Updated: 25 Nov 2007
Never Take Sweets From A Stranger
Song Of A Sad Little Girl
Wish You Were Here
Beside The Rio Grande
The Smile You Left Behind
The Shepherd's Song
Bringing In The Harvest
Calling Out My Name
Skip To My Lou
Tell Me What You See In Me
COUSINS, CUTLER & CRONK, CENTRAL THEATRE, CHATHAM, 6 NOV 2007
Having enjoyed the Blue Angel Orchestra just two days before and with the two day "Fire" extravaganza just round the corner, never mind Acoustics shows, tonight was the fourth of the quartet of different events and all in a single month!!
So in Chatham it was the Cousins, Cronk and Cutler trio that hit the stage and although it was down in the cellar bar, expectancy of "sold out" signs were rife for this world premiere of a show. Great shuffling of seats and the chairs, on which people sat, made sure everyone inside managed to squeeze in without squeezing any one out. In total around 80 or so went in and none of them looked like sardines coming out. The Witchwood encampment and entourage took position stage left and to the front, usual meeting and greeting and tales of how they filled their time between Deal and today.
But first a warning......if ever you go down to Chatham High Street, you better go in disguise, because everywhere wherever you looked, there's not a decent eating pub in sight.
The host and opening act for the night was Doug Hudson and all suited with a snazzy neck tie as well. Straight from the office it looked, but he had done the pre-match announcement at Gillingham's home match against Doncaster, before a quick dash across town and not even a time to change.
"Come on you Gills" he cried, which seemed to have a remarkable effect on the lady sat next to me (Lindsay's friend who is also called Gill). Having held her back and restrained her before she reached the stage, Doug then proceeded to entertain us for 40 minutes ( I thought footballers played for 45 or is it 90) with a bevy of hilarious songs and stories including his translation in to German of "The Wild Rover" which had everyone singing a chorus of something like ich ich itch doc dik itch (well that's what I sang) Very entertaining act.
On came the boys for their first ever appearance as the three C's and a little nervous how things would go, given a 4.00 a.m. rehearsal. I think those in the "know" predicted a majoring on "the sailor suited boy" rather than a night with the suited compere and so it proved. Starting off with "Never Take Sweets From A Stranger" with a delivery quite naturally slightly toned down version of the 5 piece offering of the Saturday night.
The second, "Song Of A Sad Little Girl", was an unexpected pleasure and changed the emotional mood instantly for the rest of the evening. A soft and gentle vocal with Ian Cutler's fiddle taking on bits and adding to the mood of the piece, created earlier by someone tinkling on piano ( OK we all know, by whom) and Chas doing his bit on backing vocals. Yes we were all wide awake and fine again given the anticipation of the evening.
Back to Deal and those infamous postcards on "Wish You Were Here". The fiddle picked up the lead and drove along this tale, of seaside idiosyncrasies and piers.
The next surprise was "Beside The Rio Grande". So different was the treatment here with much of the stuff this evening with the backdrop allowing for the first time tonight the Cousins angry and spiteful style of vocals to come to the fore. This made every one sit to attention and any one expecting by now, a totally quiet evening were given a real shock to the system such was the forceful and pleading way that song was delivered.
"Mellow Moon" was to take us back to a quieter section of the show than the forceful aggression before. I liked the gentle feel to this and it well suited the ambience of the evening.
"The Smile You Left Behind" then made the air fizzle with electricity of raw emotion and as such was stunning. I for one had been looking forward to seeing this live and tonight met and surpassed even my expectations - the stunned silence of listening intent from the audience not wanting to interject or disturb those moments charged with special feelings.
Then another surprise with a lovely version of "The Shepherd's Song" which finished the first set off in fantastic style. No wonder we all needed this brief break to repair our own emotions that had been charged up during this evening's journey.
"The Young Pretender" was another surprise as we started the second set. Although given the highly visible fiddle line, it should have been an obvious candidate from the start. For me it didn't quite have the energy of the album version, but a more than acceptable first attempt for this particular trio. Oh how those softly sung numbers hit home tonight and of course there were many more in that style than usual. "If" responded in that way without doubt and with interest. The fiddle once again provided a backdrop with some brief, but intricate mood entrancing moments.
1972 may have been when "Blue Angel" first surfaced, but it is still kicking strong right to this day. Given the emotional aspects of the song it fitted nicely within what had gone before. The lovely and intricate guitar opening from DC some how always has an atmospheric effect and a shiver down the spine. The instant mood swing when Chas puts down his12 string and plays his first few notes on his bass is one of those seconds where the whole aspect of the song changes - exquisite. A truly classic moment from the Strawbs family history as is the song and it was so good to hear this again, after its recent rest from the stage.
Deal was where "Skip To My Lou" grabbed my attention as a song accentuated by the audience reaction, with a number taking to the floor - no room for that tonight amongst the tightly packed tables and chairs, but plenty of tapping of toes and side to side movement going on.
And that was the high energy finish, but the band didn't go far with the audience demanding "more", with DC taking the vocal lead originally given to Sandy Denny on "Tell You What You See In Me" originally from the album Sandy and the Strawbs. This brought to an end a unique sort of evening where surprises in the set list engaged with the new material and atmosphere to make it a lovely evening, with friends a many.
Photo by Pete Bradley - more pix from Pete .
A fairly congested journey south through the Blackwall Tunnel at 4.30pm, followed by the M2 with all its wonderful roadworks, still got me to Chatham with plenty of time to find the venue. Not that straightforward if you've not been there before, but fortunately you can see the back of it from the ring road, however, so all was well, and I arrived good and early.
The main door of the theatre opens into the pedestrianised main street - it's an old music hall - one of the very very kind and helpful theatre staff showed me the darkened auditorium at one point. However tonight's entertainment was downstairs in the Cellar Bar, which I was told was going to be packed to the gunnels - totally sold out. Our three heroes were down there, participating in something between a sound check and a rehearsal, so I got a sneak preview of some of the songs which were going to feature later on, and a perspective on how they were being put together, which was fascinating!
Doors eventually opened and those left out in the cold were allowed in. A Witchwood coven was established over the far side away from the bar. We'd just got ourselves in position (apart from saving a seat for Pete and Calli) when we were told there was a wheelchair coming in and we'd have to shift a bit to fit the chair and three friends in. This turned out to be Jim and Marian along with Pete and Calli, who'd brought them over to see this debut show.
Doug Hudson turned up shortly before the show, having been opening a football match elsewhere. His droll style and smartly-crafted songs ("No no a thousand times no" I'm not singing Dylan) warmed up this crowd too, and though anticipation was running high for the main event, he was well appreciated by all there including the diehard Strawbs fans. Occurred to me that he'd go down well at a Strawbs Christmas party ...
And on to the debut of the Cousins Cronk Cutler trio - Pete B took down the setlist which will no doubt follow soon, but we were treated to a selection of songs from Dave's new album - a slightly different selection from that given an airing on Saturday with the BAO. "Mellow Moon" was there as was "Never Take Sweets" and "Wish You Were Here". But there was an absolutely devastatingly emotional version of "The Smile You Left Behind", a plaintive "Bringing In The Harvest" (a difficult one to do, confessed Dave afterwards) and a bouncy "Calling Out Your Name" which with the additional of some backing vocals somewhere down the line will be rather lovely. And of course the final number - a folk club rollicking acoustic version of "Skip To My Lou".
As well as the new album material, delving into his back catalogue (possibly a straw in the wind for the setlist for the upcoming solo tour), Dave brought out some old classic songs. "The Shepherd's Song" which closed the first set, with the two guitarists taking the rhythmic flamenco strumming, and allowing Ian to play some crazy fiddle which was uncannily close to some of Wakeman's frienzied arpeggios in the original. "Song Of A Sad Little Girl" was gentle and sweet, and "Beside The Rio Grande" with punchy bass, guitar and fiddle was perfect. "If" from 2004's Deja Fou, was another good choice for this line-up, with Ian picking up a little fiddle riff over the instrumental sections.
And in the second half - a real surprise - "Blue Angel" in its entirety, with a couple of crazy instrumental fiddle breaks which really fit the song. And also the final encore, the first time Chas had really much use for the mic in front of him - "Tell Me What You See In Me" (which Dave confessed Ian had only just heard that weekend), and which sort of lacked an ending, but that was OK too.
This grouping has a more mellow feel to it - the fiddle a more gentle instrument than Lambert's fairly percussive guitar - and there's a different tone to the set. An historic occasion to be sure, but also a real pleasure - watching a trio of consummate musicians picking up on a huge legacy of recorded work and crafting a show, in its early stages no doubt, which even now can stand alongside many a well-rehearsed note-perfect evening for sheer enjoyment and presence. I'm reminded of watching those early Cousins Willoughby and Lambert shows (pre-Acoustic Strawbs) watching them feeling their way into what has now become a standard. And, to boot, there's no requirement here that all those Strawbs classics have to be included ("Lay Down" would be an obvious addition, mind), which to some extent inhibits the Acoustics from varying their set too much. Let's hope there are many more occasions where we can see the 3Cs in action.
Photo by Pete Bradley - more pix from Pete .
Calli felt in advance that this was going to be a pretty special night and so thought it would be really lovely if Jim and Marion could get to see it. When we dragged Jim along to Putney last Summer we had to break him out of his hospital bed and then smuggle him back in again afterwards, but he's been out for a couple of months now, and is recuperating from his stroke very well. It was quite a long drive, though, so we were a bit worried as to whether it would all be a bit too much for him.
Didn't help that we went to the wrong theatre in Chatham to start with. The Acoustics had played there earlier in the year, so we thought we knew where we were going. Got to the right theatre with only moments to spare. Luckily the kind Witchwooders had saved us seats, and the theatre staff were wonderful with Jim's wheel chair.
And boy was this a special night. It was a real emotional roller-coaster of an evening. Had expected a couple of tracks from Boy in the Sailor Suit, and possibly a couple of other Strawbs tracks, but had not expected quite so many BITSS songs and had not expected such to hear such rare Strawbs songs.
The first thing that struck me was that many of the BITSS songs had never been played live before, and the rest had only been played live once, and yet already they had been re-scored to an acoustic version! Miller's guitar playing is pretty fudamental to these songs, so considerable work must have been done to ensure that they didn't just sound like something was missing.
Sometimes with a concert it's easy to pick out highlights. How could you possibly do that here? Everything was a highlight. It was wonderful to hear "If" again. Very sad when that was dropped from the Acoustic Strawbs set. Had missed "Blue Angel" when the Blue Angel Orchestra first played it at Deal, so I felt really pleased to finally get to hear that live. Adored "Song Of A Sad Little Girl" on Antiques, and had hoped that the Strawbs might have played that one when they played with Rick, so it was fantastic to hear that at last. Coupled with "Beside The Rio Grande", which I had never heard before, and "Tell Me What You See in Me", it was an evening of unbelievable treats. On top of that we had seven tracks from the Boy in the Sailor Suit. How lucky were we?
I had wondered whether "The Smile You Left Behind" would be played at Deal, and when it wasn't I assumed that the reason was that this song was just too personal, and so it would be too difficult for Dave to sing it live. Was not expecting it to be played at Chatham. How wrong I was. All I can say is, WOW. On record it is very emotional, but in the flesh it was amazing. When Dave's voice cracked as he was singing "Life is so unfair" the whole audience was nearly in tears.
We were taken to the opposite end of the emotional roller coaster ride with "Skip To My Lou". This was a real rocker.
Interesting to note that DC changed the words back to "ghosts" that he had laid, again rather than "girls" as he did at Deal when they played "Wish You Were Here".
All in all, it was a brilliant night. Next on the agenda is the Acoustic Strawbs at Boarhunt. Can't wait.
Photo by Alison Brown - more pix from Ali.
My friend Gill, who has become quite a Strawbs fan over the past few years, drove us to Chatham through the evening rush-hour Dartford Crossing mayhem. Having (eventually) found the theatre - not the usual Chatham venue at which I've seen acoustic Strawbs several times - I realised I had already been to the Central Hall on a Strawb-related mission when a friend and I travelled, via the Tilbury-Gravesend ferry, to see Hudson Ford there. I've located my ticket stub for that concert – 30th May 1974, complete with "guest" stamp (thanks Hud, John & co.!). I've even found a little ad for the gig (will put these in photos). Unfortunately, however, I've lost my ticket stub from 6th November 2007!
Another friend due to accompany Gill and me couldn't make it to see the 3Cs so I was left with a surplus ticket, which the people at the box office willingly reimbursed me for as the gig was sold out with a waiting list of eager concert-goers. So, inside the building, but not to the main auditorium this time – rather it was downstairs to The Medway Folk Cellar Bar, a very pleasant little club with a friendly atmosphere, tonight stoked by rampant speculation among Witchwooders as to what might be played, and how. Several in attendance had experienced the delights of The Blue Angel Orchestra, a line-up of which Cousins, Cronk and Cutler form part, only three days earlier in Deal. Ian Cutler's fiddle augments the sounds of that particular ensemble delightfully, and it was intriguing to know how/which songs would be adapted for trio treatment.
A very funny compere, Doug Hudson, got the crowd into buoyant mood with his banter and witty songs – I enjoyed the "Bob Dylan" one in particular - then after an interval Cousins, Cronk and Cutler took the floor. Though very occasional puzzled looks between them hinted at the newness of both the line-up and repertoire, the evening proved highly enjoyable.
Having been fortunate enough to catch numerous Strawbs gigs over the past few years, I consider the setlist, which varied greatly from that of acoustic Strawbs' set in recent times, was a major factor in making the evening so memorable. Such sentiments were echoed by several of the usual suspects in attendance, as we all expressed our delight at hearing songs rarely heard live. Strawbs' classics including "The Shepherd's Song" (an all-time favourite of mine since I first heard From the Witchwood), "Blue Angel" (stunning) and "Beside the Rio Grande" were aired. Dave was in terrific raconteur mode; his reminiscences of The Rio Grande struck a particular chord with me and made me smile! How I'd love to see these songs, and so many others, make their way into the setlist in time for the January tour.
Of the songs from Dave's recently released solo album, The Boy in the Sailor Suit, "Mellow Moon" was a major highlight for me, while the emotion evoked by "The Smile You Left Behind" meant it would have been possible to cut the club's atmosphere with a knife. I really enjoyed the upbeat and bouncy "Never Take Sweets" and "Skip to My Lou" too – I adore the fiddle on those two.
Chas played superbly throughout and masterfully kept everything on track somehow, while adding those gorgeous harmonies to which we are all accustomed. Ian fiddled away, adding pathos, energy, or shades somewhere in between as required, and Dave Cousins was clearly relishing the fresh challenge the evening presented.
Gill's verdict, as one who has seen and greatly enjoyed Strawbs (electric and acoustic) a few times previously, was that she enjoyed the CC&C concert and loved meeting up with Witchwooders again too. Obviously comparing the evening with acoustic Strawbs' gigs with which she has become familiar (I didn't exactly get her to drive us to Chatham under false pretences, but my description of the gig may have been a little fuzzy), she told me she had really enjoyed Ian's fiddling but had very much missed Dave Lambert's vocals and guitar wizardry - I promised her there will be plenty more opportunities for her to drive us to acoustic Strawbs' gigs in the New Year.
My own final verdict – a highly enjoyable evening, and hearing so many less familiar songs was a wonderful treat. Dave, Chas and Ian all played superbly, the venue was warm and friendly, the company was great, plus Gill is still speaking to me.