You Never Missed The Water
Beat The Retreat
The Ten Commandments
The Winter And The Summer
A Glimpse Of Heaven
Josephine, For Better Or For Worse
On My Way
The Hangman And The Papist
Tears And Pavan
Out In The Cold/Round And Round
The Flower And The Young Man
You And I (When We Were Young)
The River/Down By The Sea
Part Of The Union
RED LION, ISLEWORTH - 8 Apr 2001
Let's get a couple of things out of the way first - the PA was dire and the balance wasn't always right, with Dave Lambert's black Washburn Sundowner guitar sometime overpowering all around it; Brian's levels weren't high enough; and Dave's vocals were distorting badly - the PA/speakers' fault. Still, the cosy atmosphere in the tiny music room meant you were right on top of the band, no matter how far back you were and the beer and atmosphere were both good.
Even with all that said, those who turned out to pack the house on a miserable wet Sunday night were treated to a rousing Cousins, Willoughby and Lambert gig and, more than likely, a pretty accurate taster for the upcoming full band tour. The Strawbs numbers work extremely well in the three guitar, two vocalist arrangements, which have clearly had a bit more work since the first acoustic trio gig I saw back at The Cabbage Patch last year.
Cousins and Willoughby started the ball rock'n'rolling with "You Never Missed The Water", Brian's "liquid fingers just about keeping up with me", joked Dave. This was followed by, a pleasant treat for me as it's one of my personal favourites, "Beat The Retreat" with Brian's instrumentals mimicking the "Just One Cornetto" school of mandolin playing. Their last as a duo, "Grace Darling" is always a pleasure to listen to. Both appear on the forthcoming CD which will come free with the May edition of the Classic Rock Society's magazine Wondrous Stories, which also features an interview with Cousins.
Lambert took the stage for a solo rendition of "Framed" from his solo album, then Brian joined him for a powerful new song called "The Ten Commandments", which Dave confessed he's never done live before and Brian's only heard half way through! The two of them then carried on with a tastefully restrained "The Winter And The Summer" before Cousins rejoined them for a rousing "Glimpse Of Heaven". Adjusting the tuning slightly for "Josephine", then the first set ended with the rocked-up version of "On My Way" which just gets better and better
Returning to the stage for "Hangman And The Papist", the trio moved on to "Tears And Pavan", which is stripped right down to two guitars, one of which pretends to be the mandolin (Cousins freely admitted he'd never learnt the chords, though he valiantly had a go - "I normally don't play on this one, just do my little Greek waiter's dance," he quipped at the end of the song).
Brian started the chordal rhythm going and Dave Cousins belted out "Simple Visions", to which Lambert offered nearly album-perfect lead guitar licks. "Out In The Cold/Round And Round" next - no surprises that the largely acoustic first half works well, but it is a surprise that the guitars manage to recreate so well the brooding menacing synth line. Even the guitar hero ending, with Lambert overplaying a lead ending, calling out the chords to his smiling colleagues.
Next, a surprise - "The Flower And The Young Man" - complete with accapella opening verse and Lambert taking on Hooper's vocal line. I'd imagine that the keyboards will come into play on tour, but the two Dave's guitars managed the instrumental chords very happily. "Witchwood" followed, then another newly recovered gem - another of my own personal favourites, "You And I (When We Were Young)", with gentle acoustic backing, Lambert taking the middle verse, which will benefit on the tour from support from the massed ranks of Choir Strawb.
"The River"/"Down By The Sea" ought by rights not to fly as an acoustic piece, yet it was almost as powerful as it is with the full band. Willoughby and Lambert played duelling lead guitarists in the lengthy closing instrumental. "Lay Down" was clean and powerful in its acoustic setting, and "Part Of The Union", though a little ragged, got everyone singing (Dave Lambert just loves that little double-strum - it only appears in one of the verses on record, but he got it in on every verse).
Much as an encore was requested (someone blasted away on a school whistle), that's it for the night. Guitars packed away, the full band rehearsals would start early the following week, with the warm-up gig scheduled for Tues 17 April, at the good old Turks Head in St. Margarets, Winchester. See you there .....