Updated: 13 Nov 2009
Oh How She Changed
CIVIC CENTRE AYLESBURY, 1 Oct 2009
I saw the show at Aylesbury. Group order was:
Acoustic Strawbs (brilliant of course).
Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash (did most of Argus, not much else)
Curved Air (nice to hear a couple of tracks from their very underrated 4th album)
Focus (very good technically but I started to lose interested in long jazz/rock fusion instrumentals)
Still, the best £25 I've spent in a long long time. Show went on till nearly midnight. Back home in Eastleigh at 02:00 was the only downer.
Oh How She Changed
THE ANVIL BASINGSTOKE, 2 OCT 2009
I've been to Basingstoke ! ..as did 5-600 hundred others
The Anvil is a lovely theatre and the sound quality on the night was absolutely superb. The Acoustics started the evening in terrific fashion and a mad rush to the merchandise desk by many, during the changeover between them and the next act, bore testimony to the impression they had made.
Wishbone Ash were good once they got onto stuff from Argus and early albums from the early '70's, but Focus - were, something else..Thijs van Leer.- great showman on Hammond organ. All in all a very entertaining evening.
Looking forward to the show next Friday with Stackridge, Curved Air and Strawbs..so until then a biento.
PHILHARMONIC HALL LIVERPOOL, 2 OCT 2009
Neil Punnett found this on the Focus tour blog, and suggests that, clearly, the boys are winning new fans on this tour.
"I was there last night in the 'Pool as well, and yes indeed the acoustics at the Philharmonic Hall are a great joy. The band [Focus] was great as was Martin's (the best) version of Wishbone Ash before them - and - it was a great surprise to discover what a lovely sound the three Strawbs guys made with just acoustic guitars and three-part harmonies."
WYVERN THEATRE SWINDON, 5 OCT 2009
Thanks to Heather Malcolm for spotting this.
Oh How She Changed
PALACE THEATRE SOUTHEND, 9 OCT 2009(WITH CURVED AIR AND STACKRIDGE)
An absolutely miserable journey from East London to "Sarfend" (along with everyone else in London as far as the traffic goes) in the pouring rain. But the Palace Theatre is a splendid old-style theatre on the London Road, stunning from the outside and a great space inside (despite the rather concrete National Theatre bunker-style which the adjoining bar5 has been done out in.
Lumme, there's eight of them, was my first thought, as they piled onto the stage of Southend's historic (and rather fine) Palace Theatre. Two guitarist/vocalists (I think James Warren and Andy Davies) shared much of the lead vocalising (rather than Mutter Slater, slightly to my surprise, who was more frequently occupied with playing some nice flute or waving a tambourine. Also striking, both visually and musically, were the two young ladies playing violin (one of whom doubled up on a second keyboard and backing vocals. I'm hoping Nigel B (a great Stackridge fan) will be providing a setlist - there were certainly a few of their latest album A Victory For Common Sense - "Red Squirrel", "The Old Country", "Lost And Found" (I liked this particularly) and "The Day The World Stopped Turning", the set ended with "Do The Stanley", which of course, everyone did! A curious mixture of close to musical hall style from Slater, with laid back progressive, British eccentric rock from other band members. Appealing, but slightly mystifying from those who don't know the genre.
Band in fine firm, but sound rather odd - Chas's 12-string very overpowering, and rather too much reverb in places. Slightly strange to see them perform in front of the curtain whilst Curved Air set up on stage. Setlist as previously.
Just something about Sonja Kristina which captures the eye - she's all energy and movement - her "hand signals" make Dave Cousins in full flight look like a stone statue, on top of which she glides around - on and off - the stage dancing to the instrumental sections.
Drummer Florian Pilkington Miksa was in attendance, but sadly not violinist Darryl Way, who was unwell, replaced very effectively by Paul Sax, along with keyboard player Chris Harris (I hope I got these two the right way round!) Guitarist Kit Morgan, dressed in classic rock guitarist velvet longcoat gear, was also impressive. Hits "It Happened Today", "Back Street Luv" were featured, "Propositions" and a very good song "Woman On A One Night Stand". For me, the top song was a more acoustic number "Melinda", which saw Sonja play a rather attractive acoustic guitar, and which struck a note of variety - some light and shade in an otherwise pretty full on set. Nevertheless a very accomplished performance, with lots to captivate.
[Would have given a lot to see Sonja come out before the Curved Air slot and join the boys on stage for another sublime rendition of those Sandy Denny numbers ... perhaps one day .... ]
Ah, at Mr Greener's request I am reviewing a Strawbs gig by focusing my scribblings on another band. There were no monsters about tonight (Slark) or indeed I didn't catch any Purple Spaceships flying over Southend, rather than Yatton but....
Being of West Country extraction when the usual mode of transport to a gig was "shank's pony" - ( that was the only way until you were old enough to drive) it is not surprising to find that Stackridge, coming from those general parts, form part of my history.
Tonight a return to Southend for the first time in 30 years it seems, was it The Kursal Palais or the Kursal Ballroom - it was about the time Lindsay started absconding from kindergarten to get to gigs, so she can probably confirm which is correct.
Any way tonight Dick, Lindsay and me gathered for the Southend return, although really the main attraction was Strawbs .... of course !
But let's carry on with my version of the Stackridge history and as has already been said by Dick, you don't a monotonous serial sound - you get everything from Floyd- esque epics , music hall , quirky songs and ballads , but what you get are a bunch of fine musicians stretching their creativity in all sorts of directions with lyrical content going places where others cannot, or dare not reach.
The band still contains 4 of the original 1969 members and they hold the distinct privilege of being the very first performers to play at the very first Glastonbury festival. After a disbandment in the late '70's two members went on to achieve great chart success under the name "The Korgis" both sides of the Atlantic - "Everybody's Got To Learn Sometime" & "If I Had You." After a few "local " gigs demanded by long term fans a few years back led to them reforming with virtually the original line -up, but with the addition of two girls on violin, a keyboard player and new drummer. I think they performed at both Glastonbury and Cropredy last year.
Tonight they played virtually everything off of their latest album released this year A Victory For Common Sense, and the tracks were (not in order - having notes to refer to)
The Old Country
(Waiting For You and) England to Return
North Street Grande
Long Dark River
Lost and Found
The Day The World Stopped Turning - An 11 minute epic...
Boot sand Shoes
And augumented with
The Road to Venezuala
Do The Stanley
Sorry, that may not be precise and perfect, but it's a close as I can get this morning, two days after the event.
Of course I can't do a review of a gig without a little Strawbs content and so..........
For those that have been to the Classic Rock Tour, it was a change for the Acoustics not to be first on the bill. Here they slotted in between to other two bands, no doubt to facilitate the change of set behind those mysterious curtains.
Having seen their show at the Anvil the previous where the sound was outstanding, tonight there was room for a little improvement, that was due to the technicians no doubt, as the guys played as we know they can and thrilled many in the audience anyway. Having returned to their seats for Curved Air the three guys sat in front. who continually used superlatives like , brilliant and outstanding during the Strawbs performance all came back each clutching the same Strawbs CD.
Yesterday I was out and bumped into someone who had been to the Swindon show earlier that week - and had no knowledge of the Acoustics, but he was mightily impressed and said he would definitely get out to see them again, as he wanted to see a longer show.
The set list was the familiar one for the tour.
And then there was Curved Air, firstly without Sonya..as an instrumental opened their set and she appeared for the second number. One member of the front row audience was well into the band as he expressed the words and moods with hand gestures all night long whilst they were on stage and obviously caught Sonya's eye as towards the end she lean't forward to grab his arm in as if in a gesture of mutual admiration and sharing of the music.
There was an excellent fiddle solo during the solo, with the frenetic playing creasing and distorting, every sinew of the musician's anatomy.
Having been released from set list duties, I have no record of what was played, but my mind was I suppose still drifting back a few weeks to seeing Sonya sitting on the stools singing and taking the part of Sandy - memories are made of that.
Then all to soon it was time to be leaving, for the long trek home, satisfied in the thought we had enjoyed a great evening's entertainment.
Oh How She Changed
ORCHARD THEATRE, DARTFORD, 10 Oct 2009
Great venue - big modern theatre, with neon strips running along the various levels of seating - very stylish. Decent friendly bar, though very crowded in intervals. Good cakes apparently !
Perfect sound, possibly the best I've heard the Acoustics sound for a long time, even down to some nice touches - Lambert's seagull noises being panned in stereo around the hall. Congratulations to a thoughtful sound person.
Setlist as previously, with a strong rendition of "Lay Down" to open, followed by a splendid "New World" - a new growly finish to the last vocal line of the song which is very striking. "Oh How She Changed" just perfect with a lovely bit of echo on Lambert's vocal. For any Strawbs fan, just six tracks is of course never enough, but by all accounts they have proved popular with this attending to see the other bands, which is of course highly desirable and the object of the exercise. Tonight, the band were on top form vocally and musically, and with such a sympathetic sound treatment, couldn't have been better
After an opening number which I'm afraid I didn't catch the name of, we were treated to a full scale rendition of the classic Argus album - no complaints from me, as it is my favourite Wishbone album, blending some nice acoustic work and some fabulous harmonies with a more rock band approach. In fact those well-executed harmonies are probably the key thing for me - on a few occasions I could imagine Dave Cousins and co having a stab at these without too much difficulty.
Turner's supporting players were super - the two guitarists Ray Hatfield and Danny Willson swapped between lead and rhythm effortlessly - some really excellent guitar solos - and the climaxing number showed off their dual lead playing - classic Wishbone. Dave Wagstaffe was excellent on drums, and Martin's bass and lead vocal perfectly re-created the classic sound.
All the tracks from Argus were included: "Time Was" (nice acoustic intro from Ray), "Sometime World", "The King Will Come" "Leaf and Stream", "Warrior" "Throw Down the Sword" and "Blowin' Free", all very much crowd pleasing stuff, with lots of energy and verve, sending me in particular back to my vinyl collection to pull that copy of Argus for future listening.
Finishing off the night, Focus grabbed visual attention from the outset. Thijs Van Leer cuts a mildly eccentric figure, a bit like that chap who popularised Channel 4 racing - behatted, in strange knee high shorts, with slightly alarming sideburns, he is positioned to the left of the stage, behind a beautiful wooden Hammond Organ, with a Leslie speaker behind him, both of which look as though they date from the 70s, and have seen a little life. Long-time drummer Pierre van der Linden is on a raised podium at the back, stage right, and in front of him two younger players complete the line-up, Bobby Jacobs on bass, and an outstanding guitarist Niels van der Steenhoven.
Opening with "House Of The King", the band also played hits "Sylvia" and the closer "Hocus Pocus" - complete with all the yodelling, and some nice audience support - which had segued from a nice flute solo from the front mic by van Leer, written for his lady, and which then led to the almost inevitable drum solo. The long number "Eruption" from Moving Waves and "Focus 3" were also on the setlist.
Stunning musicianship from all involved - van Leer equally adept on flute and organ, Jacobs pulled off some interesting bass solos and the guitarist was exceptional. Strong support from the fans with a standing ovation at the end.
I was about to post my own review of Dartford but Dick has done a far better job. My only observation was that as the Acoustics were replacing the Groundhogs on a Classic ROCK tour, it was a pity it couldn't have been the Electric version. With the sound setup they would have blown away a few cobwebs and I'm sure the audience would have given them a standing ovation as they did for W.A. and Focus.
Still, an enjoyable night, but I did start to lose the will to live part way through Focus's set. I prefer a few lyrics in a set and I did note a few punters who voted with their feet. That aside I second Dick's comments on the musicianship of both bands, just a pity they didn't get to see/hear an interchange with Dave L & Oliver!!
PALACE THEATRE SOUTHEND, 9 OCT 2009/ORCHARD THEATRE, DARTFORD, 10 Oct 2009
Excellent reviews are already in of Southend Palace Theatre and The Orchard, Dartford but I'd just like to put on record how excellently I think Acoustic Strawbs are playing on this tour, and hopefully that will win them a lot of new admirers from audiences who have never seen them.
As Steve has said, the Dartford gig was predominantly a "rock" gig, with Wishbone Ash and Focus. Strawbs sounded absolutely amazing - seriously goosepimple-inducing - whether the acoustics of the Orchard theatre, or the soundman, was a major reason or whether it was because Strawbs are so bursting with energy (compensation for their set being short on the triple bill) I dont know, but it really was a stunner.
I enjoyed Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash a lot too - much more than when I last saw them, actually. The vocals sounded a lot better (I think MT may have had a cold or something last time) and there were some really nice harmonies. I only ever had their "Pilgrimage" LP, so didn't know "Argus", which they played, but enjoyed their set a lot.
Focus...I think they are excellent musicians without doubt, and are obviously appreciated by an awful lot of people. They're just not my own cup of tea (like Steve, whom I spotted having a "Dick Greener" moment somewhere during one of their epic instrumentals!). I saw them in August when they headlined the Cambridge Rock Festival and enjoyed them immensely there, but I think a tent at midnight crammed full of people who have been lubricating their vocal chords all evening in readiness for a communal yodel to "Hocus Pocus" did create a slightly different atmosphere from the Orchard Theatre! Thijs van Leer is an interesting character though, and Focus are definitely worth seeing, even for lyric-junkies like Strawbs fans. I really enjoyed the flute-playing too.
At Southend it was a first for me to see both Stackridge and Curved Air - I really enjoyed a lot of Stackridge's set, funnily enough having just written what I did about Focus, it mainly seemed to be Stackridge's instrumentals that I liked. There was a lot going on (eight band members!) so everything was constantly changing and interesting. I was a bit confused by the jauntier numbers though (particularly their finishing song) - the differing styles just didnt seem to fit to me, being someone who knows nothing about the band whatsoever.
Strawbs were the middle band to play on the bill and were, of course, excellent. The sound wasn't as amazing as at Dartford, but the set was still 9.99999999999 out of 10 in my opinion. I glowed with pride as I listened to several overheard comments in the bar afterwards, which confirmed they had impressed a lot of the uninitiated.
Curved Air - again, interesting visually with Sonja Kristina moving around the stage most of the time. My favourite song was "Melinda", which she sang and played acoustic guitar to accompany, and I also really liked the band's instrumental piece when she left the stage. (Yes I am full of contradictions aren't I - I think basicially for me it boils down to keeping things changing and evolving - too much of any one style starts to bore me.)
All in all then, two great nights, two opportunities to get lost in Strawbs-world and realise how lucky we are to have them, and four other bands of great musicians that were interesting to watch.
Oh How She Changed
WINDING WHEEL CHESTERFIELD, SUNDAY 11 OCT 2009
Slight charge to setlist from the previous night - see box on right.
An all too short Strawbs performance though they were well appreciated by an audience who were probably mainly followers of either of the other groups.
Not seen either version of Wishbone Ash before but owning the Argus album the songs were familiar.
Focus were like nothing I'd heard live before since Focus circa '76.
A very enjoyable night, good to see three bands on the bill.
CORN EXCHANGE CAMBRIDGE, 12 OCT 2009
Prompt 7.30 kick off; with the best certainly served up for the early arrivals. Chas Cronk was in fine form with his pedal power providing some fine moments to the overall Strawbs sound. Vocal mix was spot on tonight which is something of an achievement for the Cambridge Corn Exchange; a venue that has for years held the legendary nickname of 'The Bin' for good reason. Dave Cousins vocals never cease to amaze me; so effortless yet full of emotion as "New World" demonstrated.
Highlights from the set for me were the re-worked "Oh How She Changed" and the evergreen "Autumn" where Dave Lambert truly excelled. "Lay Down" with a vocal harmony that whirled back those clock hands to 1972 was indeed a fitting finale.
I have indeed been blessed by having the opportunity of attending Electric and Acoustic Strawbs gigs this year. I hope to have the opportunity of such indulgence again in the near future.
Oh How She Changed
GUILDHALL PRESTON, 19 OCT 2009
We attended the Preston gig last night (19th October) and I've enclosed a few details if they are of any use to you.
How often do you have a brilliant starter in a restaurant but find the main course slightly disappointing? That was my reaction to the Classic Legends of Rock Tour.
My first Strawbs concert was at the Guild Hall on the Bursting At The Seams Tour so it's always a bit special to see the band here. They certainly didn't disappoint, with a haunting "Oh How She Changed" and an achingly beautiful rendition of "Autumn" - the highlights of a brilliant set that seemed to finish before it had begun. Dave Lambert's vocals (and seagulls) just get better and better.
This incarnation of Wishbone Ash played some great stuff, but by sticking almost entirely to material from Argus, there was no sense of the band's development. Certain classic tracks such as "Warrior" fell slightly short of the crossbar although a cameo appearance by Thijs Van Leer on "Throw Down The Sword" and a driving "Blowin Free" redeemed their performance.
Focus were a delightful dessert and sent everyone home happy, with Van Leer orchestrating the band like some manic Dutch matelot from behind his wooden Hammond.
Certainly, there were plenty of new converts to The Strawbs judging from the conversations round the bar
In view of the recent collaboration between Rick Wakeman and the excellent Gordon Giltrap, I have a cunning plan for a lineup for one of these evenings....but THAT really is being greedy!
MARINA THEATRE LOWESTOFT, 21 OCT 2009
When I saw that the Groundhogs,Wishbone Ash and Focus were on at the Marina Theatre in my home town of Lowestoft I thought interesting but not worth £23. But then came the news the Acoustic Strawbs were replacing the Groundhogs and this put a whole new spin on it and the tickets were purchased.
The Strawbs opened in fine style with "Benedictus", I was sitting to the far left of the stage just five rows from the speakers I thought that I had made a mistake with the seat choice but surprisingly being so close the sound was excellent. The only down side was that we only just saw Chas over the top of one of the speakers. One of the highlights of this performance was the new version of "Oh How She Changed". Dave Lamberts voice just lately has a much stronger edge with each word defined perfectly and his voice has turned this classic Strawbs song into a stunning one, in fact I felt the hairs stand up on the back of my neck it was that good. Also Dave Lambert's seagull sounds at the start of "Autumn" were the best ever and added to an excellent version of this much loved song that is now a concert classic. All the songs were delivered with the usual passion and quality that we have come to expect from the Acoustic Strawbs and this was highlighted by a very powerful performance of "New World".
The Strawbs left the stage to a thunderous applause and Neil 'the tour, come stage, come sales manager' Byford was kept very busy at the sales desk. When I first walked in at the start of the show I heard him say to a Strawbs fan the Recollection CD was only £5, good sales talk this, not bad for £5 I thought so I purchased it. I then spotted the Sampler CD and I asked how much and he said £10, he then used the magic words that all good salesman use "There are only a few left", my last chance I thought before it becomes a collectors piece only. Therefore thanks to Neil I now have a complete collection of Strawbs CDs, and the Strawbs have £15, I was only going to buy the Recollection CD for £5; what a salesman.
Wishbone Ash and Focus both had excellent sound. The 'Ash' were superb and played the entire 'Argus' album which was great to hear again, but Focus even though they were well worth seeing were at times self indulgent. The song or collection of songs called "Euruption" was far too long and the bass and drum solos were not necessary.
I felt both bands had a much longer performance time than the Acoustic Strawbs and the Focus set could have been much shorter so we we could have had a couple of more songs from the Strawbs.
This is a genuine unbiased view from a Strawbs fan because I have also liked Wishbone Ash and Focus in the past, but I felt that the Strawbs sound seemed more relevant and up to date than the other two bands, my wife thought the same and so did my sister in law who said the Strawbs sound is unique.
However I loved the the whole night this is an excellent show with outstanding lead guitarists in all three bands and in my opinion well worth the ticket price. I feel that the Acoustic Strawbs late inclusion to this 'Legends' tour has added a touch of class to the programme and judging by what people were saying after the show confirmed that was not just my opinion.