Updated: 25 Jun 2009
Oh How She Changed
The Hangman and the Papist
NOKIA THEATRE, NEW YORK, NY, SUNDAY 21 JUNE 2009
They're back!!! The acoustic Strawbs kicked off their US tour tonight with an all too short concert as the opening act for Van Der Graaf Generator.
First a note one of the things I love about the group is that they can create completely different moods with the "acoustic" band, which creates an intimate sound, even in a larger auditorium, than with the all out rock of the Electric Band.
The hall, Nokia Theatre, is a largish auditorium, with an excellent sound system. Because I got my tickets late, we were near the back. But we weren't disappointed, between my binoculars and the TV monitors throughout the hall, viewing was excellent. Also, sitting further back, allowed the sound to blend together better, and from a musical prospective, gave a much richer deeper sound than at many other concerts. Neil indicated that he often recommends people to sit near the back and that there is often better sound.
The concert itself: Unfortunately, as an opening act, the set was limited to 45 minutes in length. Cut were most of Dave Cousins' descriptions of how the songs came to be (good move, we got an extra song or two). Also, only 7 songs played (and nothing from the upcoming album), and no encore. Even though it was clear from the number of people who stuck around for autographs, that a surprizing number of people attended mainly to hear the opening act, the length of the set was completely understandable as another group was headlining.
The set opened with "Lay Down" using the arrangement common these days -- acapella bridge followed by the song. Although Lambert's power cords don't have the same strength as with the electric guitar, the song still is a highlight of any concert.
Next up "New World": The angst, horror and disgust at the needless and senseless violence in the world today comes through. Though this is an older song, it is as compelling in the world today as it was, describing the situation in Northern Ireland, when it was written.
The third song in the set, an oldie, for sure, was "Oh How She Changed" with Dave Lambert taking the vocal lead, as usual. During this song, I was again struck that the term 'acoustic' Strawbs is a bit of a misnomer. Chas on the Pedals really adds a richness that completely compliments the three guitars.
From there, the band moved on to "Midnight Sun". This one of two songs where the acoustics really seemed to change the song for me. I asked Chas afterwards whether the arrangement had changed, and he said not really, so we can chalk this up to listening from a different place.
The end part of the show contained "Ghosts", great as always, though similar to many other shows. This was followed by "The Hangman and the Papist". Hangman was, for me, the highlight of the evening. Even knowing the song, and the story, the beginning, with odd notes (before the first chord) gave the eerie impression of a foreboding, a dawn before an execution. I had never heard the song in this way before.
The final song in the set was "Autumn". A song we've all heard many times before, but one that we never get tired of.
After the set, it was time to gather and catch up with friends, most of whom, I hadn't seen in the year since the last concert. Many of the regulars were there. You know who you are!!! And for those who weren't there, We were taking attendance!!!! A very pleasant surprise, when the band came out to meet and greet everyone in the lobby, so I also got a chance to catch up with Dave L, Chas, Dave C. and Neil.
The second part of the show was Van Der Graf Generator. What can I say ..... ummmm .... shuffles feet and looks down. Ummmmmm ... Ok, let's just say that I'm sure that it's flaw in my musical taste, but I didn't get the music and didn't care for it. I left after about 4 songs. I'm sure they're very talented, just not my preference.
Photo by Adam Perkowsky - more pictures from Adam
I think Ken charged me with doing the set list for last night's show at The Nokia and I didn't.
To try to compensate for my failure, I'll say that the sound at The Nokia Theater was superb! That's the good news. The bad is that they played for only 45 minutes, to the second. Very, very well received, in fact, either they and VDGG share a good number of fans or the crowd was evenly divided. Terrific reception for most songs and, it appeared, recognition. Lots of signing going on afterwards with a bit of an international flavor courtesy of a German fan, a Brazilian fan...and for some reason Romania seems to be scurrying around my brain, but I'm not certain of that. Maybe I dreamt it.
Great seeing everyone--Ken P. and his charming daughter, Jody, Amanda and Dave, Bill and Beverly, the couple from Charlotte whose names I always forget, and my heroine Lisa who drove me home...to the door. Now that's service.
Photo by Phil Smart
I'll second that. The show was great and the venue was a beautiful place to see them. While I went into the theater not knowing much about the Strawbs, I came out a fan. Their last song seemed to pull everything together for me and it was nice to see the warm welcome they received from the fans. I'm looking forward to seeing the set list so I can put some song titles to the music.
Photo by Phil Smart
THE REGENT THEATRE, ARLINGTON, MA, TUESDAY 23 JUNE 2009
Acoustic Strawbs delivered what I consider the most powerful and emotive set I've yet seen by Mssrs. Cousins, Cronk & Lambert in front of an exuberant audience as openers for VdGG at the Regent in Arlington (MA) Tuesday night. Having seen the acoustic unit several times in the intimate setting of the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton (MA), as well as the electric ensemble at the Regent and at Nearfest, I must say the theater setting only intensified the trio's ability to take my own emotions from delight to despair (I nearly wept during "New World"), from laughter to longing and back again. I suspect the louder volume, particularly noted on Chas' bass pedals, added to the intensity nad impact of their wonderful performance. I'm not sure I've heard Dave Cousins in better voice or with a more dramatic delivery. The crowd, enthusiastic throughout the nearly one-hour set, expressed their wish for more Strawbs during intermission, and Dave did indicate the electric ensemble would return to these shores with Oliver Wakeman in tow...I and many others can only hope the wait will not be long.