Updated: 21 Nov 2009
On a Night Like This
Song Of A Sad Young Girl
Ways And Means
We'll Meet Again Sometime
Oh Well Pt 2
Oh Well Pt 1
Road to Maribor
Cousins, Cronk, Fernandez, Partridge, Richards
We Can Make It Together
The Desert Song
Let It Rain
I Love The Seaside (monologue)
Barber Jim (monologue)
Cry No More
Jenny Takes A First Look At Life
I Love Roxy
Don't Leave Me Here
Cousins, Craig, Cronk, Fernandez, Weaver, Willoughby
Further Down The Road
Cry No More
Kissed By The Sun
Love Is A Highway
Floating In The Wind
Burn Baby Burn/I Don't Understand/Pick Up the Pieces
Big Hit In India
Part Of The Union (with Cathryn Craig, Blue Weaver and Tony Fernandez)
The Hangman And The Papist
October To May
Martin Luther King's Dream
Temperance Of Mind
Can You Believe
A Glimpse Of Heaven
The Shepherd's Song
How To Blue
The British Barbecue
Send In The Clowns
The Oldest Swinger In Town
That Ol' Guitar
(River Deep/Mountain High)
Cotton Fields/My Window Faces South
Never Take Sweets From A Stranger
The Young Pretender
Orange Blossom Special
Skip To My Lou
Josephine (For Better Or For Worse)
Sail Away To The Sea
On My Way
All I Need Is You
Tell Me What You See In Me
Just Love (Dave Lambert solo)
Treacle Toffee World
Only A Dream
Flies Like A Bird
Reason For Everything
Like To Help You If I Can
I Can See The Sky
Father's Name Is Dad
Cousins, Lambert, Cronk, Coombes, Wakeman
The Winter And The Summer
Hero And Heroine
Where Is This Dream Of Your Youth
The River/Down By The Sea
Where Silent Shadows Fall
40TH ANNIVERSARY - THE LIVE ROOM, TWICKENHAM, 12/13 SEP 2009
Where to begin ... what a comprehensively wonderful occasion: two whole days of Strawbs' music and contributions from the Strawbs' extended family rushed by in a whirlwind of delight. Fantastic performances and splendid good company reported by all, both onstage, offstage and back in the various hotels.
Various locals and visitors started the social side of this splendid festival on Friday night, ahead of the main event, with a general gathering at Feltham pub, the General Roy, a good walk from the Travelodge where many of us were staying. A great night of chat and conviviality, followed by a late-night session on guitars and keyboard - Lord knows the Travelodge should be renamed the Tolerance for letting us stay up so late and be so noisy.
Getting to the venue, those of us on ticket duty, eventually finding the right door to go in through, set to the task of verifying the identity of voucher holders, checking them off, and then banding them up with the appropriate coloured band. A nice job because it gave us the opportunity to say hello to and chat to everyone attending, which, for me, set the whole one of the event: it felt like sitting round with a bunch of friends, with my favourite artists (also mostly counted as friends) booked to play exclusively for us all. A privilege and a joy.
Despite difficulties getting in on time, and a certain level of apparent tension, the show started off bang on time. This would be the case throughout, save for the big finale, where the complexities of getting the Royal Artillery musicians in place result in a half hour delay. People have commented that the show was one of the best organised events they had ever been to: it certainly ran like clockwork, all credit to those involved.
Veteran folkie, Fred Wedlock, a great mate of Dave Cousins' from his radio days, was an excellent choice of compere. Suitably irreverent, and extraordinarily funny, he could take the mickey without offending, and exercise crowd control with good humour.
Cousins and Cutler
First up, Dave and Ian, reprising some of the material from their US touring, which went down extremely well. Starting with a sprightly version of "On A Night Like This", they followed with a rather stately and lilting "Grace Darling". "Song Of A Sad Little Girl" was just lovely and mellow, and then to finish, two of my favourites from this duo's repertoire: "Ways And Means" (up there in my top 40 of Strawbs numbers I reckon) with choppy (DC tuning) guitar and fiddle and lots of dynamics and shifts.
Lastly, "We'll Meet Again Sometime", announced by DC as odd for this point in the programme, but somehow strangely appropriate (we would after all be meeting both of them again). This was a splendid version with Ian's folky fiddle to the fore. A marvellous start to proceedings.
New kids on the block, Zeus, were the second act. A new project involving Dave Lambert with Feast of Fiddles' Tom Leary and guitarist Graeme Taylor and bass player Jon Davie, both with impeccable folk pedigrees, had been generating a good deal of speculation. Opening with a version of Tim Buckley's "Morning Dew", which married a brooding Strawbs feel with Lambert's gruff vocals and a great instrumental coda "Solway Dawn", Zeus quickly won over the Strawbs audience. An arrangement of Davey Graham's "Anji" by Dave Lambert, combining a jazzy feel with driving Lambert guitar, was followed by a Lambert original, "True Love".
Next up, Fleetwood Mac's "Oh Well Part 2" followed by "Oh Well Part 1", which was well received. The last two numbers, "The Road To Maribor", fiddle/bass-led, followed by the Freddie King number "Going Down".
A fantastically talented bunch of musicians, playing with obvious enjoyment of each other's skills. Leary is an urbane and amusing host as well as a stunning fiddle player. Lambert and Taylor have different styles, but chop and change between them, Taylor taking very acoustic style solos over Lambert's rhythm or picking style; at other times Lambert gets to shine in his inimitable way. And Jon Davie lays down a solid bass throughout.
Their first live show (the first of a number of firsts and acknowledged by a huge response), but certainly not their last. An album partly recorded, we look to see more of Zeus in the future.
Photo by Alan Perry - check out four more galleries of pictures from Alan
Strawbs (Heartbreak Hill)
For some the raison d'etre of their attendance, many were looking forward to the first ever live appearance of this line-up, which recorded this "lost" album in 1978 after Dave Lambert left the band to pursue a solo career. Jo Partridge (the guitarist who created in "heat ray" sound in Jeff Wayne's extravagant spectacular War of the Worlds) was brought in to play guitar and mandolin, and the resulting album, when finally released, was generally felt to be a return to form for Strawbs after the accident prone and slightly less stellar Deadlines.
Opening with "We Can Make It Together", the power of this line-up was immediately apparent - Partridge in fine form. Andy Richards played the set shoeless (apparently not being able to feel the pedals with his shoes on, rather than being overtaken by some Sandie Shaw obsession. He is truly a splendid player, and though I saw him once before at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1978, I wasn't prepared for just how good he is. Slightly hesitant (maybe nervous) on the first song, he came into his own on the title track, "Heartbreak Hill" which was just astonishing - can't really find words to describe it otherwise. "The Desert Song" (announced by DC as the result of waking up and finding that your wife was dreaming they were with someone else !) is one of my favourite, almost throwaway pop songs in the Strawbs' canon: on album with those wonderful little almost doo-wop vocal flourishes, it still bounces along live without them, to the ensemble's obvious enjoyment. Nice piano from Andy.
After "Let It Rain", the band finished another tour de force - "Starting Over", with some fantastic light and shade, stunning accapella vocal interlude. Just amazing, and one of my absolute highlights.
And Tony Fernandez just puts every ounce of his strength and passion for the music into every hit, whilst clearly enjoying every single second he was on stage.
Cry No More
For many it seems, CNM was one of the surprise hits of the weekend. Those who were unfamiliar with their sometimes flummoxing blend of bizarre humour, deeply intense songs and a sort of call and response approach as appropriate to the football terraces as their normal haunts in Twickenham, at first showed signs of bewilderment then grins of appreciation as Roy's inexplicably hilarious (but weird) monologues had the crowd in stitches, only to be taken firmly back to earth by some of the more intense material in the CNM repertoire.
Classic RH monologues emerged - "Sheep" and "Barber Jim", the wonderful "Tinkerbell" and "Joan" in turn baffled and delighted those in the audience who had never seen them before, and were old much loved friends to those who had.
"Landslide" and "Sleep" were performed by the duo at Chiswick in 1998, and went down well again, as did the catchy "Jenny Takes A First Look At Life". Those in the know joined in and led the audience participation on "I Love Roxy", which of course also featured Roy's effortless "guitar hero" playing.
On the bleak and uncomfortable end of the spectrum, the dour tale of the murderous "Marion Jones" and Hill's tour de force on madness and isolation "Don't Leave Me Here", impressed and captivated.
They favoured us with some of the lighter numbers in their post gig Stage 2 appearance later that night. As a result, I'd guess, from the comments I heard, that a few more Strawbs fans just became Cry No More aficionados, and will be attending the annual farewell concert (date to be announced).
Strawbs (Blue Angel lineup)
This line-up surprised many as it punched well above its expected weight, partially due to the incorporation of not only Brian Willoughby on his trademark "effortless" guitar, but also Cathryn Craig on vocals, not just on "Further Down The Road", which was expected, but throughout.
Se added a huge lift to "Benedictus" (nice to see the dulcimer come out to play), but the combination of her vocal and Dave's on "New World" was nothing short of a revelation - absolutely magnificent.
Blue Weaver, flanked by not one but two real Mellotrons, produced classic crashing Mellotron sounds, perfectly set off by Willoughby's guitar. And again, Fernandez excelled.
A huge ovation for Dave's emotional epic "Blue Angel" with some great keyboards from Blue and super guitar from Brian.
After that, the band left the stage to Blue for a solo written for his daughter "070809". And Blue sings, rather well as it turns out. A very personal and touching piece, very well received.
Photo by Adrian the Rock more pictures from Adrian
It's always been my ambition to get one of my trips to the US to coincide with a John Ford gig. Not happened yet, but I have a lot of respect for John's pop sensibilities and the string of solo albums he's produced over the last 12 or so years.
His set combined a few of his own recordings, with a trip down memory lane into Hudson Ford ("Floating In The Wind" and a medley including "Burn Baby Burn", "I Can't Understand" and "Pick Up The Pieces") and Monks territory ("Nice Legs" with some good audience participation).
His solo material started the set and later on, he brought out "Together Apart" (which Hud and he duetted on back in 2001) and his recent recording "Big Hit In India" - on disc heavily produced but which nevertheless works acoustically. To finish, he was joined by Blue Weaver and Cathryn Craig (along with Tony Fernandez playing tambourine with a similar level of enjoyment as previously on drums) for the hit single "Part Of The Union".
Rick Wakeman and Dave Cousins
And now to the headline act of the first day, Rick and Dave playing together for the first time in over 20 years. I say, play, but as much as half of the set was given over to reminiscing and sparring between the two, which gave the evening a mellow laid-back ending, which was just perfect. They covered some familiar ground from the old days, opening with "The Hangman And The Papist" (no paint roller to be seen). "Martin Luther King" had some choppy chord playing from Wakeman and Dave donned the banjo for a super version of "Witchwood". We also had Rick's favourite "A Glimpse Of Heaven" and to close, "The Shepherd's Song" with some soaring arpeggios from Rick.
A couple of numbers from Hummingbird were chosen, two of my favourites: the Russian folk tune-based "October To May", which ended with a fantastic Wakeman solo, and the beautiful "Can You Believe", one of Cousins best love songs in my view.
And, to the delight of many, Rick announced he was going to do the subtly renamed "Temperance Of Mind". Explaining its background, the Sheffield show where the power went off and Dave turned to Rick and suggested an acoustic piano solo: "What should I play ?" says Rick; "Whatever you feel like" says Dave, and history was made. And that is the point of TOM: it's not the same every night, so that after it was committed to tape at the QEH in July 1970 and released on Antiques And Curios, punters complained when they didn't get the same snippets. To prove the point, Rick went out into the audience and asked for some "notes" to incorporate into the piece, explaining for non-musicians that they could range from A to G and be sharp or flat. Wincing as he came back to the stage with a few odd key signatures to be going on with, he naturally then played a stunning selection of musical snippets (including a couple - the Keystone Kops car chase theme included - from the original).
Between all that we had some glorious stories and backchat: tales of hamsters in the oven and Salvador Dali; tallying up the number of wives they'd had between them, Rick came up with 11 (I think he was adding in the six he borrowed from Henry).
The day's formal proceedings were at an end, but more joy to come: Chas and Roy set up on Stage 2 and performed an impromptu Cry No More second set (aren't they all impromptu ?). I wasn't writing tracks down by this point, but I know "George's Bar", "Piccadilly Lights" and "On Holiday" were included, along with "Taller Of The Two". There was some audience singing, led by Roy, and at Geraldine's request (she missed the first one) a reprise of her favourite Roy song "Don't Leave Me Here". A great way to finish off.
Those of us at the Travelodge had more partying to do, so off in Bennett Cabs (Nigel did a sterling - and difficult - job in organising the taxis to take us to and from the venue, many thanks Nigel!), to the bar at the Travelodge, where another late-night singalong ensued.
Photo by Alan Ewers
Opening up Day Two, Mr Wedlock, who, having done a cracking job as compere throughout Day One, now had his own slot (vice the Fools). An opening song about testing microphones "Testing" was followed by a tutorial on how to play and sing the blues. There was a song about the British barbecue, a skit on "Send In The Clowns", a song about the British on holiday in the Costa del Packet, and finally his hit, "The Oldest Swinger in Town", which Fred explained, with the passage of time had lost some its ironic bite ! Great set, with Fred's effortless humour getting the audience rolling in the aisles from the off.
Cathryn Craig and Brian Willoughby
Cathryn and Brian next took to the stage, opening with "That Ol' Guitar", the first of several songs which as well as featuring Cathryn's fabulous voice, allows that old show-off on guitar to stun the audience with a fabulous display of fingerboard dexterity, generally drawing the language of despair from those in the audience who fancy themselves as guitarists. The charming "Alice's Song" followed, played on a parlour guitar, then "I Will" with some nice flamenco style runs from Brian, alternating with chordal backbeat swipes.
A personal favourite "Mr Jefferson" was followed by their recent recording about Pocohontas and her fate, the strident and powerful "Accanoe".
The final number started with an accapella snatch of "River Deep/Mountain High" with help from the audience to sing the orchestral parts, segueing into the "Cotton Fields/My Window Faces South" closer, which again features Brian's impossibly stunning playing. Just towards the end of the song there was a huge bang: not quite clear what happened, but it was certainly a big bang ending - albeit unintentional ! Brian and Cathryn's main audience to date has been in the UK, so for many of those from abroad it was a first time, and many left thoroughly impressed with what they'd seen (as those of us who know them well could have predicted!).
Blue Angel Orchestra
After a fairly long lay-off it was great to the see the BAO again, in its Melvin Duffy variant rather that with Miller Anderson. Opening with "Never Take Sweets From A Stranger" with Melvin on electric guitar, before turning to the pedal steel for "Mellow Moon". He really is a stunning player. Then, a nice surprise when Dave announced "The Young Pretender", which I'd wondered about for the Wakeman set, but which fitted just perfectly here.
Ian Cutler's instrumental fiddle tour de force "Orange Blossom Special" was greeted with huge applause, before the band turned to their closing numbers "Hellfire Blues" and the driving "Skip To My Lou". Again, a well kept secret in the UK, and many overseas visitors seeing them for the first time were more than impressed with the BAO.
Acoustic Strawbs with Sonja Kristina
This, for me was one of the highlights - a performance which it would be difficult to imagine happening again (though I'd be delighted if it did!!). The Acoustics took the stage on their usual three stools, to play a cracking "Simple Visions", followed by "Josephine" from the current set. Then - only the second or maybe third time it's been played in public - the lovely "Copenhagen" from the new album, reminiscing back to the days when Sandy was in the band. Gentle, emotional and intricate, perfect Acoustics material. A rousing "Cold Steel" with Dave's banjo very prominent in the mix, finished off the first half of this set.
Then on comes Sonja, in a fabulously glittery sequinned jacket, to take up her place on the fourth stool. Some complicated fingerpicking takes us into "Sail Away To The Sea" (one can only guess how long it is since that song has had an airing). Next "On My Way" with all four adding the complex Mamas And Papas-style harmonies which graced the original. More of this on - to my delight - my favourite from that album, "All I Need Is You": finally, watching them do it on stage, I can understand how those harmonies work. I'm a great fan of the big harmony things that both Acoustic and Electric Strawbs do with the strong vocal line of the two Daves and Chas - but add Sonja into the mix and it's an even more magical sound. Finishing with a great "Tell Me What You See In Me" which owed something to the recent electric arrangement as well, this was an amazing experience, worth the price of admission alone, IMHO. Fabulous !
Dave Lambert came on alone at first, in a natty white outfit, playing a bright red Stratocaster for a solo version of "Just Love". Joined by the rest of the band, Bob Voice on drums and Dick Dufall on bass, we were then treated to a selection of Fire's signature numbers.
Lambert had the opportunity for some prog guitarist virtuosity to lead into "Treacle Toffee World" before switching to the blue acoustic for "Only A Dream". Neil Byford was kept pretty busy as Dave constantly switched guitars, next opting for the black Les Paul for "Flies Like A Bird".
A band that plays so infrequently, Fire nonetheless were as tight as can be and both the harmonies and playing of Bob and Dick are superb. The closing song was of course "Father's Name Is Dad", a great ending to an accomplished performance.
During the interval, the front of the stage was reset as an orchestra pit for the Royal Artillery Band, who would be joining the band for the grand finale.
Strawbs with the Royal Artillery Band
So finally the closing extravaganza: at first, just a "normal" performance from Electric Strawbs - showing just how powerful the current lineup is. A blistering start with "Sheep" (not the Roy Hill monologue of course!), followed by Dave Lambert's charming "The Winter And The Summer". The sound was superb throughout (Paul adding a perfect little echo on the word "suffer" in the driving "Hero And Heroine" which followed) and I don't think I've seen these guys play better than they did. "Autumn" had a huge big sound in the "Winter Long" ending.
Oliver's showcase "Where Is This Dream Of Your Youth" continues to develop - including now a passage in the middle where Oliver and Lambert play call and response over the solid rhythm section of Chas and Rod. The final number of the Strawbs set proper, as it no doubt should be, the classic Strawbs hit "Lay Down", was already beginning to draw some emotional responses from the audience and they could feel this unrepeatable two days drawing to a close.
Now, the stage reset for the Acoustics, the strings of the Royal Artillery Band file in, for a beautiful, poignant "Evergreen", conducted and arranged by Robert Kirby. Those of us who had bemoaned the lack of "Heavy Disguise" in John Ford's set (a curious omission) were placated by a stellar performance of the song with the Kirby brass arrangement which featured on Grave New World, but which of course has never been played live.
Next the full orchestra come on to play the stunning and majestic orchestral version of "The River/Down By The Sea" - some sawing strings, booming tympani and woodwind and brass made a forceful orchestral background for this classic Strawbs number. I know Dave has long wanted to perform Strawbs material like this with an orchestra, and it must have been a great pleasure finally to realise this ambition.
Last of all, a deeply emotional "Where Silent Shadows Fall" from the new album, to my absolute delight (probably my favourite track) Anthemic, poignant, pure Strawbs material, and with the added orchestral instruments the long instrumental coda was perfectly realised (although the audience started clapping - they just couldn't wait ! - before the final cornet theme played out the end of this astonishing bravura performance, and a full three minutes standing ovation saw Dave thanking those involved, so full of emotion he could hardly speak.
To finish things off of course, there was our own performance on Stage 2 (the three Fools present and Heather Malcolm and Joe Bruno) - Foolishly going on after the most impressive show we had ever seen: follow that!. And then to end it all, Vince Martin, who had manfully looked after Stage 2 on both days, stood up and did a set with various of the usual suspects - Chas on bass (getting in another stage appearance, as Fred repeatedly reminded us, so that he could equal and finally surpass the number of times Dave Cousins appeared on stage!), Blue on keys, Melvin on pedal steel and Jo Partridge (back from an Saturday night gig in Birmingham) on guitar. A great set, including some fantastic indigenous flute playing from Vince, before the closing of the venue and back to our hotels.
So many highs, an impossibly brilliant two days of stellar music, spent with many friends old and new - what could be better ?
Photo by Alan Perry four galleries of pictures from Alan
More collected comments from me before I get very very busy. (I didn't even think of doing set lists because there was no way I was going to divert my attention from the stage and, considering Ken Prospero was scribbling away like he was taking the bar exam, I figured there was no need anyway.)
I arrived on Friday at about noon after an overnight flight. Checked into the Marriott which was part of the rugby stadium complex in Twickenham which appeared to be a residential neighborhood. Yes, the Marriott was significantly more expensive than the Travelodge, but the convenience was worth it, as the Live Room was--bam--right next door. Paul Smith had told me a few weeks before that the Marriott was "a hands and knees crawl" from the venue, and that sounded quite appealing.
Jody had also checked in on Friday so we met for a lovely dinner at the hotel and then met Paul and Anne in the lobby and got a taxi to General Roy's...or Captain Roy's or whatever. So nice seeing Dick again and meeting Nigel who is not only Witchwooder extraordinaire but the most cheerful and friendly guy you'll ever meet. Later in the weekend, I was told how tremendously hard he worked at arranging transportation, etc. etc., so it appears he's not only adorable and friendly, but efficient, as well! Also had an opportunity to meet a bunch of other Witchwooders - nice teeth, Claridge - but I'm not the best with names.
The show was to begin at 2:00 p.m. the following day. We planned to meet at around noon, figuring the doors would open then but it was not to be. We wouldn't be admitted until 2...or maybe 1:45...but who cared? With PERFECT weather, everyone had a blast outside the venue, meeting for the first time and catching up with some local friends I hadn't seen in awhile. The check in procedure ran flawlessly and big red balloons with "40" on them added a festive touch. Having my photo alone appear on the website's attendees list FOR ABOUT TWO MONTHS, DICK, meant that EVERYONE "recognized" me. I guess what I'm trying to say is that this was about community nearly as much as it was about music.
General admission meant that everyone gathered tightly at the door, since the seat you claimed upon entering would be your seat for the full day. My group scored a table at the front center which was ideal, though some people preferred the raised theater seating which was further back but offered an unobstructed view.
The show started with Dave Cousins and Ian Cutler, a taste of their superb U.S. tour about two years ago - God, that fiddle adds so much.
Zeus followed. I'm not sure what I expected of Zeus. I'd been told it would be folky by one person, blues by another, and for some reason I expected it to be fairly hard rock. What it actually was, was another "WOW!" moment. If I'm not mistaken, there was only one original Lambert song with the set beginning with "Walk Me Out in the Morning Dew" which was originally done by, I think, the Animals, and including Fleetwood Mac's "Oh Well." It was STAGGERING! Each musician was superb, but I wouldn't expect anything less from Lambert, to be honest. Absolutely outstanding and what I really loved was how much fun Lambert appeared to be having during the set.
The Heartbreak Hill lineup followed, kicking it off with the title track. This was the first sign of real, traditional Strawbs and it blew us away. Andy Richards - who simply CAN'T be as old, no offense, as the rest of the Strawbs universe! - played barefoot, looking a bit nervous but delivering beautifully. Cousins, in that fabulous "watercolor" flowered shirt, was spectacular.
It was the first time I saw Cry No More and I wasn't sure what to expect. I'd heard some of their music before and did like it but didn't really know where the humor fit in. What I discovered is that Roy and Chas are the perfect combination of music and comedy. Yes, bizarre comedy but somehow it becomes completely side-splitting before they launch into a really, really good song so nothing is sacrificed at the expense of the other. Chas is the perfect straight man to Roy's mad-man act. Or is it an act??
God, this all sounds like so much bull... I truly hate "reviews" that make it sound as though EVERYONE walked on water but, honestly, this weekend was superb. Every act - even ones that I didn't expect to be my thing - were jaw-droppingly excellent.
Next was an "interval." Okay, I finally have something to bitch about. The timing of this - about 5:30-6:30 - suggested the dinner hour. ONE HOUR, and the performances ran like clockwork so you knew you had to be back by 6:30 or you'd miss the Blue Angel lineup which was simply not an option. Yes, there was food at the venue - a buffet that looked as though it had hot, steaming selections and "serious" food. Yuk. We scrambled back to the Marriott which, though a great hotel, couldn't deliver a food order in less than an hour. So I made do with a SlimFast bar in my purse but was sort of lightheaded a few hours later so Hugh, a friend of SJ's ran me down to Tesco for a pre-packaged sandwich which I practically inhaled in the car on the drive back. We should have done that from the get-go but after checking out the buffet and then popping over to the Marriott, there hadn't been time.
Blue Angel line-up followed the interval and it was SO nice to see Brian back, adding his sophisticated sound. And we were lucky enough to have Catherine adding her beautiful vocals and Blue Weaver on keyboards. Other than Bee Gees fan days, I'd never seen Blue with Strawbs, let alone meet him, so it was a particular treat for me.
A little touch of home followed with John Ford. LOVE John Ford. His acoustic set was way too short and I would have loved to see him with his band but I'm still marveling at how he managed to make "Big Hit In India" work acoustically!
Another interval and the headliners appeared: Rick Wakeman and Dave Cousins. How weird was that?? The last time I saw Rick Wakeman live it was the night of my high school graduation from the top rung of Madison Square Garden and now there he was, larger than life, spittin' distance from me. It is SO apparent that these two geniuses are on one wavelength even beyond the music. Half the time they seemed like me and my best girlfriends, convulsing with laughter out of nowhere, unable to go on. But when they did go on, it was breathtaking. Being close enough to see Rick's fingers fly across the keyboards and suddenly the joking was all gone, replaced by brilliance. And, God, the guy's a giant! With a navy sweatshirt, baggy pants, sneakers and a rather billowing overcoat, he didn't exactly dress for the occasion, but his stage presence was larger than life and the comfort he exuded made it feel as though we were all privy to he and Cousins chatting, joking and playing in the most intimate of venues.
Jeez...I've probably written about 4000 words and we're only on the first day.
At the show's conclusion, everyone piled into the massive bar area, where the musicians and fans gathered for drinks, chat and photos. This night we had a HUGE treat in the form of Cry No More taking the stage and continuing the music and hilarity we'd had that afternoon. On this night, I believe the bar closed at midnight and, from there, the Marriott people continued in the bar at the hotel. Jody and I had a wonderful talk with Blue Weaver who, incidentally, does NOT recall throwing up on stage at a Central Park show about 30 years ago - Jody, I swear, I'm gonna kill you - and who revealed a lot of Bee Gees info, although I put my foot firmly in my mouth telling him how much I loved them until that Saturday Night Fever stuff started. Oooops! Despite our two faux pas, he was a delightful person. I guess I should also apologize to Chas and Roy for my antics behind the cameraman while they were being interviewed...
The next day brought Heartbreak Hill in another version: Strawberry Fools were CANCELLED! Cancelled! I was physically restrained by Dick from demanding my money back. A disappointment but one that Catherine and Brian soothed immediately.
Okay. Catherine and Brian. That's another performance that I was new to. And, since I tend to be brutally honest, I wasn't sure I was gonna enjoy them. I'm so not country. I'd heard they do songs like "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny." I'm a rock and roll girl. How could I possibly relate to the cotton fields back home? Oh, my God, Catherine's voice is flawless! Yes, definitely with the country twang, but the song selections were lovely. The first song about the guitar had me hooked. Catherine was the question mark here for me, since I've always loved Brian's work, that wasn't a concern. I must say I truly enjoyed the set and the little dose of Americana brought a touch of home that balanced out some of the Fred Wedlock jokes that I so didn't get. (Though Fred was fantastic as compere.)
Now...drumroll....go to hell, Strawbs, BLUE ANGEL ORCHESTRA IS MY NEW FAVORITE BAND! Gasp, hyperventilate, eye-bulge! Wow, wow, wow! I'd never seen them before and I better see them again. This was a KILLER set. Ian was on fire, that Melvin Duffy guy who I'd never seen was incredible. The instrumental - Orange Blossom, I think - was incredible. Who'd ever think I'd love an instrumental when you have Cousins and his brilliant lyrics involved??
I had a teeny problem with Acoustic Strawbs. First, I don't agree with the scheduling. After Cathryn and Brian, I think the rather low-key AS set should have followed rather than the explosive BAO one. The addition of Sonja and the Sandy Denny songs gave the set a quiet folky feel that would have been good following C&B and which would have allowed the excitement of BAO to lead into the interval. But that's me. And while I appreciate Sonja's beautiful voice and the old, folky songs, it's not completely my thing. That said, people were thrilled by this set. Completely thrilled. Just a matter of preferance, I think.
Now, back to eating. And this totally sucked. Instead of dilly dallying and checking the buffet, Joe Bruno, Ann and I went directly to the Marriott since we heard Tesco was closed on Sunday. We were the only ones there so the service should be good, right?? Wrong. We immediately placed our rather simple order - come on...a chicken caesar salad, hamburger and roast beef sandwich?? Hell, I could whip all three together in 15 minutes. But no. We were not served FOR ONE HOUR. I get really weak and sick if I don't eat, so I had no alternative but to miss Fire. Joe ran back last minute to catch them but I stayed with Ann which gave us, basically a 2 1/2 hour intermission. Fun to hang at the bar, but I wish I would have been able to see Fire.
The final performance followed my pretty horrible chicken caesar salad and thank God I had my strength back up for it. Electric Strawbs with the band members we know and love AND a few songs with The Royal Artillery Orchestra directed by Robert Kirby. There are truly no words. These beautiful young people, in uniform, assembled in front of the stage, directed by Robert Kirby. Violins, french horns, tubas... "Evergreen" was the first song with the orchestra, with an arrangement, Kirby later told me in the bar, that he wrote right after being told by his doctor that he had lung cancer and he was to go home and pray. Fortunately, the doctor was wrong (and I would have sued his ass if I were Kirby...jeez), but Kirby feels the arrangement has greater meaning because of his feeling when he wrote it. Ford followed, with "Heavy Disguise", a song that I heard many people say they wish had been included in his solo set so their patience was amply rewarded. And then...oh my God...And then "Down By The Sea". That was SICK in such a good way. Everyone was actually moved to tears. Really. Like crying openly. Even me! I was told my bad ass NY reputation is now shot. Not too far into the song, I was totally choked up, tears running down my face and doing all sorts of bad things to my eyeliner. Holding hands with another friend at the table and crying??? Unable to talk?? This was THE moment of the entire weekend and there was more, as the final song was "Where Silent Shadows Fall" which continued the crying jag. Absolutely incredible.
After everyone dried their eyes, the bar scene began and, after, it moved to the second floor 24-hour bar at the Marriott! I was quite sensible, and retired about 1:30 a.m. since my taxi to the airport was to pick me up at 9. When I went to get it, I saw two people from the party the night before and said "I never would have dreamed you'd be awake at this hour" and they said "Awake?? We just left the party!"
Photo by Pete Bradley more pictures from Pete
A review about the Strawbs 40th anniversary weekend can be summed up without saying too much quite easily, great organisation, an excellent venue, a stunning array of artists that speaks volumes about the Strawbs connections, with the best of British musicians on show, and the most amazing finale with members of the Royal Artillery Band.
When you look at the original cost of £72 for the weekend ticket you got more than your money's worth on the first day alone.
I am not going to mention any particular artist because each and everyone of them gave outstanding performances.
For me and my wife we just wanted to be there and celebrate with the Strawbs on forty fantastic years at this exceptional weekend with a band that we love so much, and the weekend more than surpassed our expectations.
I am still on a cloud and have not come down from it three days after the event. I am fifty five years old and I have been to many concerts and events but none so staggeringly brilliant as this one was.
I could not begin to write a review because so much went on, I could not take it all in and put it into detailed words, that is why I just sent my eralier comments. I knew you would give us a detailed account, and I enjoyed reading your excellent account of the event. In fact your words took me back and remindered me of the highlights. I too thought the track 'Heartbreak Hill' was outstanding, but the most amazing thing was that it was and all the other tracks true to the album and Andy Richards was superb.
Zeus's "Oh Well parts 1 and 2" was so fantastic someone shouted out that it was better than the original by Fleetwood Mac, and from what I remember this was true.
Rick and Daves set was so special, musically brilliant and very funny. I was so impressed with how Rick can be joking around and yet in a split second switches off and goes into his own world of beautiful piano playing.
I have seen Brian and Cathryn twice before but this was their best performance yet. I spoke to Brian after the show about the bang at the end of his set and he told me what had happened. Apparently just at that moment Fred Wedlock switched on his microphone to come on stage and it caused such a powerfull kick back it knocked him backwards slightly. He was still not sure at that time if the guitar was damaged or not.
I have so many memories to take from the event, it was not just about the fantastic music it was the friendliness as well. Me and my wife sat down for dinner and got talking to a lovely lady and her friend and I told her about how much I love the Strawbs and all the spin offs like John Ford and that I have two of his solo albums and that the 'Daylight' album he made with Richard Hudson was still one of my favourites. She then proudly said that she was Johns sister Jenny, and she told me how she remembered him writing "Part Of The Union" at home in his bedroom. John then came in the room with his good lady and Jenny said come and meet John and she introduced us to him which was really nice of her.
I will also remember the Dutch contingent all of them wearing their what looked liked specially made orange Strawbs tee-shirts they were so happy to be there.
I was watching Dave Cousins during the set with the Acoustic Strawbs and when Sonya Kristina sang the Sandy Denny songs he just looked so happy, he was clearly "Ringing Down The Years".
I will always remember how at the end of the night how emotional Dave was, his and all his teams' hard work had paid off with the longest standing ovation ever witnessed.
Both myself and my wife wanted to stay afterwards but we had a four hour drive home and both of us had to be up early to go to work, but I can tell you we sailed home I did not even feel tired I was still on a high from what we had seen.
Well suddenly it was there towering over over everything - no, not Rick Wakeman but the home of rugby, Twickenham.
We queued patiently [a recurring theme for the weekend] behind a few other cars whilst Andy Slack was despatched to the Kiosk armed with our tickets and returned with the news that we were at the wrong end of the stadium and would not be allowed to take the VIP route [unlike the Fools. The sun was out but the doors weren't open so we decamped to the ajoining Marriott - brief sightings of Chas and Blue confirmed we were in the right place.
Once inside the venue we immediately came across Nigel, Lindsay and Dick checking us in and providing id tags. Next came Les and Bjorn, Ali, Ton and on and on - it was rather like those speeded up films with empty room suddenly full of people.
And then it was in to the auditorium - we [Andy Slack, Julie Longden and I] headed to the back row immediately under the sound desk on the assumption that if it sounded bad there it would be worse everywhere else. Never fear - the sound was spot on all the way.
Up pops Fred Wedlock - I spent my school holidays watching Fred in the Great Western Musical Thunderbox during the test match lunch breaks. A great compare he turned out to be - a outake DVD of his one-liners is a must.
Others will post more eloquent and informed reviews of what followed - for me the highlights were the bits where I didn't know what to expect - Zeus, Cry No More, John Ford and Fire. From the Strawbs/DC side the Blue Angel and Heartbreak Hill sets were outstanding; DC and ICs rendition of We'll Meet Again was the best version I've heard and even better than on Duochrome. Rick and DC - what a blast!!
Second Day - less spectacular for the most part probably because it was more familiar on the Strawbs side except the Sonja Kristina element of the Acoustics, the rendition of Evergreen with orchestra and then Where Silent Shadows Fall - a moving and appropriate finale; what a pity that the applause started before the cornet solo could be heard.
I've probably missed a load out but great weekend, friendship and consummate musicians who revelled in the challenge of creating/recreating current and past glories.
45 days to Xmas and there's space for a number of DVDs for elderly relatives and me !!
Photo by Alan Perry more pictures from Alan
I've been sat here all day trying to find a few words to describe the whole weekend - it's been pretty difficult I admit.
To try to sum up in a few words, the organisational success and the friendship seen at this feast of Strawbs might be summed up in just three words I suppose "Magnificent and Triumphant". When you add to that the huge thread of emotion that surfaced during the finale and sometimes before, you can then begin to feel the enormity of what was achieved over these two days in Twickenham.
This was a meeting of minds from all corners of the world, everyone speaking with the same voice, their love for the musicians on stage in whatever format. All of whom have been in our lives in one way or another, for many a year.
There was of course time to remember and reflect on those that couldn't make it, whether fan or musician, all of whom are just as revered.
My lasting memory, not forgetting what had gone before, will always be the memory of the longest standing ovation I have ever witnessed, the look on the faces of the Royal Artillery band at that and the general outpouring of emotion all around during that very, very special finale moment. It is something that I will never ever forget.
A truly remarkable weekend. I feel very lucky to have witnessed it and to have been there.
Ignoring anyone else's contribution I'm writing this from memory mindful of the fact that there will be those who were simply unable to attend the Strawbs weekend. To those people I say tis a great pity because it more than lived up to expectations. To those that could have come and chose not too, well you should have!!
This weekend had the potential to be either very good or very bad, it wasn't either, cos it was way beyond good.
It was a fantastic weekend of excellent music, fun and conviviality. A huge thanks must go to everyone involved for their contribution. The sound throughout was excellent, every act gave of there best (naturally) and it's simply not possible to say whether one act was better or worse than another.
Everyone gave of there best.
Being a Strawbs weekend there was discussion of what songs we might hear. There were more than a few classics that never got an airing but there were others dusted off and sung probably for the first time in years. See the set lists and you'll see what I mean.
Despite it being hard to choose one act from another I do have some personal higher than highs from a weekend full of them.
Saturdays higher than highs for me were -
Sundays higher than highs.
It's actually difficult to sum up just how good this memorable one-off weekend was but I've no doubt others have done. I'm glad I went and look forward to the DVD or Box set CD's!!
Some final thoughts before THE weekend is replaced by a new one. They're mostly away from the performances as I can't add to what's already been said. My abiding memory is the abiding sense of respect from/to the audience and performers and vice versa. Also seeing a number of performers who had done their appearance on Saturday but still showed up on Sunday, it can't have just been because of professional courtesy.
DC almost breaking up when saying thank you at the end and being comforted by Rod brought a lump to the throat..
Chats included Blue revealing he was absolutely terrified during his solo slot, congratulating Andy Richards on his performance, hearing how much he enjoyed it and overhearing him tell DC exactly the same thing Sunday night.
Brian and Catherine were as welcoming as ever, I got the only signature I wanted - Ricks on my live Six Wives CD. Fred was his ever friendly self. In fact every one you spoke to was. Thanks also to Allan, Julie & Steve for putting up with my witterings.
Finally much was made of missing Hud but it would have been nice to see Tony Hooper there, performing or not. Rod Demick was another ex-Strawb not present.
Many have said what a special weekend it was and it's so true - it could never be equalled.
However despite a weekend of highs there were the inevitable lows and all to do with the catering, couldn't someone have been a bit more adventurous with the menu on both days!!
And so we wait to see what's next in store. No Christmas do, I hear. So the next tour Acoustic or Electric will be of interest, with the ever constant question - for how much longer?
On paper, the weekend was meant to be a commemoration of the fact that it was forty years since the release of the Strawbs first album, "Strawbs". I would have put money that the single "Oh How She Changed" and the first track "The Man Who Called Himself Jesus" would have been played, and I would not have been surprised if Richard Wilson had been invited along to re-create his spoken introduction on the record. As it was, only two tracks from that album were played, "Josephine (For Better Or For Worse)" [in its earliest recorded incarnation, INTENDED for Strawbs, but which was rejected by A&M and actually saw light of day in a very different version on Dragonfly - DG], and "Tell Me What You See In Me", neither of which were introduced as being from the first album. The weekend turned out to be not just a commemoration, but a celebration of the huge diversity and talent of Strawbs, both past and present.
Dave Cousins was born to be a showman. Ever since the early days, when he hosted the White Bear Club, he has surrounded himself with extraordinary talent and has excelled in bringing this talent to the foreground. The two day event could so easily have become a Dave Cousins ego-trip, but every musician was allowed to bask in the limelight.
Don't think that there are many acts that could fill two full days of live music and still leave you wanting more. The fact that there were so many songs that weren't covered, ("Barcarolle", "The Battle", "Deadly Nightshade", "Ghosts", "Golden Salamander", "Who Knows Where The Time Goes", "Face Down In The Well", "If", "Call to Action", are songs I'd hoped to have heard), and the fact that there are so many other musicians/acts that could have been included (e.g. Tony Hooper, Claire Deniz, Lambert and Cronk as a duo, Ming Hat, Miller Anderson, Connie Conrad, Richard Hudson, etc.) is evidence of just how good and varied the Strawbs are. So many truly wonderful songs and so many musicians that you just can't fit them all in to two full days.
The souvenir brochure/programme for the 40th was excellent and was actually informative. Over the years, there has been so much written about these guys and their history that you'd have thought it would be impossible to come up with new facts that we didn't all already know, but somehow they managed it. Most revelatory was Chas's entry! For those that don't know the British media, we have a newspaper called The Sun, whose main claim to fame is Page 3, which normally features a photograph of a topless model, (invariably female). It appears that back in 1978, they catered for a wider audience, and sometimes used topless male models, one of whom was none other than our Chas! Not a wind-up. I kid you not. The photograph of Chas in the programme was taken from the article.
The Live Room is a mis-nomer. It is far more than a room. Apart from the entrance hall and the theatre itself, there is also a large function room (called the Rose Room) attached. In the Rose Room, there is a bar, loads of tables and a food serving area (connected to an adjacent kitchen). A large table had also been set out for the merchandising, filled with T-Shirts, programmes, posters, and CDs.
A stage had also been erected in the far corner, lit by a couple of spots. When John Ford first saw the Rose room he assumed that this was the entire theatre, and was a bit worried that the stage wasn't going to be adequate to support the weekend's entertainment, but I assured him that this was only the bar, and that the actual theatre was hidden away behind another door.
The theatre itself has to be one of the nicest I've been to. There's a large area in front of the stage, with tables and chairs, (large enough to also accommodate the orchestra). The main seats though are on a decent slope, so no matter how tall the person in front, you still get a good view of the stage. There's also plenty of leg room, so people can get through without you having to leave your seat.
The main stage was beautifully lit, with mood lighting round the walls of the theatre. There were also lights mounted on the floor pointing at the wooden stage front, so that the whole visual thing encompassed more than just the stage. The acts varied from solo artists, through duos and trios up to full electric bands. At no time did the stage seem so big that solo artists looked small or lonely, or seem so small that bands looked squashed. No idea how it was done, but guess it was down to the skill of the lighting technicians.
Fabulous to meet so many fellow fans from so many different countries. Most pleased to meet Taylor, now almost a grown man, but previously known only as the toddler in danger of falling in the lake in the DVD of the Strawbs 30th celebration at Chiswick House. Fabulous to meet and chat in the bar with so many of the musicians as well. Really chuffed that so many people have now seen and heard so many of the musicians, like Cry No More, Fire, the Blue Angel Orchestra, Brian and Cathryn, who we've seen before in the UK, but who haven't been seen abroad (yet).
Every one who played looked as if they were having so much fun, and there was so much humour. Fred Wedlock, who compered, was hilarious. When Rick Wakeman and Dave Cousins played their set together their banter was side-splitting, and I really hope that some of that gets included on the DVD when it is released, though some of it may need Parental Guidance (particularly Rick's comments about spotted Dick). Biggest laughs, though, came from Roy Hill in his set with Cry No More. He launched into a mock tirade of insults against Tony Fernandez (Strawbs drummer at the time of the Heartbreak Hill album). Talked to Brian Willoughby afterwards and he confirmed that it was all true. (Saw Tony and Roy happily joking together afterwards, so I can confirm that none of it was true.)
Apparently Sonja plays a couple of Roy's songs live and has even recorded one of them. Maybe, we'll see a Cry No More gig with the three of them one day?
Far too many musical highlights to list them all. So many songs I hadn't heard live before. How could they possibly have had time to rehearse so many? Such massive variation in subject matter, from Fire's "Treacle Toffee World" to Cry No More's "Don't Leave Me Here". So many new experiences such as hearing "Copenhagen" and "Where Silent Shadow's Fall" from the new album, seeing Zeus, Dave Lambert's new band play live for the first time ever (especially their cover of Peter Green's Oh Well), and hearing Sonja Kristina singing the songs that Sandy Denny once sang. The power of the almost stadium rock versions of "Heartbreak Hill" and "Where Is This Dream Of Your Youth" were stunning and in such contrast to some of the more gentler acoustic songs, such as John Ford's "Kissed By The Sun", Brian and Cathryn's "I Will", or Rick Wakeman's "Temperance of Mind". To hear songs like "Heavy Disguise" and "Evergreen" accompanied by an orchestra is an experience that will live with me for ever.
Last Sunday some of my best friends, including my significant other, were gathered at an exclusive London restaurant with an amazing view of the Thames Festival firework display ( it was quite a show by all accounts) to celebrate my 52nd birthday. I, on the other hand, was in Twickenham behaving like a teenager; running around trying to get my programme signed. (In fairness, the restaurant had been booked months in advance and it was only when the finish time at Twickers was moved from 7pm to 8.20pm did I think there might be a clash… no brainer.)
I must confess I wasn't aware of the hidden agenda at last weekend's bash. By the time I realized what was going on it was too late. Did anyone get the full set? I am glad to say that some photos of the Great Autograph Hunt can be seen on Strawbsweb. Great images of swishing pens and flourished programmes submitted by
Fred Wedlock provided me with the clue halfway through Saturday's fun and frolics in one of his "parish notices" when he said that autographs should not be sought at the front of the stage. "Autographs…. That's a good idea" I thought. I set about my self-imposed task with gusto. Obviously, the Saturday performers that weren't around for the Sunday were the primary targets. I finally capitulated after following Blue around like a puppy only to find out he was going to be around on Sunday anyway.
I couldn't stay late so to get Rick needed a bit of thought. I nabbed him at the changeover before his set. I was well chuffed, especially as I thought my chance had gone. I was totally oblivious to him following me out of the bar area after I'd gone in search of him.. A bit Abbott and Costello.
Sunday was pretty straightforward. Again, I couldn't stay late so the imperative was the pre-gig signing. I thought Rob Kirby was going to be difficult but I was wrong. He was a sweetie and when I caught up with him he was signing an insert to "Taste of Strawbs". Blast. I never thought of that…. Mind you, getting a full set for that one is a challenge!
And when I found Andy Richards he was signing a copy of Grave New World?!
Anyhoo, as it turned out I missed Rod and Oliver (I so wanted to ask him if he had ever rebelled against the obvious career as a pianist, and how old he was when he first heard the Strawbs. Did he like it? Has anyone asked him these questions?
I also, stupidly, missed the ubiquitous Dave Lambert. I must have spoken to him at least half a dozen times over the two days always minus either pen or programme and always thinking "I'll get him later.
DC was his usual patient self but I can forgive him anything (I want his baby for chrissake!) but the award for most accommodating autograph goes to… well, it's a tie.
Both Melvin and Sonja were so lovely. Fred comes in a close third… oh, what am I saying, John was so nice and Rick and Chas, ever the charmer, and Brian and Tony…
They were all as great as their musical contributions.
There were several times over the course of the weekend when I called into question the reason why I was participating in this adolescent farce. Now I know. I'm looking at my programme as I write this and every page fills me with absolute and pure joy.
A big thank you to everyone whose contributions to last weekend make that possible.
Photo by Chris Howard - more pictures from Chris
40 Years On – where to start? Having missed Chiswick, I knew that I would be forever kicking myself if I didn't make it to this event. Yet somehow, I didn't expect it to be quite as spectacular as it was.
The main impression from the weekend was how much fun everyone seemed to be having. All the performers – look at how many hung around after their sets were done, and how many of the Saturday performers showed up on Sunday as well, even though they weren't scheduled to play. Mingling in plain sight of the fans, and, with no exception, gracious to everyone who came over to talk to them. And the fans – great to renew acquaintances with UK fans I had met on prior trips over for Strawbs gigs, to get to know UK fans I had never met before, to see the East Coast USA people I know from concerts or "drinks with Dick G at the White Horse", and to meet up with representatives from various European countries. I can't start naming names or know I will leave someone out.
On to the music. Dick Greener and others have already done detailed reviews, so I am just going to add some additional impressions and my personal highlights. This was such a unique event in that every act that played had a direct Strawbs connection. No filler added! I thought the programme was well thought out and well paced, as the larger, louder configurations were followed by smaller or softer groupings, giving a nice ebb and flow to the performances.
Cousins and Cutler The perfect choice to open the festivities. I had been lucky enough to see Ian with Dave when they played in NY. I have to confess that the fiddle is my favorite instrument in the whole world, and Ian's playing is magical. Subtle at times, forceful at others, and always in service to the song. This set the tone for the weekend, brilliant, yet the set was over all too soon.
Zeus I was really looking forward to this group. Unlike most other people I talked to, I was already familiar with all the individual members, but had no idea what the group would actually sound like. In particular I am a huge fan of Graeme Taylor from his work in the Albion Band, Home Service and the John Tams Band. In those bands, he has a very distinctive electric guitar style, so it was quite interesting to hear him play exclusively acoustic guitar. As I expected, the interplay between him and Dave L was just stunning. Jon Davie (also from the Home Service) did some incredible work on the bass and Tom Leary is another master on the fiddle. Very glad I got to hear them on their first live gig. The crowd was impressed, and I hope that the enthusiastic reaction will motivate them to finish recording their CD.
Heartbreak Hill Less nuanced than most of the other Strawbs lineups, but a lot of energy. Great to be there for this historic occasion and boy did they all seem to be enjoying themselves.
Cry No More I had no idea what to expect. Roy's bizarre stories, as Chas looks bemused, then following up with some well-played music. Would definitely go to see them again.
Blue Angel lineup More superb musicianship from all, really nice to have Cathryn bring female vocals to a full band lineup.
Blue Weaver's tunes for Emma (070809). This was an unexpected highlight for me. A solo spotlight for Blue, obviously performed from the heart, as these tunes were composed for his stepdaughter when she was a child, and played at her wedding on 070809. And he even sang!
John Ford A blistering set from John, as he managed to fit 11 songs in. Songs from his solo work, from Hudson Ford (which I was not expecting at all, and thrilled me), from Monks, and finally "Part Of The Union". The inexplicable omission of "Heavy Disguise", but I soon found out that there was an extremely good reason for that. I have heard John play solo a few times, but this was probably the best set I have ever seen him do.
Cousins and Wakeman During the interval before this set, I finally realized the enormity of what was to follow. After all Rick Wakeman is a huge star, a name recognized by many people who have never heard of Strawbs. To have him be at this event is a mark of the respect and affection he has for Dave Cousins, and his time in Strawbs. So I was prepared for the enormity of the occasion, but was still surprised by the enormity of the man himself. Having never seen Rick live before, I did not realize that he is a giant in stature as well as talent. And I was totally unprepared to be laughing during this set. Two longtime friends telling tales on each other, and letting the audience in on the joke. Considering that this set was probably the most serious in terms of the material covered, it was a nice balance and the perfect way to end what had been a perfect day.
Hanging out in the bar afterwards, more from Cry No More, lots of socializing. Back to Travelodge for more festivities. Thanks to Nigel for arranging transportation to and from the venue - a gargantuan effort, much appreciated. Thanks also to Dick Greener for really fostering a sense of community among the fans who were staying there.
Fred Wedlock Was a great compere, with just the right amount of irreverence. His Sunday opening set was a funny, gentle intro to day two, and helped assuage the deep disappointment that the Strawberry Fools were not playing.
Cathryn Craig and Brian Willoughby. Beautiful vocals from Cathryn, and a chance to really focus on Brian's guitar work. (How does he make it look so effortless?) What more is there to say?
Blue Angel Orchestra Another highlight for me. What a great sound this group has. Melvin Duffy's slide guitar worked surprisingly well, Ian Cutler back again on fiddle, stellar work from the rhythm of Chas and Chris Hunt. Perhaps one of the most memorable visuals is of Dave Cousins jumping up and down in excitement while playing rhythm to Ian's tour de force on Orange Blossom Special. The only other time I have seen him do that was during the 2007 Cropredy performance. Strawbs have always been a song-based band (understandably, with the wonderful songwriting talent), but they certainly have the musicianship to do pure instrumentals as well.
Acoustic Strawbs. A wonderful 4 songs from the current acoustics, including particularly edgy vocals from Dave L on "Cold Steel". Then they were joined by Sonja Kristina, to revisit the All Our Own Work material. Strawbs continually pluck out gems from the back repertoire, but I never expected to hear these songs done with a female vocalist. Sonja did a credible job, although she is no Sandy. Then again, no one is – look at how many different female vocalist have covered Sandy's material at Cropredy. These songs were the emotional highlight for me up until that point. My favorite moment was how in the repetitions of the line "All I Need is You" in the song of the same title, Sonja took Sandy's line, Dave L did Tony's, and Dave C did his original, then at the very end, we had a rare solo vocal line from Chas. True to the past, yet firmly in the present.
Fire Nice evocation of the 60s era, when so much was happening musically, and all kinds of influences came into play.
Electric Strawbs I had not seen the band with Oliver Wakeman, so I was really looking forward to this set. The opening chords of "Sheep" started, and I let out a shriek of excitement (sorry, anyone who was too close to me). Wonderful beginning. Oliver has some shadings that sound like his Dad, yet he has a style all his own. I was particularly impressed with his interesting work on "Autumn", since that song is very much linked with John Hawken. On that same song, Dave L's vocals were particularly emotional.
The songs with the Orchestra were just spectacular. I was sitting very close to the front, and had debated moving when I saw how close I would be. Very glad I didn't. I felt like I was actually in the Orchestra, and could see the faces of the individual members. They seemed very impressed by the reaction of the crowd. "Evergreen", gentle and beautiful with the strings. John Ford's deferred "Heavy Disguise" – one of my very favorite non David Cousins Strawbs songs. I have heard John do it solo, but hearing it with the full arrangement was just amazing. And then, the majestic "River/Down By The Sea". The arrangements truly conveyed the sense of water as a metaphor for emotions. First some calm, then calm before a storm, raging storm, calm after a storm – all brilliantly executed by the Orchestra and our beloved Strawbs.
Final number of the official program – a beautiful version of "Where Silent Shadows Fall". How perfect in context with a military orchestra. And also, how perfect to end the set with a new song. Because unlike many bands that have been around for a long time, Strawbs continue to make new, vital music. The fans (intelligent and discerning as we are) are not just interested in the gems from the past, but eagerly give our attention to and appreciate new material.
My one quibble comes here in that there was no encore. Although I realize it would have been a logistical nightmare, I would have really liked to see a massed Strawbs performance, with all the members who were still around on Sunday. It would have added a great sense of closure to the entire event.
To the bar on such a wonderful high. The intrepid Fools bravely did a set on the stage there. Talk about a tough act to follow, but they did very well. John Ford immediately set himself up in the front row, but I noticed several other Strawbs checking them out as well. Then the afterband with various Strawbs led by Vince Martin.
Lots more socializing, photos of band members and other fans, autographs. I was not intending to do the autograph thing, but then Wakeman and Cousins set up on Saturday night, and I couldn't resist. Knew that I wouldn't get everybody, as I had missed all the Saturday performers. But thanks to the fact that some of the Saturday performers resurfaced on Sunday, and with a last minute run to Jo Partridge as he finished up his afterset, I got quite a good collection. As I said before, every single person was gracious, and seemed to be genuinely happy to be there.
What a wonderful event. In many ways it was over much too soon. Yet it was so jam-packed with special moments and wonderful memories that it seems impossible that all that could have taken place in only two days. Not meant for the casual Strawbs listener, this was truly a celebration that rewarded the devoted fans.
I have to say a few words about Dave Cousins at this point. Although there has been lots of talent in the band over the years, we all know that he is the heart and soul of Strawbs. It was terrific to see him playing various roles over the weekend – rock singer, folk singer, rhythm guitarist, solo guitarist, banjo player, dulcimer player etc. He even got to be compere for one slot, when he introduced Fred Wedlock. More outfit changes than a diva at an awards ceremony, which showed how seriously he took each individual performance. Although he admitted he was exhausted by the very end, it never showed in the quality of the performances. What did show was his emotions, as he seemed deeply moved by getting to work with all the different musicians, and by the reaction of the crowd.
Finally, thanks to all the Strawbs who were present at the weekend for a fabulous two days of music and to them, plus all the Strawbs who were only present in our hearts, thank you for all the joy that your music has given us over the years.
Photo by Adrian the Rock more pictures from Adrian
I have been enjoying reading everyone's commentary on last weekend's Strawbs Family Reunion (as I have come to think of it) -- it is wonderful to hear everyone's thoughts and commentary from different points of view. And it is also helping me to relive what is without a doubt one of the peak experiences of my life.
For now I just want to say that the 40th was the most amazing family reunion I have ever attended. Watching the Strawbs' performing famly onstage in all the various configurations, and seeing so many facets of the multi-talented musicians that have lent their contributions to the band over the years -- I felt like a kid turned loose in a candy shop! Brian Willoughby playing electric guitar, Blue Weaver with TWO Mellotrons, Cathryn Craig adding her lovely voice to the Acoustic Strawbs, Dave Lambert presenting "all the faces of Dave Lambert" with one ensemble after another, Sonja Kristina bringing the beautitful Sandy Denny/Strawbs songs back to life, the ever-versatile Chas Cronk -- everywhere!, Tony Fernandez grinning like the happiest drummer on the planet, Rick Wakeman playing grand piano so close to me that he could be in my living room, Electric Strawbs with an ORCHESTRA, fercryinoutloud!!! There were times when my chest felt like it would explode, because my heart was so full of the awesome beauty and emotion of the music I have loved so well, for so long, coming to me live from stage, all in one magical weekend. (I would love to mention everyone and all the musical highlights, but just haven't got the energy right now, because of this darned cold.)
And then the family reunion spilled over into the Rose Room next door. Not a typical 'music fest' atmosphere where the musicians were HERE, and the fans were THERE... not at this event. The family feeling continued as the musicians mingled with the fans, signing autographs, reminiscing, clearly enjoying the magic of the weekend as well. And more music on the Rose Room stage -- a few of us even got to dance to a reggae beat before the weekend was through!
And through it all there was the incredible camaraderie of the Strawbs' fan family. Meeting Witchwooders I have only known through their words and being welcomed as the long-lost cousin from America, I was overwhelmed with the graciousness and warmth of the British Witchwooders and many others who had travelled from far and wide to be a part of this once in a lifetime event. It was great fun reuiniting with others who I have the pleasure of sharing the music with when the Strawbs come to the US, too. The festivities continued long into the wee hours back at the Travelodge where I was staying, and I am sure would have gone on non-stop if it weren't for our human bodies' need for sleep (did anyone else have that nagging feeling that we aren't as young as we used to be??)
Just like the musicians onstage, we are all so diverse. So many different people from so many different places, all with their own unique tastes and points of view, but with one common thread tying us all together -- this music that we all love so much. For two all-too-brief days, we were one big family. And we celebrated the music together to our fullest capacity. I hope one day to meet you all again, but until then, this event will live on in my heart. Good thing I was one of those people engaging in 'the great autograph hunt', because if I find myself in disbelief that it ever happened, I have proof!
Before the Twickers experience gets too far buried in my memory I'd like to add my voice to the reviews already written, and say how much I enjoyed the whole weekend. Like Strawbs' Chiswick reunion in 1998, which I was also fortunate enough to attend, the extravaganza was magical and this time lasted for two days, not one. The downside for me is that my adrenalin buzz was once again so strong that I've found it hard to remember a lot of what happened - thank goodness for everyone's reviews, photos and setlists, they have proved invaluable!
To start off I do distinctly remember having a lot of fun helping out on wristband duty, which provided an excellent opportunity to meet many friendly fans. Dick and I became experts in the skillful art of "wristbanding" (known in the trade as "putting on" and "cutting the end off"), while Pete Rand excelled at convincing unsuspecting fans of their desperate need to bulk-buy programmes with his Petticoat Lane patter.
Eventually doors opened, and a January sales type queue which had been waiting patiently in anticipation bustled excitedly through from the foyer into the theatre. Decisions, decisions – my little crew had been told the theatre had well-tiered seating, and also tables set out at the front from which to choose. "Where are the tiers?" asked Nigel Bennett as he stumbled into the theatre, his view obscured by the pile of spreadsheets detailing the weekend's transportation rota to and from the Travelodge he was holding. Thanks Nige! Many decided on table seating, but along with several friends I went for the tiers. We truly were spoilt for choice as the view seemed to be excellent wherever anyone chose to sit.
Ok, on with the musical delights now. I promise!
DAVE COUSINS and IAN CUTLER started the proceedings with Ian's excellent fiddling accompanying Dave's vocals. Together they provided a taste of the excitement that was to follow and got everyone very much "in the mood".
ZEUS - I could have listened all day, and the next, to Zeus. It was terrific to hear Dave Lambert get the opportunity to sing lead vocals more than is possible within Strawbs. The expertise of all the musicians involved (Dave, Tom Leary, Graeme Taylor, and Jon Davie) and the meshing of their musical styles was superb, as a standing ovation testified! Zeus is definitely a band to watch out for, and hopefully there will be some samples of what we can expect to hear on their forthcoming album soon appearing on their myspace at www.myspace.com/zeusacoustic.
First "STRAWBS" to take the stage was the HEARTBREAK HILL line-up – it was fantastic to hear the songs from that album played live, some of which I consider to be among Strawbs' most potent. What a powerhouse of a drummer Tony Fernandez still is (despite Roy Hill's later quip to the contrary!) and he and Chas Cronk rocked the place good and proper. It was great to see Andy Richards again too, and having earlier blanked him when he introduced himself to me at the wristband desk (unintentionally of course - he had big curly hair last time I saw him!) I would have recognised him with my eyes shut once he started playing. Jo Partridge provided some terrific guitar, just as on the album.
CRY NO MORE – Roy Hill and Chas Cronk were both on top, top form. Roy was clearly relishing every moment of playing to the gallery, and had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand. I've seen CNM (and Roy solo) many times before, but always come away feeling as though I've found 20 pence. (CNM in-joke!). Lest anyone gets the impression CNM are simply a "comedy duo" however, buy the albums and have a listen to the rather deeper lyrics which accompany many of their jaunty little tunes. It was brilliant to be treated to CNM's "Buy One, Get One Free" offer of a second set in the Rose Room at the end of the evening, which kicked off with one of my faves, "George's Bar". I adore that song, and the audience reaction close to where I was standing was a sight to behold! (www.myspace.com/crynomoremusic)
Next STRAWBS configuration was the BLUE ANGEL line-up – again, it was wonderful to hear another selection of different Strawbs' songs, this time with both Brian Willoughby and Cathryn Craig drafted in to give a slightly "prettier" sound than the HH line-up. Nice to see BLUE WEAVER back onstage with the band too; I really enjoyed his solo spot at the end complete with an explanation of the song he wrote for his daughter when she was young and recently played at her wedding. A nice (and unexpected) treat to hear him sing solo too.
JOHN FORD – I really enjoyed hearing John perform again, and found it very emotional too, as he played a "Hudson Ford" medley which included my favourite HF song, "Floating in the Wind" and was dedicated to Ken Laws and Micky Keene (former drummer and lead guitarist, now both sadly deceased). Not for the first time of the day I had to reach for a tissue, as the songs brought back so many happy memories of my youth and a lot of fun times at HF gigs. It was great to hear John perform "Big Hit In India", and "Together Apart" again too. (www.johnfordmusic.net)
RICK WAKEMAN and DAVE COUSINS – what can I say…unsurprisingly, it was a superb set, full of musical delicacies with much banter and humour. Thankfully Rick and Dave managed to stop laughing at each other's jokes and stories for long enough to play several Strawbs' classics, including the first Strawbs' song I ever heard, "A Glimpse of Heaven". It was a beautiful set to round off an amazing day.
The second day of celebrations began with a set from FRED WEDLOCK. Again I made a move for the tissues - I've seen Fred several times now and have never failed to be moved to tears. He made a great compere throughout the weekend, and his "British Barbecue" song is still making me chuckle.
CATHRYN CRAIG and BRIAN WILLOUGHBY, up next, gave an excellent performance, with Brian's intricate guitar-playing complementing Cathryn's powerful vocals. They left the stage with a bang due to something being plugged in behind the scenes. Loud as it was, that couldn't detract from what had gone before and hopefully their performance will draw many out to catch them on their forthcoming UK and European dates, and also to invest in "Calling All Angels", which was released recently. (www.craigandwilloughby.com)
THE BLUE ANGEL ORCHESTRA - aided and abetted on this occasion by both Ian Cutler fiddling away and Melvin Duffy on pedal steel (it has usually been one or t'other in the past) rocked as ever. Favourites for me were the bluesy "Hellfire Blues" and the drifty "Mellow Moon" (in complete contrast to which it was virtually impossible to sit still in my seat by the time "Skip to my Lou" finished the set). (www.myspace.com/theblueangelorchestra)
Fittingly, the third STRAWBS incarnation was the acoustic trio, who played superbly as ever. They were joined on some songs by Sonja Kristina who took over Sandy Denny's vocals, recreating a long-gone Strawbs era from the mists of time. Sonja did a great job (Essex girls rock – I just wish I knew how she still manages to look about 29!!).
FIRE – having seen the 2007 Fire reunion shows, and owning "The Magic Shoemaker" album (and the live CD released in 2008), I knew what to expect, or at least what I hoped I could expect. I wasn't disappointed – Fire were as powerful and tight as ever, with Dave Lambert on lead vocals and guitars, Bob Voice (drums) and Dick Dufall (bass) clearly relishing every moment of this latest opportunity to recreate their late 60's/early 70's sounds. The set included "Treacle Toffee World" and "Father's Name is Dad", both of which I really enjoyed. The enduring appeal of these extremely punchy songs was clear (the latter was voted no. 6 in a poll of "The Ten Best British Psychedelic Songs" in The Independent newspaper in 2004, and clearly for good reason). It was a nice touch to see the "fairytale" backdrop projections used for the 2007 shows again. Exciting stuff, just a shame it all seemed to be over so quickly! (www.myspace.com/2007fire)
Finally, the current STRAWBS line-up blasted the audience from their seats – this wasn't a surprise as I'd seen this line-up several times on their last tour, but they were no less awe-inspiring for that. Oliver Wakeman has taken over where John Hawken left off in admirable fashion. Despite having such a difficult act to follow, he has firmly put his own stamp on the band's sound. Rod Coombes and Chas provided a superb rhythm section backdrop as ever, and the band rocked as one.
Everything for me started to become a bit of a blur from that point onwards, as emotion must have got the better of me along with many others in the audience. I assume it was a combination of the poignancy and majesty of the songs being played with the addition of the Royal Artillery Band, the crowd reaction, and the fact that a magical weekend among so many friends was rapidly drawing to a close. Refreshing my memory by looking at the setlist and other reviews I do recall that "Evergreen" was definitely a peak moment for me, with astonishingly beautiful orchestration at the hands of Robert Kirby. John Ford accompanied by Dave Lambert and the Orchestra performed "Heavy Disguise", another Strawbs' classic, and a stunning finale followed in the form of "The River/Down by the Sea" and "Where Silent Shadows Fall". I can't wait to see the DVD as I barely remember any of it! (That may sound ridiculous but the more engrossed I am at a gig the less I remember. I was definitely ENGROSSED!!)
Anyway, thankfully we were all let down gently after the official Grande Finale by yet more treats in The Rose Room, including a slimmed down version of The Strawberry Fools (plus Heather and Joe Bruno – well done!). They provided a soft landing by bravely performing several songs to a large audience which included various Strawbs and hundreds of fans. (I'm looking forward immensely to the next opportunity to catch the full line-up of The Fools in all their glory - www.strawberryfools.co.uk). They were followed by a set led by Vince Martin and various Strawbs – mingling and lots of lively chatter made it impossible to pay full attention in the bar area, but there was a constant backdrop of great music for which I for one was extremely grateful.
So, after various farewell waves, hugs, kisses, cuddles and smooches on the pavement outside the venue, and not wanting to get arrested, it was back to Feltham Travelodge for a final night and madrugada (I love that Spanish word!) of revelry amongst friends old and new. A weary Monday morning breakfast at a nearby café was followed by lots more goodbye hugs and kisses (the café staff were very helpful, but we decided leaving a tip was more appropriate), and the 40th Anniversary celebrations sadly came to a conclusion as we all went our separate ways.
Stunningly good music aside, it really was such a pleasure to spend so much time with other fans and band members, many of whom have given us untold pleasure throughout the years and continue to do so. Another tissue please.
Back in my high school days in the USA, when I started getting into the Strawbs, I would have never, ever dreamed that one day I would eventually see them live, and in London, no less. This was only my third Strawbs concert and my first ever was at Hampton Court on May 1st 2009.
Seeing different Strawbs line ups, the Wakeman and Cousins duo, the Acoustic Strawbs with Sonja Kristina, John Ford, the great Robert Kirby conducting The Royal Artillery Orchestra, and all the others, was like a dream. All the different performers and musical sets were brilliant to my ears. Much of the music was new to me such as; Cathryn Craig and Brian Willoughby's music, Ian Cutler with Dave Cousins, Cry No More, and of course Zeus, to name some. Oh, and I can not forget Mr. Fred Wedlock's contribution to the weekend. Great stuff Fred! I have now discovered more wonderful music to explore and listen to. My music/CD collection has grown a wee bit because of this.
The two day concert was so very well organized. Even the "after gig get togethers", in the bar/banquet area were very nice. Various band members were mingling and having drinks and chats with the many fans. For example, I shared a few laughs with Roy Hill and Brian Willoughby. Good fun! Also I had a nice chat with Sonja Kristina about various things "Nordic" and I had a chat with Rod Coombes about various thing jazz related. These were just a few extra pleasures for me. It felt like being at a party, not a concert. I can't remember ever attending such a unique and wonderful musical event. And, for me, I'm not sure if the "40 Years On" concert will ever be bettered, and I have been to many, many gigs. Maybe if Dave organizes a "45 Years On" event..., now, that would be nice!
When I really think about it, for me, this was not a concert or a gig, but it was a happening, an event, a party, a get together of friends. That is how it felt and it felt very good!
A special note. Hats off to Andy Thompson (and to the other bloke, sorry, I forgot your name) for assisting Blue Weaver in the way of two real Mellotrons on stage for the Blue Angel set. It was a real pleasure for me hearing Blue play the 'Trons on stage. For example, the first few chords of Mellotron during "New World" was a real kick when the sound came blasting in! Great! I have to admit that I'm an anorak for that stuff.
And not quite last, and definitely not least, meeting many other very nice and friendly music enthusiasts and fans, such as other "Witchwooders" and some "Fools", was another fine pleasure. A sense of warm friendship and harmony graced the weekend. The entire experience was beyond great for me!
To Dave Cousins, the Strawbs, and all the other creators of the musical magic. Thanks! Music makes life better! Bless you all!
I had a wonderful time and it was a great weekend. Do thank Dave in the warmest way possible for all of us. It wasn't only a wonderful weekend of music, but the best organised such event I have ever attended. I didn't expect any less, but it was so nice not to be disappointed. He is a truly great man and it is a privilege to know him and his music.
Having not had a holiday this summer......a whole weekend of fantastic and lovely music, humour, good company, good conversation ; making new friends and so many 'Music Heros' my 'batteries' are well and truly recharged :-)
I wouldn't have changed anything, sheer perfection, how lovely of DC to use his moving song Where Silent Shadows, to promote such a worthy charity.
Will write a review later.
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU
Did we have a wonderful time or what? Shame we didn't get to see the Strawberry Fools but wasn't Fred on top form. Don't ever think we underestimate the work put into the weekend - we can imagine the burden and we really really appreciate all that was done for all of the lucky people who attended - us included.
And what a FINE ALE as Fred would have said. It just blew us away. Next Strawbs event for us is Buxton Opera House.
Great weekend. Good to meet up with old friends and get talking to others I hadn't met before, must check mugshots again to see who I may have just said hello to in passing. Hard to select high spots because there weren't any bits I didn't enjoy, the odd intro mistakes could be forgiven and were soon made up for by powerful performance. It all went by so quick I need the DVD for an action replay, hope it's out quicker than Bilston.
My Cup Runneth Over.
I haven't come down from the clouds enough to write a review yet. Just want to say what an indescribable few days it has been, watching stunningly good music from band after band, and having so many powerful emotions stirred up.
Fantastic to meet up with so many great friends and also to make a lot of new ones. Hope everyone has a good journey home. Also, mindful of everyone who would have liked to have been there but couldn't be. We were thinking of you and you were with us in spirit.
Too much - time for a lie-down!
Well, I'm home, and after three days of too much beer and too little (an excellent combination for any vacation -- as a matter of fact, if you don't come home from vacation more tired than you began, you probably haven't done it right).
Hopefully, I'll get a chance to write something about the tour in the next day or so, while I'm still basking in the glow of the weekend.
Before that I wish to thank the UK Witchwooders, especially those who were in the Travelodge contingency. As a relative stranger to the group, I found you all gracious, friendly and incredibly inclusive. Though I came from the States and hadn't met many of you before throughout the weekend, I felt that I was included in a group of old friends.
As great as the music was ... and it was GREAT, at the very top of the highlight list for me was the feeling of welcome from all of you and the opportunity to meet a whole new set of friends in person.
I too have my head in the clouds still.......and did not get much pillow time Sunday night with the sounds of the day reverberating around my head. Will comment in more detail when my head clears somewhat.
I just wanted to thank you for all the hard work put in. Yes, the Strawbs, their friends and relatives are all delightful – but it still must have cost a mountain of effort - and I want you to know just how very much it was appreciated.
Amazing event, which we will remember for a very very long time.........
I attended the 40th.anniversary weekend at Twickenham and needed to say a few things....what a great, fantastic, brilliant, superb two days of ecstasy it was !
I was blown away by the whole occasion and the masterful musicianship of all concerned. I must admit that I was a little apprehensive about spending two full days worth of music involving some groups who had had little or no rehearsal time before hand - I was expecting some degree of organised chaos.
However, I was very pleasantly surprised with the contrary. Each act sounded like they had been rehearsing for a long time - they were all "tight".
Fred consistently brought tears to my eyes with his witticisms and the blend of chemistry between all the players was a joy to behold. My favourite "double act" was surely when Rick and Dave took the stage, it reminded me of Saint & Greavsie.
Please pass on my thanks to Dave et al for a fantastic weekend.
ps.looking forward to hearing Dave L's new group Zeus on CD - I hope they will be releasing something soon.
What a weekend. Pass my personal thanks on to the boys and every one who was involved.
That was a totally amazing weekend. The music was breathtaking with the worst set being only slightly less than totally brilliant. A full weekend of Strawbs, and there still wasn't enough: how many bands could do that? The event was wonderfully organized and the setting excellent (the only minor grouse was the lack of variety with the food!). I was amazed by the friendliness of the whole event: both fans and performers mingled meeting old and new friends. Witchwooders from both sides of the Atlantic put faces to names (translators were provided!!).
I was pleasantly amazed by the manner in which the audience focussed on the music: how many times have an Acoustics or Brian and Cathryn set been marred by people talking, but not here.
AND NOW..... I am pleased to announce the 2 winners of the ATB Pete awards.
Firstly the "I sang a folksong once and inhaled" award for face furniture goes to.... Dave Lambert.
Secondly the award for the prestigious "Pete Madeley lookalike from behind award" goes to Chas (who was nominated by several ladies!).
I've read some super, detailed reviews of Twickenham and I don't want to bore everyone by repeating what has already been so eloquently stated. I can't, however, let the occasion pass by without a few comments and, of course, thanks. The weekend was a triumph in every way. I have spent most of this weekend thinking: "This time last week...". I loved all the performances, especially the final show, but was particularly delighted to see BAO, Zeus and Cry No More as I hadn't seen them before. I was very impressed and hope to see them all again very soon. Please, please remember us Northern Witchwooders when booking tour dates! I'm certainly looking forward to hearing the new Zeus CD.
Many thanks to anyone involved in the organization of the show - it must have been a logistical nightmare with so much potential for things to go wrong. Nothing did. Super! Thanks to all those who attended and showed such friendship. Thanks to all who performed; no-one was less than brilliant. Thanks to Dick. Thanks to Andy and especially Mike who did all the driving. I am sure I'm not the only one who would stump up loads of quids to have the whole thing on DVD (rude jokes, swearing and mistakes - not many of these - included). Let's have another next year.
Enough postings on the subject the forthcoming dvd of THAT weekend have indicated the universal desire for the footage of the entire weekend's festivities be made available.
In these days of modern technology short runs of CD's and DVD's are economically viable. So, if we skimp on the cover art, may I humbly suggest that a double DVD "best of", nicely packaged with all the trimmings be made for popular consumption and, for the hardcore fans, a series of specialist DVD's with all the sets in their entirity (and the stuff from the Rose Room etc.) - maybe, what, 3 sets per DVD, in chronological order, available individually?
THAT weekend clearly meant so much to so many; I felt so sorry for the Dutch contingent (the "sponsored walk" as Fred referred to them) who had to leave before the finale. We all waved them off during the last fag break!
And all those who couldn't make it. My heart really goes out to you guys... I do so hope the DVDs live up to your expectations, no, of course they will.
I would say a DVD set with all the footage from the weekend that meets these requirements:
1. a performance the artist is pleased with
2. video footage good enough that when edited satisfies the director and the artist
3. audio that the artist is happy with.
Preorder bonus: a program from the event signed by as many of the artists as possible.
Then a completist package of all the other songs (audio only) available as a download from Witchwood Records at an additional fee.
It's a simple vision but nothing else will do, so let's not go round and round on this. We're not asking for something for nothing - we'll all gladly preorder. We can make it together. Together we'll have the ways and means. You can have from October to May to put it together, just so we have it before Bjorn has to sail away to the sea again. Don't tell us it will take longer 'cause that's when the crying starts. Maybe someone else would have the patience to wait through the winter and the summer - someone like the man who called himself Jesus but we're all too anxious. Think of it: There will come the day the DVD, with all its words of wisdom, arrives in this barren land under a cloudless sky and brings us a glimpse of heaven. Ah me, ah my, it seems such a day is always on my mind recently. Or am I dreaming? Don't let this be all in vain. Don't tell us to beat the retreat and get back in the old routine. Jenny O'Brien, Lawrence Brown, Joey and me feel just the same in every way about this. We want you to keep on trying to make those deadlines. Like we say in Seattle let it rain the winter long, come spring - it's a new world! Oh, how she changed! New beginnings everywhere! This is the call to action we must heed! Don't be caught deep in the darkest night dancing to the devil's beat beneath the angry sky while we're all here calling out your name. Look out on the horizon, the moon and stars are waiting till the sun comes shining through again. Yes, another day! My oh my my, what a glorious day it will be too when that DVD arrives...