Updated: 21 Mar 2017
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!
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
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.
Pictures by Dick Greener - more photos from Dick