Updated: 21 Mar 2012
Part 1 - First leg - 2 February to 25 February
ALL HALLOWS PARISH CHURCH, GEDLING, FRIDAY 16 MARCH 2012
This was an early birthday present for me, thanks to my lovely wife Sandi who is very patient with my Strawbs related foibles, and it was a treat to see the band so close to home: All Hallows Church Gedling is probably no more than a couple of miles from our house. It's a plain but lovely old church, parts of which date back to the 14th century, perhaps before, and has one of those spires reminiscent of a rocket ready for take off. My first Strawbs concert with words of welcome from the vicar!
The set list was as usual for this tour and all were on top form up there on the altar. I half expected the band to appear in vestments. Dave Cousins was in fine storytelling mode and seeming pleased to be playing in a church. As he noted, many of the songs have spiritual reference points, and the setting made those more noticeable. "The Weary Song", "Josephine", "Witchwood", "I Turned My Face" and "Blue Angel" all stood out for me. The guitar work was top rate, we both agreed.
As we were in church, there was no beer - probably a blessing given there was just the one loo! However the ladies and gentlemen of the parish showed great hospitality and provided coffee and biscuits all round in return for a small donation. An enjoyable evening in a very pleasant setting.
The Man Who Called Himself Jesus
The Weary Song
Oh How She Changed
I Turned My Face Into The Wind
The Hangman And The Papist
Shine On Silver Sun
ARC, STOCKTON-ON-TEES, FRIDAY 9 MARCH 2012 and
THE BUCK HOTEL, REETH, SATURDAY 10 MARCH 2012
The Arc, on Dovecot Street in Stockton on Tees, is always a great draw for me - I grew up (well sort of!) in Stockton and played my first gig in the Dovecot Folk Club with my pal Paul Ferguson in a duo called Captain Grant after a Jack the Lad song) supporting a jazz band with a whole load more school chums, with the unlikely name of Max Planck and his Quantum Physiques ! The tape of that night has recently surfaced (Max only not Grant, I'm afraid) and, ah, it takes me back ...
If I'm guilty of reminiscing, then so was Mr Cousins. When I headed down to London in the late 70s to look for fame, fortune and more Strawbs gigs, he jumped ship and headed up to rnanage Radio Tees, based on Dovecot Street in Stockton. My longtime friend Mike tells me of evenings in the Dovecot where DC would just roll up with a guitar for an impromptu floor spot. And I was in London. Bummer ! DC always enjoys playing here, particularly delighted by its proximity to his old Stockton/Radio Tees haunts.
Nonetheless, a trip back to Stockton allows me to wallow in nostalgia, visit old haunts and stay with my old friends Mike and Jane, and their sons Zack and Dominic (my Godson) - always a pleasure (especially to pck up and play all of Mike's myriad musical instruments). Zack and Mike's bro Tim - responsible for introducing Mike to Strawbs via a copy of From The Witchwood (and responsible for getting me - or getting his friend, "Mad" Richard Jackson" to drive us to Newcastle repeatedly for Lindisfarne Christmas gigs) joins Mike and I at the gig.
Apart from an over-zealous no cameras policy (new to the Arc, and violently protested by Ali as being, contrary to what their apparatchiks said, as being bugger all to do with the band's wishes, and just the Arc getting antsy), I have to say it was a pretty good gig. Nice stage setting, good lighting, and pretty good sound out front.
A pretty full house and an appreciative audience, and an amenable bar before and significantly after the show made for a warm atmosphere. All very well received, particularly "Oh How She Changed", "Witchwood", The Hangman And The Papist" and "Benedictus" (ah, thanks be for the return of that dulcimer!). In the second set "Blue Angel" is the standout track, always one of my favourites, it's been in the set before but has now had a 2012 Acoustics makeover: Cousins and Lambert now double up on the fiddly intro piece to the first section "Divided"; the staccato chords in the second "Half Worlds Apart" section now blend in better with the song, and there's a new instrumental.
After a splendid morning and lunchtime catching up with Mike and Jane, off to Reeth and the Dales, in absolutely glorious sunshine. Checked in to the Black Bull, and then, wandering round the village, I met up with two good Strawbsfan chums who for legal reasons cannot be named, and then Ali and Linds, who'd travelled over the hills from Wensleydale. Supper in the Black Bull, then a short walk up the road to the venue - my idea of heaven is a walk from gig to bed!
My first time in the Buck Hotel gig (though far from my first time in Reeth and the Dales generally: for many years my college mates and I used to come up for a New Years holiday in the Dales, staying mainly in nearby Redmire), and thoroughly enjoyed it. Pretty damn good sound and the boys were stunningly on form - possibly the best version of "Josephine" I've EVER heard, just perfect. "Blue Angel" was pretty damn perfect too.
A great aftershow too - the Buck is also very hospitable indeed, staying open good and late. And then back to the Black Bull, which stayed open good and later. The next morning was a bit jaded as a result, but hacked back to London with Lindsay in good spirits nevertheless.
This is one of my favourite Acoustic tours for a while - the music gels brilliantly overall and the inclusion of some rare Dragonfly material, along with the (broadly) chronological approach running from 1968 through to 1975 (with an excursion midway in set two to 2004 for "Cold Steel") is refreshing and enthralling, especially as Cousins weaved an even more than usually compelling narrative - he likes coming back to the North and, both nights, was particularly effusive.
I've been rather busy this week and not feeling too great either (sniffle sniffle) but just want to mention what excellent shows the band put on last weekend at The Arc in Stockton-on-Tees and The Buck Inn, Reeth. Both were absolutely first-class performances to good-sized appreciative audiences, and for me personally the setlist on this tour comes close to perfection. It was wittily interspersed by Dave Cousins' tales of the band's rise to glory through the years (although of course "Oh How She Changed" is still bubbling under) and, particularly in Stockton-on-Tees, of his years spent working at Radio Tees literally just down the road from The Arc.
I think having a first set comprising of early-days Strawbs' shorter classics (I ADORE hearing and seeing "The Weary Song" and "I Turned my Face into the Wind" live) followed by a second half including a trilogy of three-part songs in which to lose oneself completely makes for an excellent contrast. I give "Blue Angel" 11 out of 10 at least for its powers to mesmerise.
Great shows, terrific company and wonderful hospitality. Many thanks to my merry companions one and all (even the one who "wasn't" there).
The Weary Song
Grave New World
Oh, How she changed
Shine on Silver Sun
UNION SCENE, DRAMMEN, NORWAY, FRIDAY 2 MARCH 2012
I was so happy to be at Union Scene in Drammen, Norway 2. March to watch and listen to the shows by Pentangle and then the Acoustic Strawbs. I guess about 200 people were present. The shows were perfect regarding sound quality, but far too short. I had checked the setlists from previous shows, and missed two of my favorites: "Witchwood" and "Blue Angel". However, no reason to be disappointed with the shows.