lured them back on stage for an emotive farewell with "We'll Meet Again Sometime". Hopefully Footlights will be bringing The Acoustic Strawbs back to West Chiltington next year. Don't miss it!
It was a really pretty drive down to West Chiltington on Saturday evening, through the winding Sussex country lanes. Our Satnav had carefully selected the narrowest possible dirt tracks, carved through the South Downs, with fern-covered chalk banks looming almost vertically like walls. If another car had come the other way we might have never got through.
As we approached, the sky become filled with hot air balloons. How beautiful and tranquil the world must have looked from up there, set against the background of a setting Autumnal sun, (itself an orange balloon on the distant horizon).
How beautiful and tranquil the world was here on Terra Firma, as well though, for we were on our way to the Footlights to see the Acoustic Strawbs!
West Chiltington looks almost too perfect as a village. There is not a leaf out of place. Each blade of grass seemed to have been carefully positioned, polished, and regularly dusted. We arrived early, and so drove around looking for a pub. I'm sure there must be one somewhere, but we couldn't find one.
The Footlights is a lovely little theatre, which seems to attract some big names considering it is in the middle of nowhere. They have Show of Hands booked for later this year, (already sold out). They were pretty packed for the Strawbs as well.
Somehow or other, Lindsay had managed to sneak in before the doors had opened, and had reserved us seats in the front row. Fabulous. The stage lighting was aesthetic but not hugely bright, (OK I got spoilt by the natural lighting at Cropredy), so without front row seats don't think I'd have got quite such good photos. Even then, a lot of the ones I took of Chas ended up too blurred for publication.
Lovely to have "A Glimpse Of Heaven" and "Shine On Silver Sun" back in the set, but sad that "The Battle" and "Two Weeks Last Summer" seemed to have been dropped. Guess you can't have everything. Would be really nice if they could add something from, say, Deadlines, (maybe "Deadly Nightshade"), but wouldn't know what to suggest to cut out instead.
All in all it was a truly magnificent performance, particularly as it was only a couple of weeks ago that they had been playing many of these songs as the electric band. Truly mind blowing how they can switch from one version to another without getting confused.
Sadly, most of this tour is a bit too far away for Calli and me to travel to, so we won't get too see them as much as we might have liked. Do hope that if you get to see them during the rest of the tour that they will be as good then as they were last Saturday.
Photos by Pete Bradley - more pics from Pete.
Not really that much I can add to the reviews of Strawbs' acoustic gig at "Footlights" already written, but I just wanted to confirm that the band were on finest form. I'd never been to West Chiltington previously - what a pretty area real "out of the hustle, into the country" stuff. As townies, Dick (who very kindly gave me a lift to the gig) and I mused as to what living amidst the splendours of such a beautiful little village would really be like. Nearing the venue it was lovely to watch the hot air balloons hanging in the distant sky, fittingly accompanied by Hudson Ford's "Floating in the Wind" (hmmm, now there's an idea..). I declared how much I'd love a go, while Dick declared his preference for terra firma (but we did agree upon the charms of "Tales of the Riverbank", a favourite childrens' programme for both of us apparently!).
Dick treated me to various CD delights en route, involving several recordings sure to make the average Strawbs "and related" fan gasp in wonderment, including different demos and rarities. We listened to Strawbs' live recording from Calderone back in 1975 it wasn't possible for British Strawbs fans like me even to dream of being there in those precheap-flight days, but well I remember climbing metaphorical mountains to partake of the few live concert crumbs offered in Britain at that time. How this recording brings back memories! It was fantastic to hear some of the stunning songs from Nomadness which made it into the set in those days "The Promised Land" in particular for me the power of that song is immense and drew great audience reaction whenever I was lucky enough to see it performed live. Great to hear "Hanging in the Gallery" and "To Be Free" too. Can't wait to buy a copy of "NY,`75" when it is released.
So anyway, the Witchwood contingent gradually assembled and took our seats in the front row - it was lovely after a few minutes spent nattering to turn round and realise that the sizeable hall had filled up very satisfyingly with a highly appreciative audience - the band's reputation has obviously been building in these parts. The short set supplied by the support act contained some pleasant songs and I particularly enjoyed the mandolin accompaniment, and then it was straight on to our heroes. So glad I managed to make it to this gig (it was touch and go until the day) - every song was a delight, woven together by Dave Cousins' fascinating tales involving previously unheard (by me) recollections of archaeological digs, student days spent hitchhiking and much more. It's the way he tells `em!
End of the first set and I made a few quid in the interval - a strange man approached me to ask if he could use my mobile phone as he couldn't receive a signal on his own. I don't mean "strange" as in "strange", he seemed very nice, but I didn't know him. The serious expression on his face made me assume he was a doctor on call or some such, but it turned out he ran coaches to the airport and needed to contact someone. It turned out to be about a dozen people he needed to contact in fact - eventually I decided to go walkabout and when I returned "ever on duty" Sgt. Pritchards, who had observed the scenario, plunged some money into my hand. Steve had kindly waited to retrieve my phone for me and the mystery man had insisted on paying for its use I was well up on the deal (I think! Haven't actually checked which airport his coaches run to come to think of it - probably Caracas or somewhere!). Anyway, my unexpected earnings were soon squandered on drinks and packets of Cheddars from the very reasonable little bar (sorry Steve - where were you?!).
Second half of the set continued to stun - the entire gig was absolutely brilliant/ amazing/ fantastic/ stupendous (2 marks for correct answer). Soon afterwards Dick and I said quick goodbyes then sped off into the darkness as I was hoping to catch a train. Wildlife was in abundance in the deserted (except by us) country lanes at one point a beautiful young deer ran along the middle of the road just a couple of feet in front of us and we also spotted rabbits and foxes and even a few gorillas (just making sure you're awake there). Missed my train despite Dick's valiant efforts to decipher a route using junctions almost entirely free of signposts never mind, it gave me another opportunity to enjoy Dick's "host with the most" hospitality always a "thirst-quenching" pleasure.
Somewhat of a late response I know but just to add to Dicks comments on the folk at West Chilington. I too had navigational difficulties but that was going not returning. Hence I arrived towards the end of "Jesus" feeling very annoyed (at myself) and frustrated at my late arrival and missing the start. It had been one of those nights!!
Not wishing to enter til the lads had finished I told of my troubles to the lady on the door. Didn't say my name but told them I'd come from Dartford and would need to get it right next time as I'd be returning for Show of Hands in October.
Some one had done a bit of detective work (I'm on their mail list) and Footlights have very kindly offered me a free ticket to one of there next 2 shows to say sorry for my trial in getting there and as a token of appreciation. A totally unexpected gesture especially as it was all my fault not theirs, it says a lot about the folks that run it. It's a generous offer but it was no fault of theirs, I mean I'd been there before!! I'd feel a fraud in taking up their offer.
Back to the gig, I did enjoy it once I calmed down, good to see Dick, Lindsay, Nigel, Calli and Pete and who's presence eased my tension and the journey home took half the time it took to get there.
Tears and Pavan
The Man Who Called Himself Jesus
Oh How She Changed
Glimpse of Heaven
Hangman and the Papist
Shine on Silver Sun
We'll Meet Again Sometime.
PRIVATE PARTY, SAT 22 SEPTEMBER 2007
Bob and Lou Richardson's private show at the Inkford Hotel is always a joy to attend - a relaxed atmosphere and a chance to have a good chat (and a drink or two!) with the lads and the usual crowd of Strawbs fan mates afterwards, before a decent breakfast the next morning to see you on your way home.
I had travel woes getting there - admittedly set off late, but not generally improved by my failing to take the right motorway, ploughing on up the M6 instead of taking the M42. So I got there after various artists had performed, including Bob and Lou themselves, who I gather did "Further On Down The Road". Lucky I wasn't playing this year! However, as some perspicacious individual noted, I was in time for the food! And also in time for the Acoustic Strawbs, which is the main thing after all.
Ali, Les and Sue Cotton, the Bradleys and Nigel had thoughtfully saved me a seat on the front table, so I was set for the night. As my camera batteries died about one song in (no pix from me this time) then I'd no option but to just sit back and watch the show, focussing on the arrangements, enjoying the interplay of Dave Cousins' characteristic playing, Lambert's pyrotechnics on acoustic and the flourishes which Chas's 12-string (or bass) adds to the mix, to say nothing of his expert bass pedal playing. The keyboard/string sounds really add a wholly different dimension to these acoustic versions of prog classics. I know that the previous line-up did it all with three 6-string guitars, but it's difficult to think of "New World" without the faux Mellotron stabs adding a whole layer of depth and power.
The set was the current one, though with the surprise (and very enjoyable) re-introduction of "The Hangman And The Papist" opening up set 2, which unfortunately squeezed "Hero And Heroine" off the end. Everything was as tight as it should be, hard to single out any song for special mention as they were all pretty perfectly rendered, though I particularly enjoyed "Ghosts" and "Shine On Silver Sun", and of course the splendid encore "We'll Meet Again Sometime" with its blistering ending.
But as Bob pointed out, the show was not over till the "fat lady had sung", but prior to that Roger, a tenor in impeccable dinner suit, gave us first a translation of "Nessun Dorma", then an excellent rendition of the song. And the fat lady wasn't fat (naughty Bob!), but gave a splendid performance nonetheless.
Thanks for the invite Bob and Lou, always great fun and nice to catch up.
Photo by Alison Brown - more pics from Ali.
Photos by Les Cotton more pictures off Strawbsweb from Les
Calli and I were lucky enough to get invited to Bob and Lou's annual party this year. We decided to drive up on the Friday, which meant that for the first time in at least twenty years, we had the luxury of a day with absolutely nothing to do. A complete day of relaxation, followed by an evening with the Strawbs. Absolute heaven.
Ran into Ali mid afternoon, so we popped down to the open-air courtyard near the bar, for a cup of tea. We met Dave Lambert, and spent a very pleasant afternoon chatting with him, and trying to sound knowledable about cricket (I think it's a sort of insect like a grasshopper). Chas, who had an upstairs room overlooking the courtyard, would occasionally lean out of his window and call out the latest football results.
Eventually the guys had to go off for a sound check, and we were treated to Dave Cousins playing the main riff from "Never Take Sweets From A Stranger" and also to Dave Lambert singing a few bars from a song I don't think I have ever heard before. Think it was probably called "Stupid Girl". [DG - think it's called "Silly Girl" - from some tracks which I found in the Strawbs archive which I passed on to DL a few weeks back.]
Bob and Lou had gone all out to ensure we all had a fantastic time, kicking off with two support acts. Then, before the main festivities, they were brave enough to get up and play themselves including a really good rendition of "Further Down The Road". If I were to say that Lou has a beautiful singing voice, please don't take it that I am implying that Bob doesn't have.
But on to the main part of the evening. Two new additions to the set, but, sadly, no "Hero And Heroine". The first of the new additions was "The Hangman And The Papist". The original introduction to this featured a Rick Wakeman solo, (all over it like a rash as DC might have said), so not an easy song for a faithful acoustic delivery. Clearly a difficult challenge, but the Strawbs rose to it well and with some impressive sustain from Chas's foot pedals and virtuoso guitar from the two Daves, you could be forgiven for thinking that you were back in 1971. All three clearly enjoyed playing this, particularly Dave Lambert, who was in his element . Dave Cousins put so much into singing the last lines that he looked physically exhausted afterwards.
The second addition to the set? Just before they played "We'll Meet Again", their encore, DC, sang a little song, (he claimed that Bob had taught it to him), that explained why the Sphynx has an inscrutable smile.
To round off the evening, Bob and Lou had booked two further acts. A "pocket sized Pavarotti", who sang "Nessun Dorma", followed by a young lady, (described by Bob as "the fat lady") who sang "Rule Brittania". We had all been issued with flags to wave, to re-enact the last night of the proms.
Stayed up far too late, nattering to Sue, Les, Ali, Nigel and Dick. So much so, that I'm still half asleep.
Cannot thank Bob and Lou enough for their generosity. A marvelous weekend.
Photo by Pete Bradley - more pics from Pete.
Photo by Adrian the Rock - more pics from Adrian on his own website
THE WESLEY CENTRE, MALTBY, FRIDAY 28 SEPTEMBER 2007
We drove across to Yorkshire last night to see the Acoustic Strawbs at the Wesley Centre, in Maltby, near Rotherham. It's a nice purpose-built multi purpose hall, with good sound properties and a decent PA. Also, of course, we all wanted to see Pete and Lynne Madeley, as Pete had been determined to see the show despite an enforced hospital visit in the early hours of Friday. So, a good turnout of Witchwooders (see photos), Me, Sue, Nigel, Lyndsay, Ali, Dick, Andy and Mike all made the trip, which was a pretty extended journey to say the least because of the usual Friday motorway rush.
On to the evening, pleasant support act of acoustic guitar and, unusually, cello, reminiscent of the Dragonfly days. Then for the Acoustics, a show of two halves....opening with "Benedictus", segued into "Simple Visions", then "Tears And Pavan"...a gentler set, followed by the second, full Acoustic power right through, finishing with "Lay Down", and DC announcing "this one's for our good friend, Pete Madeley...great to see you, boy!"...and straight in to a thundering "Hero And Heroine", at the end of which Pete rose to his feet, visibly delighted by it all (see photo), whilst Chas flashed a "thumbs up" to him as they left the stage....to return to huge applause for a slightly reworked "We'll Meet Again Sometime", now sounding to me more bluesy, with a laid back, rolling feel, very nice too.
Fabulous to see Pete and Lynne, after their exhausting 24 hours, and great to see Pete at front of house, proudly displaying Lynne's fantastic, 3D Witchwood banner (again, see photos)
Three photos now online at - http://picasaweb.google.com/Les.Cotton/AcousticStrawbsMaltby
For once it was the social side of Witchwood that took precedence on Friday. Around ten ardent Witchwooders converged on The Rock's new location in Maltby to see the Acoustics take the stage and meet up again - especially good to see Pete Madeley and clan.
Andy Slack and I draped coats and bodies over as many seats as we could but eventually had to ring Les to get the rest of the troops into the hall before we were overrun by the audience.
Badges were selling well and at least one is on its way to Switzerland - you don't often walk into the Gents and hear two blokes discussing which badge has travelled the furthest - New Zealand apparently.
Anyway, lots of chat before and after the show - great to actually put faces to names.
The new location for the Rock lacks the intimacy and warmth of the old Rockingham Arms although the Oatmeal Stout from the Wentworth Brewery was as good out of the bottle as it was previously out of the barrel.
The acoustics [of the hall not the band] were ok - rather thin for the first set but better for the second half - Chas was well up in the mix and DL a bit distant.
First half was professionally delivered but lacked a bit of sparkle - perhaps we knew what was coming - the second half was altogether different. "Hangman" and "New World" went together well [most appropriate as we were next door to the Catholic club] and as usual "Hero And Heroine" rounded things off perfectly.
Looking forward to The Boardwalk on November 25th - hopefully something different in the set but as DC commented afterwards 'there isn't enough time .....'
Photo from Sue Cotton
Back Row - Lindsay, Dick - Middle Row - Andy, Mike, Nigel, Les
Front Row - Lynne, Pete, Holly, and her friend Alex ...and Lynne's incredible, 3D banner
CITADEL ARTS, ST. HELENS, SATURDAY 29 SEPTEMBER 2007
After long days at work, we made the mad rush to have tea and drive down the motorway to get to the Acoustic Strawbs gig at the Citadel in St. Helens on Saturday evening. Having seen the acoustic line-up in Leicester and Morecambe in the past two years, and the electric line-up in Penrith, we knew it would be worth the rushing around, and it certainly was.
This was an incredibly moving gig, with some very impassioned playing and singing from Chas and the two Daves. The set list could not have been better and all three members were on terrific form throughout the evening. Dave Cousins' vocals were drenched in emotion, some of the best I've heard from him live, particularly in a very moving rendition of "New World". A particular highlight for me was hearing "Midnight Sun" sung with such beauty and tenderness that it actually moved me to tears. It was also great to hear "Witchwood" performed so sensitively and with some great banjo playing by DC. Dave Lambert was as exciting to watch and listen to as ever with some brilliantly rhythmic playing and superbly terrifying vocals in "Ghosts", another of my favourite Strawbs songs. Chas Cronk's harmony vocals were also the strongest I've heard from him live and his deft bass playing had a welcome dose of extra prominence than it has had on previous occasions.
Last night was really one of those magical gigs to which mentioning a few highlights can never really do justice, simply because it was all so consistently good. It is so rare these days to go to a gig and witness a level of musicianship and emotional commitment that sweeps you along through every song, and yet the Strawbs never seem to fail in achieving this. Their wonderful songs are continually given fresh life by great playing, singing and musical communication so that, yet again, Dave Cousins, Dave Lambert, and Chas Cronk have given us a night to remember and memories to cherish.
THE WESLEY CENTRE, MALTBY, FRIDAY 28 SEPTEMBER 2007 and
CITADEL ARTS, ST. HELENS, SATURDAY 29 SEPTEMBER 2007
When Lynne Madeley kindly provided the lovely Witchwood banner for Cropredy the Maltby gig was pencilled into our diaries as one where we could turn up and pay our thanks in person for that wonderful gesture and piece of creative artwork. We had been on tenterhooks, as the other reason for going was of course to see Pete, whose own attendance recently at gigs had been somewhat curtailed by his medical condition. So we kept everything crossed that things would turn out right on the night and so it proved. Both Pete and Lynne and daughter Holley and her friend made it and them all being there also made this a night to remember.
The rest of our tour party, never missing a trick, also realised that the next night at St Helens was only a short trek across the hill to the other side of Manchester so we made a weekend of it.
So at Maltby there we were, Pete, Lynne, Holley and friend, Les and Sue Cotton, Mike Barker (with new Witchwood badge), Andy Slack, Dick, Ali, Lindsay and me. A good Witchwood turnout for this show at the Wesley Centre.
The opening act included a Cello as part of the duo. Full of harmonies from the start and taking our minds back to Dragonfly with the deep rich sounds that particular instrument produced on that album. A point I was later to make to Charlie, the cellist, as we spoke of Dragonfly and of Claire Deniz during the interval and beyond. Another attendee on the night was Gerald Sable who does the Jonathan Kelly website who many of us will remember supported the band on the Grave New World Tour.
But of course most interesting of all was to see Pete sat in the front seat with a prime view of the band and talking to him afterwards I know he was absolutely delighted that Dave C had a chat with him before the show as well as really enjoying the entertainment the show provided.
More mention of Grave New World as the show started with an a capella start to "Benedictus" starting the Strawbs evening entertainment and led straight into "Simple Visions". A capella now there's a word to debate. Apparently some musical dictionaries indicate the Italian a cappella is preferred over the Latin a capella (one "p") yet both are technically correct. Why do dictionaries muddy the waters with two spellings and confuse me every time I write the word(s) ? Given the difficulty of spelling and its use in our favorite style of music, I'd like to endorse the simplicity in Strawbs reviews of a single spelling: - two words, two "p's", two "l's." because even I, remember two of everything, especially when it comes to drinks on order oh those are doubles !
Next up was the trip across Italy and the "Tears And Pavan" magical trip across the mountains. Back to England and down the A23 to Brighton for "Jesus" before the reverse trip back to the London Parklands for "Oh How She Changed" we were certainly getting around a bit with a mere fidget or two in our seats.
I have been thinking if only those last two were played the other way around then we could have made arrangements to "Sail Away To The Sea" with a coastal trip by boat, making sure we first missed beaching on the Isle of Wight before reaching Branscombe for that particular "Glimpse Of Heaven." Then a change of direction then takes us off in for a passage to the land of the "Midnight Sun" before ending up in America and rousing audience applause as "Ghosts" made a very welcome appearance.
Cue interval chats as I mentioned before, refills of glasses and a time to make sure you do not suffer the embarrassment of getting caught short during the second set.
A new and eerie opening sequence for the re-birth of "The Hangman And The Papist" took us on a historical journey, as did the crashing sounds of "New World" with its very pronounced bass lines with the introductory story line brought right up to date. Chas was playing with great vigor during the song and at one time winced as he induced a burning sensation in his finger during a sliding trip up his top "string".
It was almost tea time in the set by now and back down to Devon for the luscious "Shine On Silver Sun" cream tea before the offering from Deja Fou brought the journey right up to date in a recorded sense with "Cold Steel" from that album. Back on our Journey once again we stopped off in an English forest whilst the band played out the "Witchwood", as a third song with a banjo accompaniment.
The season now is drawing on and now it's time for "Autumn" with then another a cappella start, this time to "Lay Down", almost brought our journey to its ending. But not before Pete M had "Hero And Heroine" dedicated to him and although Pete may not have seen it, his pleasure at this song, was mirrored by his daughter sat just a few feet away. At the end amongst the resounding applause from the rest of the audience, Pete stood proudly to give his own ovation.
A promise was made to recreate the journey once again as the encore "We'll Meet Again", closed the show, with some lovely bluesy slide work from Dave Lambert. This added even more emotion to the general feeling that the evening was coming to an end.
We all got around at the end to join in a photo shoot, before departing in our different directions, some towards home and some to the pub for another beer a short distance away, where we promptly stayed for 2 3 hours, although as a driver I stayed strictly sober and overdosed on coke and half a shandy and packet of crisps.
Once we all got back to the hotel I was hungry. Lindsay and I demolished one packet of hobnobs (Poor Ali had just one biscuit - she would have had more but she didn't spot Lindsay and me who were playing pass the parcel very discreetly)
Next morning a staggered start, or was that a staggering start as some rose early and some to the sound of chambermaids entering their room to "dust" their noses.
In between the two shows we had promised to visit Madeley Heights for a trip around their residence and the little "town" of Holmfirth quite close by. All met up at the pub in the centre of the "village" had some lunch and were then joined by our tour guide Lynne who took us round the sights of The Last of the Summer Wine cafι and of course Nora Batty's steps. Unfortunately for some, no sight of her crinkled stockings.
Then up the hill to the heights themselves for a little more hospitality, a look around Pete's own "Strawbs" den. I found my self lying in the gutter - I hasten to add for only the first time that weekend.
All too soon it was time to be leaving and heading West to St Helens for the show that night. A new venue for me and time to go through the age old tradition of trying to find it ...no space age gadgets in my car to disturb my sleep as I drive along. It's all part of the fun of it, some times you get lucky, sometimes you do not well tonight I was spot on after wandering around a Tesco's car park and store for a few little supplies on the trip back south later that night I was a mere hefty stones throw from the actual event.
The Citadel is a very accommodating venue the staff from booking to show night were all great it is an ex Salvation Army gathering place and the sold out show tonight, gave a great audience backdrop to hear the band and their special sound.
The booming bass and pedals were captured fully by the PA giving the effect of a wall of sound and filling the place with the sound of Strawbs. The appreciative audience were really enthusiastic from the start with the evening culminating in a vociferous end of show reception and from some, a standing ovation.
We met a few more fans that we had "bumped" in to either at Cropredy, Witchwood or on My Space sites, before it was time for me to depart back down South.
Two shows in 24 hours and meeting Pete and Lynne as well made this a weekend that will last long in the touring memory, including of course the guided tour of Pete's Strawbs den.
Truly a splendid weekend, nice to catch up with people again, especially Big Pete, who, unlike Rolf in DC's story, and despite his condition, made it through the Maltby show and next day on his feet rather than on his back !!
Nigel's travelogue (above) tells most of the story, though it doesn't cover the crappy journey Lindsay and I had from London up the dreary M11, the rainswept A1M and then the missing in action A634, which suddenly disappeared out from under us in a flurry of road works. The normally highly accurate Lindsay-Nav was at a loss, and we found ourselves back on the motorway going north (an unhappy refection of my solo travels last weekend). However the M18 was soon upon us and we came back down it to find the road and the venue fairly easily.
A nearby pub proved to be close to the guest house which Neil had booked me into, and whilst enjoying their cheese and onion sandwiches (with extra onion), DC and Neil joined us for a quick drink. There was a suggestion that the pub would be induced to stay open after the show..... which indeed proved to be the case, for which many thanks.
Others had attended the shows at the previous venue for this booking, the Rockingham Arms in Wentworth, though I hadn't. A nice little venue, presumably carved out of a former Wesleyan chapel. Slightly restricted view sitting at the side, but no matter, others had claims on the front and centre on that particular evening. Very good sound I thought, and a smooth performance from the boys - of particular note was the revived "Northern Ireland" suite of "Hangman" and "New World" which now opens up the second set (only needs John Ford to pop over the pond with "Heavy Disguise" and it's a perfect trilogy).
"Hangman" starts with the usual fingerboard fretting from Dave C whilst Dave L strikes some sharp tones to simulate the midnight tolling bell, all of this over a sinister undertone from the bass pedals. The song soon gets going with some strident strumming from both Dave's, and Chas's melodic bass, followed the staccato multiple strums which replace the snare drum of the original and a different tone from the pedals, a churchy organ. "New World" has all of it's fantastic dynamics in place, with mellotron-like stabs from the pedals chiming in exactly with the acoustic power chords from Lambert. Lots of light and shade, with sometimes just Cousins playing and singing his heart out.
The second night's performance of these two at St Helens was slightly different - DC was coming down with a nasty cold - amazing that he can sing through that sort of thing, but he did: the effect of his efforts was to add even more emotion into the songs.
Also of note on each of the two nights, was "Autumn", the rousing closer "Hero And Heroine" and the fantastic encore "We'll Meet Again Sometime". I like "Autumn" better with DC playing his 6-string rather than the 12-string used with the electric band - I think the intricate playing at the start of the second section "Deep Summer's Sleep" sounds rather more distinct on 6-string. But, both nights it was a tour-de-force, with huge applause from the audience. And "Hero And Heroine" is really the perfect closer, with an even more stunning abrupt ending as the Acoustics played this favourite song of Pete Madeley's with all their hearts. There's no doubt that "We'll Meet Again Sometime" had an unusual poignancy at Maltby, but it's a great version of a classic Strawbs song, again with a super ending a capella.
And the 3-song banjo suite is great fun too - "Shine On Silver Sun" a very welcome returnee to the set to join the ever popular "Cold Steel" and eerie "Witchwood". Not seen a man play air banjo before but I think Mr M achieved it ...... Anyway all told, I grinned (the usual sign of my enjoying a Strawbs concert) pretty much from beginning to end, and those who suggested I might have had a little nap in the middle are guilty of grossly misguiding the populace, I was merely grinning with my eyes closed.
Photocalls before our departure back to the pub, who were obligingly staying open. Lots of chat, continuing on after the departure of the Witchwood crowd for their palatial hotel accommodation, whilst we went back to the guest house next door to continue with a couple of bottles of red wine late into the night.
Certainly I've had better mornings, but a full breakfast did the trick and I was soon on my way to Holmfirth, where they shoot the British sitcom "Last Of The Summer Wine". Lunch in the pub - large Yorkshire portions! - and Lynne came to meet us and show us round - photo of Lindsay and me on Nora Batty's steps (you have to be a LOTSW fan to know ...) and then a trip to the Madeley's splendid cliffside roost to catch up with Pete. His den is a haven of Strawbs memorabilia, with a clock that Lynne made using the "logoberry" for each numeral, and various posters and ads adorning the walls.
After a while time to move on, so we took our leave, particularly as the instructions to the next hotel were the "wrong way round" ie from the venue to the hotel and we were going there first and from another direction (preparation is everything!). Anyhow some fairly straightforward motorway driving took us into Warrington where Lyndsay-Nav spotted the sign for the hotel without difficulty. Checked in there - to our amusement there was a fairly seedy wedding party obviously about to kick off (in a number of ways it appeared), so our late night people-watching entertainment seemed assured.
The Citadel wasn't too hard to find, and we got there more or less in time for the gig which started earlier than we (and Ali who does the gigs page) had been led to believe - 8.00 not 8.30. Apologies if anyone missed the start as a result. A smallish place, with a balcony under which we were seated at the back just in front of the sound guy. Sold out, too, which is great to see, and a very appreciative audience greeting some of the songs with obvious knowledge and delight.
As I've said, DC was coming down with a stinking cold, but it just made him try that bit harder even than normal, and as a result the songs were given an even sharper cutting edge. Lambert's guitar was unusually very quiet in the mix, at some points drowned out by the 12-string which was very loud, and even Dave Cousins' Gretsch which was also pretty full-on that night. "Ghosts" was particularly impressive that night, which was appropriate for the venue, which, I was told in the interval, is haunted, with a number the staff having seen ghosts in the building over the years. A theatre from Victorian times, it was converted into a Salvation Army citadel in the 60s, before reverting to arts centre use in the 70s.
Some chat in the venue bar which obligingly (and I hope profitably) stayed open after the show (unlike Maltby) and then headed back to Warrington to see how the wedding was getting on. Always a bad sign when the bride (in full meringue, nicely set off by a tattoo on her left bare shoulder) is still up with her mates, the groom presumably having retired early courtesy of Mr Carlsberg. The bar was shut early (they'd said - bizarrely - that their intention was to close at 12.00 to weed out the non-residents, then re-open at 1.00am) so we repaired upstairs to consume Witchwood supplies (white wine and Doritos and biscuits) before venturing down again (to find that they were being dilatory in re-opening, so we had to chase out the barman from where he was hiding) for a last drink before bedtime - Mr Greener anticipating that by ten minutes or so by dropping off in the chair.
A pleasant journey home the next morning after a decent breakfast and more people-watching: those still clad in ballgowns from the previous night of particular amusement. A great Northern mini-tour (500 miles round trip) and a super way to spend a weekend with like-minded friends enjoying splendid music.
Roll on the next chance to do this again ....
[DG: apologies to Lindsay - she sent this a few days after the shows and I prepared it but forgot to upload it!]
I had such a wonderful time last weekend thanks to the generosity and thoughtfulness of several Strawbs-fan friends, and the band themselves of course, that I feel compelled to write a few words to remember the occasion despite having been beaten to it by several others.
Thanks to a kind and timely offer from Mr. Webmaster himself I was able to go to the ball even better, I was able to sample the delights of both Maltby and St. Helens. Dick and I set off from London, mid-afternoon on a drearily wet Friday, for a fairly horrendous journey, but the thought of meeting up with several other fans of Pete and Lynne Madeley, and also Strawbs, kept us going. Initial plans to head for my hotel, freshen up, and then have a leisurely meal were repeatedly revised as time ticked by, and in the end Dick and I headed straight for the gig.
Following telephone instructions from Nigel to meet Ali and himself in The White Hart, and after searching for that particular pub, we all eventually met in The White Swan "Well I knew it was a white something" declared Nigel. Our leisurely meal became cheese and onion rolls, far heavier on onion than they were on cheese, and although it was difficult to see with tears streaming down our cheeks we managed to find the The Wesley Centre a short walk away. Before taking our seats there were big (oniony) kisses and hugs with Lynne and Pete, who were already seated, front row centre, at the head of a long table full of Witchwood/Strawbsweb friends. So good to see them make this gig after all the recent uncertainty.
Fantastic performances from Dave, Chas and Dave shivers went through me during "Midnight Sun" as usual (no I don't always sit in a draught to listen) and maybe it was the season, but the magic of "Autumn" seemed to reach new heights - there was an almost trancelike pause at the end of "The Winter Long" before thunderous applause. Everything sounded superb, but has already been written about, so I shall fast forward to the encore; before launching into the perfect finish provided by "Hero and Heroine" Dave Cousins dedicated the song to Pete Madeley, thereby receiving spontaneous applause from those in the audience aware of the dedication's poignancy. At the end of the song Pete stood, delighted, to give his own round of applause to the band another touching gesture.
Afterwards now it all gets a little blurry for some reason we had various Witchwood photo shoots and it was lovely to meet up for a good chat with Sue and Les Cotton again, not to mention "seat baggers" Mike and Andy, then on to the pub. Lots more chat, including Dave Cousins letting us in on the secret of some unusual delights to expect when The Blue Angel Orchestra play in Deal in November. It was then back to our Holiday Inn (apart from Dick, who was staying at the same place as the band). Nigel, in chauffeur-mode, delivered us safely back, then enticed Ali and me for a "nightcap" session in his room, interrupted only by my somehow getting lost on a mission to the reception desk at 4.00 a.m. to ask for teabags. I was eventually rescued by the Bennett search party arranged by Ali however, and the time came for us to leave Nigel in peace and kip down for a couple of hours in our own room. Our wake-up call came in the form of a chambermaid who woke us from our slumbers, thankfully in time to get ready for the next part of the journey.
After consultation with Messrs. Bennett and Greener, Ali and I decided to skip breakfast and we all headed over to the vicinity of Madeley Heights for lunch a quick phone call to Lynne pointed us in the direction of a very nice pub not a nouvelle cuisine portion in sight thankfully. Dick's rack of ribs turned out to be half a cow, and the table groaned under the weight of our four meals. Lynne joined us in the pub for a chat and following a pleasant little wander around Holmfirth, taking in sights such as "The Wrinkled Stocking" tea rooms and Nora Batty's steps, Lynne led the way back to their place glad she did too Upperthong (calm down) would not have been the easiest of places to find otherwise.
We all pulled up at their extremely pleasant but fairly unremarkable looking "bungalow" how deceptive the exterior appearance was to turn out! Once inside (having passed the "Poppy" sniff test, Poppy being a beautiful black cocker spaniel) I gasped in awe at the view on offer it was amazing, as the "bungalow" turns out actually to be a four-storey house built into the side of a cliff, overlooking a stunningly beautiful tree-filled valley. We didn't get to sample the view from the hot-tub unfortunately though - saving that treat for next time. One of my first thoughts was how amazing it must be to listen to "Autumn" as the leaves begin to show a trace of brown among the green each year, and small birds gather on the wing, while looking down onto those thousands of deciduous trees.
Pete showed us his study which was bursting at the seams with Strawbs' bits and pieces, and Lynne and I sat and had a good long natter while daughter Holly kindly alternated between making coffees and holding a step-ladder steady for Nigel, who, still unaware that Bob-a-Job week is no more, was fixing a leaky gutter. Eventually it was time to say "au revoir" and move on this time I switched from Nigel's car back to Dick's lovely to have a fleet of chauffeurs to choose from, all with my own personal choice of in-car listening on offer too.
As Dick has described, the wedding party in full swing when we arrived at our St. Helen's hotel seriously rivalled Acoustic Strawbs for entertainment. However, after a brief lay down we made our way over to The Citadel for another night of strawberry pleasures. Yet another full house - we sat near the back of the downstairs auditorium (there was an upstairs balcony). It turned out that Mike Harrison, a Witchwooder with whom I corresponded several years ago, plus his friend, were seated behind us. It was great to meet Mike, who was clutching a copy of "The City Gent" Bradford City Football Club's fanzine which he himself writes. Mike showed us an article he had written about Strawbs in a recent issue - there have to be some perks even for Bradford City supporters.
St. Helen's was another fantastic gig, as emotion-packed and powerful as ever. Although coughs and colds were multiplying, there was much onstage banter just as there had been the previous night (an occasion when DC fumbled for his dropped plectrum springs to mind - I shan't elaborate). All too soon it was time to be leaving however; Nigel said his goodbyes as he left to drive home, leaving Ali as acting chauffeuse for the night to carry Dick and me back to our hotel to catch up on the wedding celebrations. Though the bar was shut and reception deserted, bodies were everywhere (except for the species known as "hotel staff"). We decided to retire to Ali's room to help rid her of a bottle of wine and other supplies, then made our way back downstairs. Eventually the bar reopened at about 1.30 a.m. and we finished off our Strawbs-filled weekend with more chatter, more drinks, and in one case a few naps, though no balanced beer-mats were used in the making of tonight's performance.
Hearty breakfasts next morning were eaten surrounded by "worse-for-wear" bridesmaids and other guests still wearing crumpled wedding garb, and after fond farewells Ali headed off north while Dick and I ventured south. It was a bonus to arrive back earlier than expected thanks to clear roads and some great driving, although, of course there is always a downside - the trouble-free journey meant less time in the delightful company of Mr. Greener (creep creep). Seriously, massive thanks to so many Witchwooders/Strawbs fans for making a very special weekend even more so.
Lindsay-Nav (always available to hire for Strawbs gigs)
RO'FOLK FESTIVAL, ROSKILDE, SATURDAY 6 OCTOBER 2007
A short presentation of Roskilde for those who haven't been there yet. Roskilde is a picturesque Danish city west of Copenhagen, with an important historical and musical heritage. Its historical heritage goes back to Viking times. Its musical heritage however really only really started in 1971, when two high school students arranged the first music festival with Strawbs as the top name. Today Roskilde Festival has grown and is now the largest music festival in northern Europe.
There are a number of other musical venues in the city including a converted waterworks where the Strawbs concert was held as part of a weekend mini-folk festival. Two concerts were scheduled for Saturday evening with a Danish band playing first and the Strawbs following after the interval.
It was a great pleasure to be able to welcome the Strawbs back to Roskilde. The acoustics in the small concert hall were fantastic, and a lot of thought has been put into designing a functional venue. It was however a shame that the Danish band, playing before the Strawbs were playing music from their new CD which was being launched that evening in the interval between the two concerts. Free champagne has a tendency to lure people away from the important things in life, with the result that the Strawbs played to a half empty hall.
Nevertheless, Dave Cousins led the audience through the playlist with his magical humour and descriptive anecdotes. The band played with enthusiasm and power and gave the audience their own glimpse of heaven.
I hope Dave, Dave and Chas know how much pleasure they have brought to people over the years and how much they continue to bring. Thanks for a great concert. We look forward to seeing you in Denmark again soon.