Updated: 8 Dec 2008
On A Night Like This
The Shepherd's Song
Song Of A Sad Little Girl
Ways And Means
The Call To Action
We'll Meet Again Sometime
Never Take Sweets From A Stranger
Skip To My Lou
House Of The Rising Sun (Miller Anderson Lead Vocals)
Lonely Days, Lonely Nights
Orange Blossom Special (Ian Cutler)
THE BROOK, CHATHAM, 27 NOV 2008
Last night's setlist - hopefully accurate as I was scribbling away in the dark and half my illegible scrawls on the back of my ticket landed on top of each other making it difficult to decipher. This was a FIRST for me as I don't recall ever writing a setlist in my life before - it was prompted by the desperate, heart-rending pleas in the phone call I received from Dick earlier in the evening. Poor Dick was very disappointed as he was under-the-weather and unfortunately not able to make it along. I agreed to keep a note of what was played when the sobbing became too much to bear.
I travelled with my friend Judy by the way - the deal was that I spent last weekend in London with her and went and saw Avenue Q if she agreed to drive us to Chatham. (I thought Avenue Q was great by the way.) Terrific to see so many long-distance Witchwooders there, but there were unfortunately some really bad PA problems right from start to finish, which did detract quite badly. Even when things were going well there was always a niggly expectation that Dave Cousins' mike would fall silent again or whatever, lots of crackles and so on. Oh well, that's what makes live music live and unpredictable. Everyone still seemed to enjoy the evening a great deal despite the sound problems.
In the first set (Cousins and Cutler) I was absolutely blown away by "Ways And Means" - always a favourite of mine, I love the lyrics and the whole feel of that song, and it was highly evocative of listening to "Two Weeks Last Summer" in my teens. Have to say I'm not that keen on the "jaunty" rendition of "We'll Meet Again Sometime" though - maybe it's because of the subject matter, I don't know, but I'm just not keen.
The Blue Angel Orchestra set still rocked despite the sound difficulties, and everyone in the band gave it their all.
Photos from Sue Holton - more photos from Sue on on her website
It is very rare to come away from a show feeling a little disappointed, unfortunately last night was to prove a bit of an exception. Having seen most if not all of the previous Blue Angel shows and some superb performances I was really looking forward to tonight, a feeling enhanced by reports of a sold out venue earlier in the morning.
An early arrival learned that the theatre due to demand had changed the planned cabaret style to tiered seating to accommodate those coming as well as any late arrivals. The Witchwood party were still able to grab one of the few remaining tables left at the front of the arena. Those present, were Ali, Sue and Les Cotton, Mike and Sue Holton & Son, Mike and Margaret, Lindsay and taxi driver Judy who is still earnestly studying for some sort of profession in law.
The cause of my angst .........the PA , the boys played as best they could but were totally hampered by a failing system from first minute to last. In the beginning as DC and Ian came to the stage there was a buzz and running about a quick fiddle two notes, a muffled vocal before they both departed and said they would be back in half an hour once the problem was fixed. That must be one of the shortest sets on record.
After a load of fiddling, I quipped to Les, why don't they just turn the thing off and reboot it (always works for my PC), but what do I know? Nothing but only after 15 minutes did they apparently unplug and re seat the mains lead and hey presto it seemed to work.
So back came Dave and Ian a full 5 minutes earlier than planned and if the sound wasn't quite full on for the large area it was at least acceptable and we were treated to a mini American tour with songs from their trip over there. There were some highlights and I recall during "Ways and Means" a certain Witchwooder turning to me and saying they were instantly transported to their teenage bedroom with posters of the boys in the band plus another David C plastered all around the walls ( the other DC is not Claridge , it's the one whose "brother" appears in High Society).
The full bands set was plagued as I said by pops, crackles, drop outs, microphones packing up mid song and other whimsical failures by the PA which some what interrupted the flow. The brilliance of Ian during "Orange Blossom" was plagued, the whole mix just wasn't there during the set and every thing just seemed low down and muddled. Chris's fantastic drumming was not picked out - at Putney you could hear every note played by the masterful Chas, but not tonight and Miller's remarkable and superlative guitar work, if largely unaffected also failed to stay free of the gremlins of that PA !
How DC remained cool and jovial despite all these troubles I don't know but if he was frustrated he never let it show other than through a jovial remark that he was "fearing for his life" - though I am sure he must have been seething after all the work that would have gone in to staging the event. The audience remained with them and even accepted the loss of the encore as once again the PA gave up the ghost as they realized they had played their hearts out despite the difficulties over which they had no control.
OK this is live music and sometimes things don't always go to plan and before any one thinks I've got a downer on sound guys - we all love Paul Smith - just sad that he wasn't around last night to sort the whole thing out. Still it was good to get out , see a few friends another live performance and a pre xmas party treat - it was still much better than sitting in front of the TV.
All that was left of the evening's entertainment was musing over the debate between the sound man and the venue manager about where the fault lay, if any one knows who won please let me know as for know they are not on my Christmas card list.
Someone with a pen has promised to post the set list.
Having seen the Orchestra's first concert in Deal last year, and Cousins and Cutler in their Gillingham Barge gig, it was nice to see both lineups in one evening. The Brook Theatre was more crowded then I have seen it for any other Strawbs related concert, and most of the usual cabaret style layout was replaced by the normal theatre style seating. The Cousins/Cutler set was delayed half an hour due to problems with the sound system, but it was worth the wait. It was good to see how the two have honed their act perfectly. Ian is the master of improvisation, and the two of them produced some of their finest work. "The Call To Action" is a wonderful, powerful piece, and it was done perfectly. The whole set was a joy to watch and hear.
The Blue Angel Orchestra have much improved since the original Deal gig and their ability and professionalism shone through the whole set, which will be remembered mainly for the complete breakdown of the sound system which left lengthy gaps in the audience being able to hear Dave's vocals at all and Ian's solo parts. The lads were clearly frustrated with the setup and had no choice but to end the set early. However, what we did hear was excellent, and the performances were fantastic. I hope they will return, albeit, with a new sound crew.
Photos from Les Cotton