Updated: 12 Apr 2017
A packed Hailsham Pavilion was the final venue of the Strawbs tour, which visited nine venues in ten days. The band were, as usual brilliant (OK, I'm biased) and they all seemed to be enjoying themselves, this reflected in the audience response, as the applause for the first set went on for ages! The second set was the entire Hero And Heroine album - with added extras. A superb album, equally superbly presented live on stage. More rapturous applause at the end of the set, brought a return encore for "Lay Down". Just the one song, but that wrapped the night up.
Dave Bainbridge added some of his keyboard finesse between numbers, while the others checked/swapped instruments as required.
I was sitting facing Chas Cronk and noticed how much he uses his bass guitar almost as an extra rhythm guitar at times, brilliant!
Tony Fernandez certainly puts a lot into his drumming, especially great on "Hero And Heroine".
Dave Lambert, again superb on guitar, he has always been part of the Strawbs for me having first seen them just prior to the release of Bursting At The Seams, he certainly tests the strength of guitar strings at times. I also love the facial expressions during vocals!
Dave Cousins. Well, what can I say, the gravelly voice is still going strong, thank goodness, add in the guitar and the arm waving to add expression to the songs, he is what the Strawbs are all about for me.
If I was being critical, I would say there was a lot of echo at times, especially noticeable for me during "New World". I also heard someone say that it was the loudest concert they had heard at the venue, not being a regular, I can't comment on that. I know they were loud, but I was near the front and I didn't think they were too loud! I remember from my younger days that if you didn't come out of a concert with your ears ringing, it wasn't loud enough.
Ok, when did DC say the next tour is? ....
Had a lovely night at Bilston gig. I first got introduced to Strawbs when Grave New World was released and followed them since then. The Bilston gig proved they are like a fine wine improving with each passing year. The addition of Dave B on keyboards adds an extra dimension to the electric gigs and with the rest of the band in such fine form they fully deserved the standing ovation they received. It's nice to hear some old gems resurrected at these gigs ( I haven't heard "The Battle" for a while). Very much looking forward to the next gig in the Midlands but I'm not sure (ref. Dave Cousins) that I can wait another 30 years for it!
A fabulous performance from the band at Grantham on Tuesday notable for several things:
All in all a great night. My favourites? I'd have to go for "Turn Me Round", "Sad Young Man" (getting better and better), a great rendition of "Hero And Heroine", "Midnight Sun", "Out In The Cold", and an interesting version of "Lay Down". Frankly, it would have been easier to just say "all of it"!
Amazing gig at Grantham last night with my brother-in-law Stephen Makin, the boys were louder and tighter than I've seen them for some time, Dave Bainbridge on keyboards was incredible and it was great to see Tony Fernandez on the drums again. Dave L gave us "Heartbreaker", phenomenal. Off to see them again at the Robin2 tomorrow!
Great to see the full electric band in a big venue, completely packed out with festival-goers who mostly weren't specifically Strawbs fans but were nonetheless enthusiastic in their appreciation! They had to play a shortened set, unfortunately; no 'Ghosts' and no encores allowed, so we didn't get 'Lay Down' - must be the first time I've ever seen them without them playing it. Even so, I think they were in danger of overrunning their allotted time - at some point a technician/stagehand/whatever came onto the set and said something to DL, who visibly shrugged and mimed 'Speak to him!' indicating DC; which he did, and left the stage. DC then went over to DB and had a little discussion... They still played the whole H&H album, but I got the impression that it was cut short a bit; we didn't get the full 'Lay A Little Light On Me/Round And Round reprise'. Fantastic gig nonetheless, and DC was indeed in great voice, and DL sounded sweet too, even though he doesn't have the range he used to. The only negative comments I heard were from some folk that said they were too loud; and it's true, they were very very loud!
Picture by Keith Domone more pictures from Keith
Turn Me Round
The Promised Land
So Close And Yet So Far Away
The River/Down By The Sea
Sad Young Man
Shine On Silver Sun
Hero And Heroine
Out In The Cold
Round And Round
Lay A Little Light On Me
Round And Round reprise
So it came to pass that on the 16th day of March in the year 2017, on a cold, dark, and extremely foggy evening, I took my two boys aged 15 and 19 to see the classic progrock masters that are the Electric Strawbs, playing at a new venue to my repertoire, the South Pavilion, at the end of the shrouded in thick fog Worthing Pier.
Once gratefully allowed inside, the venue was a tasteful mixture of 1920s dancehall kitsch and art deco swish, recently renovated to a high standard, with two bars at the rear of the room, and civilised seating between those and the stage, all illuminated with an atmospheric warm red glow, heightened by the tealight candles on the tables that were lit just before the band came on.
Blessed with knowing the newest addition to the band, Dave Bainbridge, from his previous incarnations of guitarist and keyboardist in such gems as Iona and Celestial Fire, we were privileged to be on the guest list and allowed to witness the soundcheck before everyone else was in the building. My younger son was even given an exclusive look at the impressive keyboard set up by Dave, which as a novice learner cannot fail to have inspired him on his own journey into the realms of what he could achieve with his own practice and dedication, and this was before they had even begun!
There were a few technical glitches during soundcheck concerning the guitar and some background noise, but these were easily rectified and presented no lasting issues from what I could tell, as a non technical observer, and the anticipation of an otherwise unknown to me band became ever increased. As the venue began to fill up a few glances around the room of the audience led me to ponder what kind of music was I about to hear, being little acquainted with the prog genre and not at all acquainted with The Strawbs, either Electric or Acoustic. I knew they had been part of the large Prog movement 30 years ago or more, but long before my time; so I was drawn to wondering, what did they all look like, this audience, some 30 or 40 years ago, what did the band look like, sound like, who were the fans and the musicians back then? Who are they now? As a frequent gig goer of various genres and musical tastes I am always ready to experience new things, but for once I had chosen to do no research and had gone to the event blind with no clue what to expect.
As it transpires, the beauty of being at a Prog gig by a band you have not heard before, is that you never know what is coming next. In the haze of drifting syncopated rhythms and fantastical melodies, following the legendary journeys of 8minute songs, I envisaged smoke filled rooms in hazy days reflecting the current fog outside, as a link between the two eras, and I imagined the audience being transported back to a time when their youth was filled with these former giants of the progscene, and wondered what their lives had encompassed back then. As I listened, it was clear that their heyday was by no means over...these musicians were all tight and spot on, though the drums were never quite where I expected them to be, a feature it seems, common to prog, and differring somewhat from my traditional 12bar blues-rock n roll; The melodies were clever and engaging, with vocals from both David Cousins and Dave Lambert; and as predicted, our friend Dave on the keyboards was a joy to watch and hear, clearly enjoying his place on stage with his trademark smile making everything seem effortless and as though he were merely tinkering in his spare time, despite the ridiculously complex wizardry erupting from his fingertips...truly the sign of genius, in my opinion...
I have to say that for me, the second half of the performance is where it all got very interesting, as David Cousins announced that they would be playing one of their albums, Hero and Heroine, in its entirety. This was obviously a first time hearing for me, and heard live it was a powerful experience to say the least. It began with hypnotic rhythms on the drums and bass, and atmospheric keyboards from Dave, only to suffer a slight malfunction just as David Cousins was about to begin on his guitar...however it was soon put right, and we were all treated to a not unwelcome restart from the top, which helped to create the uninterrupted epic soundscape for the story to take place. The beautiful guitar and piano duets took my breath away, and led me to entirely disagree with the venue's description in their programme in billing the band as "folk rock", this was above and beyond any folk band I have seen, (and in the last month alone I have seen at least 3 such.)
A stunning trio of vocals in a song bearing the lyrics "I'll Hold Onto You" showing the talents of all three guitarists on stage, made me think of perhaps an underlying sense of Tolkienesque fellowship between these longterm stage comrades, going much deeper than the initial romantic overtones of the song. Once again it was clear that Dave Bainbridge was also in his happy place, and taking us all to the zone with him as his hands flew across the keys in a whirlwind of sound.
A sudden change of tempo brought us all back into the here and now as a faster paced song filled the room with the refrain "Just Love", making us all quite convinced that these musicians were indeed "Something Good Enough To Hang Your Heart On".
A phenomenal keyboard solo from the maestro Dave that made me imagine what might have been Beethoven's own Prog Daze, was then followed by another beautiful trio of not only vocals, but acoustic guitars...and as I have always said, what is better than one or even two acoustic guitars? Why, three, acoustic guitars, of course!
The red lights and the tealights in their red jars, all looked over by the huge clock set into a 1920s style model aeroplane, set this song off beautifully, making one reminiscent of long gone days, before computers, before internet and the digital age, when the aeroplane was seen as the future, and the engine was king.
The thundering bassline of the next song paved the way for what felt like the metamorphosis of singer David Cousins into a Prospero figure from Shakespeare's Tempest, as with one arm raised he brought down a storm upon the Worthing Beach, his words encapturing us, throwing us into yet another tailspin, chanting "round and round we go" as the music spun us like dervishes towards its glorious finale.
We were treated to two encores, "Heartbreak" and "Lay Down" both evidently favourites with the crowd, and more than a little chair dancing was apparent, myself included (much to my teenage son's chagrin!)
The standing ovation received as the band hit their last notes was more than deserved, I felt like I had been on an incredible journey of discovery and adventure into the unknown realms of not just prog but time-honed craftsmanship and experienced players with a mettle rarely seen in the offerings from the youth today.
I am so blessed that my children were lucky enough to be witness to this event, and I hope my youngest has taken away something from the experience to help incorporate into his own playing and learning of music. I truly believe that if more youngsters took the time to pay homage to these greats from our rich and varied British Musical Legacy, and it is a beautiful one, we may yet have hope of creating yet more legendary musicians in another 30years time, for our future generations to savour. And savour these Strawbs, we most certainly did.
Pictures by Dick Greener - more photos from Dick
A lengthy night out for me on Thursday, travelling down to see the opening night of the tour at Worthing's splendid pier venue. As I've written before the venue is actually out on the pier well above the incoming tide ("Down By The Sea" for sure!). It was a great venue for the Acoustic Strawbs last year and I had worried that the room acoustics might not suit the full band, but my fears were allayed - the sound was great and the band were in top form. Probably the best "first of the tour" gig I've seen them do, as tight and polished as if they had only just stepped back on UK soil after their US dates last year. If it's this good now, I'll be thrilled to see how they are by the tour's end.
First half highlights for me:
All of the second set sounded so fresh and alive, so much so that when Dave Cousins' guitar fizzled out after the "Heroine's Theme" section of "Autumn", when the glitch was sorted, he opted to repeat that section as well, so Autumn came twice this year....
Difficult to pick highlights from the second set, so I'll just comment on nearly everything:
Sitting front row, directly in front of Dave Bainbridge's keyboard setup gave me an opportunity to watch him in action at close quarters - often he and Lambert, at either side of the stage, are shrouded in darkness - but tonight the lighting on them was not bad at all. Tony Fernandez was in the outer darkness at the back however, so no real opportunity to capture his action drumming. DB varies his playing position, sitting for some quieter parts, but rising to his feet when more expressive playing is needed. He hardly stops smiling throughout the performance, which is infectious - Cousins, also obviously enjoying the gig himself, frequently looks over, catches DB's eye and smiles himself.
Next door, Chas's bassline was particularly well audible, via his bass amp as much as the PA, and it struck me how frequently the melodic line appears from Chas rather than other instruments. Rock solid and with Fernandez' explosive drums, the bedrock of this fine line-up.
Dave Lambert's "Heartbreaker" back in the set as first encore, before the anthemic "Lay Down" which garnered a standing ovation from this enthusiastic audience.
A truly great start - more to come.