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MAY 2009

Updated: 9 Jun 2009

Part 1 - First leg - Rochester (3 May) to Derby (22 May)

Cheese And Grain, Frome, Saturday 23 May 2009
  • Defying Time And Assumptions - Review by Heather Malcolm
  • The Stables, Wavendon, Milton Keynes, Tuesday 26 May 2009
  • I Go Away For A Week .... - Review by Dick Greener
  • Amazing Performance - Comments from Phil Delafield
  • Setlist
  • The Playhouse, Alnwick, Wednesday 27 May 2009
    The Cluny, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Thursday 28 May 2009
  • Atmosphere And Energy - Review by Nigel Bennett
  • The Civic Hall, Bedworth, Friday 29 May 2009
  • Comments from Nigel Bennett
  • Comments from Julie Longden
  • The Globe, Cardiff, Saturday 30 May 2009
  • Best Ever - By Anyone, EVER! - Review by Julie Longden
  • Double Encore - Review by Nigel Bennett
  • The Mick Jagger Centre, Dartford, Saturday 31 May 2009
  • Difficult To See How It Could Be Better - Review by Dick Greener


    DEFYING TIME AND ASSUMPTIONS - Review by Heather Malcolm

    I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it for myself. I have been watching the Strawbs since they re-formed, (though thankfully they don't appear to have reformed), and have grown used to there being a consistently high standard of performance and musicianship, and an always-remarkable degree of passion from DC. I've also got somehow used to the idea that the band might be winding down a bit - that we can't expect so much from them now that - em - how do I say this diplomatically - now that local transport organisations may view them with an increased degree of generosity.

    I was shocked when I saw that they were sitting down for acoustic gigs - appalling! How could they possibly deliver powerful songs if they can't use their diaphragms properly? (sorry, I occasionally channel my old singing teacher), and anyway - it smacked of giving to aging. "Stand up and give us our money's worth" I wanted to shout at them - except for Chas, because he hasn't got enough feet to operate the pedals, and stand up, and sing harmony, and play the guitar all at the same time. Not that he uses his feet to play the guitar, or sing for that matter - oh you get the idea...

    And I was wrong - they can, and they do inject every bit as much energy and passion into acoustic gigs as they do electric ones. But the worry remained in the back of my mind - they've got to slow down sometime - it's inevitable. Well, they are defying time and my assumptions again.

    I've always loved "Hero And Heroine", can't get enough of it: an almost cloyingly jolly melody counterpoints the biting allegorical lyrics - a Cousins masterpiece. And it needs energy, verbal dexterity and a memory like a bear-trap. And all the vocal weight is on Cousin's shoulders. So at Frome the other day, I expected to see DC putting every ounce of energy the song with nothing left over.

    WRONG! Not only did he deliver the vocals with full-bore intensity (and accuracy), he also got air! And not those pathetic little hops Ozzy Osbourne claims to be "his jumps" - it was proper pogo-ing. I take it all back. DC says he'll be back in 25 years. I wouldn't bet against it.

    Setlist from Dick Greener

    Lay Down
    New World
    The Hangman And The Papist
    The Winter And The Summer
    The River/ Down By The Sea

    Tell Me What You See In Me
    The Broken Hearted Bride
    Out In The Cold/ Round And Round
    Drum Solo
    Hero And Heroine

    Where Is This Dream Of Your Youth


    I GO AWAY FOR A WEEK .... - Review by Dick Greener

    Slightly jet-lagged, I nevertheless head out for Milton Keynes after my first day back at work (checking e-mails, writing out to do lists, shoving work in other peoples' direction, transatlantic telephone conferences, usual stuff first day back). Surprisingly all the roadworks which have plagued my route to MK in the past few years have been removed- it's a clear four lane road once you hit the M1 and all goes smoothly and I get there early enough to have some very tasty fish and chips with some of the usual suspects (nice little restaurant just off the main bar - the Stables is SUCH a nice venue).

    There isn't really a duff seat in the place - even those sitting at the very side of the stage have great acoustics and a unique view. But Nigel Bennett Tours have come up with the best seats in the house - centre facing the stage on the first row of raised seats - couldn't be better.

    The band are even tighter than the Worcester show, which I'd thought was going to end up one of the best of the tour, but this performance surpassed that by a country mile. More assured, relaxing into the show, they're all playing phenomenally well, with DC's vocals soaring above, notwithstanding his bad cold. Some of DL's guitar parts are still a bit quiet - I really think the guitar needs to be cranked up a bit generally - but Paul at the desk is tweaking the solos up, which helps.

    High spots for me:

    "New World" came over really really well; maybe THE archetypal Strawbs song.

    "River/Down By The Sea" is a perfect ending to Act 1.

    "Tell Me What You See In Me" has lots of energy to start off the second set and gives Oliver a bit of space for a piano section.

    But without doubt, THE highlight of the show has to be the stunning encore. When I went away, it was pretty damn good, but it's now become astonishing. Wakeman's added a few more bits to his solo, and looks as though, obviously retaining the cues to the other band members, he now has the confidence to vary what he plays. A new flourish is added when he walks round the front of his keyboard whilst carrying on that trademark arpeggio playing (don't try this at home children!). Truly a bravura performance, which had the already very appreciative audience cheering loudly.

    A good long chat in the bar afterwards, I find on the way home that whilst the roadworks going north are done away with, going south is a different story, so I get home pretty late, tired but very pleased with life generally and very glad indeed that I got to see that show, possibly one of their best ever.

    Now I wasn't going to Cardiff was I ...... ?

    AMAZING PERFORMANCE - Comments from Phil Delafield

    What an amazing performance and a fabulously chosen playset - summed up for me how good they are and always have been.

    And as for Oliver W, deja vu springs to mind. I, and I guess the rest of the audience, were waiting eagerly for him to be let loose and when the opportunity came he didn't disappoint - it was fantastic and a good reminder of jut how brilliant Antiques and Curios is.

    And the rest of the band watched on with perhaps fatherly affection - the eye contact and Oliver's smile were very endearing.

    They all seemed in excellent form -I thought the sound was great - it was very tight - the night just went too quickly.


    ATMOSPHERE AND ENERGY - Review by Nigel Bennett

    What better way to spend a balmy evening than sat under the stunning and historic Byker bridge built in 1878 and supping a pint or two of "Old Rosie" itself a famous cider experience.

    After Alnwick the night before, the tour (geographically speaking) was heading back South but not before a show at the famous Cluny and sitting on the wall outside enjoying the evening sunshine all the band came over to say "hello" as they passed by, enjoying a dose of fresh air ahead of the performance.

    DC eulogised as he passed, about the voice of young female singer who was performing in the bar of a pub across the road and although I popped over for a listen the poor thing was battling lots of one of those age old problems - lots of noisy pub chat (don't you just hate that !) - so I never got a real good listen..very frustrating, given the recommendation.

    All that was all very relaxing, but the best was yet to come. Clearly this bar and venue is very popular and with the performance area holding 250, most of whom were standing and without doubt clearly out to enjoy themselves. By the time the band hit the stage the area must have been reaching close to capacity.

    This was to prove an excellent evening and the band got a terrific reception. Indeed, such was the atmosphere and energy inside, that the walls must have been dripping - the level of communal singing amongst the audience showed many fans were also present. The ovations at the end of each number raised the temperature even higher and everyone witnessed an absolutely brilliant show and made this a real night to remember.

    Before I forget, many thanks to Ali to for giving me a lift back to my digs for the night.

    However, at the end of the evening one question still remained unanswered. Just how many bricks did it take to build that bridge ? Wouldn't it be great if the band returned to play there and we could then start to count them, but maybe they would need to play for a week, but who would care, this was a great night.


    Comments from Nigel Benett

    There were some sound issues on the night at Bedworth, more to do with the theatre stuff rather than anything the band had influence over, but the glitches, ah well I suppose that is live music. The fact that the issues were dealt with, with a great deal of humour, and also showed a level of professionalism in the band. Indeed it was only at this gig that one glitch allowed Oliver to play a few bars of the "Teddies bear picnic" so feel good about that, like when did we hear that before? (Answers on a postcard to Steve or through Planet Rock). Many on this tour won't have had a chance to hear that- pure nostalgia and the off the cuff commentary from DC about Albert Hall and symphonies, well that was just as precious.

    Yes it's true everyone likes things to run smoothly, but then again, if they did all the time we'd probably all get bored. This is live stuff, not an imprinted CD and as one great bard once said "treasure each passing day each hour and moment".

    No, Bedworth won't go down in the annals of history as a superlative gig, but it was great to be there all the same and will retain some lasting memories.

    Comments from Julie Longden

    Have to agree - this one did not run smoothly but did perfectly demonstrate the band's ability to put in a great performance and retain their sense of humour under very trying circumstances. This is exactly why we take the trouble to see live performances - you never really know what to expect. The contrast between one night and the next can be almost unbelievable (as the Cardiff gig proved!). 'Reliable' venues, such as Bilston, can provide a backbone to any tour but Bedworth certainly wouldn't put me off an untried venue.


    BEST EVER - BY ANYONE, EVER! - Review by Julie Longden

    I had no intention of going to Cardiff - 'too far' I thought, looking at the tour dates. Blessed be those who changed my mind!! I witnessed the best ever - by anyone, EVER!

    I have never seen the band put in a poor performance but so many other factors, many beyond their control, influence the overall result, as the previous night at Bedworth had proved, enjoyable though it was. At Cardiff everything was right - and MORE.

    I'm not really sure what happened: yes, the venue was 'atmospheric'; the sound was great; there were no technical hitches - so far, so good. But something magical occured which I can only try and attribute to the fact that the band inspired an already receptive audience, and the audience, in turn, inspired the band. The interaction betrween the two was phenomenal and nothing like I'd seen before. As Nigel has mentioned it wasn't merely appreciation, cheering and applauding but real involvement (with, perhaps, a touch of adoration thrown in for good measure). Those of us who knew that this was exactly what they deserved responded accordingly and helped continue the momentum, delighted to find our heroes recognised.

    Whatever nostalgic feelings may have been evoked, the obvious pertinence and relevance of new material such as "The Broken Hearted Bride", and the (unfortunately) continued relevance of "New World", "Sheep" and "The Hangman And The Papist" left us in no doubt that this band is alive and kicking. I don't, however, want an entire repetoire of 'profound, serious and meaningful' songs but delicate, intimate and well-written songs which speak to the heart, of the heart. "The Winter And The Summer" was a delight, as was "Tell Me What You See In Me"

    I have noticed that, particularly on this tour, the audience has boasted a greater number of 'young people' (it's all relative!) who have seemed to appreciate the material and the band's ability to actually perform live to this standard, and who have left clutching the latest CDs.

    By the end we were all hot, sweaty and exhausted, both audience and the band, but IT WAS GOOD!! DC and Oliver came directly from the stage after an unprecedented SECOND encore which the audience had insisted on. DL, Rod and Chas followed in due course and all were well occupied for some time but kind and attentive as ever; may CDs, poster and tickets were signed and many photos taken.

    Strawbs go from strength to strength - long may it continue. Regrets?? I have two. One, the show was too short - they should have 'played all night'. Secondly, due to the long journey home, and the fact that my last-minute decision to come to Cardiff had left me without a room for the night, I couldn't stay longer afterwards and enyoy the company. I did, however, leave feeling that I'd have driven twice as far to see this one (or is that ten times??)

    God bless Strawbs and Nigel and Ali for their persuasive powers the night before - a night to remember.

    DOUBLE ENCORE - Review by Nigel Bennett

    When someone gets around to compiling a list of legendary Strawbs gigs, this one may well be on it.

    When DC quipped early in the evening " Do any of you remember Cardiff Castle" it showed that quite a few did and at that moment you just knew that the night was going to be a rather special one amongst friends. By the end of the evening the whole audience both young and old were turned on and tuned in to the sound of Strawbs.

    On this tour there have been so many you could regard as really special and outstanding, Boom Boom Club, Bilston, Milton Keynes, The Cluny, Worcester, Frome, all for slightly differing reasons and by all accounts both Glasgow and Derby (although I wasn't there) were pretty special too.

    But tonight , set in a terrific and steamy rock club,with a standing "pit" and the band and the audience were on fire. There were some (Hi Julie) who were enticed from far up North after a word in their ear the night before and others Roy and Sandy who were making this a trio of Strawbs gigs on the tour. Of course Ali and Lindsay were there too.

    Well before the opening sound of "Lay Down" faded, the audience was in full voice joining in on chorus as they did on many other songs during the night and lest I forget the audience participation, the swaying , thrashing and dancing and the rhythmic clapping on "Round And Round" and Rod's drum solo, where his quick switch of direction accommodated all that had joined in. Indeed even Dave Lambert joined in the fun on that "solo" by adding some tasty guitar and who himself played like a hero, with virtuoso guitar solos and gentle and emotional song.

    The two set list show, was a mirror of previous but somehow the evening turned the various musical passages and solo's into even lengthier epic's. Oliver's superb playing won many an admiring glance, as his fingers moved ever so swiftly over each of his keyboards embellishing each song with his own very special talent and his intepretation on tour of these Strawbs classics has been a joy to behold.

    And what of Chas ...well of course he took it all in his stride, the sound was mixed just great (thanks Paul) so those throbbing bass notes were in evidence in every right place.

    DC sang of demons and of innocent charm all in one and his introductions bringing fits of laughter from the gathered throng.

    We chatted to many during the evening and they were overwhelmed and joyous in their praise. As the set closed the loud cheering and general hullabaloo enticed the boys back for their regularly featured encore.

    Yet still the audience,had not had enough and after a further 5 minutes of endless clapping chanting and singing of something that sounded in the noisy pleading like "Strawbs" , "Strawbs", "Strawbs" the boys came back out and did a mini reprise of the encore, much to the delight of everyone who had taken the band to their hearts.

    A great place to watch music, a great band.

    Need I say more ?

    Setlist from Dick Greener

    Lay Down
    New World
    The Hangman And The Papist
    The Winter And The Summer
    The River/Down By The Sea

    Tell Me What You See In Me
    The Broken Hearted Bride
    Out In The Cold/ Round And Round
    Drum Solo (duo?)
    Hero And Heroine

    Where Is This Dream Of Your Youth



    Having missed out on the apparently stellar Cardiff show, I was hoping for a good gig to finish off the UK tour at the excellent Mick Jagger Centre in Dartford, a mere 27 minutes away from Greener Towers, according to Google. And we weren't at all disappointed....

    A good big stage for the boys to move around on, good sound and good lighting, and whilst some may have been tiring towards the end of the tour, there was no sign if flagging spirits on stage. Paul commented that, whereas the previous night had been an out and out rock gig, tonight was a "hi-fi" experience in terms of the PA system - sound very good indeed, even up close and personal as were were, on the front row, directly in front of Dave Lambert. Some nice perspectives for photography too.

    One of the best gigs on the tour, certainly. As is frequently the case, the tour develops new facets to the performance. Latest new stuff is Lambert playing along with Rod in the first hand-drum section of the drum solo, and some new DL guitar riffing, trading licks with Oliver in "Dream". Oliver continues to extend himself on pretty much everything, but especially "Dream" where there are new points of interest every time I hear it.

    My highlights would be:

    "New World" - don't know why this has hit the spot just quite so fundamentally this time out, but it just has.
    "Sheep" - such a powerful number, with some great keyboards from Oliver and some superb vocals from Dave.
    "River/Down By The Sea" - a lengthy tour de force solo from Lambert at the end seems to get further and further extended, without in any way losing the audience's interest.
    "Tell Me What You See In Me" - only heard it a few times, and it gets more and more interesting.
    "Hero And Heroine" - for power, can't be beaten, no wonder DC has to pogo to the final choruses.
    "Where Is This Dream Of Your Youth" - an unmissable encore, superb musicianship all round.

    Probably one of the finest line-ups live that the Strawbs have ever had, Oliver such a huge asset, joining a finely tuned machine which saw its origins in the 70s, but which has been making fine live music since its reformation in 2004. Difficult to see how it could be better .....

    Photo by Dick Greener -
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