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ELECTRIC STRAWBS - UK DATES
APR 2016


Updated: 3 May 2016


Contents
The Flowerpot, Derby, Fri 22 Apr
  • Return of the Flowerpot Men - review by Paul Southby
  • Nell's Jazz & Blues Club, Kensington, Sat 23 Apr
    The Flowerpot, Derby, Fri 22 Apr and Nell's Jazz & Blues Club, Kensington, Sat 23 Apr
  • 21st Century Electric Strawbs - Review by Dick Greener
  • Anchor Arts, Wingham, Sun 24 Apr
  • Up Close And Personal - Review by Dick Greener
  • Robin 2, Bilston, Wed 27 Apr
  • Some Kind Of Alchemy- Review by Heather Malcolm
  • The Stables, Milton Keynes, Thu 28 Apr
  • The Best Possible Performance - Review by Dick Greener
  • In Full Flow - Review by Michael Howard
  • Tivoli Theatre, Wimborne, Fri 29 Apr
  • A Drive In The New Forest - Review by Dick Greener

  • Setlist

    Turn Me Round
    New World
    The Promised Land
    So Close And Yet So Far Away
    Ghosts
    Intro
    The River/Down By The Sea

    Prologue
    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
    Round And Round reprise
    [tape loop playout]

    Heartbreaker
    Lay Down

    TIVOLI THEATRE, WIMBOURNE, FRI 29 APR

    A DRIVE IN THE NEW FOREST - Review by Dick Greener

    The first thing to say is that I have never heard Dave Cousins' voice sound better than it was in this striking venue, soaring effortlessly over the band even when in full flight, not easy to achieve, as the band in full flight is a pretty impressive sound. Paul Smith is to be congratulated for his work on this tour, sometimes in difficult circs, but tonight operating flawlessly some nice sound equipment in an audio-friendly environment, he excelled himself.

    Wimborne is a small market town off the A31, difficult to get to that night as, owing to a combination of Friday night pre-Bank Holiday weekend traffic and some other problem, the A31 was nearly solid traffic and it took me nearly one and a half hours to manage a journey from the Travelodge at the start of the A31 to the venue which Google Maps told me should take 28 mins! More travelling joy to come, though I didn't know it then.

    The Tivoli was built in 1936 as a combined theatre and cinema, and the tradition of showing both films and live shows continues to this day. Staffed by committed volunteers, it really is a beautiful place inside, with a pleasant bar and a huge auditorium. The stage was lit with mainly blue and red lighting, with Chas, Tony and DC well lit, but a bit more shadow/deep blue on DB and DL.

    Highlights for me:

  • "New World" - again, delivered faultlessly, but with even better vocals
  • "Ghosts" - the new harpsichord intro sounds fantastic, the duet vocals to start and the intricate mix of keys, DC's strummed guitar, Chas's bass melody and DL's guitar figure at both beginning and end all came through as clear as a bell. The middle section had huge amounts of driving energy, with screaming solos from DL and pounding drums from Tony.
  • "River/Down By The Sea" - plaintive, tortured vocals from DC, great riffing and soloing from DL and keyboard virtuosity from DB, filling the end section with orchestral sound to complement DL's extended soloing.
  • "Autumn" - the opening instrumental came over particularly well, DB keyboard pad, with moog-style riff and little stabs of mellotron here and there. The little DC acoustic guitar figure and DL's electric were just note-perfect.
  • the DB link between "Hero And Heroine" and "Midnight Sun" - lovely churchy organ and keyboard pad garnered a well-deserved round of applause
  • "Lay Down" - a rousing version, perfect to close out the UK tour
  • After the show, a drink with American visitors Dale and Monique - this was the last of their four shows. As I bade them farewell, I headed for home, only to find that the road leading back to the hotel was closed overnight for road works and I couldn't get back along it. With the sat-nav making confused and unhelpful suggestions, I ended up taking a 25-mile round trip through the heart of the New Forest north of the A31, to Fordingbridge, a lonely road through the middle of nowhere, but with ghostly white ponies appearing in my headlights as I drove across the moor - with signs warning drivers not to hit them! I got back to the hotel about an hour after I should have - shades of "Stormy Down"! Next time I'm staying in the town (next door to the venue if possible!)


    Setlist

    Turn Me Round
    New World
    The Promised Land
    So Close And Yet So Far Away
    Ghosts
    Intro
    The River/Down By The Sea

    Prologue
    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
    Round And Round reprise
    [tape loop playout]

    Heartbreaker
    Lay Down

    THE STABLES, MILTON KEYNES, THU 28 APR

    IN FOR A TREAT AS THE BAND MUST GET TIGHTER STILL, ALTHOUGH IT'S HARD TO IMAGINE HOW - Review by Tom Brooking

    I last saw the electrics live in Newcastle in 1974. So having enjoyed the Acoustics so much recently I was a little apprehensive given DC's witty monolgues could not feature so prominently, even though I knew the latest keyboards player would be top notch given he is a mate and a colleague of a very fine musician I know well.

    Well I needn't have worried as everything was hunky dory and the band seemed re-energised and more together than ever by Dave Bainbridge's presence. Dave Cousins is looking well and has never sung better. Ohio Tom need not worry about hearing the lyrics as they were crystal clear and I heard every word. Sure the band were loud and Tony's drumming powerful but sound systems have improved an awful lot since 1974 when I could only really hear Dave Lambert's vocals. The Stables near the sprawling city of Milton Keynes is an excellent venue holding about 250 and was almost full (2 empty seats). In fact seats sold so fast even though I went on line the first day that tickets became available on the net, that we had to sit at the side so I couldn't see Tony F very well, but being right behind the keyboards suited my two pianist friends.

    And what a professional show even if poor Dave L's energy level was down a tad with his virus. Even so he played beautifully and sang passionately and accurately. You all know the set by now but it just kept building. "So Near And Yet So Far Away" with lovely piano and guitar parts was delicate in comparison with the powerful "Turn Me Round", "New World" (always gut crunching) and "Promised Land" with its jagged piano solo, but things lifted even further with "Ghosts" one of the Strawbs truly great songs IMHO and (strangely ) Lindsay Sorrell's, who ended up sitting next to me (great to meet her again). It just has so many elements and changes of pace and volume. Perhaps Tony could soften his drumming at the end a tad, but it was perfection in the electric mode just as it is in the acoustic form. And then -at last after all these years- "Down By The Sea" with great solos from DL and DB. And, throughout, Chas kept delivering bass lines that somehow are both meolodic and yet funky (I think he is playing an new bass too?). And what a tight rhythm section.

    And so off for a quick beer before an arguably even better second half of H and H from the quiet beinginning through the timeless majesty of "Autumn" and all the rest - the quite acoustic dominated "Shine On" and "Midnight Sun" providing gorgeous contrasts to the louder numbers. "Round And Round" is awesome too because somehow BD has caught John Hawken's sound as he also does on "Autumn", better than anyone else, especially those booming notes. "Lay A Little Light On Me" sequed into "Round And Round" and then the massed, backwards choir sent the band from the stage only to return for high energy renditions of "Heartbreaker" and "Lay Down", the latter sounding even better in electric form.

    But it wasn't all over even then. At the bar I managed to catch all five and thank them for giving me so many years of listening plesasure and DC seemed in great humour if a little weary after such a performance (and he seemed to be moving quite a lot of merchandise). He also hinted that a new album is likely with his new extension/sequel of "The Lady Of The Lake". And it was great to catch up with Dick and Nigel again as well, proudly wearing my Witchwood badge designed by said Nigel who told me the Wimbourne 500 seater theatre for the following night where the lucky fellow was attending, was 80% booked out. There was also plenty of younger patrons under 60s - I mean 20 somethings - who I hadn't seen at other gigs - so things are looking good as the younger generation discovers these musical heroes. If you are in America make sure you go! especially as my wife enjoyed this gig as much as the Acoustics and maybe more, while my two pianist friends-one a Kiwi who has lived in the UK since 1974 and t'other a Canadian, had a ball. You are in for a treat as the band must get tighter still, although it's hard to imagine how.

    I also wanted to say that these guys represent the best of the English - who, like the rest of us, are a bit of a mixed bag from a Kiwi's point of view with that rotten old class system still going strong, a reserve amongst the middle class upwards (not more humble folk) that borders on the unfriendly, terrible traffic, an erratic train system etc and maybe too many people for such a small place.

    BUT there is also appreciation of th world of nature, determination to preserve and celebrate heritage, a strong senes of history (that naturally appeals to an historian), kindness, tolerance, belief in freedom of expression (if somewhat under pressure at the moment), talent, great music and a love of language, word play and humour that is personfied by everyone of these great musos. And boy do they deserve more recognition and acknowledgement in their own country where their music has survived the test of time better than 99% of groups. Enjoy these guys while you may.


    THE BEST POSSIBLE PERFORMANCE - Review by Dick Greener

    Nice to see a bunch of familiar folks in the bar before and after - MK usually gets a good turnout and tonight was no exception. Pretty much a full house at the Stables, with nearly all the side seats taken as well as those facing the band.

    Seated side on at the Dave Lambert side of the Stables auditorium gave an unusual and interesting perspective on the band. There's not really a bad sightline in the whole place. With plenty of room on stage, Tony Fernandez' drumkit was on a riser a few yards back from the front line of mics. If the Stables allowed no flash photography, it might have been a good opportunity to get some light and airy pix of the band in full flow on at a major venue, but sadly they don't.

    The performance and sound was probably the best yet, and the Strawbs always play up to this fantastic venue, which they were the first band (other than owners Cleo Laine and Johnny Dankworth) to play in after it was opened in 2000. Previous keyboard player John Young had turned up with a keyboard to fill in for the one which died just before the show in Bilston, so for DB this was a two-keyboard night, which must have been more comfortable than his Robin 2 ordeal.

    Highlights for me tonight:

  • "New World" - maybe THE archetypal Strawbs track, piercing acoustic guitar, various keyboards including crashing mellotron and organ, and DC's impassioned vocal - what's NOT to like!
  • "Sad Young Man" - that organ solo by DB gets better and better and really adds something special to the song
  • "Hero And Heroine" - for me maybe the second archetype track - crashing chords, pounding drums, DC's guitar and one voice performed nearly accapella (with a few DL guitar swipes to remind us the band are still there)
  • "Lay A Little Light On Me" - DC's vocal performance is nothing short of fantastic on this song, even more impressive that it comes at the end of two long sets during which he hasn't been holding back vocally at all.
  • Overall a bravura performance from a band which has plenty of power and energy to give and the skill and experience to channel it to give their audience the best possible performance.


    IN FULL FLOW - Review by Michael Howard

    Caught last night's gig in MK, with my wife and son. I had hoped to speak to you afterwards in the foyer but didn't see you there although I'd noticed you earlier in the right tiered seating, so I didn't get the chance. We were in the centre of the auditorium so had a great view.

    As ever, great musicianship all evening. We thought that the balance wasn't quite right initially and that Dave's vocals weren't clear enough-but that may simply reflect the power of Tony's drumming behind him! Nonetheless "New World", "Ghosts" and "The River/Down By The Sea" were as fantastic as ever. "Just Love" was fantastic. It was good to hear some songs which I'd not heard played live before. Dave Bainbridge kept up the strong keyboards needed, with some intricate finger work when required.

    I also realise that Dave may have been saving himself a bit for the second half, which was a stunning run-through of H & H (in Ascensia). By the end, the band was in full flow in all respects. I particularly enjoyed the first encore, "Heartbreaker" as it is a personal favourite. My wife and I have always loved 'Lay Down', which reminds us of our college days in 1973/4 as it was a perennial favourite to dance to - so for us it was a fabulous end to the evening.

    Dave looked shattered afterwards when he came out to sign CDs. I hope that tonight's gig in Wimborne goes well and that the North American tour doesn't take too much out of him.

    With 3 "Dave's" in the current line-up, do conversations sometimes get confusing?


    Setlist

    Turn Me Round
    New World
    The Promised Land
    So Close And Yet So Far Away
    Ghosts
    Intro
    The River/Down By The Sea

    Prologue
    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
    Round And Round reprise
    [tape loop playout]

    Heartbreaker
    Lay Down

    ROBIN 2, BILSTON, WED 27 APR

    SOME KIND OF ALCHEMY - Review by Heather Malcolm

    Going to see a band that has passed their commercial peak is usually a risk. Who really wants to see tired people singing tired songs to an audience who are pretty tired themelves?

    But this has never been so with Strawbs. Yes, there are favourites - there would be a riot if "Autumn" was left out of the set - but there is always a new twist, a spark to keep the music alive and relevant. Last night at the Robin 2 in Bilston, there wasn't just a spark, there was a conflagration.

    David Cousins was simply on fire - growling, screaming, and crooning his way through his life story. Dave Lambert was majestic despite having a virus (it didn't show - I was amazed when he told me after the gig), Chas Cronk was at his melodic best, and he and Tony Fernandez (good grief he's so good) were as tight as a pickle jar lid on a cold day in Alaska. And the new Dave - Dave Bainbridge - should have a medal struck in his honour.

    A failed keyboard meant he had to do some wizardry to transfer to, and then somehow play all the necessary sounds on the only remaining instrument. And it's not as if he could sit quietly and vamp away in a corner - his in between bits (which he wrote, along with the new orchestrations) were key to the performance of 'Hero and Heroine' in its entirety.

    I didn't notice the dead keyboard (Ali "Hawkeye" Brown told me). After the gig, Dave C told me about the technical feat whilst shaking his head in amazement. He is delighted both by Dave B's writing and by how well he has integrated into the band "He understands the depth of the music." Praise indeed from a man who has gone through more keyboard players than Spinal Tap has 'lost' drummers.

    And Cousins is right. Last night here was some kind of alchemy going on - everybody committed, everybody on it, everybody togerher. There was no flashy showmanship, no unnecessary flim flammery to get in the way of the music, just hit-you-in-the-gut authenticity.

    Thank you Strawbs, and Strawbs fans. Another night to remember.


    Setlist

    Turn Me Round
    New World
    The Promised Land
    So Close And Yet So Far Away
    Ghosts
    Intro
    The River/Down By The Sea

    Prologue
    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
    Round And Round reprise
    [tape loop playout]

    Heartbreaker
    Lay Down

    ANCHOR ARTS, WINGHAM, SUN 24 APR

    UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL - Review by Dick Greener

    As ever, really great atmosphere at Anchor Arts in Wingham, a great little music venue where the owners really care about it. Crammed into a smallish stage (NYC fans, think Joe's Pub!) in an upstairs room in the pub, reached by a rather daunting starcase, the band pack an incredible punch when you can stand less than 3 feet away. The sold out crowd was hugely appreciative as the band delivered this now well-honed set.

    Nice to be able to SEE everyone, the lighting in the place being very good even at the sides of the stage, where Daves Bainbridge and Lambert usually ply their craft in semi-darkness. (Not good for photography though - not much usable as everything drenched in red light.) I spent a good deal of time watching both at work, particularly watching DB ringing the changes on the sounds he now brings to the Strawbs musical palette.

    DC in fine voice, and especially emotional on "Lay A Little Light On Me". "Sad Young Man" gets better and better, with a flash organ break from DB giving it a 21st century glitz it never had before. Tony, nestled behind DC for most of the time was as good as ever - a driving force for this line-up, and Chas's bass playing was fluid and melodic.

    And after all that, a chat in the bar (great selection of beers to choose from) with various folks, and a comfortable night in a local B&B - a very old building called the Old Butcher's House, well recommended. Nice that Dale and Monie, over from LA area for four gigs - we'll see them again at MK and Wimborne - were also staying there, so we caught up next morning at breakfast before I headed home.


    Photo by Dick Greener - more photos from Dick



    Setlist

    Turn Me Round
    New World
    The Promised Land
    So Close And Yet So Far Away
    Ghosts
    Intro
    [Heartbreaker - Royal Oak]
    The River/Down By The Sea

    Prologue
    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
    Round And Round reprise
    [tape loop playout]

    [Heartbreaker - Derby and West Kensington]
    Lay Down

    THE FLOWERPOT, DERBY, FRI 22 APR AND NELL'S JAZZ & BLUES CLUB, KENSINGTON, SAT 23 APR

    21ST CENTURY ELECTRIC STRAWBS - Review by Dick Greener

    The Flowerpot in Derby is a good solid music pub. The bar areas next door are comfy and some great beers on offer - various friends got a table together and we had the opportunity for a good chat before the show. The music area is long and low with a slight L-shape at the back round the bar. It was pretty near full (250 plus?), a great turnout and enthusiastic crowd. Standing only (a few very low slung sofas around the edges, all long gone by the time we headed in from the bar), which these days I find difficult. Very difficult to get a good view of the band, but the sound was pretty good, wrangled by Paul Smith out of the equipment and room characteristics in front of him. I stood and watched the man at work through parts of the second set, and his knowledge of the music helps him to get the levels just so, pulling up the keyboards as necessary and faithfully managing DC's vocal levels.

    Nell's Jazz and Blues Club is a new one for Strawbs. Above a Sainsbury's Local, the black marble stairs led up to a nice area on two levels, set out with tables cabaret-style. Mixing desk in a not ideal scenario at the side of the stage, but again Paul did a great job, though at the front, particularly on DL's side, his guitar, coming both from the amp and cabinet as well as his monitor was a bit overpowering. Some of the bass/drum heavy parts were slightly distorted too, not unsurprising given that this is primaily a jazz club, notwithstanding that Van Morrison has taken it his heart and has played ther on a few occasions (I think he brings his own PA in though). The venue would be an even better choice for the Acoustics I think.

    Photography nigh on impossible in Derby (and Hampton), but some reasonable opportunities at Nell's, where for once the drummer was by far the best lit member of the band. Check out the photo gallery.

    First act

    The staccato power chords and building drumbeat is a perfect opening to "Turn Me Round". DB adds some great organ noises in the first break between verses. Lovely cymbal work in the middle eight. Good backing vocals from DL and Chas. Mellotron stabs in final sequence, and crisp clean ending. A great start to the set.

    DC's lone guitar heralds "New World", the oldest number in the set. Great organ [and mellotron] sounds from DB. Paul Smith adds great echoes to DC's vocal in the second verse, including the last "May you rot", and his last, growled "New World" is very powerful indeed.

    A new intro for "The Promised Land" from DB precedes and then underlies DL's startup guitar figure, then Fernandez starts the building drum pattern leading to DC's acoustic chords to start the song proper. Chas adds his bit to the high note on "promised land". DB picks out those slightly dischordant piano notes in the break. Some great rhythm tricks going on in the instrumental coda, DL soloing beautifully, joined by some fantastic Hammond-style organ from DB.

    A change of pace, DC doffing guitar and DB playing the lilting intro to "So Close And Yet So Far Away", Chas's melodic bass lines and some nice mellotron flute sounds added into verse 2, before mellotron chorus backs the song's chorus, and then a DL solo. Back down to basics for verse 3, building again for the brief ending instrumental section.

    New to the tour is "Ghosts", opening with a reworking of the harpsichord-style opening from the album version, soon joined by DC's acoustic strum and Chas picking up the main melody on bass (instead of 12-string as he does with the Acoustics). First verse with DC/DL duetting, then DL joins on electric guitar with Fernandez on drums and emphatic cymbals as the song slides into its second part. A drum roll and the power chords, organ stabs and staccato drums of the opening to the DL section, which has a strong organ and drum backing, as well as some note-perfect soloing from DL. Organ particularly striking on third and final verse of that section. Last section slows down, then instrumental coda, led by DC's guitar, but bcaked by a tinkly sound from DB, with Chas joing and Tony building the drumbeat, before DL comes in on electric. (Strawbs usually use "Ghosts" as one of their soundcheck tracks, because this combination and mixing of the various components is hugely characcteristic of their sound.)

    The River opens with DC's guitar figure, some piano twirls from DB and eerie electric notes from DL. Muted cymbal/bass from Tony and Chas in the second verse, with the drums breaking loose after that as DL solos in the lead up verse 3. Lambert's guitar on the DBTS riff perfectly echoes the sound from the album, before DC's guitar strum and Chas bass/DB organ backs the first DC vocal section. The power chords and drumbeats with Tony bashing the drum sticks together in between, leads to the central DL vocal section. A DL guitar figure precdes the third verse, slowdown and Chas bass lead in to the last vocal section, which is mainly DC and Chas at first, with some nice mellotron coming in for the second verse, and DL muted electric/Tony cymbal work for the emotive final vocal from DC. The riff kicks off again, joined by bass then pounding drums. After a few times round the riff, DL switches to solo mode, to be joined by DB who first on mellotron, adds in the sweeping orchestral tones which accompanied the album version - I can hear choir, brass and strings. It's a really great mix of the two lead sounds - guitar and keys - a really stupendous finale to the first act.


    Photo by Dick Greener - more photos from Dick

    Second act

    Act two promises the 21st century version of Hero And Heroine. The opening section from "Lay A Little Light On Me" is backed first by a keyboard pad, then subtle restrained piano. The opening section of "Autumn" has some nice little mellotron stabs from DB under the bass melody, DL's seagull noises, with Tony keeping a steady beat with high hats. As DL's guitar switches to solo mode, the underlying mellotron is very nice indeed. "Deep Summer's Sleep" has that pefect little acoustic figure from DC, with DL's guitar in counterpoint over Chas's bass and a restrained Fernandez. Mellotron's back for the second part of the first verse, and stays with DC's intro to the second verse and on. The bridge to "Hold On To Me" leads to a rippling piano intro from DB, which I have to say sounds pretty note- and sound-perfect. DL adds slide and DB's piano part adds more (almost Wakeman-esque) flourishes than the original to this and the remaining vocal sections. There's some mellotron added in for the choruses, which build to DC and Chas joining the chorus harmonies, where DB switches in some organ over Tony's solid drumming and DC chordal work. DL solos impressively, building to the anthemic climax of power chords and cymbals.

    "Sad Young Man" has had a bit of a makeover, opening with bell-like piano. The chorus has strong mellotron over drums. DL picks out the figure, DB switches to a less bell-like piano for the verse. The middle eight, with DL on vocals, is followed by a extended organ solo from DB. DL guitar figure over mellotron precedes the last verse and chorus with DL and Chas providing backing vocals. Very restrained DL figure, DB keyboard and Tony's cymbalwork take the song to a gracveful conclusion.

    A few second pause then the jagged power chords, riff and steady beat of "Just Love". The middle eight has DB's piano then what sounds like a cello and organ leading back to the main. More Hammond-style organ in the final few choruses.

    The first linking piece between songs, with DB putting his own touch to things, precedes "Shine On Silver Song", a slow organ-based rethinking of the melody and chords of "Just Love" in a wholly different style. DC and DL start proceedings. The three-part harmonies ring out. Chas's bass countermelody perfect throughout. Tinkly piano on the second verse. More chorus mellotron on final choruses.

    There's a new opening to "Hero And Heroine", a rising organ/mellotron/both (?) chord, leading straight to two drum beats from Tony, then the riff. This band is as tight as anything with the complex rhythms of this quintessial Strawbs number.

    Now the intros aren't just art for art's sake - after "Hero", both DC and Chas have to switch guitars. DB provides a lovely echoey churchy organ piece until they are ready when they pick up the gentle acoustic guitar interplay. Joined by DL's muted guitar which runs up the scale over the acoustic strum, Tony is providing a shaker beat throughout. DC and Chas harmonies, joined by DL, are lovely. DL restrained solo and accompaniment to the last verse are reminiscent of the effect he gets from the eBow in acoustic shows. Near accapella close.

    More keyboard work from DB - a slow pad version of the melody "Midnight Sun" to cover the guitar change before "Out In The Cold" with acoustic opening from DC with DL electric interjections, building to the DL "down the fretboard" figure which precedes the verse. Some great bass from Chas in this. The pounding rhythm of "Round And Round" takes over, led mainly by Chas and Tony on closed high hat. Some nice keyboard pad notes coming in and out until DC plays the little acoustic figure. A pause with more keyboard pad and some swirling synth then the riff. DC's "revolution" vocal over has plenty of judicially directed echo and sounds positively alien as intended; the last howl is literally that. DL's guitar over the final phase is fluid and high.

    A complex rippling piano intro (with pad undertones) leads to "Lay A Little Light On Me". DC's harrowing vocal is superb (even after over 1 and a half hours of performance). Crisp entrance of drums and piano with DL howling stabs back up verse 2. The riff takes us to the final vocal of the song, and the rrepesats of DC's plaintive "Oh save me someone .." Riff resumes with added "Shine on silver sun/shine on everyone" vocal backing from DL and Chas, then winds up to the reprise of "Round And Round" and the thudding rhythm and keyboard noodling which precedes DC's "revolution" number 2 (more echo - I was watching next to Paul at the mixing desk in Derby when he was doing this - and a parting woredless scream from DC). Slashy cymbals and DL electric in the wind down. Playout is the backwards tape loop of the massed Strawbs singing "Shine on silver sun", over heartfelt applause from the audience (at Nell's, though the numbers were modest, they pretty much were all on the feet for a standing ovation: at Derby of course we were already standing!)

    Returning to the stage, the power chords and clever riff of "Heartbreaker", the first encore. [Heartbreaker was in the body of the first set at the warm-up, but was switched to and works very well indeed as an encore.] Nice mellotron and single beat drum over the middle eight. Synth comes in next and organ running up and down the scales, a nice addition to the song. String pad under the last verse, organ back for the chorus. The last run of the riff builds from a guitar sound like a plucked violin string to the full riff.

    And the last encore, the perennial and welcome "Lay Down" - accapella opening, nice mellow electric sound on DL's opening guitar figure. [At Derby I smiled to see a bunch of 24/25 year-old clean cut young men, throwing themselves into singing this song, not just the chorus but the verses as well - who says Strawbs fans are all old!] Solid organ throughout from DB, switching to mellotron for just the final verse and the last note.

    A fantastic start to the tour - all seem agreed that DB is a smashing addition to the line-up - the man can really play up a storm and fts in very well with the general Strawbs vibe. He seems to be enjoying it, given the pretty constant smile on his face and it's one of the tightest line-ups I've seen at the beginning of a tour, pretty ipressive given that the complex "Ghosts", "Heartbreaker" and various bits of "Hero And Heroine" which weren't included in the Moodies set hadn't been played before a live audience until three days ago. The keyboard linkages between songs are tasteful inventive and appropriate.

    Definitely a Strawbs for the 21st century!






    Photos by Dick Greener - more photos from Dick



    THE FLOWERPOT, DERBY, FRI 22 APR

    RETURN OF THE FLOWERPOT MEN - review by Paul Southby

    After this gig was postponed last year due to Dave C's illness I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but am happy to confirm officially that all is well and it was worth the wait. Chas 'n' Dave 'n' Dave 'n' Dave 'n' Tony were on peak form. So much so that this night has entered my top half dozen Strawbs experiences, along with the Bursting at the Seams and Hero and Heroine tours back in the 70s, an Old School Songs night at Sheffield University, and a couple of others over the last 18 years. It was a night of powerful playing, and an excellent set list as already reported by Mr Greener (good to see you as always Dick).

    Standouts for me were "Promised Land", a great rockier version of "Sad Young Man", "Just Love", "Hero And Heroine", and "Lay A Little Light On Me", although in many ways it feels wrong to pick favourites as it was all good. The Flowerpot was pretty full and the crowd surprisingly international with many fans from (if I judged the accents right) Denmark and Holland in attendance.

    DC seemed well, and to be enjoying himself. Dave L was at the top of his game, and the Chas/Tony rhythm section was powerful and punchy. A word for Dave Bainbridge on keyboards – he fits in perfectly but adds something that I feel has been missing for a while, a real richness both in the upfront keyboard parts but also to the overall sound. He also seemed to fit in really well, and … er … just looks right, like a perfect prog keyboard player. I hope we'll see more of him in future.

    On that subject, I looked up the ages of the band before writing this and all are now in the late 60s/early 70s territory. My Old Mum would say "Ooh they're marvellous for their age…" but that would be entirely patronizing – this was a top drawer performance from a band that looked like it has a new lease of life, and long may that continue.



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