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Updated: 7 Feb 2014

Thu 30 January 2014, Robin 2, Bilston
Fri 31 January 2014, Flowerpot, Derby
Sat 1 February 2014, The Touchline, Hullbridge
Sun 2 February 2014, Wyvern Theatre, Swindon + MT W Ash
  • A Smile Etched On Your Face - Review by Nigel Bennett
  • Setlist
  • Wed 5 February 2014, Borderline, London
  • The Crow Road - Comments from Nigel Bennett
  • Thu 6 February 2014, Beaverwood Club, Chislehurst
    Wed 5 February 2014, Borderline, London and Thu 6 February 2014, Beaverwood Club, Chislehurst
  • The Weatherman Said Dress Up But I Did Not Feel The Cold - London and Chiselhurst Review by Dick Greener
  • Setlist
  • Fri 7 February 2014, Long Street Blues, Devises
    Sun 9 February 2014, Public Hall, Budleigh Salterton
    Wed 12 February 2014, Fibbers, York
    Thu 13 February 2014, Green Hotel, Kinross
    Fri 14 February 2014, Waterside, Sale
    Sat 15 February 2014, Anchor Arts, Wingham



    Turn Me Round
    New World
    The Promised Land
    So Close And Yet So Far Away
    The River/Down By The Sea

    opening verse of Lay A Little Light On Me
    Sad Young Man
    Just Love
    Shine On Silver Sun
    Hero And Heroine
    Midnight Sun
    Out In The Cold
    Round And Round
    Lay A Little Light On Me
    Out In The Cold reprise

    Lay Down


    London and Chiselhurst review by Dick Greener

    Chiselhurst photo by Dick Greener more photos from Dick

    Back from my 7 weeks of travels in hot foreign climes on Tues 4 Feb, and the horrible English February weather is a bit of a shock to the system. However Strawbs have obligingly set up two gigs on 5th and 6th which I can easily get to ... or so I thought: Bob Crow and his merry band of union brothers have treated Londoners a two day strike on the tube, which messes up my ability to get to the Borderline as easily as usual - it's one of my favourite gigs as I could get to it within about 30 mins on the tube, so no worries about driving and I can usually have a pint or three. I opt for not drinking, driving in and parking over towards the city, which proves to be a good call.

    The Borderline is bursting at the seams, notwithstanding tube larks and the shitty weather, and Strawbs deliver a heroic performance to reward them. The sound is wonderful (thanks Paul) and the band are obviously enjoying themselves, and have got over the problems that beset the early part of the tour. The Beaverwood Club is a great venue too, nice to have a seat near the front. Again, good sound, and a friendly atmosphere. Both have some pretty challenging lighting for those interested in camera work, but thanks to my new friend Keith Allen who I met at Chiselhurst, my camera is now fine tuned to get the best it can in the circs. Caught up with some old faces as well in both cases. What follows is a review of/impressions from both gigs.

    First "half" is a well-chosen selection of past glories - "Turn Me Round" is a fantastic opener with Lambert's chugging guitar riff, quickly joined by Fernandez' powerful committed drumming. Cousins' tortured vocal and guitar-free expressive gestures are a taste of what's to follow - he's fully on form for the entire night in each case. "New World", the oldest number of the night, of course showcases Dave's acoustic strumming and the mighty Mellotron sound - adeptly supplied by Adam W. Some lovely off-beat cymbal work by Tony during Lambert's lead break.

    "The Promised Land" reminds us that Mr Fernandez can really whack the drums, with Chas keeping up the pounding bass of the intro. Nice organ from Adam during the verse and middle eight, switching to piano for the instrumental passage in the middle. Howling guitar solo from Lambert and more pounding of the skins to round out the song. Next, a huge change of pace, Cousins doffing guitar again for his power-ballad "So Close", gentle opening piano, a few gentle cymbal strokes for ornamentation, joined by Chas's bass in the second verse which builds quickly. Lambert's solo is just so, and the song briefly calms back down for the third verse before the closing break - short but very very sweet.

    Last of the openers, an epic rendition of "The River/Down By The Sea" - in the current circs I smiled at the line which I've used for the title to this review ;-) Lambert's jangling opening riff sounded just like it did on the album - he really has nailed the guitar sounds even better than ever - the lead on "Turn Me Round" and "Lay Down" were also just pefect. Tony, as folks know, is a very visual drummer - I can watch him all night if I can get to see him at the back: great to see him bashing the sticks together to usher in Lambert's middle section. The outro has some nice keyboard work over the main riff, and Lambert wigs out on lead with a beautiful soaring tone which rings out over an increasingly frienzied bit of thrashing from Fernandez. Deservedly huge cheers from a very appreciative audience indeed.

    There's generally no chat between songs and the first time Cousins speaks to the faithful is at the start of the second "half" - the full Hero And Heroine experience, Cousins' vocal for harrowing "Lay A Little Light" opening verse sets the scene - light and shade - before the squelchy synth line and Lambert's seagull effects bring us to the opening section of "Autumn". Second section (my favourite bit) is melodic and crisp, then piano and slide guitar intro to the anthemic "Hold On To Me", where Lambert's vocal comes with loads of feeling. His stately guitar solo is splendid, with the flailing arms at the finale.

    Straight into the keyboard opening - lovely sound Adam - for "Sad Young Man", a much underrated Strawbs number in my view. Lots of dynamics, an impassioned hands-free vocal from DC, even more tasteful organ work and nice vocal backing from Chas and Lambert during the later choruses. A short pause for applause, then Lambert's rocking "Just Love", with Chas's bass and Tony's cymbal-heavy rhythm carrying the pulse of the song, Lambert's off beat power chords an ace counterpoint.

    Piano link to "Shine On Silver Sun" and some nice tinkly sounds into the first verse. Nice to hear Adam joining in on vocals for this and elsewhere occasionally, really gives some additional weight to the chorus (now all we need is a vocal mike on that man Fernandez ;-). Quite a laid back rendition, but, then up sticks Fernandez, and there's nothing at all laid back about the Big H, which goes at quite a pace, with loads of power and drive and knocked my socks off completely the first night.

    A keyboard link (probably of variable length to allow for Chas and DC changing to 12 string and open tuned acoustic respectively) through to the chilled out "Midnight Sun". As before Fernandez limits himself to a single shaker then switching to a single tambourine during this pastoral interlude. Soon it's "Out In The Cold/Round And Round". The first part has always been one of my favourite bits of H&H, and Dave 's vocal/guitar is front and central on this, with laid back lead from Lambert the other main feature. The roiling synth over Chass's repetitive almost robotic bass notes and metronomically precise drumming from Tony leads to the guitar/synth duet riff, then the power chord drenched verses of "Round And Round". Cousins has the vocal down absolutely pat - from bitter to twisted and soaring mad in the final verse (in the reprise he adds some manical laughter which really does cause me to fear for his sanity!)

    Guitar and drums call and response pyrotchnics to close, and a brief opportunity for applause over a tinkly link from Adam leading into the final stretch, Cousins' heartfelt "Lay A Little Light On Me", Some nice echoes/delay on the vocal at the appropriate moments (thanks Paul), Lambert's guitar sound impeccable - I thiink Dave must have recalled all the settings on his instruments and effects from that day back in 1973 in Ivar Rosenberg's Copenhagen studio wheh first recorded his guitar, because they near as damnit ARE the original parts. In London, Cousins heads to the side of the stage during the closing riff/"Shine On Silver Sun" chorus reprise, which morphs back to the bass-driven intro to "Round and Round" and another turn round the block for Cousins' deranged final verse and final atonal scream. We get the reversed "shine on" vocal tape at the end too!

    In Chiselhurst Tony plays so hard he manages to break his snare - hopping to the side of the stage he speedily unships another one and is ready as promoter Pete Feenstra takes to the stage to call back back the others to strike up the inevitable and much hollered for encore, "Lay Down", as good as ever, with lots of the joininng in on the choruses, really apparent at the accapella break. Adam's Mellotron sound is just fine and Lambert's fuzzed up solo pretty much perfect. Some new backing vocal elements I think, with some oohs under the two Dave's chorus vocals. (In London someone calls at one point for the topically relevant "Part Of The Union"! Maybe not ...)

    Overall, the whole band bonds tightly together, delivering thoughtful melodic perfection, but capable of really rocking out when it needs to, a tribute to their individual ability and collective chemistry: there's lots of smiles and glances going on and they are clearly having a ball. The sound brings out each of the components of every song as necessary - having a sound man of Paul's calibre (and Strawbs veteran of course - he can probably remind the band what comes next) on sound really makes a massive difference.

    Chiselhurst photos by Dick Greener - more photos from Dick

    Final note - support: openers the Steve Eggs Band at the Chiselhurst show were really very good indeed - I bought the CD. Great poppy rock, frontman and writer Steve has a great voice and supplies good choppy rhythm guitar; both of the other two add some grace notes of the Eagles in the vocal backings. Jon Kershaw has a nice touch on acoustic lead (normally on electric) and the bass player Peter Wass is really good, with a smashing vintage Hofner bass guitar to boot, effectively underpinning the rhythm effectively without their usual drummer (off in Antigua, we are told), They quipped that without the man on the sticks they didn't know how to to start and stop some of the numbers, but they did a pretty good job in my view, Melodic opener "The Road To California" which I particularly liked is on the self-titled 8-track CD (a snip at a fiver for sure!) as were most of the other songs they played, including the bluesy "Good Intentions" (which on the CD to my ear has a rather pleasing T-Rex like electric chug to it).

    Well worth checking out if they are playing near you. See for more details.

    What a fine couple of nights. Just getting my diary and the map book out to see where next!

    THE CROW ROAD - Comments from Nigel Bennett

    Thanks to Mr Crow and his Union cohorts a trip to a gig that should have taken a little under 2 and a half hours, actually took 4 and a half. If only those that work to put the food on his plate for considerably less than the 52000 per annum paid to his tube drivers withdrew their supplies to him I'm sure he would be the first to complain (but then I suppose he would probably live on Brazilian coconuts).

    Right onto the gig itself, but first I haven't finished with Mr Crow yet. Now if the driving rain and gales that featured heavily earlier in the day had not subsided into quite a nice evening for a walk across town I would have been angry (yeah me?) and with the help of Sherlock who I would have enlisted (and whose home I passed on my evening trek )to track down the council accommodation of the said Mr Crow knocked on his door and demanded a warming drink.

    Despite Crow's best attempt to spoil our evening, us Strawbs fans are a resourceful lot and as a result one of the biggest, if not , the biggest audiences I have seen at the Borderline gathered to watch tonight's proceeding even before a few latecomers swelled numbers (no doubt stuck in the traffic chaos). Anyway those late arrivals found the only place to stand for a good view was on the stairs leading down from the entrance.

    Spoke to a number of people from various parts of the world other than the UK and you'll have to wait for my audio blog to find out whom.(and what they told me).

    There was a lot of audience participation in various numbers during the show and a great atmosphere was generated with whoops of delight and lengthy applause interspersing the various pieces.

    I reported previously that Swindon was a fantastic gig, tonight was equally impressive in a totally different style of premises.

    Tonight I have to report the arrival of the lesser spotted but tanned Dick Greener who has migrated back to these shores after a winter in the Southern hemisphere sun and sporting a t-shirt with his name on it, saying like "Do I LOOK like Dick Greener" [DG: thanks Cinnie Morgan!] so you don't miss him and he remembers who he is. Glad to say there were no twitchers about, but if there are and they want to tick him off their list I think he may be heading for Chiselhurst tomorrow...

    I'll see what else I remember later, or not.

    Borderline photos by Dick Greener - more photos from Dick


    Turn Me Round
    New World
    Promised Land
    So Close And Yet So Far Away
    River/ Down By The Sea
    Hero And Heroine
    Out In The Cold
    Round And Round
    Lay A Little Light On Me
    Out In The Cold reprise
    Lay Down


    with Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash

    A SMILE ETCHED ON YOUR FACE - Review by Nigel Bennett

    A dual header with Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash and Strawbs took the stage first.

    As much as I like the full on sound you get elsewhere, a large stage, big theatre and a great sound quality set the stall for what was a terrific performance by the guys, outstanding certainly the best I had seen on the tour so far.

    When a show runs perfectly, at times sending shivers down the spine and you sit through the gig with a smile etched on your face with satisfaction, then you know this was something special particularly given the number of times I have seen them perform.

    With two acts on the night the set list had to be adjusted to fit the allocated time, council venues rarely allow overuns and saw a few of the mostly quieter numbers, dropped from Hero and Heroine which effectively turned this to full on rock gig.

    It certainly gave Wishbone something to try to live up to as they took to the stage and judging by the comments I overheard leaving the venue, many others also were very appreciative of the performance.

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