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STRAWBS - UK TOUR
NOVEMBER 2011

Updated: 29 Nov 2011

Contents
The Duchess, York, Wednesday 2 November 2011
  • Emotional Range And Playing Their Hearts Out - Review by Dick Greener
  • A Real Treat - Review by John Newstead
  • Setlist
  • The Ferry, Glasgow, Thursday 3 November 2011
  • Hard To Beat - Review by Dick Greener
  • Setlist
  • The Queen's Hall, Edinburgh, Friday 4 November 2011
  • Auld Reekie Lament - Review by Dick Greener
  • Setlist
  • The Green Hotel, Kinross, Saturday 5 November 2011
  • Setlist
  • The Buck Hotel, Reeth, Sunday 6 November 2011
  • Strawbs Shine On - Review by Lindsay Sorrell
  • Setlist
  • The Borderline, London, Wednesday 9 November 2011
  • That "Titanic" Moment - Review by Nigel Bennett
  • Setlist
  • The Musician, Leicester, Thursday 10 November 2011
  • Setlist from Andy Slack
  • The Brook, Southampton, Wednesday 23 November 2011
  • Blew Us All Away Review by Dick Greener
  • Setlist
  • Robin 2, Bilston, Thursday 24 November 2011
    Quay Theatre, Sudbury, Friday 25 November 2011
  • On Exceptional Form And Clearly Enjoying Themselves - Review by Eamonn Harvey
  • Absolutely Faultless - Review by Dick Greener
  • Setlist
  • Southampton, Bilston and , Sudbury, 23-25 November 2011
  • Tripping The Kerb - Fantastic ! - Review by Nigel Bennett

  • And on the right, Mr Tony Fernandez .... captured after the Edinburgh show


    SOUTHAMPTON, BILSTON AND , SUDBURY, 23-25 NOVEMBER 2011

    TRIPPING THE KERB - FANTASTIC ! - Review by Nigel Bennett

    At last for me, after a couple of weeks wait, the first of the last three gigs of the 2011 Electric tour. With Southampton the closest gig on the tour my starting point, I had a gentle trip of about an hour to get to The Brook, a venue well known to fans of the band.

    With Dick and Lindsay safely ensconced in their Southampton hotel , I was half way there when the call came to say 'hello' and a request pick them up. I had no idea where they were staying so gathered the details and asked Dick for the directions. "We are in xxxxx road which is off xxxxxx road come down the street and you can't miss us." Given there are several junctions that you can enter Southampton by and being a navigator by the moon and stars I asked the next obvious one... 'which junction' followed by asking for details the nearest obvious landmark. I know Southampton a bit just not intimately in the intimacy of "The Knowledge". Poor Dick he was so intently following to directions spoken to him earlier by the lady next to him when driving down (not Lindsay) his response was 'I don't know and have no idea really, I just followed the directions given out on my sat nav. I have no idea where I am and the printed map I have in front of me is wrong anyway.' Confusion reigned it is fair to say.

    To cut a long story (or trip) short after an hour circumnavigating the whole of Southampton - it is after all the departure port for many world wide sailings it took me precisely another hour to find them... that's a 1 hour trip, now taking two I was greeted with a generous gift and gratefully received mug from Dick... how ironic was that ??? Lol !

    If that was not enough pre gig excitement for me , there was more in store: Hooray, I hear you cry. This time it was a painful experience - for Dick at least ! As we trooped the streets trying to find the hostelry we had used before he went head over heels..... OK *ss over ti * to some, after tripping on a kerb............ that everyone else had negotiated safely. Grazed knee, hurt pride, it is but in truth we didn't quite know whether to laugh or cry. If the gig was to get as exciting as all this we would be in for a fantastic time. He pleaded vehemently with us, he had not had not yet a drop to drink - we wondered ... There was still time to visit the favourite chippy house..(as we never did get that drink), before joining the end, of what had become a quite long queue, although it had dissipated a bit, whilst we munched our way through a couple of gigantic portions. Shared of course !

    Great to see so many special friends inside and as it turned out tonight the ground floor was really packed. The standing audience was a setting for the backdrop of a special gig. With no support act, maybe I was hoping for two sets a la Borderline, but it was just one straight through, which actually, I later thought, worked fantastically well. Pete Bradley has already posted on Witchwood the full set list so I won't repeat. It is fair to say the gig was exceptional, after a little drinkie Dick had recovered his pride, and went on to state and recognising he had seen most on tour, said "this was the best so far" !! It was so good to see the band in full flow and the crowds reaction seemed to drive them on, to if this is possible, even greater heights.

    'Relegating' "The River/ Down By The Sea" to the first of a two part encore was a master stroke and worked so well allowing plenty of solo 'jousting' between John and Dave L as the piece concluded. This was a great way to start the first of three days of consecutive gigs. The gig that night at the Brook will live very long in the memory.



    Photo by Tim Arthur - more photos from Tim

    Another favourite venue the following night, saw everyone heading for The Robin 2 in Bilston. Those that Sat Navs with them set sail for another famous and favourite venue in the history of Strawbs, as we all recalled fondly previous 'gatherings' including the filming for the DVD.

    Being a Thursday night the crowd was a bit down on those that had previously attended the weekend ones and especially the night when the filming was done. Once again it was good to meet up with friends from that part of the world and with a support act of the Valuable Fools - a repeat of the last time the band played there. As far as I recall, the set list was the same as the night before, but if mistaken someone will correct me especially as I have a nagging doubt that it was a bit different. Certainly the following night at Sudbury included "Ghosts" in addition to the Southampton listing posted by Pete..

    Another good gig enjoyed by everyone who was in attendance

    Oddly after the excitement in getting to the gig the previous day this one had no trauma and there was enough time when driving to spot an impressive Range Rover that included ELO as the last three letters of the number plate. Clearly it was a 'personalised one', but whom ? The driver was in front of me for a while and I wondered..(as you do with nothing much to think of when driving) if the owner was anything to do with the music industry or just another fan pinning his 'colours' to their car. Coincidentally Woody's bar is adjacent to The Robin. Can any one solve the riddle and move me forward on this one?

    I digress... on to Sudbury.....

    I had a terrible trip down, but I was very heartened by the fact that everyone else said they had a really great trip and saw lots of sights. That really cheered me up !.

    Reaching Sudbury we realised the Town was really throwing out the 'red carpet' treatment... well red was ever present for Santa type reasons as they had chosen this day when Strawbs were in town to switch on their Christmas lights and at 6.30 too ! With the gig starting at 7.30 they had obviously planned that well. Sudbury is quite a pretty place.

    The car park to the accommodation was a bit tricky to find..given some roads were shut awaiting the arrival of Santa....but got that sorted with a bit of Shanks travel. And after a little relaxation, found a shop that served the best fish and chips ever ! Outstanding ! Bumped into John, Tony and Chas when ordering. They too, must have been given a tip off about the place and also later extolled its virtues.

    Well feasted and a short walk to The Quay taking care not to fall in the water. If DG had taken the wrong trip tonight, who knows what the consequence would have been.... 'you never needed water'... all in the midst of the moonlight. Guided by that shining light we all got there safely together. Now the Quay has happy acoustic memories, including once, when the three were playing and a chap appeared from the curtain behind ..had a look around to see what was happening and then promptly disappeared ..who he was ...how he got in I'll never know.. It was all a bit of mystery, but the band played on regardless ..as it was only the audience that had the sight of what was going on - an odd, really strange, but somehow amusing experience.

    Several days earlier Southampton had gone down as best on tour but tonight. took the biscuit.. I do dislike that phrase and don't know why I used it... hobnob anyone? - but it seemed to fit and the evening turned into something really special. The sound separation with each instrument fantastically mixed and a full house made the evening extra special. Two sets, the addition of "Ghosts", as mentioned above and the finale of a standing ovation was deserving of the band who had put their heart and soul into this and no doubt every other gig on the tour.

    Great to meet up with Eastern based fans including Steve Young. Even though it's a long way from "home" this was not one to be missed. Just 10 gigs on this tour may have left some slightly disappointed at missing out - no gigs in Wales or the West, but may be next time, those will happen again.

    The touring entourage were split between two hostelries. The Black Boy was however very accommodating for the end of tour party stuff, allowing every one access for the "after hours" stuff and also the after, after hours stuff. During that time discussions on all sorts of things took place , including of course the tour that had recently taken place. We recounted tales, memories and hopes for the future, drank a little.... no, a lot and as one raised took time to raise our glasses to the memory of Robert Kirby after discussions had taken us in that direction with Chas taking on the role of master of ceremonies.

    These were good days....if tiring for some, but the band had rocked as much as ever it did in the past. Highlights, this is always a tricky question....and in many ways unfair...but having stood outside theatres over the years, listening to sound checks and having special memories of the album release I can honestly say that "New World" can rarely have been bettered..a song itself nearing it's 40th birthday but still up there with the best.

    These were three very happy days in November, thanks to the two Dave's, Tony, John and Chas and of course everyone who got out to see them.


    Setlist

    Turn Me Round
    New World
    The Promised Land
    Forever Ocean Blue
    Ghosts
    The River/Down By The Sea

    Autumn
    Sad Young Man
    Just Love
    Shine On Silver Sun
    Hero And Heroine
    Midnight Sun
    Out In The Cold/Round And Round
    Lay A Little Light On Me

    Lay Down

    QUAY THEATRE, SUDBURY, FRIDAY 25 NOVEMBER 2011

    ON EXCEPTIONAL FORM AND CLEARLY ENJOYING THEMSELVES - Review by Eamonn Harvey

    If you want to know about timing in music--listen to Frank Sinatra. If you want to know about timing AND dynamics in music-well,unless you were in the audience at the Quay Theatre last night - you've missed the boat!

    Strawbs delivered a truly cracking powerhouse of a set. The best show I've seen them put on for years! Things got off to a brilliant start with "Turn Me Round" from the Deep Cuts album and just got better and better! No on-stage banter and anecdotes from DC this time around. This show is just about the music and the band were on exceptional form and clearly enjoying themselves. "Forever Ocean Blue" was given a particularly emotional reading by DC and,in spite of his self effacing comment when introducing it, clearly means a lot to him. It also touched a deep chord for my companion Barry, who sadly lost his daughter in very tragic circumstances early this year.

    I was just 18 and in my first year at teacher training college when the original Hero And Heroine album was released, and it became the soundtrack of that year for myself and a few other contemporaries. It still evokes for me youthful idealism, furtive liasons and all the other 'stuff' of those heady, far off days. What a great experience it was to hear the whole album unfold before me-given some excellent new flourishes and segues by the 'new kid on the block'!

    'Man of the Match' award though has to go to Tony Fernandez, an awesomely talented drummer who blew us away and who, in the time honoured Strawbs tradition, turned out to be a really friendly, affable bloke. Thanks for sharing a great part of your journey guys! After the show, Barry and I adjourned to the nearby 'Black Boy' for a few refreshments. Most of the band members were staying there overnight, so we were able to hold on to the great atmosphere for a while longer. I overheard one punter whisper 'Weren't they the ones who did that "Part Of The Union" thing?' Oh well. Some things never change!!!


    ABSOLUTELY FAULTLESS - Review by Dick Greener

    After a very "live" (!) show the previous night at Bilston, which was beset by a few technical problems, Strawbs rose above all of that to deliver an absolutely faultless performance for the last night of the tour, certainly one of the best I have ever seen!

    The Quay is a nice little theatre - emphasis on the word little, only115 seats and not much legroom at that, but with a huge rake to the seating so that everyone gets a great view of the stage (though Tony was well hidden behind DC's central position tonight, so we only got a few glimpses of drum heaven. Shame they have a no photos policy, could have got a few good ones even from a seating position. Still after two nights on the trot standing all night, not unhappy to be sitting down for a change.

    The electric band hadn't played there before, only the Acoustics, so there was some concern that the full band might be a little too loud for the venue, but soundmeister Paul Smith delivered up excellent sound quality throughout, though on occasion DL's guitar could be a bit quiet. Every aspect of the performance was tuned up a notch from any of the other nights (IMHO) and pretty much note perfect - DC's vocals were expressive and soulful, Lambert's vocal sections as strong as ever, and Chas, Dave L and John Young belted out strong harmony vocals throughout. Chas's bass was beautifully audible throughout and I spent some parts of the gig watching him as he so often picks out a major element of the melody. And John's keyboards have become such an integral part of the whole Strawbs sound.

    A nice surprise, "Ghosts" got another outing on the tour, with Dave Lambert switching away from the black Gibson LPS. Highlights for me overall - "The Promised Land" was cooking with gas, with that great Fernandez start (boom [pause] boom boom [pause] boom boom boom etc.) over Lambert's guitar figure and Chas now joining in on vocals to fatten up that anguished "beyond the promised land" refrain. "River/Down By The Sea" back to its usual home in a 2-set environment at the end of the first half was another powerful number, hugely dynamic throughout, from the loud middle section to the quiet calm after the storm. I also love the opening number"Turn Me Round" with lots of expressive Cousins gestures and excellent Lambert guitar.

    And from the Hero And Heroine set, the title track itself drew thunderous applause, rightly so after a superb hi-energy rendition, DC pogoing along to his heart's content. I thoroughly enjoyed "Out In The Cold", with DC on the Gibson 6-string which makes a lovely clear sound, I find it much preferable to the 12. And of course the finale is superb - from "Lay A Little Light On Me" on which DC really sang his heart out, the revamped "Hero's Theme" where Lambert, Cronk and Young reprise the "shine on silver sun" refrain, and the return to the synthesiser led "Round And Round" complete with the newly added Cousins' demonic laughter. "Lay Down" as a singalonga-Strawbs encore was the icing on the cake.

    Then afterwards post-tour drinks and chat till the wee small hours at the Black Boy Hotel - thanks to Sharon for keeping the place open for us. What a wonderful way to finish off what had already been a great tour !


    Setlist

    Turn Me Round
    New World
    The Promised Land
    Forever Ocean Blue
    Autumn
    Sad Young Man
    Just Love
    Shine On Silver Sun
    Hero And Heroine
    Midnight Sun
    Out In The Cold/Round And Round
    Lay A Little Light On Me
    The River/Down By The Sea
    Lay Down

    THE BROOK, SOUTHAMPTON, WEDNESDAY 23 NOVEMBER 2011

    BLEW US ALL AWAY Review by Dick Greener

    After a complicated few days, it's off on the road again to catch the last three gigs of the tour, Southampton, Bilston and Sudbury. I'm driving from Bicester to Southampton, get there in good time to relax a little before the show. The Travelodge is on the main road in, can't miss it, or so I thought ... Nigel kindly offered to drive us from the hotel to the gig, but that'll have to wait till he can his way to us! And then when we do get to the Brook we go looking for the pub we went to once before, up a side road, but after 2 or 3 side roads and a tumble over a raised kerb and a skinned knee for me, we head back to the Brook, via the chip shop down the road.

    The gig itself however was near perfection, an excellent show played straight through with no interval. A slightly changed running order slotting "River/Down By The Sea" in as the first encore before "Lay Down", which really worked very well. Everybody playing and singing well, though poor John Young was suffering from a bad cold. The Brook had some nice lighting and the sound system was as clear as a bell. Upstairs wasn't open, so the downstairs area was pretty crowded, which definitely added to the atmosphere. A great view from near the front of stage, and not blown away by the nearby speaker>

    The band showed no sign of breaking step, given the week or so since thew last gig: huge amounts of energy, and tight as hell, they blew us all away. For me the highlights were a high impact "New World" , a breathtaking "Hero And Heroine" and the encores, which really blew the roof off.


    Photo by Dick Greener - more photos from Dick

    Setlist from Andy Slack

    Turn Me Round
    New World
    Promised Land
    Forever Ocean Blue

    Autumn
    Sad Young Man
    Just Love
    Shine On Silver Sun
    Hero And Heroine
    Midnight Sun
    Out In The Cold/Round And Round
    Lay A Little Light On Me/Hero's Theme/Round And Round (reprise)

    Lay Down

    THE MUSICIAN, LEICESTER, THURSDAY 10 NOVEMBER 2011



    Setlist

    Turn Me Round
    New World
    The Promised Land
    Forever Ocean Blue
    Ghosts
    The River/Down By The Sea

    Autumn
    Sad Young Man
    Just Love
    Shine On Silver Sun
    Hero And Heroine
    Midnight Sun
    Out In The Cold/Round And Round
    Lay A Little Light On Me/Hero's Theme/Round And Round (reprise)

    Lay Down

    THE BORDERLINE, LONDON, WEDNESDAY 9 NOVEMBER 2011

    THAT "TITANIC" MOMENT - Review by Nigel Bennett

    My first gig of the tour...just where have I been ? All those wonderful tales of the previous gigs that I couldn't make and my angst was nothing compared to that etched on Mr Greener's face as he told me he wished he had done the Kinross and Reeth ones after he left the tour at Edinburgh after doing the first three.

    Good to see many friends there amongst the large audience, apologies for any I may have missed that I bumped into; Steve P with Paul, Neil Lamb and Sue, Dick, Tee, Julie from the States, Daniel and wife plus Lindsay who arrived slightly late for the start after a mad dash across country after work and took a place on the stairs leading down to the basement venue such was the writhing mass of bodies that prevented immediate access. It was almost that "Titanic" moment from the front of the ship leaning over the balcony as "Down By The Sea" was in full flow, before getting a space on the "floor" in front of the band, for the second half. But this show was definitely not a sinking ship, going from highlight to highlight.

    The first good news was that the band were doing two sets, but the early start without support caught out one or two who arrived slightly later anticipating (hoping) the support to take up their travel time. What a stunning opening set too.... warmly and very appreciatively lapped up by all those gathered. "Forever Ocean Blue" may have been unexpected on this tour but it is so good to hear it. I remember driving home from somewhere a few years back, reaching a hill top near home with my in car radio radio on and as is often the case in these parts the old, W factor bends signals to such an extent that just now an then you pick up stations other than those you are tuned into without doing any fiddling with the dials. That particular night "Forever Ocean Blue" was the song that popped up a pleasure indeed until it faded out as I got to the bottom of the hill where the signal resorted to the normal channel. Never forgotten though.

    I digress, but then again my reviews usually do. Loved the opening set and the superlative ending of "River/Down By The Sea" finished the set off in stunning style and set up the Hero and Heroine tour de force which as we all know was one of those landmark albums.

    As you may be able to tell, I rather enjoyed the whole of the evening, great to see everyone, the band and listen to the musical offering .... looking forward with great anticipation for the others I'm planning to do on the tour. See you there !


    Photo by Dick Greener - more photos from Dick


    Setlist

    Turn Me Round
    New World
    The Promised Land
    Forever Ocean Blue
    Ghosts
    The River/Down By The Sea

    Autumn
    Sad Young Man
    Just Love
    Shine On Silver Sun
    Hero And Heroine
    Midnight Sun
    Out In The Cold/Round And Round
    Lay A Little Light On Me/Hero's Theme/Round And Round (reprise)

    Lay Down

    THE BUCK HOTEL, REETH, SUNDAY 6 NOVEMBER 2011

    STRAWBS SHINE ON - Review by Lindsay Sorrell

    Four wonderful Strawbs performances done and dusted so far, all excellent and leaving the respective audiences begging for more. The sound on the first night in York wasn't great but the band worked hard to make the best of it and every gig since has been stunning. The Ferry in Glasgow was probably my favourite being stand-up, which I generally prefer for electric Strawbs. Strawbs are playing superbly, still right at the top of their tree with all the members of the band playing magnificently so, if you have the chance. catch 'em while you can.

    Reeth was fantastic, just as it was last year. The Buck Inn is a lovely candle-lit venue with tables and chairs seating - not good lighting for photographers as it is very dark and bathed in red most of the time but Ali showed me a few decent shots she'd taken. The lighting makes for a superb atmosphere however, and the band really rocked. I love the setlist on this tour - so many of my own personal favourites are in there (e.g. "Turn Me Round" and "Promised Land"), and also I find it every bit as exciting each time I hear "Hero And Heroine in Ascencia" (as Dave Cousins introduced it) in its entirety. Incidentally for anyone who hasn't already bought "H&H In Ascencia" - it really is an amazing recording. I don't always notice that much difference when albums are remixed/remastered etc. and sometimes wonder what all the fuss is about, but I was absolutely blown away by the clarity of the new recording of this amazing album. It really does need to be heard to be believed.

    One extremely amusing moment from this tourette came when the band finished their set - the applause and calls for "More" went on for longer than usual and I would imagine most of the audience were (like me) wondering if that was "it" and there wasn't to be an encore. One by one the band eventually strolled past in a line from the back of the crowded hall and back onto the stage: Dave Cousins asked if anyone had seen "Spinal Tap" and it turned out they had somehow locked themselves out of the stage area and couldn't get back onstage so had to take the long route! They then played "Lay Down" as the encore as usual, which I think is a perfect finish as it lightens up the atmosphere after the intensity that has gone before it (Spinal Tap moments aside!)

    Another wonderful night then. Amazing trip back through the Yorkshire Dales next day too, dodging countless kamikaze pheasants who kept launching themselves into the road, and processions of sheep who somehow defied gravity as they teetered over the road edges and clung to vertical hillsides. A satisfying little detour to the Wensleydale cheese factory again and a little trip to the Middlesbrough transporter bridge (one of only two in the UK). I now pride myself on being a leading expert on transporter bridges, having visited the other one at Newport with Ali last year.

    Grateful thanks to Ali for too many things to mention, Dick (with whom we spent a lovely day doing the tourist thing in Edinburgh), and also had a lovely time catching up with some of the Witchwood crew (Les, Lynne and Pete, Neil from the Beeb and Julie. Hope I haven't forgotten anyone!) Endless gratitude to the band too for continuing to give so much pleasure; I still have to pinch myself sometimes that this is really happening after the largely barren Strawbs years. Round of applause also to Neil and Paul for helping everything run smoothly while making it all seem utterly effortless.

    Next stop..The Borderline!

    Setlist

    Turn Me Round
    New World
    The Promised Land
    Forever Ocean Blue
    Ghosts
    The River/Down By The Sea

    Autumn
    Sad Young Man
    Just Love
    Shine On Silver Sun
    Hero And Heroine
    Midnight Sun
    Out In The Cold/Round And Round
    Lay A Little Light On Me/Hero's Theme/Round And Round (reprise)

    Lay Down

    THE GREEN HOTEL, KINROSS, SATURDAY 5 NOVEMBER 2011



    Setlist

    Turn Me Round
    New World
    The Promised Land
    So Close And Yet So Far Away
    Autumn
    Sad Young Man
    Just Love
    Shine On Silver Sun
    Hero And Heroine
    Midnight Sun
    Out In The Cold/Round And Round
    Lay A Little Light On Me/Hero's Theme/Round And Round (reprise)

    Lay Down

    THE QUEEN'S HALL, EDINBURGH, FRIDAY 4 NOVEMBER 2011

    AULD REEKIE LAMENT - Review by Dick Greener

    Onwards to Auld Reekie - a short trip by car across from Glasgow with a stop for a (very!) substantial fish and chip lunch on my part. Queen's Hall in Clerk Street Edinburgh is a venue I know well from my Edinburgh Fringe trips - have seen veteran Scottish folkie Dougie MacLean there on more than one occasion (Strawb-fact: Strawbs keyboard player Andy Richards played on two of MacLean's early albums, mixing up Dougie's acoustic struming with a full band environment including some some tasteful 80s synth from Richards!) It's a converted church with the pews around the side of the space retained, tastefully painted in pastel colours. The stage area is big, lofty and well-lit - a nice space for the band to move around in.

    The opening act, Roy Henderson, was really rather good, delivering a range of styles for just one voice and guitar without seeming to be repetitive or samey, which could have been the case. His songs were good, all (apart from one which he said was on YouTube as a freebie) captured on his new CD was so new it wasn't on his website when I wrote this it is now - check out www.royhenderson.infofor further info. Particularly good was his song "Caruso" - recommended. The sound again was excellent - you could hear every note from Roy, and certainly in the centre of the room, it coped well with the electric band too.



    Photo by Bruce Leydon, who also does Roy's website at www.royhenderson.info

    Our boys on taking the stage continued in good form - "Cut Like A Diamond" seems to have been rested, to allow for inclusion of a quieter number in the first half - instead of "Forever Ocean Blue" we got "So Close And Yet So Far Away", again very welcome. No time for "River/DBTS" in a single set with a support - shame ! Again the boys performing strongly throughout.

    My lament ? Listening enjoyment was marred by the four people who came in for the Strawbs set to sit in front of me and proceeded to talk loudly to each other throughout, even yelling where the music was loud. I really do wonder why such people bother to come out to music gigs at all - they certainly could do with some guidance on how to behave considerately to those around them. Eventually I moved to the side, where sadly the sound was a little less well defined, but at least I didn't have to listen to them. Gave me the opportunity to pick a few photos from a different angle, which will follow shortly.

    My last gig on this leg, with Ali and Lindsay travelling on to Kinross and Reeth, and me staying on in Edinburgh owing to other commitments - thanks to both for company and to Ali for driving me from York through to here: we had a bit of a sightsee the next clear, fine day, walking up to the Castle visiting St Giles Cathedral and finding the Heart of Midlothian outside it - all good tourist stuff I never seem to have time to do when I'm up there for the Fringe.

    Now being aware of what I might miss, I'm extending my use of the day - after tonight's Borderline show in London, I'm plotting to catch some more gigs towards the end of the tour which I'd not originally been intending to go to. I'd echo Pete Madely's comments on Witchwood - this is really a band people ought to go out of their way to see! Who knows how long we'll be able to do so ....



    Photo by Alison Brown - more photos from Ali


    Photo by Dick Greener - more photos from Dick


    Setlist

    Cut Like A Diamond/Turn Me Round
    New World
    The Promised Land
    Forever Ocean Blue
    The River/Down By The Sea

    Autumn
    Sad Young Man
    Just Love
    Shine On Silver Sun
    Hero And Heroine
    Midnight Sun
    Out In The Cold/Round And Round
    Lay A Little Light On Me/Hero's Theme/Round And Round (reprise)

    Lay Down

    THE FERRY, GLASGOW, THURSDAY 3 NOVEMBER 2011

    HARD TO BEAT - Review by Dick Greener

    Another night another Strawbs gig, this time in the splendid surroundings of the Ferry - a old ferry converted into a music venue, moored on the banks of the Clyde. Leaving aside the tribulations of the Glasgow rush hour traffic, Ali and Lindsay and I checked into our respective hotels, and made our way to the gig. The stage at the bottom of the boat, with a standing area downstairs too, and a gallery with tables upstairs (and great sightlines throughout) offers the best of both worlds, and when coupled with excellent sound system and good lighting, the whole experience is hard to beat. Not having been there before, I'd definitely go back again.

    And the band, this time without support, truly rose to the occasion delivering the full 2-set live experience. Added into the first half was a surprise - a rather splendid version of "Forever Ocean Blue", which was created back in Dave's days as the chief exec of Radio Devon and which was recorded by Strawbs on 1991's Ringing Down the Years CD for Virgin Canada. A nice addition to the modern band's repertoire. And the extra time also gave them room for a truly barn-storming rendition of "The River/Down By The Sea" to close the first half - for me, the absolute standout performance of the night if not all three gigs I was at.

    Cousins is now playing a range of the three guitars, the matching 6 and 12 string Gibson Chet Atkins, mostly, switching to the orange Gretsch for numbers which are in non-standard tunings. John Young had the opportunity to shine when after "Midnight Sun" he was playing his bride between that and "Out In The Cold" and it became apparent that the Gibson 6 string Dave had just picked up was not working (the only tech glitch of the night), so he simply played more of the bridge until DC had picked up the 12 - a true pro !



    Photo by Alison Brown - more photos from Ali


    Photo by Dick Greener - more photos from Dick


    Setlist

    Cut Like A Diamond/Turn Me Round
    New World
    The Promised Land
    Autumn
    Sad Young Man
    Just Love
    Shine On Silver Sun
    Hero And Heroine
    Midnight Sun
    Out In The Cold/Round And Round
    Lay A Little Light On Me/Hero's Theme/Round And Round (reprise)

    Lay Down

    THE DUCHESS, YORK, WEDNESDAY 2 NOVEMBER 2011

    EMOTIONAL RANGE AND PLAYING THEIR HEARTS OUT - Review by Dick Greener

    Number of years since I've been to York to see Strawbs play - last time was in 1993 on their Jubilee tour with Don Airey on keys. This time it's the Ascencia line-up with the talents of John Young on keys and the thundering drums of Mr Tony Fernandez joining the usual suspects Cousins, Lambert and Cronk. The first night of the tour and there were a few problems with the sound early on that not even Paul Smith could cope with, but from my vantage point at the front of the low ceilinged stage (another contributing factor), it was clear that the boys were playing up a storm and singing their hearts out.

    New for this tour was a medley of "Cut Like A Diamond" and "Turn Me Round" to open the set - both opportunities for some classic Cousins emotive vocalising and movement, untrammeled by having a guitar to hold. A stonking "New World" followed, the earliest Strawbs number in the set, even as it was back in '74, and a big contrast to the current Acoustic set which draws heavily on the earlier years. Last in the truncated pre-H&H set was "Promised Land", relaunched last year in the electric set. I settled in to watch Fernandez closely in this one, flitting between machine-like accuracy on single beats, and splashy flourishes, all delivered with his infectious brand of aplomb and visible delight.

    Cousins announced the H&H playthrough, and the fun started with "Autumn". Cousins was playing his orange Gretsch rather than the Gibson 12 string (though it was lurking at the side of the stage, so it's likely to resurface later in the tour). (IMHO, I prefer the six-string for that guitar in "Autumn", much clearer and crisper than a 12.) Sound had started to improve by now and "Sad Youg Man" came over well, followed by a rocky "Just Love". Seeing Dave doing "Shine On Silver Sun" on guitar not banjo seems odd after all this time, but it sounded good, and John Young added his 4th man vocals to fill out the chorus nicely.

    It almost seems to me there should be a short gap between that and "Hero And Heroine" (for those of us with vinyl memories to mentally turn the record over), but there wasn't, and the song had loads of power and reached a new power high. Shifting down a gear for the more acoustic and reflective "Midnight Sun", with Chas switching to 12-string, and Fernandez escewing the drum in favour of rock-solid shaker and tambourine. The "Out In The Cold/Round And Round" sequence is always well-received, the first section more acoustically tinged, building the electronic, synthesised vocal treatment in the second, again allowing Cousins some space for vocal histrionics. And the closing sequence with "Lay A Little Light" segueing into "Hero's Theme" (with a 'shine on silver sun" chorus the right way round - not tape reversed as it was on the original recording) and the reprise of "Round and Around" to close. Much was said last time out of the emotional range displayed by Cousins on "Lay A Little Light" and this tour looks to continue in that vein - from being a song I used to skip over, it's ended up as one of my favourites in its new guise.

    Encore of course had to be "Lay Down" with 4-part chorus sounding strong as ever. Lambert's guitar throughout was splendid as we have come to expect, and John's keyboards mesh very well indeed with this line-up's musical ability; his inter song keyboard pieces are a nice addition, making time for tuning/capo or instrument changes. The Cronk/Fernandez rhythm section is a joy to listen to (and watch, though it was difficult to see Tony well in the dim light at stage rear). Cousins is in excellent voice, despite some of the songs being in the challenging upper register and clearly enjoying the electric band experience.

    The support band Stolen Earth was really rather good, a fine frontwoman guitarist, and lead guitarist handling the vocal duties, solid bass, excellent keyboards and solid drums. Their material fairly prog, some good songs, dfeinitely a good choice of opener for the Strawbs. Didn't get chance to visit their merchandise stand, but will keep an eye out for them in future.


    A REAL TREAT - Review by John Newstead

    It was good to see you at the above gig, in what was my home city.

    There was a delay before fans were allowed into the venue for which we were told was due to "sound checks" and setting up the stage for the Strawbs, after the excellent set by the support band 'Stolen Earth', took quite some time (or maybe I was just impatient to hear the Strawbs again).

    It is a sign of my advancing years that I now wear a couple of hearing aids, but why I thought that I would need the benefit of them for a full electric Strawbs gig in the intimate surroundings of 'The Duchess' I can't imagine... However, when the band struck up with "Cut Like A Diamond" and also for the next few songs, I was highly critical of the sound engineer for the totally distorted sound, until I realised that my hearing aids could not cope with the sound levels and were almost going into meltdown. I took them out and the sound was then pure and still loud. From which point I totally enjoyed the rest of the gig.

    Hero And Heroine has always been one of my favourite Strawbs albums and to hear it in its entirety was a real treat. Many thanks to the band for a great performance. My eldest daughter came with me and gained new respect for the band's music.

    I am now looking forward, with my wife, to seeing the Acoustic Strawbs in their concert at the Barbican with Steeleye Span on 19 December. Please ask Dave to twist Maddie Prior's arm to join the Strawbs on stage and to sing "The King", I'm sure it would make many Strawbs fans very happy.



    Photo by Alison Brown - more photos from Ali


    Photo by John Newstead - a couple more from John


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