Updated: 23 Dec 2007
THE ASSEMBLY HOUSE, NORWICH, THURSDAY 1 NOVEMBER 2007
from William's blogspot: http://www.myspace.com/williamwilson5.
7.10 p.m. on the evening of the gig, and I'm in the foyer of Norwich Assembly House, to my left a room where seating is being arranged. Blimey, they're leaving it a bit late by the looks of it, and I'm here early so I can get as near the front as possible. As usual…
Then, at the main door, I spot a familiar face, none other than Chas Cronk. I ask him if the hall where the seating's being arranged is where the Acoustics are playing. 'No, it's the one down the corridor, we've just soundchecked there'. 'Cheers Chas, and have a good one tonight'. 'Cheers, I'm sure we will' he replies. Seems a really decent bloke.
Seating in the Noverre Suite in the Assembly Rooms is laid out, and I make my way to the front. 15 minutes later on come the Acoustic Strawbs. I've loved the Strawbs work for more years than I care to remember, and it's good to have them still around, acoustic, electric, whatever, releasing new songs or reissuing old ones, whatever.
The show – well, in between Dave Cousins' tales of bakers vans in Alfington (?), the sights of Branscombe, drunken Norwegians in Denmark, the producers who started work with the Strawbs (i.e. Gus Dudgeon and Tony Visconti), missing his son's first days at school etc etc (go see them and you'll hear all these wondrous stories!), the band trawled the back catalogue. Chas looked relaxed, Dave Lambert intense, then grinning after every song, and Dave Cousins made the audience happy/sad with his tales whilst concentrating bloody hard on his work. They played around 95 minutes over 2 sets, see setlist (right)
The audience loved them. Rousing reception at the end. All three Acoustic Strawbs smiled greatly.
Afterwards, Dave Cousins signed my copy of Hummingbird, seemed pleased as I told him how bloody good the show was, and said the Electrics would be playing Glasgow next year. Ya Beauty! I shook the great man's hand, and went off into the Norwich night, more than content with the night's entertainment.
The Strawbs to me are like Bob Dylan and Van Morrison, both of whom I've seen live many times, in that they have a such a fine back catalogue that, even when you see a faultless show, you still come out thinking 'I wish they'd played such and such'. Then again, the gigs would run for about 5 hours if that was the case! Suffice to say, the boxed set of last year was a glorious piece of work and a credit to the band.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Strawberry Hill Boys (to give them their original title). It's damn good they're out there. Long May They Run.
Photo and scan by William Wilson
Tears and Pavan
The Man Who Called Himself Jesus
Oh How She Changed
Hangman and the Papist
Shine On Silver Sun
Glimpse of Heaven
QEH THEATRE, BRISTOL, FRIDAY 9 NOVEMBER 2007
A first trip to the QEH Theatre in Bristol, brought about apparently, by a refurbishment at the original planned venue of the Folk House. Lovely place it was as well, but for some reason publicity around the gig had been a little thin on the ground locally and many in the area may have missed out on news that the Acoustics were in town tonight. Even more reason to register for automatic monthly news updates and also to log in to Strawbsweb on a regular basis for all the news of events (that should be enough to get me in the good books of Dick & Ali for at least 5 minutes)
The tickets stated a 7.30pm start but at 8.50pm we were allowed in to the auditorium to take in the delights of the support act, who, despite a recent heavy cold and croaky speaking voice performed her songs without a sign of laryngitis or anything similar. Check out her my space site at http://www.myspace.com/jhassi. for a flavour.
DC was in a story telling mood, admitting as much and apologising if any one thought he was going on too long. No one complained every one loved it. None of the recent anecdotes and song introductions saw light and instead there was a whole new raft of new ones to take their place.
The single set was played straight through and the clarity of the sound system was excellent allowing the evening not only to pass without a hitch or glitch but allowing every note a clear definition. Although the audience was much less than usually seen when Strawbs come to Bristol everyone there, appeared to be dedicated Strawbs fans and included Fred Wedlock and wife – Fred performed at Blue Angel 1 last year, some of you may remember
I couldn't help thinking about "that" Deal beach video during "The Man Who Called Himself Jesus", but that thought soon passed, like the tides lashing the eastern seashores earlier that day.
All in all it was a lovely night, greatly appreciated by those there, who also got a reminder from DC about attending the Fire gigs taking place at the month ending, dates that should be in every ones diaries by now.
I attended the Bristol acoustic show with my wife and 17-year-old son who lists Strawbs among his favourite band on Bebo, and I've also converted at least one of his friends, so some progress with the youth of today is being made!
Met up with Nigel, shame Heather couldn't make it. The show was fantastic but poorly attended due to poor promotion - there was no info on the venue website at all. The support was the same young lady that supported them at the previous Bristol show at the folk house. Dave C sat in the audience and watched her for a while. Felt sorry for her trying to tune her guitar in front of him!
The show was really excellent, and despite there only being around 50 people the band played with all the usual skill and style. A single set was played, don't know if it varied much from the other shows of the tour, but "The Man Who Called Himself Jesus" and "The Hangman And The Papist" were highlights for me. Dave C was in fine spirits and seemed happy to talk a lot. Great show!
FOREST FOLK, NORTH BOARHUNT, MONDAY 19 NOVEMBER 2007
This was the first time I had been to this venue. You always wonder how it is going to be and whether you can find it, particularly when previously reading their community web site which says " Boarhunt is often described as a hidden village, since from most vantage points on the edge of the parish, little of the village of North Boarhunt can be seen. " No chance on a November evening then, especially after dark!
Tucked away in the countryside it certainly is, the instructions that came with the tickets seemed quite precise but without that local knowledge you always wonder whether you are still going in the right direction. As it turned out it was not too bad although driving down the darkened street I chanced across the venue just as I was having the horrid thought I had gone the wrong way.
But there it was, the venue was there in front of me, but not looking quite pristine site like on the first visit to the QEH in Bristol which was a pleasant first experience for me 10 days or so ago. I headed straight for the off street parking which was one of about 3 places on the roadside "flattened" grass verge. (Chas later said he had played there before, as did Bad influence (without Chas) on the previous Friday.)
Perhaps I should set the scene for those unaccustomed to the typical 1940/50's type village Hall that frequently was the staple entertainment venue in many villages that I know in southern England. Long and thin and all the same unattractive stone or wooden nissan hut type structures but that are now brought up to date with the addition of bits stuck on to accommodate modern day kitchens or other useful things (bars!) in a sort of piece meal fashion. Quaint but still charming, even without those additions but when growing up in the '60's I remember Christmas parties on long trestle tables in places like that and running up and down them and playing pass the parcel. (I never won!)
Once inside, the atmosphere (apart from the cold - another feature of village halls of that era) was really warming up, particularly once the radiators were turned on. Mind you the hosts were very welcoming and friendly which gave the first indication of a lovely evening ahead. But at that particular moment warming of hands was very much on the agenda for all those earlier present.
The actual "auditorium" was accessed from the bar area and a quick peek inside revealed row and row of chairs stretching in two columns of four right from front to back in fifteen or so rows and a "walkway in between. In total there was seating for just over a hundred and from where I eventually sat every one was taken by the time the show started.
Before the customary visit for liquid refreshment, spied our favourite rock dog "Gracie" patiently waiting for the show to begin and meeting everyone she recognized with a swiftly wagging tail - I noticed that those who were known more than others got an even faster "wag" of excitement. Oh how she must love Dave L's playing!!
By now this was having the look and feel of a mini "Nettlebed" that lovely village club with great reputation in Oxford that packs 'em in to the gunnels as well, even on a Monday evening.
By no stretch of imagination the "large" mixing desk stretched about a third of the way across the width of the hall and the hope was we were in for a good night of entertainment which doubles as a blues venue on other nights of the week.
Witchwooders, Calli and Pete (see his photos etc.) and Roy Le LeMarechal were in attendance, Roy living just 10 miles further down the road apparently and he told me he is another coming to the Fire gigs at the end of the month of November.
A couple of warm up acts graced the stage and how nice to see all of them selling raffle tickets at the interval allowing me to make my usual additional donation to the running costs of the club. (Tip buy green raffle tickets if you go - the yellow ones are B***** useless).
The hors d'oeuvre came and went and then we came to the main course split into two bite size chunks and by now the hall had warmed up nicely and everyone started stripping off their jackets, gloves and jumpers such was the eager anticipation.
True to say there was no disappointment and although there seemed to be a reverential air at times amongst the audience during the warm up slots the warmth of the applause showed this was an audience of musical appreciation.
Needless to say everything went very much as anticipated and despite the outward appearance and initial cold, the venue proved very worthy of the evening's entertainment with the PA providing perfect clarity to the on stage Acoustic Strawbs. The audience appreciation grew forever louder and there was a much demanded encore and an excited gent next to me came back at the interval clutching two CD's saying he was only intending buy just the one!!
Pete B was scribbling down the set list so I don't need to repeat that but the highlights were exceptional "Tears and Pavan", "Midnight Sun" and "Autumn" where the harmonies shone through but no further beacon was needed tonight to pierce this evenings winter gloom.
Lovely place I would be really happy to revisit it again in the future, but travelling from the West a northern exit on junction 10 of the M27 would save the two mile drive to junction eleven and back again re-tracing steps just to find that Northerly route.
Photo by Pete Bradley - more pix from Pete .
A horrible night to be out, with several isobars having conspired to draw up most of the Atlantic and deposit it over the South East of England.
Not only that, but the Social Club in North Boarhunt is a remote venue, maybe not quite out in the middle of the Styx, but finding it without the aid of Charon, the ferryman, wasn't easy. Even Dave C admitted that they drove past it twice.
And yet, the Acoustic Strawbs gig at the Forest Folk was sold out.
We arrived a good forty minutes before the concert was due to start, expecting to be kept waiting outside in the cold and wet till the doors opened, but found that not only were we not the first ones there, the first half a dozen or so rows were already taken.
Calli is always trying to persuade me to sit further back at concerts because the sound quality is usually so much better, but I hate taking photos of the bald head of the guy in front. This time we had no choice.
Have to admit that she was right. The sound was excellent, with extremely clear vocals and bass.
The stage in the Social club is decorated with a black backdrop with little white lights protruding through, (like the stage at Hugh's Room for those that have the DVD). Hoping that makes for a really good photograph, but there's always the risk that my camera has focussed on the lights, and not on the band.
There were two support acts, both performing three songs.
The first being a trio who call themselves Schiehallion (named after a mountain in Scotland and being a Gaelic word meaning Fairy Hill). Schiehallion have almost no internet presence. They have created a MySpace account, but have not yet populated it, and it is very hard to find out anything about them. They are Franny Wolpe, lead singer and Mandolin player, (though she also seems to play keyboards), Ted Fitzgerald (guitarist and backing vocals) and John Shillitoe, (violin). Liked their sound a lot. The violin had a definite overtone of Caravan, but the vocals could have done with a little more amplification for the size of the hall.
Second support act was a guy whose name, I think, was Alan Weeks. Apologies if I've got that wrong. He played an acoustic guitar and sang. Guess he is a regular at the Forest Folk in Boarhunt, as he successfully mobilised the audience into accompanying his choruses. Unlike some attempts at audience participation, the Boarhuntians joined in wholeheartedly and sang well.
The Strawbs came on about nine, and performed two sets, with an encore. No surprises in the set list, (same as for Norwich), but as Nigel said in his review of Bristol, Dave C has embellished his chats between songs.
Poor Dave C had a very nasty cold, but on stage he looked the picture of health.. He carried on singing and joking in his usual style and apart from a minor cough in the middle of Jesus, (neatly covered up by Dave L). you could not have told there was a problem. He did look a bit under the weather afterwards though, but still came out to the bar to chat and to sign CDs.
I guess my highlight of the evening was "Midnight Sun", but in reality, it was all perfect. Chas put his heart and soul into singing Midnight Sun. He is so much more confident than he once was.
I think that many of the audience were familiar with the Strawbs material, but that not many had seen them before (or at least recently). When Dave C announced that they were to play "Witchwood", there was an audible gasp of delight. Several of the audience had brought vinyl in to be signed, and record sales seemed to be going very well.
To make the evening even more perfect, there was even a few nibbles (slices of pizza, sausage rolls, etc) in the bar during the interval.
The only worry is that if the Strawbs keep playing as well as this it will soon get to the stage where every performance sells out before we get tickets.
ARTS CENTRE, BRIDGWATER, THURSDAY 29 NOVEMBER 2007
This was the final Strawbs show of the year, although have a few other little delights on the horizon before the year end.
And what a finale! No end of term gig this!!
First though a little reflection on the year that has passed ever so quickly. Doesn't it always seem to go so quickly when you are having fun.
An early acoustic jaunt around the UK was followed by the full electric line-up tripping around Southern England. The unique Wakeman show and then another of the real highlight, the barnstorming performance at Cropredy in front of a crowd of 20000. More acoustic gigs in the Autumn.
Of course they left our shores for important dates in the States and Canada and somewhere in between somehow managed to fit in other overseas dates - wasn't there Japan, Denmark and of course the Isle of Wight. I may have missed more, but this alone shows just how hard the guys work to bring us their live music, so loved and appreciated right across the globe from all points North, East West and South.
So what of last night, a virtually sell out crowd of 150, the largest it appears at the venue this year and with hardly a spare seat to be had all crammed in to this rather aged art centre that has a PA of perfect clarity and the feel of a nice intimate atmosphere as well.
This was an evening just to sit back and relax with, like a fine a wine at the end of the day sat in front of a roaring fire savouring every moment and morsel, except tonight it was anecdotes and notes.
The set was one which has been quite familiar in recent weeks but tonight sounded really fresh and vibrant.
There was much Dave C chatter between songs but the opening of the second set was quite stunning creating an atmosphere all of its own. Not a word as the bass pedals set the mysterious mood in the background as bells tolled building to those time honoured words "The Village square"………wonderful.
This was a fantastic way to close the Strawbs year ……………… next year well it seems plans are being formed to make it yet another classic.
The evening did not close of course before a crescendo of calls for the encore which brought forth "We'll meet again sometime". Yes that said it all.