PALACE THEATRE, NEWARK, 14 MAY 2000
After a slightly subdued first set (during which however the sound was probably the best it's been over the whole tour), there was a end of term atmosphere creeping in as the band played the final gig of the tour under the green minarets of Newark's quaint, attractive Palace Theatre. It started early (in the soundcheck): my wife and I had been to Dudley Zoo earlier in the day and, as Brian and Neil (the tour manager) hadn't been able to come, we got them a toy monkey each - Brian is pictured left monkeying around with his new friend! The jokery carried on into the concert with Hud's drumsticks being taped together by the road crew (or possibly Adam).
Marred only by a few buzzes from Lambert's Les Paul, the sound was excellent throughout, and the crowd extremely appreciative - "Out In The Cold/Round and Round" particularly well received early on in the set. Brian Willoughby turned in a particularly striking solo in spite of a damaged finger and the "riff tennis" between the two guitarists on "The River/Down By The Sea" was a tour de force.
The encores were delivered with particular panache - particularly "Sheep" where Adam had another surprise in store. Old-time fans will recall his father's penchant for playing the organ with a paint roller (to get that swelling run from one side of the keyboard to the other), which was caught by the camera during Strawbs' 1971 Top Of The Pops album slot appearance doing "Hangman and the Papist" - much to Dave Cousins' annoyance. Well, Adam just had to go one better, didn't he ? The organ solo in "Sheep" has been growing as the tour progressed, and this time, all the other band members stepped sharply to the left of stage to leave the focus firmly on Adam - out comes the paint roller - with a ceiling pole attached!! This piece of japery (and a bloody good solo) was rewarded by a broad smile from Dave and cheers from the audience. Apparently Pete and Andy have photographic evidence and the bribe is in the post.
The gig closed with a standing ovation from most of the crowd in the stalls, thanks to the cast and crew, and a promise from Dave to see us in the bar for a drink and then again next year for another tour. We'll hold him to that!
Saw the band's last night at Newark 14 May. Great gig !!!!
As far as Newark goes, I've seen many bands since 1974, and I can honestly say, that Newark took me out of the stratosphere. It was certainly the best concert I have ever seen by any band. They all seemed to enjoy themselves so much. Just brilliant. I just hope the band do more concerts next year. Also bought the new Chiswick album, great stuff.
ROBIN HOOD CLUB, DUDLEY, 13 MAY 2000
What a great night! It didn't start too well as the place seemed rather empty, and there was some confusion about what time the gig started. The Robin had told people that the support was on at 8.30 and the Strawbs were on at 9. In fact the Strawbs "acoustic" started at 8.30, while people were still arriving. Dave Lambert started with a solo rendition of a new song which was well received but (due to being new) didn't set the crowd alight.
Hudson and Ford did two songs acoustically: "Heavy Disguise" and "I Don't Understand/Revelations" from their Nickelodeon album. These are songs I really enjoy but was a bit worried about how they would finish "Revelations" as on vinyl it relies heavily on keyboards, although the result was very enjoyable. The acoustic set progressed getting louder and louder with the full band playing. The acoustic set finished with "Hangman and the Papist" with some atmospheric keyboards from Adam Wakeman. Dave Cousins seemed rather subdued during this part of the set.
After a short break the band returned with Dave Cousins wearing a very loud shirt. An equally loud wag in the audience commented on the shirt, with Cousins replying "The Strawbs are no longer a Folk Band...........We're a fashion statement!" The set was essentially the same as others reviewed on the web site. The doubts about the small audience evaporated, and it became the most enthusiastic audience I have been part of for many years. Each band member was on top form, and Brian Willoughby and Dave Lambert complemented each others playing perfectly. Dave Cousins' apparent subdued nature vanished as he sang with power and energy.
My only grouse was with the keyboards:- Adam Wakeman's playing was inspired, but he should be given keyboards with voices more appropriate to the Strawbs set (and definitely a Mellotron).
The rendition of "Down by the Sea" had me hoping it wouldn't end, and for me there was a slight feeling of anticlimax after that, even despite a blistering version of "Hero and Heroine".
The inspired choice of "Burning for Me" as the first encore was offset slightly by the wag in the audience telling Dave Cousins to change his shirt, which he did. This detracted from the rather haunting nature of the song, particularly when there was laughter on his return prior to the vocals. Dave said it was the song he'd most enjoyed performing, although for me it was slightly diminished that night. The set finished with a heavy uptempo version of "Sheep".
The Strawbs were brilliant. Touring two years in a row with this lineup (with Adam Wakeman added at short notice) has made them tighter musically, and they seemed to be having a good time despite the group cold.
Photos by Dick Greener
An impressive list of guests are scheduled/have been to this well-known club venue - Jan Akkerman, Colin Blunstone and Road Argent, Colosseum, Judie Tzuke, Roy Wood and Chris Farlowe. The Strawbs trusty sound team will be back at Brierly Hill in a few days for their nest tour of duty with the Ian Hunter Band). Strawbs played its sister venue Robin 2 in Bilston last tour. Like many club gigs, it's a noisy atmosphere, with the bar down one side. Nevertheless, there were clearly some real fans in the audience, judging by the number of those mouthing the lyrics or dancing at the front of the stage.
Local duo Ben Smith and Jim Batty (part of New Delhi Freight Train) opened the evening - well worth catching their material if you get chance: Ben's songs are thoughtful and well delivered on acoustic guitar (I liked particularly the one about a school photograph and what happens to all those people from your youth - "some are homeless, some are soulless") and Jim provides harmonies and tasteful Brian Willoughby-esque fiddly bits on electric.
Quite honestly I was quite amused by the shirt business - when the heckler first commented on his loud shirt, Dave threatened, "Don't make me send Lambert down there". And the business about going off to change - leaving the band to cope with a slightly extended intro for "Burning For Me" was pure Cousins crowd control at its best.
Check out the Robin's website at http://www.therobin.co.uk. Helen from the Robin's website was taking lots of photographs, and I hope we'll be able to include some of these on StrawbsWeb.
THE ADELPHI PRESTON 11 MAY 2000
Having seen the gigs at Liverpool and Burnley I was intrigued to discover how this stretched Strawbs line-up would squeeze themselves into the modest accommodation over the Adelphi pub in Preston. The band had played this venue three years earlier in their previous and slightly less portly (in all respects) profile.
The first bad sign was to see the "doors open" sign display 8.30. This hinted at a reduced set which proved to be correct, for when the show eventually got underway at 9.30, the initial chords of "New World" signalled a "noisy bits" only performance. Gone was the "unplugged" set, which was a pity, as the intimacy of the venue lent itself to a more folk club style rapport. It eventually transpired, via after show discussions with the band, that this was a convenient "filler" gig, breaking the journey twixt Derby and Glasgow - ironic in the light of events north of the border.
Once the absence of the opening set was accepted, I was able to settle down and enjoy the band clearly relishing the challenge of playing in a wardrobe, and with only limited technical hardware. Most of the band's equipment was safely stowed in the ubiquitous (how many tours has it done?) white van, lodged in the beer garden. Cousins and Willoughby had to pass leads to and fro to enable Simple Visions to happen, and the latter confessed afterwards that the absence of sufficient sound foldback added an extra edge to the riff tennis of himself and Lambert.
Photos from Myron Hrynkow
Despite all the restrictions, the band were on excellent form and obviously enjoyed the rapport with the audience. "I feel like Marlene Dietrich" comment Cousins at one point. "You're old enough!" yelled someone in the crowd. Adam Wakeman drew an a cheer of approval after successfully manoeuvring the bridge between Tears and Pavan, leading Cousins to explain the young "Adonis" was actually genetically modified Blue Weaver, a process to be continued on the rest of the band.
Militant action by the sound crew deliberately distorted the balance during -appropriately- Part of the Union, temporarily puzzling the musicians. All this was conducive to a really good atmosphere in the tiny auditorium, while Lambert's twenty-four fret smile seemed to sum up the mood on stage.
Overall then this was another pleasing evening, the change of style demanded by the venue being refreshing for the band who were also recharged by the knowledge of an unexpected day off to follow, though Brian stressed how disappointed they were at not being able to play Glasgow. There was some debate about how to fill the free day, with the possibility of a day trip to Blackpool being muted. This reminded me of the story Dave Cousins told last time the Strawbs played the Adelphi, when he compared some of the more anatomically curious exhibits in Blackpool's Tussaud's with certain intimate details of the physique of one of the band.
Ticket prices at Preston were slightly lower than elsewhere on the tour so the gig was still good value for money - but I'm glad I went to other venues and saw the full programme.
[Myron and Irene saw the band at Burnley previously - click here for the review and some photos. DG]
Returning up north a week later to play at the small Adelphi Theatre which is in fact not a theatre but an upstairs club room in a large pub. Due to lack of space in the Adelphi, they played one set dropping the acoustic set. Despite very cramped performance area (Adam Wakeman was squashed back into the right hand corner of the stage area), the band lost none of its raw energy and sparkle. The sound mix was every bit as good as the much larger Mechanics Theatre in Burnley. The set sounded better than the tracks of the original recordings and Dave and the band were in very relaxed mood, well able to deliver the material, despite most of them having heavy colds.
The last that we heard from them was that they had next day off because although they had been booked to play in Glasgow, the gig was cancelled when part of the Glasgow theatre's roof fell in! The band had instead planned a day at Blackpool. I wonder if they got Dave on the Big one!
Keyboards: Adam Wakeman
Live Inside Your Hell Tonight (Dave Lambert solo)
I Don't Understand/Revelations (Hudson and Ford)
Heavy Disguise (Hudson and Ford)
The Winter And The Summer (Dave Lambert with Hudson, Wakeman and Willoughby)
Witchwood (Dave Cousins joins band)
Queen Of Dreams
A Glimpse of Heaven
Hangman And The Papist
Out In The Cold/Round And Round
Tears And Pavan
Josephine For Better Or For Worse
On My Way
The River/Down By The Sea
(Happy Birthday Richard Hudson)
Part Of The Union
Hero And Heroine
Burning For Me
HUNTINGDON HALL, WORCESTER, 9 MAY 2000
The following day saw me 'making a sideways motion' and in the evening sitting in the enthusiastic audience at the Huntingdon Hall gig. The first 'double header' of my concert-going career. The performance followed the pattern of the previous evening, with the exception of Hudson and Ford getting en extra outing in the first half with a performance of "I Don't Understand/Revelations", "On My Way" being moved up to the pre-encore second half, and, without Tony Hooper in attendance, "Oh How She Changed" was of course omitted. To mark the special occasion there was a rendition of the previously unrecorded, unreleased and unrehearsed, "Happy Birthday Richard Hudson". Hud will probably want to forget both the song and the reason for singing it!
Adam Wakeman replaced Blue and put in a fine performance. He smiled amiably at Dave Cousins' quip that he is the first genetically cloned Strawb - youthful and vibrant and just waiting to be joined by another clone - perhaps a drummer! On the subject of Dave Cousins' remarks he again took up the topic of Gwyneth Palthrow and "Shakespeare in Love". Dave is in love with Gwyneth, albeit in the bearded mode and he's pissed off that Tears and Pavan wasn't used in the movie. Never mind, hopefully there'll be a "Shakespeare in Love 2" so we can start a campaign to persuade the producer to include the song. Also, a cameo appearance for Dave perhaps, so he can get in the vicinity of Miss P.
Huntingdon Hall is a venue with certain unique features. Amongst other things the prize raffle during the interval is of legendary dimensions. The audience waits with baited breath to see if they're the lucky winners of a 'banana tree' and a box of handkerchiefs. No one seems to want to own up to the winning ticket for a 'face mask'. The raffle ends, the band returns and before the opening riff of New World Dave C. is forced to comment that the reviews are probably going to say 'the raffle was great, but the band was crap!' Fear not Dave Cousins, no chance of that.
There is no doubt that the band is in good form and has been enjoying the current tour. An even, well-balanced, well-paced set with many highlights. "The River/Down By The Sea" is the highpoint of the set for me. Not only for the Dave Lambert/Brian Willoughby guitar performances but also for the way they combine with Dave Cousins' vocals, and indeed the text of the song, to produce a sensory bombardment of the nicest sort. Let's not forget that so much of the Strawbs' musical strength is built solidly on the song-writing skills of Dave Cousins. "Out In The Cold" is another strong contender. A great deal of pleasure has been brought to fans, hopefully not only us of the vintage variety but many new ones as well.
What's next? Is there room for some sort of mini-Cropedy type Strawbs convention. There certainly seems to be a strong sense of Strawbsness and a positive rapport between band and audience. Will more effort be put into a U.S. tour? Will the various members start to concentrate more on their respective individual projects? Whatever the future holds we can be grateful for the performances of the 2000 tour (and the 1999 tour for that matter). We hope for a 2001 tour and hope that Dave Cousins won't get tempted by too many lines of cocoa and slippers!
Personal indulgence - Thanks Lars for the meal in London. Thanks A. and C. for the ticket at Worcester.
So there we go, I was reading the Sunday Times back in February, The Strawbs, still touring. They were second band I ever saw live. The Who were the first on a very hot evening in Bath, 1971 I think, 29 years ago. A band called the Strawbs had just brought an LP out, called Bursting at the Seams. I went to see them, with the then girl friend, at the Colston Hall in Bristol. They were brilliant.
I got in to the band, early sounds, later works were bought on vinyl. These have long since been lost. So, the Strawbs on tour, my lady wife and I had our first night out, without a baby sitter for 17 years. Eldest child, under the threat of GBH, had to look after his 15-year old brother. To Worcester.....
Got there in plenty of time, time for a pint. Into the local pub, Dave C supping. We exchanged smiles. The hall, a renovated chapel, splendid setting. The first set, it all came back, memories, the sound of live music, the atmosphere. Words cannot explain.
I cannot remember the names of many of the songs, but Hangman had me in tears, Heavy Disguise brilliant. Time went so quickly. Hey, these guys were still very competent musicians. The second set, we all rocked on. Again all the numbers were outstanding.
So the evening ended. I was told I had a silly grin on my face all evening, but we both enjoyed it so much. Thank you so much the Strawbs, for such an evening. Even the house was still standing when we returned.....