Updated: 28 Mar 2008
Part 1 - First leg - 5 to 12 March
Hanging In The Gallery
Never Take Sweets From A Stranger
Song Of A Sad Little Girl
Ringing Down The Years
The Shepherd's Song
Ways And Means
Call To Action
We'll Meet Again Sometime
HUGH'S ROOM, TORONTO ON, THURSDAY 13 MARCH 2008
In winter, in a drab and dreary land, a bright red bird flew out of the sky and landed in Toronto. The bird sang to us of happiness, of sadness, of joy, of mystery, and of ourselves. The bird held a mirror in its beak, and showed us our reflection. It was not a pretty picture, but he was gentle with us, and we were not without hope.
He sang to us of life, of the cruelty and bitterness of life, and of the beautiful blue skies he flies across.
He made us laugh. He made us cry. He made us think. He made us wise.
Dave Cousins was a welcome friend in our dismal winter lives. He did "Grace Darling", and sang the last verse in French. He did "Blue Angel", and broke a string right near the end. Then Dave Cousins played an encore. He played "Canada". He was overcome with emotion at the end.
I, we, all of us were deeply touched. What a special, wonderful night. More tomorrow.
Dave's performance at Hugh's Room last night was wonderful. I was thinking ahead of time whether it would live up to everyone's expectations having seen so many great Acoustic Strawbs and Electric Strawbs performances there the past few years. However, the songs stripped down to Dave's acoustic guitar and voice (and without the benefit of Ian Cutler that our American friends got to enjoy last week...) really showed the exceptional quality of songwriting and musicianship that Dave possesses. I also had a chance to talk to him briefly both before and after the show, and I found that he seemed more relaxed than at the Strawbs shows...he clearly seemed to be enjoying the chance to put on this solo tour after so many years. Each and every song got a detailed introduction of its origin, or the meaning behind it...something that few artists take the time to do...and this simply added to the already amazing experience.
As with every Strawbs show, you think to yourself 'I wish they would've played xxx', and the same was true of Dave's show. I think he'd performed "Wish You Were Here" at some of the other shows, and "Rio Grande"...but if he played each and every one of the songs that someone was hoping to hear, he'd have to do a 12 hour marathon (not that this would be a bad thing!). We'll all have to hope that he doesn't stay true to his word and wait another 30 years for the next solo tour!
I think everyone was really taken back by the intensity of "Call to Action" - Dave's haunting vocals on that song really stood out from the other relatively laid back and mellow songs. The sound clarity was just spectacular, owing partly to the good acoustics at Hugh's Room, so that was an added bonus. I own a lot of 'unplugged' performances by artists that I like, as I feel that the true measure of a song and its performer's quality is shown when you strip away all the sound and volume enhancers - if it stands up on its own like this, then you develop a deep appreciation for it.
I wanted to close by saying a couple of things about the Vancouver Island-based singer/songwriter 'Wil' who opened up the show with a 25 minute set. I knew nothing about Wil prior to seeing him at Hugh's Room, and I'm not quite sure how to describe his music - alternative folk/rock perhaps? In any case, it must've been a daunting task to get up on stage as an unknown performer ahead of a legend like Dave (which he alluded to once or twice), with the audience consisting of rabid fans of Dave and The Strawbs. However, he did a splendid job...very intense music...quite passionate, and he got a very appreciative response from the audience.
A very special night. Dave Cousins, bedecked in a bright red shirt, and, of course, matching red guitar, brightened everything up in Hugh's Room.
Dave's music touches us so deeply. At one time while he was playing 'Ringing Down The Years', Bob, Tiffany and myself all had tears in our eyes. When he did the last section of "Grace Darling", he sang it in French. Then for the encore he sang "Canada", and was so deeply moved he had trouble finishing the song.
I was a bit dissapointed by the crowd's reaction, though. I guess he's played here so often that he no longer blows everyone away. Except me, of course. I was letting my pleasure be heard after every song. You know, one of the great things about a Dave Cousins (and/or Strawbs) show is that it doesn't just last for a few hours. We live the experience for days, even weeks afterwards. Bob and I get into the songs they did, and how much they mean to us. For us, there are so many fantastic songs that simply blow us away.
His storytelling is simply delightful, and I feel stronger for his performance here. For me, hearing "Hanging In The Gallery" as the opening song was very, very special. The song has a very special place in my heart.
A fantastic night, and an intimate show with one of the best ever - Dave Cousins.
Hanging In The Gallery
The Hangman And The Papist
Song Of A Sad Little Girl
Ringing Down The Years
The Shepherd's Song
Ways And Means
The Call To Action
We'll Meet Again Sometime
Beside The Rio Grande!
THE WINCHESTER, CLEVELAND, OH, FRIDAY 14 MARCH 2008
From the moment Dave Cousins took the stage of the Winchester Tavern in Cleveland, Ohio around 10 pm, the well-attended audience was held in thrall by his magic, until he left over 90 minutes later. He graced us with a fine set of songs, mostly old, some never heard live before in this area, and amused and enlightened us with tales of the origins of these songs, or a particular lyric, or the people and places surrounding him during the creation of these classics. He truly was hanging in the gallery, standing alone on that empty stage in his red shirt with his red Gretsch slung around his neck, behind a microphone, illuminated by a single spotlight. He is the closest this generation will ever come to seeing/hearing a poet/priest...
THE WINCHESTER, CLEVELAND, OH, FRIDAY 14 MARCH 2008 and THE KENT STAGE, KENT, OH, SATURDAY 15 MARCH 2008
When the DC solo tour was announced, I sadly realized that the local gigs I could attend were pretty limited. Still, a road trip to Ohio never crossed my mind until I learned that Jody, one of the most loveable of Witchwooders, planned to go to Cleveland. I was in, and pretty soon Laura Wiggers was also on board.
This fab girls' weekend out came to an abrupt halt when work commitments forced Jody to cancel her plans the night before departure. Laura, late to make arrangements, also cancelled when she found exorbitant last-minute airfares. I, organized to a fault, found myself with a non-refundable airline ticket, hotel reservations and tickets to two gigs. Really. How could I not go?
Curiosity played a role in my decision. Having been blown away by the Cousins/Cutler duo (in fact, I'd count the Philly show among my top 3 Strawbs performances of all time), I wanted to be able to compare a purely solo Cousins show--or shows--with the magic that occurred in Philly and Pawling.
Arriving at JFK, I was delighted to see the morning flight was on time. I boarded the small aircraft to find the flight attendant frantically trying to seat everyone. "PLEASE TAKE YOUR SEATS! IF WE DON'T GET OUT ON TIME, WE'LL BE DELAYED FOR 90 MINUTES! THEY'RE CLOSING DOWN THE AIRPORT! BUSH IS FLYING IN AND WE HAVE TO LEAVE NOW!!!!!" We dove for our seats, taxied, only to have the captain announce we didn't make it. A few minutes later, Air Force One landed and sailed past us so close I could have spit at it. And let me tell you, I was tempted to.
Fortunately, the delay wasn't a long one and we arrived in Cleveland only a few minutes later than scheduled. My morning arrival gave me time to visit the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Other than some Lennon memorabilia--like report cards and humorous newsletters he did as a student--and an exhibit of Jimi Hendrix' clothing, I wasn't too impressed.
The Winchester was the Cleveland venue, a dumpy place staffed with nice people. Picture a seedy local bar front with a pretty large music room at the back with one section with reserved table seating and a general admission section filled with folding chairs. After what has to be the world's shortest soundcheck--I'm talking seconds--the audience was admitted and a decent support act--a folk singer who seemed to favor Dylan and Springsteen--opened.
After a short intermission, DC, attired in what's become the trademark red & black (but now with a black guitar strap, thank you very much) kicked off only the second truly solo performance of his tour.
Let's hear it for the red guitar! Where the hell have I been?? By this point, the red Gretsch feels like an old friend, someone you see on a regular basis and maybe even take for granted. On this night, I saw through the flashy exterior and finally learned what that baby was capable of. I expected a quiet strumming, and yes, the red Gretsch delivered that on songs like "Blue Angel". But then it could turn on a dime and launch into an explosive "The Call To Action" and suddenly it seemed as though there was a battalion of red guitars making that big sound. Does he subdue it during Acoustic shows?? Is it drowned out by Lambert and Chas?? Whatever it is, I have a whole new love and respect for the red guitar.
Realistically, I expected Cleveland to be my final gig. With Jody, Laura and their rental car out of the picture, and Ohio pretty much devoid of mass transit, I pretty much told myself that getting to Kent and back to Cleveland Airport the following day wouldn't be feasible. Enter Stuart (and, later, Dick, I discovered). Stuart, a lovely Scot who I'd met several years ago through Dorie, knew of my predicament, and passed on to DC for approval a suggestion that I travel to Kent with them. The following day, I found myself in the van en route to Kent just as though I was Chas Cronk or something.
Kent is a college town and one which, years ago, made the headlines in a tragic way when the national guard opened fire on students during a Viet Nam war demonstration, killing four. Like Cleveland, it struck me as more than a bit depressed, a pronounced victim of the recession. The venue in Kent was Kentstage, a 640(?) seat movie theater that dates back to the 1920s.
Never a fan of support acts, I was disappointed to learn there would be one tonight--but the disappointment lifted as soon as Alex Bevan's set began. A singer/songwriter/guitarist who excels at all three, Alex was so outstanding that, if I were a local, I'd be sure to return to Kentstage on April 5th for his solo gig. (The next day, during my ride back to the airport, my classic rock fanatic driver gasped with excitement when I told her Alex was the opening act. Apparently, he's HUGE in Ohio.)
DC was also impressed by the support act, opening his own show saying how Bevan had done his set standing on the stage's trap door. "When I saw how good he was on guitar, I nearly pulled the lever."
After a couple of minor hiccups, along the line of his guitar strap coming undone, DC, again in red shirt and black pants (although the red shoes finally got a night off), launched into the same set he performed the night before in Cleveland.
While far from sold out, DC drew a respectable audience, one that was sprinkled with die-hard fans, some--like me--having travelled a considerable distance. In particular, Rick Barnett who travelled from Washington DC and John (?) who, though local, had gone to England a couple of years ago to see Strawbs. So impressed was the audience by Cousins' show that an announcement that tickets for the electric band's Kentstage performance would go on sale that night resulted in a sale of 20 tickets for a show still three months away.
While terribly disappointed that Jody and Laura couldn't accompany me (making this a solo tour of my own), I'm thrilled that I attended Cleveland and Kent and got to see a truly solo DC AND to see him in a place where the ever-present Ohio sweatshirt finally has some relevance. I expected the performances to be interesting but lacking something with the absence of Ian and his masterful fiddle playing. While I think I do prefer Ian and Cousins together if only for the additional polished layer the strings provide, Cousins proved he and the red guitar are a formidable duo in their own right.
THE KENT STAGE, KENT, OH, SATURDAY 15 MARCH 2008
Photo by Matt Condon - More photos from Matt
This was my first attempt at using the video recording function on my camera, and unfortunately I accidentally cut it off early (oops!) while trying to figure out how to zoom (which apparently I can't do while recording video).
This one's the complete song, with a bit of Dave's story beforehand.
Unfortunately, I ran out of space and it cut off, so there's just the first verse and chorus here. Time to buy a larger memory card!
SHANK HALL, MILWAUKEE, WI, TUESDAY 18 MARCH 2008
Went to David Cousins shows in Chicago and Milwaukee March 16/18 2008. THEY WERE BRILLIANT! I knew they would be good but he exceeded my expectations. There was only 22 to 24 people at each show......but we all were the privileged few!!!
Thank you Dave for everything! "I love you in my way" :)
MERSEY HOUSE, LIVERPOOL, NS, FRIDAY 21 MARCH 2008 and FIRE HALL, MOUNT UNIACKE, NS, SATURDAY 22 MARCH 2008
I landed in Halifax on the 20th . I had been on holiday in Florida for the last Month and had missed the wildly praised show of solo Dave Cousins at Hughs Room in Toronto 10 days before, which is much closer to home. Dave is looking to set up a new distribution network in Canada for Witchwood product, and I am one of his options, so I wanted to catch up with him while still in this country. I have family in Halifax so the first night I spent with my cousin, I hadn't seen them in many a year, and we had a lovely time together.
In the morning I got ready to go see the great man himself, and admitted to Joanna my cousin that I had the willies in my stomach. All my life I have been an entrepreneur and salesman, I rarely get nervous. I have seen and spent time with Dave on several occasions and there is no reason to feel this way, except that after all these years I am still in awe of Dave Cousins. For me, no other artist comes close.
I met up with Dave in the bar of the Lord Nelson Hotel, he was sitting at a table polishing up the lyrics to a new song called the "Broken Hearted Bride", behind the page to that song were several other pages of lyrics, all of which are being worked on for the new studio album that should come out in June or thereabouts. Dave very kindly at my request read me some of the new lyrics, I was amazed at their quality. For me Dave still writes songs of equal and sometimes of greater stature and power than his earlier work, something no other artist of his age seems able to do.("Plainsong" on Secret Path is a great example). After a pint which Dave bought me, we set out in my rented car for the Mercey House in Liverpool Nova Scotia, stopping along the way to eat some great clam chowder for lunch. As I have seen before Dave loves to see things along the way, he takes note of the scenery, buildings, and likes to stop an explore different places, an activity that becomes more pleasurable doing with a poet. The scenery in this area really is beautiful.
The Mersey House in Liverpool is run by Heather and Micheal Loveridge. Michael is an exBrit like me and Heather is Native born. They met at a Dave Cousins concert, and admitted that booking this concert was a treat for their second wedding anniversary . The Mersey House is a very large restaurant and boarding house that dates from the last century and has been nicely remodeled. The concert was to be in the main Bar area designed to hold around 100 people or so. From 6.45 ticket holders started coming in, to my surprise as I talked to many of them, none, literally none of them, either knew of Dave Cousins or the Strawbs, in this small town of not much to do, this was the entertainment regardless of who is playing.
The concert started at 7.30 with warm up act Shannon Quinn, singer and fiddle player, accompanied by her father Tony. They were very pleasant to listen to, and Shannon is a treat to look at. They kind of reminded Me of early Pentangle, Nova Scotia folk with a slight more modern Western feel, they were very enjoyable. All through their performance the audience at the back were noisy, having a good time, but primarily here to drink with the music as background. It was under these circumstances that Dave took to the stage with his Stories and Songs show.
It nicely begins with Dave talking about the artist, the sculpture and the singer, and how lonely it is for the solo singer on stage. It could not have been any lonelier than this night as this oblivious audience continued to talk thru his intro, which then led into "Hanging In The Gallery". There was a fantastic look of fierce determination on Dave's face as he played, and he appeared to be looking and playing directly to the most noisy in the audience. We were treated to some jaw dropping versions of songs, particularly standing out was "Ways And Means" "The Call To Action" and an absolutely standout version of "Blue Angel". The audience did not deserve this amazing performance, but by two thirds thru he had won them over.
After the concert we stayed at the bar, Dave got his guitar and continued to entertain a select few of us, with more stories, some of which could never be told on stage, he talked of early days, Bob Dylan's influence, actually sang some Dylan. He played the new "Broken Hearted Bride"(brilliant!), and a new classic riff, the closest similarity in words would be the riff from "Down By The Sea" We did not get to bed until morning hours.
The next day we set off for Mount Uniacke, a very small out of the way town of no more than 3000 people. Along the way Dave and I did the same as the day before, eating more fish chowder which is delicious in this neck of the woods, stopping to look at antiques, the Blue Nose Clipper, buy some Nova Scotia maple syrup, and admire the scenery. The Concert in Mount Uniacke (the e on the end is silent, I did not know that when asking directions and was told they had never heard of the place) was booked by Barry and Moka Kent in a converted Firehall in town. Barry, like me is a huge fan of Dave's. Together and with friends they had done a spectacular job of setting up, tables with table cloths and electric candles, a large and friendly staff to serve drinks. To my surprise they had the poster I along with Angela Taylor had designed for the Kitchener Concert offered as a raffle prize, this night it raised $150 for charity. Along with the rented PA system Barry had picked up a banjo, which Dave immediately picked up and started to play, incorporating it later in concert for "Shine On". Barry and Moka had done a brilliant job of promoting this concert, sending out information to the various media outlets, and the concert was featured on the first page of the Halifax newspaper Entertainment section, with informative information on Dave and the Strawbs career.
All this hard work paid off as a capacity crowd started to come in 45 minutes before the concert. During the warm up before anyone had arrived Dave and I had dicussed the acoustics of the place, which were good, but a little lively, leading to the possibility of the vocals being a little overwhelming, and Dave decided that he would sing with a quieter restraint than usual. Barry introduced Dave with one of the most moving introductions I had ever heard, explaining how much the music meant to him, and that it had influenced his life in profound ways. This audience was nothing like the audience of the night before, much larger, although again still many were unfamiliar with Daves work, this time there was no talking or laughing as Dave started what was the finest one man show I have ever witnessed. The restraint in holding back his voice paid fantastic dividends, he sang quietly, with tenderness and feeling, at times almost a whisper, and he sounded great. Dave's voice sounded much younger, more depth, there was lots of that rich texture that makes his singing at its best so appealing. The proof of how well he sung this night was the reaction of the women, who bought CDs in equal quantities to the men, dancing with abandon to some of the songs, and all wanted hugs, from me as well, as I was with Dave (I liked that very much).
Dave played two sets plus encore. There were many, many highlights, "Josephine", "The Shepherd's Song", "Song Of A Sad Little Girl", "Ringing Down The Years", again blistering versions of "Ways And Means", "The Call To Action", "Blue Angel", But the reaction to "Canada" was amazing. It actually sounded better this night that either of the two versions on disc, seeming to develop and build to a strong climax, This ended the official concert until the audience brought Dave back for the encore, which was "A Glimpse of Heaven".
All in all a fantastic night. It wasn't over for me, I got invited to a party, Dave didn't go as his plane was early the next day. This actually suited me as I ended up being the celebrity at this party, and spent the evening answering all sorts of questions about Dave as best I could. If these ladies are reading this, I would like to thank Heather, Allison, and Ruth for doing wonders for my ego, and Dave for putting up with me.
FIRE HALL, MOUNT UNIACKE, NS, SATURDAY 22 MARCH 2008
Dave Cousins put on a deeply personal show, that was far beyond our expectations. His story telling revealed an honesty in sharing his life and loves, making Dave such a gifted songwriter. The quality of unique vocal tones, and courage to expose himself, unplugged and alone.....(and on banjo!) brought this performance to a new height. We hope that he has memories of "his last show" in Mount U, that are as fond as ours!
Photos by Tom and Michele Haddal - More photos from Tom and Michele
It's Easter Sunday and last night the Dave Cousins "Stories and Songs" wrap gig was "cracking". In his usual splendour ,Dave performed beautifully and was received, with much appreciation, by a packed house at the Fire Hall, Mt. Uniacke, Nova Scotia.
There were memorable songs and stories, topped off by David's splendid commemorative song "Canada". The audience was to say the least "touched", through the years David has spoken of his and the band's love of Canada and proves once again that his performances are heartfelt. Right back at ya Dave!!!!!!
PS Thanks to Jon, man of the moment from Kitchener Ontario for his contribution to the evening ...trust he enjoyed the Newfoundland/ Maritime social.