Updated: 20 July 2010
You Don't Love Me
Down Home Girl
Built Fir Comfort
They Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday's Just As Bad)
Let's Work Together
I'm Coming Home
A Glimpse Of Heaven
Hangman And The Papist
STRAWBERRY HILL FUN DAY, ST MARY'S COLLEGE, STRAWBERRY HILL, SUN 18 JUL 2010
Absolutely cracking day out with some fabulous music, and really fantastic weather. Traditional for me to wear my green shorts and straw hat at this event, so I did, the result being that, though sunburn on my shiny dome was kept at bay, I neglected to keep my knees out of the sun and they hurt like hell the next day!
Opening the show was the Two MustGetBeers, Brian Willoughby and Big John Evans, playing an acoustic set, without their partner in crime, Dr Bob, who was unwell in hospital, prompting a quip that they might rename him "Patient Bob", an idea that was quickly dismissed. Some blues classics, a few of which we heard at the Rockin Rhythm Revue gig a few weeks back, but in subtler acoustic arrangements. "Let's Work Together" seemed to be on everyone's setlist, but none the worse for that. And "Stormy Monday" came over very well in acoustic format. They played an instrumental version of Del Shannon's "Runaway" (later covered by one of the later bands) which worked just fine.
Brian's acoustic lead was - as you'd expect - fabulous and tasteful (though any guitarist in the audience would have been griding their teeth at how easy he makes it look! I've not yet managed to see the MGBs in their normal format, but I'd really love to see some acoustic shows, I think that'd be just right.
Acoustic Strawbs playing after a fairly long layoff, were pretty damn good too. Introduced by Fraser Cullen, the organiser (who also was involved in the 40th anniversary) as his favourite band, they came on after a very lively band with fiddle - the West London based Bible Code Sundays - who were very good indeed and had everyone up on their feet dancing. Instead the Acoustics attracted a good section of the audience up to the front to appreciate the music in more sedate festival style, though by the end a few people were dancing to "Lay Down". Very well appreciated indeed.
As time was tight, the set was fairly short, with even the perennial "Autumn" being forced out. For me the highlight was one of the best renderings of "New World" I think I've ever heard - at the height of a summer's afternoon, Dave's voice simply snarled the words, a hugely emotional performance. The front of house sound (by our mate Paul Smith) was good - very loud up at the front, but very clear and well-balanced further up the field - despite their name, the Acoustics were very much a rock band on that day, easily as loud and forceful as any of the other bands who'd played on that stage that day.
Splendid way to spend an - unexpectedly beautiful - summer's day. Strawberry Hill forever!
A Glimpse Of Heaven
Josephine For Better Or For Worse
The Hangman And The Papist
Oh How She Changed
Ghosts Tell Me What You See In Me
[On My Way - omitted in Shoreham]
Shine On Silver Sun
We'll Meet Again Sometime
ASTOR COMMUNITY THEATRE, DEAL, FRI 30 APR 2010 AND ROPETACKLE CENTRE, SHOREHAM-BY-SEA, SAT 1 MAY 2010
Just to report a most enjoyable couple of days of Acoustic Strawbs and seaside frolics in Deal and Shoreham-on-Sea last week. Dick and I headed down to Deal early on Friday; a trouble-free drive meant we arrived much too early to get into The Malvern B&B (scene of many a Strawb-related gathering over the past few years) so had to kill time with a brief but pleasant stroll along the front followed by a much less brief session in The Bohemian pub. As we sat overlooking the sea Dick managed four pints of cider and three pickled eggs - I trailed miserably apart from helping demolish two delicious plates of olives washed down by the occasional tiny sip of wine [two large whiite wines as I recall - DG].
Later it was onwards to The Astor Theatre for the gig (after more sustenance - the usual fish and chips, of course!). It was warming to know that all tickets had sold out well in advance and a wonderful atmosphere greeted us, well it was a man really but the atmosphere was lovely too. I believe the future of this splendid old theatre was looking rather uncertain for a while but thankfully renovations and improvements are now well under-way and the new layout works well, with the bar now separated from the stage area. Dick, Sue and Mike Holton and I sat at a front row, centre stage table (great to catch up at last - Strawbs' Christmas party was sorely missed last year). Unfortunately Dick's expected friends didnt make it due to horrendous traffic jams and Dick philosophised that money he had spent on their tickets would be a charitable donation to the theatre fund.
The band took the stage for an evening of delights - it seemed ages since I had last seen acoustic Strawbs play and everything sounded fresh to my ears, despite there being no setlist surprises. The sound was great, the stories were funny, there were plenty of onstage smiles and banter and the songs led us all on the expected (but no less gripping for that) emotional rollercoaster. The enjoyment of an appreciative audience merged with that of the band to make for an excellent evening, and hopefully it won't be too long before we can relive The Astor experience. After the gig it was off to The Hoy for some socialising; the night was still young.
Next morning, after gargantuan breakfasts for those who surfaced, it was time to savour more of Deal on a breezy morning and marvel at how well-preserved this attractive little town has managed to stay. The journey across to Shoreham for the next gig was extremely pleasant, wending along the coastal road and taking in some of England's finest seaside towns en route. Hastings ended up as the stopping place for lunch, and involved much wandering around the old town and the fishermen's huts on the beach while trying not to get in the way of countless Morris dancers. Well it was May Day! Back on our way after several hours, we eventually arrived in Shoreham (having avoided some serious downpours of rain along the way) to gather in a friendly local pub called The Marlipins, whatever Marlipins may be.
Another terrific gig at the Ropetackle Centre (or Ropeytackle as Dave C. jested) soon followed; again the venue had sold out, with seating packed and several people standing. It was lovely to see that again, and it was also lovely to see Pete & Calli and Jane & hubby there too. Again, it was another highly appreciative audience, with one fan in the row in front of us in a particularly vocal mood. No need for anyone else to shout and cheer with him in the crowd! However, shout and cheer we did as the band played another excellent show which ended with several people on their feet desperately calling for an encore. For what seemed like a very l-o-n-g moment we wondered if we were going to get one - thankfully the band eventually returned to play an absolutely stunning "We'll Meet Again Sometime" and everyone left more than happy with the evening's offerings. I shoreham glad I made it.
Two wonderful Strawbs gigs and more fun than you can shake a stick at over, it was back to London and a night at the ever-welcoming Greener Towers. I left Dick next morning to make preparations for The Strawberry Fools* own shows on 14th and 15th May. Having been privileged to sit in on some of the Fools' recent rehearsals I know what terrific interpretations they make of several Strawbs classics, I'm looking forward immensely to seeing them in both Aldermaston and Staines. Some great music and a lot of fun will be on the menu without doubt. (To book tickets, go to the front page of Strawbsweb).
*The Strawberry Fools are Strawbs' webmaster Dick Greener along with fellow Witchwooders David Claridge, Les Cotton, Pete Rand and Ralph Tonge http://www.strawberryfools.co.uk.
Splendid way to start a Bank Holiday weekend. Leaving Greener Mansions well ahead of the Bank Holiday traffic to get to Deal in time for wander round and a relaxing few pints in the Bohemian (splendid pub on the front opposite the pier).
The Astor Theatre has had a lot of work done to it and even now looks splendid, though there is still some decorating to be done. The proscenium arch has been repainted and repaired and looks great, a fine backdrop for our boys as they played a very enjoyable two sets. For me, highlights included "Josephine" and Tell Me What You See In Me" - I do think Dave Lambert has crafted beautiful acoustic solos redolent of the 60s, the time in which the songs were written. The full harmonies on "Tell Me" are cracking. And "Autumn" tonight was stunning. "New World" is particularly powerful as ever, and "Oh How She Changed" benefited from a far superior PA system than was on offer last time we saw a show at Deal. DC in his element in front of a home crowd, the house was full, the atmosphere warm and the audience highly receptive - a great evening, as the huge thundering applause prior to getting "We'll Meet Again Sometime" as an encore. The venue were pleased and are talking about a reprise so me time in the future. YES PLEASE !!!!
As I only got to see one of the show is the last bout of touring (The Borderline in London) I'd been suffering Acoustic Strawbs withdrawal symptoms, and one gig just wasn't enough, so, nursing a wee hangover (we inevitably pottered back to the Hoy after the show, then a good natter back at the hotel, turning in at about 3.00am), and after one of the Malvern's splendid breakfasts, we popped over to DC's place for me to deal with a few bits of Witchwood Media business, and then on to Shoreham.
We took the coast road, staying just about ahead of the huge cloudbursts that were clearly hitting inland. (Deal got it big just after we set off - we could see the dark clouds threatening in the rear view mirror). As Lindsay has written, Hastings was our stop-off - when we got there the sun was shining and we stopped off for a quick drink at a pub just along from the car park (nature calls!) It was really idyllic, with the May Day festival in full flow - Morris men, dance troupes and a drumming ensemble performing out on the front and all the way through the narrow pedestrianised street just behind the main drag. Fab little shops, bars and restaurants all along, we wandered into one which advertised mussels (we'd set our hearts on mussels, so we left apologetically but firmly as soon as we were told mussels were off), but found another and sat out in the sunshine on the street and watched the face-painted, dog-walking, Morris-belled folk of Hastings go by. What could be better ....
Arriving at Shoreham, we were looking for a sign to the Ropetackle Centre (forgot to bring the Multimap page) when suddenly we saw in big letters in front of us "ROPETACKLE". Parking behind it (in a new-built, posh, dockside development) was interesting, and then after checking in with those lounging in the Centre, wandered up the road in search of a comfy pub. The Marlipins pub (named seemingly after the museum elsewhere in the town) was an excellent friendly place, with a nice dog in residence (as far as I can see, everyone on the coast seems to have a dog - very gratifying!). NB. As to what Marlipins means - seems in the past to have been a meeting place for Knights Templar.
The show in the Ropetackle Centre was a typical Arts Centre type show - seats and tables (with the standing tickets apparently being upgraded to seated). The place was full. The support act, whose adaptation (mainly plucked fiddle and harmony vocals) of Joe Jackson's "Is She Really Going Out With Him" was by far their best number, though the jigs and reels element of their repertoire were well played and lively.
One set only for the Acoustic Strawbs, same numbers as previous night with the omission of "On My Way". "Cold Steel" particularly rang the rafters for me, as did a storming "We'll Meet Again Sometime". Again, great sound for the audience, bringing out each instrument and voice - I gather they had a few problems on stage, but rose above it to deliver a great show.
Only trouble now .... when's the next one ?
A Glimpse Of Heaven
Josephine For Better Or For Worse
The Hangman And The Papist
Oh How She Changed
Tell Me What You See In Me
On My Way
Shine On Silver Sun
We'll Meet Again Sometime
PARC HALL, CWMPARC, FRI 19 MAR 2010
A world famous male voice choir were well in evidence in Treorchy tonight. OK so it may it may have not been the local Welsh ensemble ( http://www.treorchymalechoir.org/) and perhaps not quite fully in Treorchy, or Treorci, as listed on sign posts, as I was heading for Cwmparc just outside the centre of that town. The male voice choir to be seen was made up of the Dave, Dave and Chas of Acoustic Strawbs variety.
An interesting local theatre awaited, after what seemed to be a Tyrolean type expedition/adventure down winding roads and the trip up into the Welsh valleys, was made amongst darkened hills. Although the mist did not hang low, it certainly was covering the hill tops as you ventured deep into old mining territory down single track roads, with waterfalls casting their glistening shades as they tumbled down their individual rock strewn beds.
Interesting to say the least, particularly where village graveyards and tombs seemed to extend upwards, rather than maybe underground. The hillsides were also adorned with lines of tiny cottages clinging in seamless lines, reminding you of the remains of past communities whose inhabitants had laboured hard for their lives with many hours spent underground.
A shame, time was a bit short and the weather a bit (rather) wet, it would have been good to explore a bit more. Maybe another time beckons.
I learn't a few more things that day, such as why Welsh prop forwards weigh in excess of 20 stone.. A clue might have been the diet of 4 packs of carling carried in two by two that were carried in and strewn across the tables at the front of the theatre ahead of the show. I went for the raked seats towards the rear. That diet did of course have the effect of encouraging a bit of walking to other "facilities" during the night. Elsewhere, in a more formal setting that may have been a bit irritating, somehow tonight if you didn't worry about it too much – it almost seemed to add a different charm to the evening and was a sign that for those perambulating it was just a normal relaxing Friday evening with a musical offering.
The Welsh have a well known singing tradition and tonight having the boys in town gave them as perfect opportunity, after lubricating their larynxes, to join in on quite a few of the songs. There were clearly some long term fans around, or they picked up the choruses very quickly after years of practice. It was great to know that you were amongst fans, one of whom had travelled from Aberdare some 10 miles away, but had never been to this theatre before. That perhaps says more about what "community" means around there and in some ways that is good to hear where everyone seems proud and loyal and true to their own environment and roots therein.
Another surprise and it may have surprised the band too, because by the time the Acoustics reached their final number of "Lay Down", a few of the congregation had risen to their feet from various parts of the theatre to dance merrily in front of the stage. Those that did their "Pan's People" bit to that song and with the chorus in full cry, it was a great way to finish the night, with the exception of course of the encore.
Plenty of admiration was bestowed on the band afterwards. Did I say mobbed? with loads of genuine affection and praise for the performance.
The single long set was preceded with the support of Blue Rhondda see http://www.myspace.com/thebluerhondda
This was one of those unique and unforgettable nights which will last in the memory, for so many differing reasons than a usual theatre night. Audience participation and whoops of delight were just part of the ambience of this lovely and interesting Welsh evening. Strawbs were great and even if there were a few little niggles with the sound needing tweaks from time to time to return to the best effect. This may have been the one of loudest Acoustic shows ever, especially given the size of theatre.
There are a couple of photos I will place in the Witchwood files under Treorci, the pre show poster and a rather worrying picture of a police riot vehicle snapped a few yards down the road from the venue, not quite sure why, perhaps they were expecting a riotous invasion of Strawbs fans tonight.
Apart from me, Julie Longden had zoomed down from some other Derbyshire hill and took the chance to say hello to Ian from Cardiff who I had met at the 40th, but unfortunately had lost his contact details. Once lost but now found eh? We were very well behaved (I think) and no need for that van.
But above all else there was certainly some singing in the Valleys tonight and it was terrific that it accompanied Strawbs songs, from the back catalogue of their many years.
A night to remember, for more reasons than, one.