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Dick Greener
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Dick Greener

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Beckenham Bowie Bandstand, 17 August 2019

A thoroughly worthy celebration of a 1969 gig organised by the late David Bowie - lots of local bands, and three returnees from the original show: Bridget St John, Keith Christmas and our very own Dave Cousins, representing the then Strawbs line-up of Dave, Tony Hooper and Ron Chesterman.

A few days before, the Bandstand got into the press, having at last been pisted for preservation, following the efforts of a dedicated band of follower - the picture on the BBC News website: Strawnb at a distance as displayed below.

I hadn't been to any Strawbs gigs for ages, owing to my continuing eye problems, but after a third op on 6th August, I was determined to make this if at all possible. Taking the easy way out, a cab from Leytonstone to Beckenham dropped me at the grounds where I found Ali and John already in position with their lightly timid dog hiding under their deck chairs. Lindsay arrived shortly afterwards.

I'm not going to dwell on other performers, though a special mention for Keith Christmas - I have a vinyl album or two of his lurking at the back of my LP collection, unheard for aeons - I'm currently in the process of being sorted and catalogued, and where appropriate, transferred to digital media for ease of listening. A great set, which makes me want to go back and re-listen to his albums and I'd certainly be happy to see him again live.

When Dave took to the stage, the first thing immediately apparent was his innate ability to match the volume of guitar accompaniment to the vocals - effortless and supremely professional. Mixing Bowie-relevant stories with the songs, it was a reminder that a Cousins solo gig was truly a journey to the centre of the Strawbs (I also recently saw Rick W at the Festival Hall doing his orchestral Journey show, with guests Alfie Boe, Robert Powell and original band singer Ashley Holt, along with Adam W and Tony Fernandez - a 3-Strawb show!)

My highlights:

  • Shepherd's Song - nailing the bucolic essential beauty of the song, without the need for Wakeman's keyboard wizardry.
  • The Man Who Called Himself Jesus - a song which would certainly have been on the list in 1969 - the year they released Strawbs and still powerful even without the rock backing
  • A Glimpse Of Heaven - I love the instrumental section in the middle - fast, intricate and assured.
  • The Hangman And The Papist - the visceral pain of this song - particularly the last chorus - shines though, and Dave's emotional vocal is perfect
  • We'll Meet Again Sometime - an obviously appropriate farewell song - Dave included it on his solo album Two Weeks Last Summer, with just him and Miller Anderson on fancy slide guitar - my favourite version - but it still comes over really strongly with Dave on his own.
  • (I realise I've made all of the tracks a highlight - but that's what I feel!). A welcome return to live Strawbs music for me - like my late friend Paul Brazier (who would have definitely been there if he could!), I think Cousins playing solo is really unmissable!


    The 1969 show was photographed by Ray Stevenson, who was there at both gigs (clearly he had had access to the Fountain of eternal youth!) - he kindly sent me some of pictures from that day and the 2019 reprise. These pix cannot be reproduced withut permission.



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