Updated: 27 June 2008
Out In The Cold/Round And Round
Remembering/You And I (When We Were Young)
The Broken Hearted Bride
Burning For Me
Here Today Gone Tomorrow
The Call To Action
Hero And Heroine
The River/Down By The Sea
BB KINGS, MANHATTAN - TUESDAY 10 JUNE 2008
Well, look at me. The first person to chime in about the show last night. And it certainly figures. In order to be on the 6:17 a.m. train this morning, I had to take off just about the time the post-show bar scene was.
Really don't have much time other than to say they were SO on. Every single one of them. Hawken was amazing. Cousins?? Could his voice EVER be more powerful?? Absolutely flawless in the voice department. The absolute BEST "May you rot" that I've ever ever heard!!!
"The Broken-Hearted Bride" was unbelievable. It always takes me a few listens to get totally hooked on any song (except "Deep In The Darkest Night" which was another love-at-first-listen song) but not this time. And, my goodness, the song opens a whole new universe of arm-flailing for him, doesn't it?
One thing I found very odd-- "The Call To Action". It was fine but somehow Ian/Cousins' live version seemed stronger. I realize that makes no sense with two people vs the full electric band, but something was lacking. I think the addition of the fiddle at the forefront just makes it positively soar and I missed that.
John Ford and Jill were there but I'm sorry to say that John didn't perform with them. I'm hoping he's so sick of people asking WHEN he's gonna do another show in the NY area that he'll finally surrender and do one! Jill did mention a show he's doing in Syracuse(?) so I'm sure she'll post details soon.
Worth noting: The weather was positively BRUTAL. Sauna-like temperatures and humidity. Nearly unbearable outside. Good crowd. Not sure if it was sold out, but definitely packed. I sat with the wonderful Bill and Bev who were celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary. Total fun. Great seeing so many WWers and even greater to see people I've never seen before totally into them.
In gist: Bravo!
I managed to catch the 12:20 AM last night and got about 3 hours sleep last night! I don't usually hang out after a weekday show like I did last night but I did feel "young" again - and it had to be because the band just sounded so great!
There were less people attending than last year , I believe. But the heat was awful, that may have contributed some. BBKings needs to turn up the air conditioning.
I LOVED "The Broken Hearted Bride" and I agree with Judi that I preferred "The Call To Action" on the solo tour. I think because it's a song that is powerful lyrically and Dave's voice is the main instrumentation needed.
They were absolutely stellar. Dave's voice was true and strong; the harmonies on "You And I" were sublime and, of course, DL was wonderful on "The Winter Long". Lots of arm flailing, some new between song chatter and the dedication of "Here Today Gone Tomorrow" to Mike Gebhardt was touching. I lost a very dear friend just last Tuesday and i appreciated Dave's words. I just can't wait till Pawling.
Photo from BB Kings from Rick Sarlo- more photos from Rick
GO to the next Strawbs gig in your area!! LOL!
I've seen them in electric and acoustic iterations almost as often as I've seen Fairport Convention - maybe 15 - 20 times? Most recently on the opening gig of their UK tour in Sheffield on May 21. But I swear that last night's gig must be among their very best. Exciting, crowd pulsing, repeated spontaneous stand-ups at the end of several numbers, enthusiastic and 'committed' crowd.
With the exception of one beautifully handled,momentary lyrics-miss by Cousins (laughingly singing "bugger" to cover and move on...), they were just about perfect!
The set list relied more on familiar material than on songs from their upcoming new CD (The Broken Hearted Bride - Sept.), all performed with skill and imagination. "The Call To Action" is a new one with evocative borrowings from Middle Eastern musical codas (good keyboard work by Hawken), a driving beat, and an uncompromising political message - a candidate for a new 'anthem' piece for the band, I think. Drumming throughout - and especially an extended solo while the band took a break - was outstanding!!!
These 'old guys' in our beloved bands of yore sometimes take so much joy in the music and performing itself that they no longer seem to care about the size of the crowds; they just continue to master their instruments and give it up wholeheartedly once the lights go up. Such was the case with The Strawbs last night. But since they changed management for their US tours, they have greatly magnified their audience - two years in a row selling out BB King's, right in the packed theatre district on 42nd St in NYC. Contrast the 1000 at these gigs to the 35-50 at Joe's Pub only 3 years ago. And the excellent sound system in a club of this kind reflects the band's talents well. The lineup on the sidewalk began at 4:30 for the 8pm show and stretched down the block. (That in itself is good PR for the band - your name on a NYC marquee while passers by see this long line.)
Those of you who know me well are aware that I admire Dave Lambert as an under-rated guitar talent. He was superb! There is an exclusionary absorption in his manner while he plays, eyes tightly shut, grimacing with the high notes, pumping the guitar with the rhythm occasionally, and then unexpectedly unable to repress a kick and spin, from one who simply doesn't engage in onstage theatrics. The number ends, and he opens his eyes and grins like a little boy who has never heard applause before. He 'owns' his instrument, and appears to enjoy stretching it's capabilities, engaging gadgets, etc. to push the range of sound he can elicit. A joy to watch. Almost as if one is peeking thru his windows, sneaking a view of him running the numbers in his parlour.
I was grinning, crying, laughing, hi-5-ing, and chair dancing to the point of exhaustion when we finally exited at about 11pm. Great experience, as always!!!
I'm no writer, nor a reviewer. My comments only reflect enthusiasm and random impressions. Last night I was 17 again, and the band sustained that feeling for a full 2 hours. But then, maybe being able to report that is the best 'review' of all.
I write this sitting on the train heading to the suburbs after the opening night of the U.S. Tour. It's been about a year since the entire band was last here (of course Dave Cousins had his solo tour earlier), so the show at BB Kings tonight gave us the chance to reconnect with the band and with friends.
I arrived at 6pm for an 8pm show, and was fortunate enough to get a first row table on the right side of the stage – for those familiar with the band's set-up, Dave Lambert was right in front of me. Also at my table were an Aussie and a Brit, strangers who quickly became fast friends. Each of them held up his country's honor in the drinking department, and who enthusiastically enjoyed the show.
Most of the usual New York fans were there, and the show was like a reunion as we all were able to catch up with events over the past year. The only sad note was the absence of our dear friend Mike Gebhardt, who passed away recently. Mike, you are missed.
The concert itself was fantastic with a mixture of new songs and old. Two songs from the upcoming CD, "The Broken Hearted Bride" in the set were the title song, and "The Call To Action". In announcing the latter, Dave Cousins gave a heartfelt plea to overcome the agenda of certain religious fundamentalists; which presents a barrier to even sitting down at the table to discuss issues, a certain prerequisite to world peace. Both songs are strong rock numbers. The arrangement of "The Call To Action" was different enough from the version on the Cousins/Conrad album that it was like a new song. I can't wait for the album in September (I've already ordered my copy, and anyone interested can pre-order from the Witchwood Website - www.witchwoodrecords.co.uk). As I write this, it's still possible to be a sponsor and have your name included in the album materials.
I love all the old songs, but depending on the show, different songs are memorable. Of the old favorites, particularly strong tonight were "New World", "The River/Down by the Sea" and "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow" (which was dedicated to Mike).
After the show, the band, and the regulars retired to the bar for drinks (huge surprise, right, the Strawbs go for a drink). I couldn't stay long, but did have the opportunity to exchange a few words with Dave Cousins, Dave Lambert, Chas and John Hawken. Also, I had a brief chat with John Ford who was checking out the old band and with Jill. By the way, you can find John Ford's new single "Big Hit in India" on MySpace – it's a great song, check it out.
Musically, the band was great, the only down note being that the mix of vocal to insruments seemed a bit off, and occasionally the vocals were lost. This is unusual in BB Kings, which is a fine venue.
Based on opening night, it looks like another strong, can't miss US tour for the Strawbs. I'm already looking forward to the next show I'll attend, which is closing night at the Towne Crier in Pawling NY.
The band was really on top of their game. Cousins sang with enormous feeling (I was almost worried he would bust a blood vessel during "The Call To Action"). The new songs were great. Rod Coombes got out the light sabers on "The Call To Action". I'm not sure what they do, but it gave the percussion a sound like tablas. "The Broken Hearted Bride" was great, too.
Opening was Judith Owen. She has some kind of association with Richard Thompson. Beautiful voice. Sort of a Tori Amos with a sense of humor. Worth checking out.
It was about 100 degrees and humid in NYC that day. I knew I was going to wait on line, so I wore the lightest pants I had, which happened to be pajama bottoms. But they were a pretty, pink and green floral design, and I hope nobody could tell!!! B.B. King's was air conditioned, but I was still warm for some time.
Anyway, it was well worth it. I had forgotten how good they were. They did my favorites, including "Autumn" and "Down By the Sea". When I had spoken to Dave in March, I asked him to do the latter when he came back, so I was really happy. I got to meet the other guys, and they were so nice and friendly. They all signed my cap, which is covered by musicians' autographs. I went with my friend, John, who saw them last year. I'm going to try to see them on Sat. if I can manage it -- it's a bit of a distance.
Photo from BB Kings from Rick Sarlo- more photos from Rick
SELLERSVILLE THEATER, SELLERSVILLE, PA - WEDNESDAY 11 JUNE 2008
What an interesting show this was! One goes to a Strawbs show expecting top notch entertainment, and I can't remember ever being disappointed, and I've been going to Strawbs concerts since around 1972 or 1973. can say that their record still stands, for me: I was in no way disappointed.
Having said that, I will say that I have seen them better, as a band. Lambert, Cousins and Cronk, such consummate professionals that even when not at their best are still miles beyond the pack, did seem to be sort of going through the motions. In stark contrast, I have never seen/heard John Hawken better, and Rod Coombes was at the top of his game. If he, as I have been informed, missed some metal, nearly causing a percussive catastrophe, the micro-second passed un-noticed by me.
There seems to be some controversy concerning the various renditions of "The Call To Action." My vote goes unhesitatingly to the Electric Strawbs' arrangement, with its very appropriate Middle Eastern flavor. It goes beyond what is called for in expression it is musically exquisite. One of my early jobs in the music business was designing a cover for an album of ethnic Middle Eastern Music, in 1971. My father had produced several albums for those musicians, so I was raised listening to that music, as it was played by musicians from several Middle Eastern nations, long before we all hated each other. This particular approach that the Strawbs have taken with this song rings true and is a "rocked" variation on those themes. Technical and musical analysis set aside, I just love the sh*t out of it.
And I like the previous versions very much as well, but this surpasses them. The bottom line is that this is the mark of a perfect song, written by an exceptional songwriter. Is it possible that in "The Call To Action" Dave Cousins has finally written his quintessential song? That is not to say that one might not prefer another song, but is there another that can pass this test and SURPASS this test? I think that "The Call To Action" is the spoke in the wheel of these concerts, all of which seem to have the same set list. And to support my argument, I point simply to the extensive discussions on Witchwood about this song, while less has been said about the new song "The Broken Hearted Bride." "The Broken Hearted Bride" DOES merit discussing. It's a good song; a strong song. There is something about the intro, that I can't put my finger on; something that I've heard before in another song. Lyrically, it is nice to hear Cousins getting back to dealing with contemporary issues, although admittedly, his love poetry has always been compelling.
If only the Sellersville venue had been better. A better room, with crisper sound, in a different place. But that's Sellersville. And that's why I don't like it.
Just another trip to see the "greatest singer songwriter" and once again...not disappointed.
It's almost summer in Eastern Canada and what better than a drive down the coast.... to Pennsylvania. The opening "act" was interesting , thank you Judith for writing N. Drake tune. Having never heard of Ms. Owen we'll look forward to listening to her CDs. Perhaps she'll play in Halifax next spring at the "Firehall" in Mt. Uniake a la Dave March 22, 2008 ..we'd be interested.
Strawbs main course was "delectable", menu altered slightly with some new garnish on the standard fare. Bullish new tunes from upcoming album, the rhythmic "The Call To Action" was like an Arabian Fiesta complete with mortar shell interruption. Does not get any better, "New World" 08!!
Any way, great show, great venue,and we look forward to your Canadian visit next year. Can I put in for some gas money???
This was my first ever Strawbs gig (shame on me), certainly not my last. No excuse really because I was always aware of how awesome they were/are going back to 1973's Bursting At The Seams and the stunning "Lady Fuschia" which was my first introduction to the band.
So many highlights from the show that it's hard to single them all out but "Burning For Me", "Autumn", "Heartbreaker" (great vocal Dave) and "The River/Down By The Sea" all deserve honorable mention. All in all a brilliant show!
It was also a great thrill to meet John Hawken and acknowledge my great respect for his work with Renaissance and Illusion. Thanks for the autographs John, cheers!
It really felt like I was among old friends seeing the Strawbs for the first time. Very good for my soul.
Photo from Cinnie Morgan- more photos from Cinnie
Out in the Cold/Round and Round
Remembering/You and I When We Were Young
The Broken-Hearted Bride
Burning For Me
Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
The Call To Action
Hero and Heroine
The River/Down By The Sea
RAMSHEAD TAVERN, ANNAPOLIS, MD - THURSDAY 12 JUNE 2008
Twenty-four hours after being in Sellersville, I found myself at the Ram's Head, at which I had never before been. Another venue with less than optimal sound, but this time it wasn't a case of mediocrity, it was a case of "just not right." Paul is a great sound man - one of the best - but you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Over all, the sound was fine. But periodically, something just went wrong. I think where Paul was sitting, all was well. Where I was sitting, there were times when one instrument was completely missing or when Dave Cousins' voice completely obscured the rest of the Strawbs. However, these problems were intermittent and did not significantly detract from my enjoyment of a great performance.
This show was noticeably better than the one in Sellersville. John Hawken and Rod Coombes were, as before, excellent. I had not mentioned Rod's drum solo, which deserves a standing ovation (I believe he gets them). It has been decades since I have seen anyone do a drum solo, although Rod tells me that he has done them. Somehow, I don't remember. THIS time I won't forget. For adults, drum solos fell out of favor because drummers were drummers, not percussionists, which is what Coombes really is. The difference is that drummers bang on drums; percussionists play instruments. When he plays, it is more than rhythm, it is more than keeping time. He makes music, and he does it for the love of the playing. If you doubt me, watch the smile on his face at the end of his solo. It's like a kid graduating from high school or university. An "I did it!" smile, a smile of pure joy and accomplishment. If you can't get to a show, find a photo.
And, of course, John Hawken, whom I believe to be the world's finest contemporary keyboard player, was in fine form. I will defend my contention in any debate, at any time, and I will win. Without him, Electric Strawbs need battery packs.
But over all, this show was significantly better than the one in Sellersville. Simply put, Electric Strawbs were HOT! Dave Lambert was more than plugged in, he was turned on. Chas Cronk was back to where he usually is, making the band a cohesive unit. And Dave Cousins was present. I don't think he was in Sellersville. He just seemed to have been elsewhere. But I have seen so many of his shows, over so many decades that I have come to be able to read his body language. Yes, some times he sounds better than other times, and he sounded better at the Ram's Head than at Sellersville. But his face and his body said, "I'M HERE, I'M WITH YOU."
Here today. Gone tomorrow?
The Strawbs were stupendous last night. The great poet, Dave Cousins, was captivating, with his voice in remarkably strong form. Dave Lambert's guitar was stupendous -- he is truly gifted guitarist -- as was his voice. Chas Cronk was spot on with his blissful bass work. The gentle John Hawken added wonderful depth to the sound, and Rod Coombes set the pace with fine drumming.
Throughout most of the show I had great difficulty escaping the dazed realization that I was seeing the Strawbs line-up from Hero and Heroine and Ghosts. A dream come true.
I love the Strawbs, and am a deep admirer of Dave Cousins' artistry. He is quite a compelling presence.
Thanks Strawbs, for a magical night!
THE KENT STAGE, KENT, OH - FRIDAY 13 JUNE 2008
If one believes the old adage that "all good things come to those who wait" then certainly I was rewarded a hundredfold when, after 35 years of patience, I finally was afforded an opportunity to see one of my great musical heros the Strawbs. Dave Cousins and company delivered the goods in all their electric glory at the Kent Stage in Kent, Ohio on Friday the 13th.
It's been an unusually hot and muggy early June here in the American Midwest and Friday was no exception. While evening thunderstorms raged outside, the Strawbs created their own brand of thunder and lightening before a small but highly vocal group of loyal fans. A few words first about that audience: speaking as a dedicated music fan and Strawbs fanatic, I was a bit distressed about the pitiful number of folks who showed up. I know the boys enjoy a sizable fan base here in NE Ohio, but it was a disappointment that more didn't (or couldn't) make the pilgrimage to Kent that evening.
That being said, however, the group didn't seem to let the small turn-out slacken their attack in any way. Quite simply, they were magnificent. Perhaps we on this side of the pond are having the advantage of getting the second leg of the tour. They were razor sharp -- all of them. Dave Lambert's guitar work in particular was something to behold. When he wanted to be flashy he was flashy. and when he needed to be supportive he was the consumate "team player", doling out taut and impressive accents throughout the set. I was fortunate to be sitting about five rows in front of him and it was thrilling to watch him all night.
DC's voice was equally impressive; strong. confident and emotionally charged. His storytelling prowess was masterful, whether it was in the retelling of the Grace Darling saga or in offering up a heartfelt tribute to New York friend Mike Gebhardt. Rod, Chas and John all were given opportunities to shine, as well. It's obvious why this edition of Strawbs is so highly regarded and respected. The two new songs, "The Broken Hearted Bride" and "The Call To Action" were both generously received and seem destined to take their rightful place in the great pantheon of Strawb tunes. All in all, a brilliant show.
Thank you Strawbs for all the enjoyment you've given this fan, and us Yanks, over the years. And thanks for making my dream of seeing you come true. Now please just don't make me wait another 35 years -- please?? Oh -- and thanks, too to Rod and Dave Lambert for being so cordial to me when I met them outside the club before the show. You made a fan very happy!
Photos from Ron Cash - more photos from Ron
Out In The Cold/Round And Round
Remembering/You And I (When We Were Young)
The Broken Hearted Bride
Burning For Me
Here Today, Gone Tomorrow (dedicated to the late Doug Dixon, host of "Toss the Feathers" radio show)
The Call To Action
Hero And Heroine
We'll Meet Again Sometime (encore)
THE THIRSTY EAR, COLUMBUS, OH - SATURDAY 14 JUNE 2008
I wanted to share some photos from this Saturday's Columbus show....it was a great time! I've been a fan for 25 years now and this was the first time I was able to see the band live. It's been a long time comin'! The guys were sounding just phenomenal - and I loved the new material.
Photo from Darrin Ballman- more photos from Darrin
Another awesome performance from these fine gentlemen. Although the fatigue was clearly visible in their eyes, they delivered when it counted; loud and raucous most of the time, soft and delicate when it needed to be. The two new songs previewed provided much anticipation for their forthcoming release in September! Standing ovations all around from a very appreciative packed house. Nice to see Neil again, too. Hope to see them again in another 25 years!!
THE ARK, ANN ARBOR, MI - SUNDAY 15 JUNE 2008
I would love to add my voice to the chorus of voices who are saying "these guys are at the top of their game". We only heard about this US tour on Friday, and we hastily made plans to drive 3 hours to Ann Arbor on Sunday evening, not knowing if there would be tickets or not.
My wife Krystal and I, along with our friends, Dave and Nora, got to sit just a couple feet from the side of the stage, on Dave Lambert's side. We are long-time Strawbs fans, but haven't seen them live since the mid-70's when they opened for King Crimson in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
I expected a decent show, having read the most recent reviews from the past couple years. But imagine my delight when all of this heaped-on praise at the Strawbs website turns out to be completely true. It's one of those shows when you expect a great show, but get an amazingly fantastic and breathtaking show. All four of us were on the edges of our seats for the entire show. Words cannot express the joy.
I'm not going to go over the details of the songs, but I want to reaffirm what other reviewers have been saying about this "old" line-up. They prove that you're only as old as you feel and act. This was a very tight band.
David Cousins was mesmerizing. He's still got it; his voice was clear as a bell-tone. He was more animated than what I recall from 30 years ago. He feels the lyrics as they roll off his tongue, and he treats each song with such passionate emotion. Of course, anyone coming to this website knows that. But I want to add some superlatives to that description of David's vocal qualities; it's not enough to point out the power of his voice, what needs to be appreciated is his dynamics. You can push a weak voice to scrape through a loud passage, but you can't fake the tender moments. And we got plenty of dynamic moments last night - strong and eloquent moments matched by equally soft and poignant moments. David Cousins paints pictures with his voice.
From our angle on the stage, we got the full force of Dave Lambert's guitar and vocals (since we could hear his monitor), so I have to say something about that guy. He was smiling and grinning at the end of every song. That means a lot to the onlookers. During the songs, he played with vigor and precision. He had a fun, playful attitude in attacking his guitar parts, dancing with his guitar as he matched his passionate guitar sounds to the feeling of each song. And what a voice!. I've read negative reviews a couple times, from people who somehow think that David Cousins should exclusively be "the voice" of Strawbs. But Dave Lambert's voice does for Strawbs what Chris Squire's voice does for Yes - many people don't appreciate the fact that the lead singer wouldn't have the same effect if they were lacking the strong back-up harmonies. Dave Lambert has a beautiful voice, and I appreciate it all the more after last night. When they started the night singing "Lay down" a cappella, with Chas adding a third harmony, it set the mood for a dramatic night of great music. It blew us away to hear a strong 3-part harmony like that. And, when Dave L sang lead on "Heartbreaker", it was one of the most rocking moments of the show. He was kicking our asses, if I may say so.
We also had a great vantage point for Rod's drumming. He made it look easy, with all the dynamics and flair that was necessary for each particular mood. Excellent drumming. From our side of stage, we could have used a little more of John's keyboards in the mix, but when it was needed it was there. What a great piano player. And his synth parts had the perfect feel. And let's not forget the Mellotron samples that worked perfectly (without having to lug around one of those big heavy old Mellotrons). And the bass parts from Chas could have punched through a little more on our side of stage, but we could hear everything okay. Chas was also a perfectionist in his playing and singing. We were in so close that we were hearing "mostly" stage sound. What can I say? We were so close that Dave Lambert was smiling at some of the comments we were making in between songs. What a great night.
Thanks to Chas, John, Dave, Rod, and David for a memorable night. I would love to tell any old Strawbs fan out there that you are crazy if you don't go catch Strawbs in concert, if they come within a couple hundred miles of your home. It was worth more than a 3 hour drive.
SHANK HALL, MILWAUKEE, WI - WEDNESDAY 18 JUNE 2008
After 30 years and 350 miles, I finally was able to see the Strawbs "live". I became a Strawbs fan in high school with the release of "Ghosts." Over the years, I considered driving to Canada or flying to the UK if I didn't see them in a rare US tour. Then while checking on-line to see who was playing at Milwaukee's Summerfest, I noticed that the Strawbs were playing at Shank Hall. After seeing that it was the electric band, I decided to make the trek. My wife and I drove down on Wednesday and had an incredible time. The venue was small but the Strawbs were as great live in 2008 as they were on their 70s recordings (probably better). The opening act, Judith Owen, was awesome as well.
The morning after was even more amazing as my wife and I were at the hotel diner having breakfast. In walks Chas Cronk, Rod Coombes and John Hawken. After telling them how great they were and how far we came to see them, conversations strayed from current music to global warming. It really was an incredible night and morning.
Rod encouraged me to send you an e-mail just to share the passion of the Strawbs experience. While I wish, someday, the Strawbs might make it to Minneapolis, I now have more reason than ever to see them again in Canada or UK. As John Hawken said, "Isn't it fun to peel away the years?"
THE REDHOUSE, SYRACUSE, NY - FRIDAY 20 JUNE 2008
For some reason, the Redhouse in Syracuse got its name from the building that houses it which I, personally, find more terracotta than, say, Cousins-Shoe Red. Whatever. It turned out to be an exceptional venue for Strawbs. On the small side with very high ceilings and stadium seating, my expectation was that the sound would be awful. I simply believed the band was too powerful for such a space. Why do these boys always prove me wrong?? Whether it was Paul's magic, the sound system, the band itself, or a combination of all three we had another show of crystal-clear sound, equal to that in Kent, and maybe even better.
The set list was identical to the other shows with "The River/Down By The Sea" as the encore. I hate the word "awesome" these days, but that's the only way to describe it. Cousins' voice is explosive, Lambert is amazing, the whole band is individually incredible and together...yes, awesome--and maybe it's the fact that I've now heard it a few times, but "The Call To Action" has grown on me. The eastern influence seems as though it's been brought more to the forefront now. Or maybe my mind just opened and I realized there's nothing wrong with a third version of an incredible song. (Though I still say the Cousins/Cutler one kicks best butt, maybe because its power is so unexpected.)
The total mindblower of the show last night came not in the music (which I've come to expect will be damn near perfection) but in Cousins' dialog. Maybe I've been sleeping for the past few years and everyone else knows this, but in his intro to "Autumn", he revealed the song was written...on 42nd Street in New York City!
The "Grace Darling" intro was another eye-opener..."People from all over the world wrote asking for a lock of her hair or a clipping from the hem of her dress. In no time, she was bald and naked."
Finally, a word about the audience. Now, I've seen a lot of Strawbs audiences and they are usually pretty vocal but this was extreme. Dorie hit the nail on the head when she leaned over to me and said she felt as though she was at a gospel church with the congregation urging on the preacher with extemporaneous shouts and comments. One guy was so taken with the band, he practically leapt on stage at the end. Cousins looked ever so confused.
Tonight [DG wrote this on 21 June] is the final gig on this tour. I, unfortunately, won't be there for it but, for me, the tour ended on the highest point it ever could. An incredible tour with the only disappointment being that it couldn't have been longer.
Syracuse and the Redhouse was a new concert destination for us - a very friendly and intimate location to see a band from my youth, located a few blocks from the Armory Square area with loads of pubs and restaurants nearby. This was my fourth time seeing the Strawbs in their various forms, but my husband's first time, and I wanted very badly to expose him to the level of musicianship that the Strawbs always offer _ and they delivered mightily!
For my guitar-loving husband we fortunately got front row seats near Dave Lambert, and with Guinness in hand we thought it can't get any better then this. We were surrounded by old prog fans, and the shared vibe before the show was quite positive and anticipatory. That is, until the alcohol kicked in and a few audience members behind us devolved into obnoxious drunken hecklers. As Judy Cuervo's review points out, this was a wild audience - very different from the Acoustic Strawbs audiences I've encountered, and alcohol consumption probably played a big role in the vocal behavior of the crowd.
With nothing but the band in view we ignored the few loose cannons and had a great time experiencing the Strawbs. My husband appreciated Dave Lambert's skills, while I was transported back to memories of the 1970s, listening to "Round And Round", "Autumn", "Hero And Heroine", and "The River" during late night music marathons in my bedroom. Thank you Strawbs for providing another wonderful evening of music and memories.
Photo from Dorie - more photos from Dorie
TOWNE CRIER, PAWLING, NY - SATURDAY 21 JUNE 2008
This was the greatest tour ever. The Strawbs performed flawlessly at an intensity the left all there spellbound. If there is the finely honed Swiss timepiece of musical performance surely the Strawbs easily fit that bill. Every song was masterfully played with Dave Cousins voice never sounding better.
They opened up with my old fave, "Lay Down" and from there on it was full throttle. Dave Lambert is the unparalleled master of any guitar he chooses to play. Always in control, using the e-bow to elicit the eerie feedback on "Burning For Me". Chas Cronk and Rod Coombes, the ultimate rhythm section playing with a finesse which I'm still trying to get my mind to grasp. John Hawken, well to say that he is a trooper is an understatement: as the band lined up in the bar to enter the stage, I thought John had on an ill fitting white ball cap, but it was a head bandage. It seems our true hero of the keys had a spill the previous night, tripping over luggage and cracking his dear head on a step requiring 8 stitches! Also his right eye was rather bruised. Amazingly he played and said he felt fine. Well, it did my heart good to see him smile several times on stage. I have to say, and, I know I speak for all here, we all have a deep affection for all the boys , we truly do and we are so lucky to get to know them all . However for me personally, I feel I have deep roots with John going back to The Nashville Teens ( when I didn't know who he was) through SpookyTooth when I surely knew his name to the majestic Illusion and of course our dear Strawbs. Well, it kinda' broke my heart to see John bandaged up.
Now he and the band were in the most capable hands of good friends and masters of the road Neil and Paul. Plus Debby Shaw was there to tend to John who as you might imagine left after the gig, I'm happy to say I lent a bit of hand collecting a bit of the gear under Neil's tutelage so to speak. John will be right as rain and out with the Rocket Men.. a trooper extraordinare !! I was hoping for an autumn tour to coincide with the release of "The Broken Hearted Bride" but Chas informs me that, no, it won't be happening. Cousins after the gig said he doesn't know when they'll be back but I think he meant it rhetorically.
Relative to the performance, Mike Gebhart's son was in attendance and the Strawbs did speak affectionately of Mike (we love you Mike) and dedicated "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow" to him. The audience was truly spellbound and you could have heard a pin drop. The Strawbs did a blasting version of "Hero and Heroine" and man, they kicked it out! Hawken just killer on the keys. "Down By The Sea', really my all time fave and the song which broke the Strawbs to me so very long ago was fresh and as romantic an epic as ever. Lamby going for a gorgeous solo at the end. "The Call To Action" was just so powerful with Dave's arms weaving the air as he elucidated the intense lyrics with a voice strong and majestic. "Grace Darling" was delivered in all its Mellotron seascaped beauty. "The Broken Hearted Bride" has quite a different feel than the acoustic version. The message really gets through. I'm quite happy to say it was a sold out show to a truly appreciative audience. I hope the fans across the ocean get to come to The Town Crier some day, it is a great venue in a beautiful part of the world, surrounded by the Ramapo and Appalachian mountains. Again I know I speak for us all when I say, I love the Strawbs, the music, the band, the people ,everything. God willing, keep it coming because I can't get enough.
All week, I had been looking forward to the show at the Towne Crier, in Pawling. There were many reasons for this. First and foremost, the music. The band was great at BB Kings, and I will take any opportunity to see them play. Add to this all of the following, another reunion with old friends, many of whom come to Pawling, but not NYC, it was my daughter's first Strawbs concert, the Towne Crier is probably my favorite venue, etc. etc. etc. The list goes on and on.
When I arrived, luck was with me. Phil led us to our table - stage side, dead center, best seats in the house. I commented to my daughter that she'll never get seats this good for any concert ever again. I spent the usual time with my hellos. Then, another Witchwooder came up to me and said not to be alarmed. John Hawken was bandaged, he had an accident, but was fine and would be able to perform.
As the band came out, Dave Cousins commented on this, with both a story about how John had been wounded as the result of being an innocent bystander caught up in the rage of a jealous husband, and also commenting that the injury was a war-injury - Civil War. (Hmmmmmm, would that be American Civil War or English Civil War, Dave). Nonetheless, the band was marvelous - they get better with age. The set list, was much the same as at BB Kings (and others on this tour), with "We'll Meet Again Sometime" added to the end for an encore.
Really, the only thing to say about the show - read the reviews of the BB Kings show - this was better. Anyway, having written a review of this tour already, I hadn't planned or re-reviewing.
However, the email I received from Dick Greener today, announcing that John Hawkins was leaving the band for health related reasons, compels me to write a brief review.
First of all, I don't want this to come off maudlin - John has announced his retirement from touring, but he's still with us, and hopefully will continue to perform locally for many years.
My first exposure to John's music actually pre-dates the Strawbs, as I was a fan of the Original Renaissance. However, it literally took me years to make the connection that the fantastic keyboard work on these albums and the work on Hero and Heroine were the same man.
John Hawken was the third in a string of amazing keyboard players with the band. Consider the line up of Rick Wakeman, Blue Weaver and John Hawken. I challenge anyone to come up with another band that had such fine keyboard players over such a long time. John's joining the Strawbs coincided the conclusion of their transition from a folk band to a rock band. Hero And Heroine and Ghosts were the bands biggest commercial successes in the US. The power of those two albums cemented the band's reputation in the pantheon of great progressive rock bands. Although the quality of the songs remained high on Nomadness and subsequent albums, I personally always felt that some of the power left the group when John left.
I first met John at acoustic shows at the Bottom Line. Though he didn't know me, we exchanged a few words. Through other shows at this venue as well later electric shows at Joe's Pub, Satalla, and the Towne Crier, I was able to renew the acquaintance many times. With so many fans competing for his time, our interaction was brief, but I always enjoyed our chats about music, philosophy, or whatever happened to cross our minds.
As I mentioned, this is a review, not a eulogy. John is still with us, and I look forward to continuing the relationship at other shows in the future, God willing for many years to come.
To conclude, as the band left the stage on Saturday after the last note was played at the Towne Crier there was a 5 minute standing ovation before the lights came on. The Strawbs will go on, but if John has to leave - what better way, than to go out on top, with the audience screaming for more.
As always, my wife and I saw the Strawbs at the Towne Crier last night, and they were, indeed, better than ever! It was a wonderful night, and we were so glad to be able to see the last show on their tour.
John Hawken - a trooper indeed!
Photo from Alain Beaudreault - more photos from Alain