HAMILTON PLACE, HAMILTON ON, THURSDAY 12 MARCH 2009
Comments from Ian Stewart
It's 12:02am and I just got in from Hamilton. Great show as usual,Wakeman and 'Where Is This Dream..' were worth the price of admission on their own. One slight error occurred right at the start when DL started 'Lay Down' by himself, after that the night was flawless.
Met Dorie and Judi as I was walking in.They are a little tired after their week long trek across southern Ontario. No band had better groupies. 'Where Is This Dream' with Oliver on the keys and the whole new arrangment needs to be recorded. It's a great finale, I am glad to see 'We'll Meet Again..' put to pasture.
Oakville will have to go down as one of the finest performances by the band, in recent history, anyway. I have managed to see some truly great performances, but Oakville surpassed them all. I've no idea what it was. The venue was perfect. The sound was extremely good, the audience was loud and vocal in their appreciation. The atmosphere was electric.
I have not the words to describe what I saw, but one of the things Doug mentioned about their continuing relevance truly struck a chord.
'The Hangman And The Papist' was truly magnificent. I'm not sure if it was because of last weeks events, but there was extra passion, not only in Dave's singing, but in the playing of the rest of the band. They didn't just play...they were inspired. They played as if the song could really change the world. At the end, tears were streaming down my wife's face, and she's heard the song at least once on every tour through the Toronto area for the last 6 years, but she's never been affected like she was in Oakville.
I bought The Broken Hearted Bride at the intermission, and was later struck by 'The Call To Action'. I listened to the CD last night in the car, and played 'The Call To Action' three times in a row...amazing, but it now has more power to move me because of Oakville.
When we left, there was no doubt in anyone's mind that they had witnessed something truly remarkable.
As Judi mentioned, there was a 'take photographs and die a horrible death with much bloating of your maggot ridden corpse' edict in effect, but I made sure I didn't use the flash, and since I was using one of my digital SLRs, I always used the viewfinder, so the bright screen on the back didn't bother anyone, either. So, for your viewing pleasure, please feel free to visit
SUPERLATIVE FOR SOUND, MAYBE THE BEST OF ALL SHOWS AT THIS PLACE - a different view from Jean-Claude
I am just reading the Strawbsweb reviews, and reliving the wonderful shows I have seen for the tour, from Montreal to Oakville. So wonderful to have Strawbs back to Canada! I am puzzled however by W. Stokeld who wrote that he or she thought the sound was a problem at the Oakville show?
I have seen many many concerts, of those more than a dozen are Strawbs, and over twenty are Strawbs or others at the Oakville Centre. This the most recent Strawbs show at Oakville, it was superlative for sound, every instrument's nuances so clear, and the overall sound so powerful and exciting! Maybe the best of all shows at this place. W.Stokeld says that he/she couldn't understand the words? I am from Quebec, I speak only French at home and still I understand the English perfectly at this show, I can sing along if I had the good voice ;).
Compliments to Michel Parent for the wonderful photos from Montreal!
And lastly a comment about young Oliver Wakeman, what a presence and a star! Soon nobody will say 'Rick Wakeman's son', you will be able to say only 'Oliver' and everyone will know of whom you speak.
Thank you Strawbs for coming, we hope we will see you again soon.
AMAZING SHOW FROM AN INCREDIBLY GIFTED SET OF PERFORMERS - Review by W Stokeld
It's interesting to read the current reviews of the Oakville performance, and try to figure out where in the auditorium the writers were to relate it to your own experience. I would also suggest that it's the case with any die-hard rabid fan, who would travel for hours to see their heroes, the glitches tend to be overlooked.
I've enjoyed Strawbs music for years now, having last seen them many moons ago in Newcastle in the early 70's. The ticket to the Oakville show was a birthday request, and at the interval my partner, who was totally unfamiliar with Strawbs music, did comment it must be tough living with someone who comes across as morbid and depressive as Dave Cousins does, lol.
But to the performance. The venue was small, cozy, and wonderfully intimate, with an incredible view from any seat of the performers - no need for binoculars in this place. As with any band who have been around since the heydays of the late 60's and early 70's the hardest thing must be to decide on the song set for a 2 hour show from the many hours of available music - and the song set for this show was a great selection from what was, for me, probably the band's heyday period. Personally I was hoping the final encore song would be 'Benedictus' - not only a great 'thank you for coming, goodnight and god bless' style of song, but to me this would have helped end the show on a positive and upbeat note to the overarching theme of doom that Dave Cousins had been visiting all evening. But we all have personal preferences.
The biggest disappointment, and it was a biggie, was the sound set up. Strawbs music has lots of subtle and clever nuances to it, and the sound setup was way too cranked and intense to fully showcase this for the size of the venue. If you weren't familiar with the song lyrics making out what they were was virtually impossible - even in the quieter timeless classic 'The Hangman And The Papist'. And the frenzied and unique vocal gymnastics of Dave Cousins in the 'Sheep' choruses were virtually totally lost in a frenzy of what came out as schreeching, clashing sound. It also resulted in some of the creative guitar work of Dave Lambert not coming thorugh cleanly. Perhaps the guy doing the sound set up had spend too much time in their youth with the 'dustbin Koss speakers' turned up too loud!!
Despite a poor sound mix, the show itself was truly amazing - and my neophyte partner was completely taken in with the melody shifts, and especially the incredible keyboard playing of Oliver Wakeman. What a musical talent to have been fortunate enough to watch perform. The concert itself was, for me, a genuine throwback to something you rarely get the chance to see today - a full blown 70's style rock concert, with keyboard and drum solos, and what is usually a 5 minute long song being stretched and improvised and mixed to a much longer performance. Kids today really have no clue on what a concert truly can be, and no need for gaudy light shows or distracting pyrotechnics - just let the melodies and lyrics speak for themselves. And in a couple of the songs, while you knew by looking there were only 5 guys out on stage, the skilled performace and abilities of Wakeman on a synthesizer was such that if you closed your eyes you would swear there was at least a 20 piece orchestra in the hall playing with them. Truly, truly amazing keyboard talent. And talking of drum solos - when was the last time you saw a drum solo start off with HAND DRUMMING???? And to get into the increasingly frenzied performance after almost 1 1/2 hours of drumming through all that had gone before? Talent, not to mention incredible stamina (and for a guy that needed to have his pacemaker battery recharged at the interval).
Sound issues aside, this was an amazing, amazing show from an incredibly gifted set of performers, with songs interestingly displaying the same sharp relevance today as they did when originally conceived and written all those years ago. And the 2 cuts of the new album didn't seem in the least out of place to the rest of the set. The appreciation of the audience was pretty apparent as I don't recall too many, if any, concerts over the years where standing ovations were randomly occurring to songs THROUGHOUT the performance.
As for the Strawbs neophyte - sound issues aside, she was totally taken by the the musical abilities of all the performers, the intriguing melody shifts within a song, and the keyboard playing of Wakeman. While perhaps not musically familiar, for her to the concert style was a trip down memory lane to a less frenzied time in life, and a thoroughly enjoyed experience.
Since I saw our beloved Doug at Oakville, I'll let him do the review. What I will say is that this was THE best so far--and I thought nothing could beat Belleville! This was perfection! A lovely performing arts center with incredible sound. Doug agreed that it was even better than Hugh's Room.
And I'd also like to add that with each performance, Oliver just gets more and more incredible. WOW! The crowd went crazy with 'Where Is This Dream.'
Another thing I heard about Toronto: when Oliver was going off the stage, someone in the audience said to him 'Rick WHO???'
I'm SO jealous of the U.K. folks! Everyone is at their best!!!
AND THEN THERE WAS OAKVILLE - Review by Doug Leblanc
And then there was Oakville. The Strawbs were, well, the Strawbs. Incredible, amazing, breath-taking. Awe-inspiring.
But I've talked about them many times. This time I want to talk about Oliver.
As Judi said, the band gets better, stronger, more powerful after every performance. Oliver, however, gets better by quantum leaps!
'Where Is This Dream Of Your Youth?' started with the great riff by Mr. Lambert, then they played the song. Then Oliver did his solo. I had the pleasure of sitting almost directly in front of him, and I could barely see his fingers as they moved like lightning across the keys! You know, it's hard not to feel jaded about music after you've been watching it as intently as I have over the years. But as I watched Oliver play tonight, I felt the old excitement come over me again! I know it's somewhat of an overused phrase, but I was blown away! As Judi said, seat belts are not a bad idea when watching him blaze his way through the music.
But really, when it comes down to it, why are we Strawbs fans in the first place? Why do we go through so much effort to see a band play the same songs over and over again? It's because after so many years, the Strawbs have never lost their relevance. My dear sister Kathy commented that Mr. Cousins seems to be a bit morbid these days, what with the song selection and his descriptions of the tragic events occurring in the world today. However, I think it's more true to say that the Strawbs music is just as relevant today as it was when they wrote them. Sadly so, in many cases.
Yet take the song 'Where Is This Dream Of Your Youth?'. How many of us had dreams of great things when we were younger? And how many of those were centred around artistic endeavours? I know I continue to struggle to get my writing published, and I know Bob writes some really incredible lyrics and songs few people besides his closest family and freinds have seen or heard. At our age, the odds of us achieving anything even remorely close to success is a pipedream at best. But for us, the dream will only die when we do. I'm reminded of that line from the Beatles' classic 'Eleanor Rigby' - 'writing the words to a sermon that no one will hear...' Still, we struggle on, because the art is not in success, but in the doing.
So it is with the Strawbs. They are artists in the truest sense of the word. Behind the humour and the incredibly talented and entertaining performances beats the heart of an artist. And while the others bring so much to the band, that artist is Dave Cousins. The fact that he could write songs from forty years ago and still have it bring tears to my eyes today is monumental proof of his power. He is a shining light to us; a beacon, if you will. He touches us mind, body and soul with every song, with every performance. And will continue to do so for the rest of his days.
Hello from 3 Strawbs fans in Canada who attended their March 10th show at Hughs Room. Oliver Wakeman did a fantastic job. What a talented man. Dave said something like this at the break: 'Well, we're going off to boot up our pacemakers, while Oliver has his nap' After, band stuck around to sign things, have a chat, very approachable. I asked Chas Cronk how John Hawken was doing, and he said fine.
A great show. Toronto loves the Strawbs. From Madeleine, Mike and Andrew - 2 old fans and one new one.
I just read Doug's review which was excellent, and I must agree wholeheartedly. This was definitely the best Strawbs show that I personally have ever been to.
What thrilled me the most was the fact that each member of the band had his own chance to shine at some point in the show. Don't get me wrong, they were all perfect throughout but each song had one of the members shine. Hey, my eyes are still shining! Never seen so much extremely intense emotion from Dave Cousins, especially in his intense songs, ('Sheep', 'The Hangman And The Papist', 'New World', 'Broken Hearted Bride', 'The Call To Action'). Chas was great throughout and really shone in 'Round And Round'. Rod was really into it all night and really shone in his perfect drum solo. I was blown away! Dave Lambert was also perfect throughout and my personal favorite was 'Autumn/The Winter Long'. Perfect rendition!
And last but certainly not least Oliver Wakeman blew everyone away! Fantastic addition to the band! His talent really excelled in 'Where Is This Dream Of Your Youth'!
All in all one of the best nights of my life. A very special thanks to Peter Rowe who took some amazing photos in the meet and greet!!!!! It was great to see Judy again and Dorie, Cinnie and I met Amanda another great Strawbs fanatic!!!!
The band is going to have to cut down on these shows. I am running out of superlatives! Not to mention laxative, er, maybe we don't wanna go there.
Incredible! Absolutely amazing! To be honest, I was dumbfounded! God, they played 'Sheep'! I never thought I would see the day!
Really, excellent song selection, each one played magnificently! DC's voice was a strong as I have ever heard it. Lambert was, of course, amazing, and Oliver! Wow! Brilliant keyboard work, and I've seen his old man play dozens of times! He equals him, although he doesn't quite have the old man's stage presence. Yet. Still, an excellent performance! The encore of 'Where Is This Dream Of Your Youth' blew me away!
Of course, Chas and Rod were their usual super selves! You know, sometimes when you hear the Strawbs on record, you can't really appreciate the work these great performers put in. But on stage - they are nothing less than superb! Consumate artists who know each other with the refined distinction you can only see with such professionals.
You know, one of the things that attracts me to Strawbs shows in the number of dimensions they work with. Yes, there is the three dimensional performance of excellent musicianship and magnificent performance. But beyond that, there is the deep emotional and spiritual dimensions they bring to their shows. I love their music,and even after seeing them so many times, I'm not even close to being bored with them. Each performance is a masterpiece unto itself; an experience unequaled anywhere in music.
The setlist was pretty well identical to the earlier Canadian dates, save for a different running order, and the omission of 'Canada'. Stupidly I forgot my camera, so I have no photos of the show as I usually do, but there were many others there who were taking them, so hopefully you will get some from them.
The band seemed to be in very good spirits, they were obviously enjoying themselves throughout the entire show, and the packed house at Hugh's Room gave them an enthusiastic response the whole night. The addition of Oliver Wakeman seemed to inject an additional shot of energy into the performance (no disrespect to John Hawken, who did a wonderful job on the last electric tour) - he is an amazing keyboardist who at times reminded us of his father, at others (especially during his spectacular work on 'Where Is This Dream of Your Youth' at the end of the evening) he sounded very much like Jon Lord/Don Airey of Deep Purple (a very good thing as they are amongst the top keyboard musicians on the planet).
Although there were some mellow moments (Dave Cousins' very haunting introduction to 'The Hangman And The Papist', where you could have heard a pin drop in the room), the band sounded louder and edgier than on the previous electric tour (again, in my opinion this was a very good thing and turned what was expected to be a great show into an outstanding and exceptionally memorable one). Dave Lambert's Les Paul didn't have a lot of downtime the entire night!
Dave Cousins as always took the time to introduce many of the songs with some interesting background, including the two cuts off the latest CD. A few songs into the set, he introduced the band members just so we wouldn't think that they were some kind of sketchy 'tribute' band. Highly unlikely!
A great show, one that will be challenging to top on the next tour. We can all only hope that Oliver Wakeman has some spare time on his calendar when they hit the road again!
Rather than wax poetic, which is so easy to do with the Strawbs and has so aptly been done by others, I'm going to try my best to step back a bit and look at this show with a more critical eye.
What we have here is a brand new band, a band that has clearly been praised at every stop. And the question is why. How can the Strawbs continue to remain so fresh and seemingly new, when most of us can sing every song by heart? In this particular case, I would think that the answer is Oliver Wakeman.
Just four days into touring with the Strawbs, Wakeman had some very big shoes to fill, following the departure of John Hawken; but fortunately, he has his own large feet to stand upon. Wakeman is stylistically remote from Hawken, and he challenges the audience to come with him on his musical journey. The audience obliges. It seemed to my ears that, rather than fill the niche left by Hawken, the Strawbs had wrapped themselves around Wakeman's style in the most successful possible way. Actually, I believe that this is the essence of this Strawbs line-up.
Wakeman was wise not to tamper with the signature acappela show opener of 'Lay Down' and make his entrance in the traditional way that we're accustomed to. But when he did so, he did not enter timidly but laid siege in the traditional prog mode, and we were all slammed by full, frontal Strawbs. And I cannot say for sure, because I was never able to ask the question, but from that first entrance to the last note of the encore, I had the feeling that the pace -- the beat of the songs -- was faster than it had been in previous years.
I was very happy to hear so many earlier songs (see set list elsewhere), as well as recent ones. Dave Cousins remains passionate, and his early lyrics are uncannily prophetic. Perhaps the sites of violence have changed - although in some cases not at all - but the message remains the same. With Wakeman's fresh approach, and the consistently reliable support from Chas Cronk, Rod Coombes and Dave Lambert, what arises is a Strawbs with more of a prog base and more dimensionality - a more insistent, demanding, less mellow and laid back band that was most obvious in 'Autumn.' I was quite interested to hear 'The Call To Action,' because I have heard it in so many different permutations. I found it slightly discordant, and I suspect that it was such intentionally. I can't imagine it being an accident.
One consistently anticipated highlight of Electric Strawbs concerts is always Coombes' drum solo. By the mid-1970s, I would have said that I could have done without ever hearing another drum solo. But his is music, rather than mere thrashing around, banging on whatever is nearest to him. It works.
In the end, everyone got a moment in the sun, and if this was Wakeman's little showcase, then chalk it up to the nature of prog - more presence, if less delicacy. And the beauty of the Strawbs is the band's versatility and professionalism. It's no secret that I'm a John Hawken fan. But I'm now also an Oliver Wakeman fan. I like apples, but that doesn't mean that I can't enjoy oranges, too. And I've never seen the Strawbs do a bad show - only a good show, a better show, and an over-the-top show. If you can manage to see this current line-up, do it.
TROUBADOURS IN THE HIGHEST SENSE - Review by Bruce Thomson
I agree with the review by Doug LeBlanc, in fact I am sure those were my exact words as well 'God, I love this band' after the show.
What is special is the symbiotic relationship between the band and us, their listeners, there is a feeling of celebration and the knowledge I would suppose, that their small tour here in Quebec and Ontario is as much about wanting to share with us that feeling of celebration than any other consideration (sure can't be about our lovely weather at the moment).
I did not know Dave Lambert was not well, indeed, you would be hard pressed to notice; this man has a constant smile on his face as if it were his very first live show. Chas Cronk is all calmness as he plays effortlessly; Oliver Wakeman, whom I had a chance to talk with briefly is a natural (comes from his Mum), Rod Coombes has a smoothness that I recognize as unique and plays ghost notes with the best of them and Mr. Cousins is the story teller and of course the heart and soul and that is what came across to me at the show on Monday.
I have to confess that I was sad after the show along with the meet and greet was over, it felt the way it does when relatives you have not seen an a very long time who's company you have always enjoyed, finally have to go home. The Strawbs are Troubadours in the highest sense and I look forward to their next visit.
I took my daughter Tiffany to the show and we were both blown away. We met a few regulars there and everyone had the time of their lives. I wish that Ken and Jerry could have made it!
Anyway, the show opened with a superb and upbeat rendition of 'Lay Down'. To our extreme enjoyment this was followed by an extremely emotional version of 'New World'. Then after Dave expressed his feelings about the killings in Ireland they broke into 'The Hangman And The Papist', another very powerful rendition! This was followed by a very lovely version of Lambert's 'The Winter And The Summer'. Oliver Wakeman literally blew the entire establishment away on the the next tune 'Sheep'. This was followed by 'Something For Nothing', another masterpiece in which Chas Cronk, he of the famous Cronk-o-matic, really blew us away on his bass. Then the final song of the first set, one of my, and my daughter's personal favorites 'Autumn/The Winter Long' was truly amazing.
The band then had to recharge their pacemakers but came back with 'Tell Me What You See In Me'. After this they went full force into the incredible 'Broken Hearted Bride'. This one really blew all away. 'Out In The Cold' was next followed by 'Round And Round' in which Rod Coombes really excelled with some of the best drumming I have ever heard. Next up was 'Heartbreaker', 'The River/Down By The Sea'. 'The Call To Action' was next and Oliver excelled in the Celtic beat on the boards. This was followed by an absolutely amazing drum solo that seemed to come out of nowhere! Watch Rod go! Next up was 'Hero And Heroine'. This was the end of the second set.
The encore was an incredible version of 'Where Is This Dream Of Your Youth' in which Oliver outdid himself on the boards. All in all one of the finest shows I've seen.
The concert on Saturday was great! I have to say, though, that the quality of the sound at the Black Sheep Inn is not great - to say the least. Besides that, we had great seats and very much enjoyed the show...
I'd like to add a comment to the review of the Montreal show held at Cafe Campus.
Dave Cousins & the band stopped playing because the monitors stopped working & he couldn't hear himself sing. The quality of the sound during the first set was awful: Dave Lambert's guitar was too loud and we could barely hear Oliver Wakeman's keyboards. Everything was corrected for the 2nd set, which was by far better than the first.
When I think I first saw The Strawbs in 1972 at McGill University in Montreal (a free show!), just after the release of Grave New World, it makes me feel a little bit old...
A GREAT GREAT SHOW BY TOP PROFESSIONALS - Review by Jean Deschesnes
I saw the Montreal Strawbs show on March 6 at the Cafe Campus - a small venue that was max packed with Strawbs fans (around 500 or something like that). I saw the band in Montreal in 2007 too.
So, in the weeks before, we prepare ourselves for the show: listening all of the albums including A Taste Of Strawbs (one of the best boxset of the 75 boxsets I own), asking ourselves what songs will be performed.
We guessed songs from the Wakeman era and we were right! The band performed a set list containing an overview of the past 40 years, with 2-3 songs from The Broken Hearted Bride, 3 from From the Witchwood and 3-4 from Hero And Heroine which is obviously the best loved Strawbs album in Quebec because the band earned a stand-up ovation at he beginning and the end of the 'Autumn' suite and later on while playing 'Out In The Cold'.
The band was in great shape and the vocals of Dave Cousins were intense and emotionally strong as usual. Dave went wild about 20-30 seconds from the beginning of 'Tell Me What You See In Me' as he suddently stopped playing, which surprise all including the band members who stopped playing as well !...We don't know exactly why..(I think he loose the sound of his guitar or voice..) ..but the band restart the song soon after.
It was the second Canadian show and it was obvious that Oliver Wakeman was still learning the songs as he was frequently (or constantly) looking at his notes...but he was very good at doing his music parts. Dave Lambert was very great....The lighting was also very good ...It was a great great show made by top professionals musicians and composers and we were privileged to see this great band again in 2009!
Sorry for those who missed the show or the tour - but you missed the cream of music bands.. Thank you very very much to the Strawbs and their organisation for coming to Quebec/Montreal. We drove two hours to go there and see this incredible show and I will be doing it for each new Strawbs show in the future.
Great show put on by the boys at the lovely Capitol Theatre in Moncton, New Brunswick on March 5, 2009
The 'Daves' were in fine form and what an addition Oliver Wakeman is to the band. Cronk and Coombes kept the pulse going and both seemed to be having a great time. 'Where Is This Dream Of Your Youth' - Lambert and Wakeman - WOW!!!!
It was just about a full house. Cousins had the crowd roaring with a few tales between the songs.
JUST AS GOOD LAST NIGHT AS 35 YEARS AGO - Review by Patrick McWade
I attended the Strawbs concert in Moncton New Brunswick last night. The venue was so reminiscent of where I first saw them in Detroit about 35 years ago: a small antique theater. And the band was just as good last night as then. David Cousins still has the voice to match every song. He has lost nothing over the years. The vocals by Dave Lambert, the harmonies of the three including Chas Coomes all sustained the test of time. Add to that a well-done drum solo, and the keyboard embellishments and fills of Oliver Wakeman, and the two 50-minute sets went by quicker than the 20-minute intermission.
Then, to top off an already exceptional evening, they all wandered into the little lobby to chat and sign autographs. And what must be noted is that whenever any one was engaged in conversation, he looked at you, attended to what you were saying, and graciously responded like we were all old friends. (One might expect a patronizing nod as the 'star' scanned the crowd for a new fawning fan or quick escape. Didn't happen.)
We chatted briefly about the 'Ghosts' tour I saw them on, and Rod expanded on my comment about the synthesized drum solo. The concert was all I'd hoped to expect. The drive home was a smile. The midnight arrival was the end of a good day.
And it's neat to be able to thank a performer and tell them what a good job they did.
EMPIRE THEATRE, BELLVILLE ON, SUNDAY 8 MARCH 2009 HUGH'S ROOM, TORONTO ON, TUESDAY 10 MARCH 2009 OAKVILLE CENTRE FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS, OAKVILLE ON, WEDNESDAY 11 MARCH 2009
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCES EVERY TIME - Review by Dave Ferrisey
Kathy (understanding wife) and I have just completed our trilogy of Strawbs gigs - Belleville, Hugh's Room (2nd night), and Oakville. 45 minutes for the first half, 75 for the second - outstanding performances for the 2 hours every time.
The new songs blend in like timeless classics. Belleville did suffer from the late inclusion to the tour - only 120 tickets sold - but the audience, theatre and sound was excellent. Hugh's Room was packed and attended by Canadian rocker Kim Mitchell who generously promoted the tour on his Q107 radio show.
A special mention to the Oakville Centre For The Performing Arts - capacity crowd of near 500, and a theatre with awesome sound and sightlines. There was something about this performance that reached new heights - perhaps the combination of an excellent audience and fantastic acoustics inspired the band even more than usual. Many songs were acclaimed with long, standing ovations.
At all venues, there was the customary friendliness of all band members when meeting fans after the concert. Oliver fits in brilliantly - both musically and in his easy going warm nature.
Strawbs is the band that constantly evolves. Since first seeing the band five years ago, I have already witnessed the performances of four different incarnations of the band. There have been two versions of the Acoustic Strawbs, first with Brian Willoughby, and later with Chas Cronk. In 2004 many of us were blessed to witness the reunion of the Ghosts/Hero and Heroine lineup of Cousins, Lambert, Cronk, Coombes, and Hawken. Now, in the present year we are seeing what I can only describe as Strawbs 2009.
This is the future of the greatest progressive rock band in the history of music. The band is anything but outdated! The majority of the set list was the more unfamiliar material from the Strawbs songbook, but they pulled it off with gusto. Vintage material like 'Sheep' was injected with new energy and the new songs off the latest album The Broken Hearted Bride are stronger than ever. In addition to this, current keyboardist Oliver Wakeman has a unique touch that has to be seen and heard, to be believed. (Fortunately, as evidenced in years past, Dave Cousins is well known for picking out the most talented keyboardists he can find.)
Just when you think that they can not get any better and that you could not possibly be more impressed with such a gifted group of musicians, they surprise you again.
BLACK SHEEP INN, WAKEFIELD QC, SATURDAY 7 MARCH 2009 EMPIRE THEATRE, BELLVILLE ON, SUNDAY 8 MARCH 2009 HUGH'S ROOM, TORONTO ON, MONDAY 9 MARCH 2009
EXPLOSIVE - Review by Judi Cuervo
First, I have a question: WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE????? Someone posts the set list filled with things like 'Something For Nothing', 'Where Is This Dream Of Your Youth', 'Tell Me What You See In Me', 'Canada', 'The Winter And The Summer', and 'Sheep', for pete's sake, and no comments???? I, actually, was disappointed to see that the set list was posted because I know how totally blown away I was at the first show and wished the poster didn't ruin the surprise.
Wakefield was slightly rocky. A bar atmosphere which didn't lend itself too well to good sound despite Paul's magic. Still, it was the first gig I saw, and nearly died when they launched into some of the new set list additions. It was my first sight of Oliver Wakeman and, oh...my...God. With all due, due, due respect to Hawken, Oliver's feature in 'Where Is This Dream Of Our Youth' is explosive. Nearly knocked the keyboards over, he attacked it so hard, hair flailing all over the place--amazing talent, terrific stage presence. (I heard someone at Hugh's Room last night saying 'Well, I don't know if it's today's technology or what, but I think he's better than Rick Wakeman.') All this while feeling under the weather.
Which is the problem, if I may inject an aside here. Both Oliver and Lambert aren't feeling well and I'm the newest casualty. As I write this, I could easily puke on my shoes.
But back to the shows...
The following night was my favorite performance thus far. Belleville. A lovely theater with crystal clear sound and tons of stage space. Cousins voice was superb, Cronk's harmonies were more audible and Lambert got the 'Fire' (haw! haw! haw!) that was everso slightly subdued the night before because he wasn't feeling well. Rod's solo seemed a bit more intense and maybe a bit longer than the evening before.
Hugh's Room is a very special place for me. So cool to go there and run into people who I only see in Toronto when Strawbs are playing. People like Richard, the club's owner, Peter, the club's photographer and his wife, the only and only Bob and his adoreable daughter Tiffany (current owner of the 'Youngest Strawbs Fan' title since Amanda is now in her 20s). Our beloved Doug couldn't get out of work so he was forced to miss last night, but somehow I believe Bob who was MESMERIZED (he was at the table next to ours) will update him. Sound was good at Hugh's Room but again, Belleville was flawless.
A few words about Cousins: he obviously went shopping. Some fabulous new stagewear including a silver silk shirt with maybe a silver on silver dotted pattern and an incredible white one with a pattern of sequins.
Terrific, terrific gigs so far. Well worth getting sick over. Now, excuse me while I return to my pepto bismal.
Strawbs at The Black Sheep Inn, Wakefield Canada, March 7, 2009 - by John Kelman
Thanks to the internet, niche music has once again become not only popular with fans from around the world collected into global communities but even lucrative. Progressive folksters Strawbs never stopped entirely after a successful string of albums beginning with Just a Collection of Antiques and Curios (A&M, 1970) and ending with Ghosts (A&M, 1975). The group continued to record through the late '70s, but it was 1974's Hero and Heroine (A&M) that was the group's undisputed pinnacle, a triumph of symphonic, mellotron-driven anthems like the dramatic title track, the harder-rocking "Round and Round," the folksier "Shine on Silver Sun" and episodic "Autumn."
Still, after less successful albums, like Burning for You (A&M, 1977) and Deadlines (Arista, 1978), the group - led by the group's only original member, singer/guitarist David Cousins - more or less disappeared until the late '90s, when it was revived in two formats - the electric version that featured the Hero and Heroine line-up of Cousins, bassist/vocalist Chas. Cronk, guitarist/vocalist Dave Lambert, drummer Rod Coombes and keyboardist John Hawken, and an acoustic configuration with Cousins, Cronk and Lambert. It was the electric version of Strawbs, with keyboardist Oliver Wakeman, son of prog legend Rick Wakeman, replacing the now-retired Hawken, that performed two sets to a packed house at The Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield, Quebec, about 20 miles outside of Ottawa.
With Lambert providing a sweet vocal compared to Cousins' more melodramatic delivery, the group focused largely on material from Hero and Heroine, Bursting at the Seams (A&M, 1973) and Grave New World (A&M, 1972), though there were brief nods to Strawbs' early days with the late Sandy Denny on Sandy Denny and The Strawbs (Hannibal, 1967), and its early evolution towards a more electric sound on From the Witchwood (A&M, 1971) - the latter featuring Rick Wakeman, an early member of the group. Oliver Wakeman proved capable of emulating both his father and Hawken's signature sounds and styles, but was equally capable of his own approach, most evident on the encore, where he was given the most solo space of the evening.
Wakeman to the contrary - looking much younger than his 37 years - the band appeared pretty long in the tooth with the exception of Coombs, who looked lean and healthy behind his small kit. At times overwhelmed by the power and volume of the rest of the group, he was still a solid anchor, keeping songs like the anthemic "Lay Down," which opened the first set, moving forward with energy and finesse. The vocal trio of Cousins, Lambert and Cronk sounded as good as they did 35 years ago. Cousins' high end has suffered a bit in the intervening years, making him strain for the high notes on "Round and Round" and the bleak, mellotron-driven "New World," but for the most part he was in fine form, his 12-string acoustic guitar providing the foundation around which the rest of the band coalesced. Older he may be, but Cousins has lost none of his flair for the melodramatic, both in his delivery of songs like the rocked-out folklore of "Hero and Heroine" and in his spoken introductions, which referred to the rather serious nature of most of the material. Still, he wasn't without a sense of humor, announcing at the end of the first set, "We'll take a short break so you can refresh your drinks and we can go upstairs to plug in our pacemakers."
Lambert's few vocal spotlights, including a beautiful version of the romantic "The Winter and the Summer," from Bursting at the Seams, and lyrical "(Hold on to Me) Winter Long," the anthemic final section of Hero and Heroine's "Autumn," were highpoints of the sets, as was Cousins' powerful, Middle Eastern-tinged "The Call to Action," the opening track on The Broken Hearted Bride (Witchwood, 2008), the group's first electric studio record since 2003's Blue Angel (Witchwood, 2003). Clearly Strawbs is a reunited and revived group that still has relevance 40 years since it first came together.
While it's uncertain if Wakeman will stay or not - he has his own group, not to mention being in demand with other groups including Yes, who recruited him for its recent In the Present tour before it was cut short due to the health problems of bassist Chris Squire. It would be interesting to hear Wakeman given a greater opportunity to be himself rather than emulating others; still, between himself and Lambert there was plenty of solo power at a show that had progressive rock fans in an energetic and clearly appreciative mood.
According to Tour Manager Neil Byford, the Montreal show the previous night sold out within hours, thanks to FMPM's Stephen Takacsy, who emailed progressive rock fans to spread the word. And the Ottawa show was no different, with fans including Molly Cort travelling with her husband all the way from Rochester, New York, for the show. The power of the internet to revive groups is undeniable, and with Strawbs' show at the Black Sheep Inn the subject of discussion the next day at Progressive Ears, it's clear that progressive fans have come together as a global community to help make tours like this possible.
THE MICK JAGGER CENTRE, DARTFORD, SATURDAY 31 MAY 2009
DIFFICULT TO SEE HOW IT COULD BE BETTER - Review by Dick Greener
Having missed out on the apparently stellar Cardiff show, I was hoping for a good gig to finish off the UK tour at the excellent Mick Jagger Centre in Dartford, a mere 27 minutes away from Greener Towers, according to Google. And we weren't at all disappointed....
A good big stage for the boys to move around on, good sound and good lighting, and whilst some may have been tiring towards the end of the tour, there was no sign if flagging spirits on stage. Paul commented that, whereas the previous night had been an out and out rock gig, tonight was a "hi-fi" experience in terms of the PA system - sound very good indeed, even up close and personal as were were, on the front row, directly in front of Dave Lambert. Some nice perspectives for photography too.
One of the best gigs on the tour, certainly. As is frequently the case, the tour develops new facets to the performance. Latest new stuff is Lambert playing along with Rod in the first hand-drum section of the drum solo, and some new DL guitar riffing, trading licks with Oliver in "Dream". Oliver continues to extend himself on pretty much everything, but especially "Dream" where there are new points of interest every time I hear it.
My highlights would be:
"New World" - don't know why this has hit the spot just quite so fundamentally this time out, but it just has.
"Sheep" - such a powerful number, with some great keyboards from Oliver and some superb vocals from Dave.
"River/Down By The Sea" - a lengthy tour de force solo from Lambert at the end seems to get further and further extended, without in any way losing the audience's interest.
"Tell Me What You See In Me" - only heard it a few times, and it gets more and more interesting.
"Hero And Heroine" - for power, can't be beaten, no wonder DC has to pogo to the final choruses.
"Where Is This Dream Of Your Youth" - an unmissable encore, superb musicianship all round.
Probably one of the finest line-ups live that the Strawbs have ever had, Oliver such a huge asset, joining a finely tuned machine which saw its origins in the 70s, but which has been making fine live music since its reformation in 2004. Difficult to see how it could be better .....
When someone gets around to compiling a list of legendary Strawbs gigs, this one may well be on it.
When DC quipped early in the evening " Do any of you remember Cardiff Castle" it showed that quite a few did and at that moment you just knew that the night was going to be a rather special one amongst friends. By the end of the evening the whole audience both young and old were turned on and tuned in to the sound of Strawbs.
On this tour there have been so many you could regard as really special and outstanding, Boom Boom Club, Bilston, Milton Keynes, The Cluny, Worcester, Frome, all for slightly differing reasons and by all accounts both Glasgow and Derby (although I wasn't there) were pretty special too.
But tonight , set in a terrific and steamy rock club,with a standing "pit" and the band and the audience were on fire. There were some (Hi Julie) who were enticed from far up North after a word in their ear the night before and others Roy and Sandy who were making this a trio of Strawbs gigs on the tour. Of course Ali and Lindsay were there too.
Well before the opening sound of "Lay Down" faded, the audience was in full voice joining in on chorus as they did on many other songs during the night and lest I forget the audience participation, the swaying , thrashing and dancing and the rhythmic clapping on "Round And Round" and Rod's drum solo, where his quick switch of direction accommodated all that had joined in. Indeed even Dave Lambert joined in the fun on that "solo" by adding some tasty guitar and who himself played like a hero, with virtuoso guitar solos and gentle and emotional song.
The two set list show, was a mirror of previous but somehow the evening turned the various musical passages and solo's into even lengthier epic's. Oliver's superb playing won many an admiring glance, as his fingers moved ever so swiftly over each of his keyboards embellishing each song with his own very special talent and his intepretation on tour of these Strawbs classics has been a joy to behold.
And what of Chas ...well of course he took it all in his stride, the sound was mixed just great (thanks Paul) so those throbbing bass notes were in evidence in every right place.
DC sang of demons and of innocent charm all in one and his introductions bringing fits of laughter from the gathered throng.
We chatted to many during the evening and they were overwhelmed and joyous in their praise. As the set closed the loud cheering and general hullabaloo enticed the boys back for their regularly featured encore.
Yet still the audience,had not had enough and after a further 5 minutes of endless clapping chanting and singing of something that sounded in the noisy pleading like "Strawbs" , "Strawbs", "Strawbs" the boys came back out and did a mini reprise of the encore, much to the delight of everyone who had taken the band to their hearts.
BEST EVER - BY ANYONE, EVER! - Review by Julie Longden
I had no intention of going to Cardiff - 'too far' I thought, looking at the tour dates. Blessed be those who changed my mind!! I witnessed the best ever - by anyone, EVER!
I have never seen the band put in a poor performance but so many other factors, many beyond their control, influence the overall result, as the previous night at Bedworth had proved, enjoyable though it was. At Cardiff everything was right - and MORE.
I'm not really sure what happened: yes, the venue was 'atmospheric'; the sound was great; there were no technical hitches - so far, so good. But something magical occured which I can only try and attribute to the fact that the band inspired an already receptive audience, and the audience, in turn, inspired the band. The interaction betrween the two was phenomenal and nothing like I'd seen before. As Nigel has mentioned it wasn't merely appreciation, cheering and applauding but real involvement (with, perhaps, a touch of adoration thrown in for good measure). Those of us who knew that this was exactly what they deserved responded accordingly and helped continue the momentum, delighted to find our heroes recognised.
Whatever nostalgic feelings may have been evoked, the obvious pertinence and relevance of new material such as "The Broken Hearted Bride", and the (unfortunately) continued relevance of "New World", "Sheep" and "The Hangman And The Papist" left us in no doubt that this band is alive and kicking. I don't, however, want an entire repetoire of 'profound, serious and meaningful' songs but delicate, intimate and well-written songs which speak to the heart, of the heart. "The Winter And The Summer" was a delight, as was "Tell Me What You See In Me"
I have noticed that, particularly on this tour, the audience has boasted a greater number of 'young people' (it's all relative!) who have seemed to appreciate the material and the band's ability to actually perform live to this standard, and who have left clutching the latest CDs.
By the end we were all hot, sweaty and exhausted, both audience and the band, but IT WAS GOOD!! DC and Oliver came directly from the stage after an unprecedented SECOND encore which the audience had insisted on. DL, Rod and Chas followed in due course and all were well occupied for some time but kind and attentive as ever; may CDs, poster and tickets were signed and many photos taken.
Strawbs go from strength to strength - long may it continue. Regrets?? I have two. One, the show was too short - they should have 'played all night'. Secondly, due to the long journey home, and the fact that my last-minute decision to come to Cardiff had left me without a room for the night, I couldn't stay longer afterwards and enyoy the company. I did, however, leave feeling that I'd have driven twice as far to see this one (or is that ten times??)
God bless Strawbs and Nigel and Ali for their persuasive powers the night before - a night to remember.
Have to agree - this one did not run smoothly but did perfectly demonstrate the band's ability to put in a great performance and retain their sense of humour under very trying circumstances. This is exactly why we take the trouble to see live performances - you never really know what to expect. The contrast between one night and the next can be almost unbelievable (as the Cardiff gig proved!). 'Reliable' venues, such as Bilston, can provide a backbone to any tour but Bedworth certainly wouldn't put me off an untried venue.
There were some sound issues on the night at Bedworth, more to do with the theatre stuff rather than anything the band had influence over, but the glitches, ah well I suppose that is live music. The fact that the issues were dealt with, with a great deal of humour, and also showed a level of professionalism in the band. Indeed it was only at this gig that one glitch allowed Oliver to play a few bars of the "Teddies bear picnic" so feel good about that, like when did we hear that before? (Answers on a postcard to Steve or through Planet Rock). Many on this tour won't have had a chance to hear that- pure nostalgia and the off the cuff commentary from DC about Albert Hall and symphonies, well that was just as precious.
Yes it's true everyone likes things to run smoothly, but then again, if they did all the time we'd probably all get bored. This is live stuff, not an imprinted CD and as one great bard once said "treasure each passing day each hour and moment".
No, Bedworth won't go down in the annals of history as a superlative gig, but it was great to be there all the same and will retain some lasting memories.
THE CLUNY, NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE, THURSDAY 28 MAY 2009
ATMOSPHERE AND ENERGY - Review by Nigel Bennett
What better way to spend a balmy evening than sat under the stunning and historic Byker bridge built in 1878 and supping a pint or two of "Old Rosie" itself a famous cider experience.
After Alnwick the night before, the tour (geographically speaking) was heading back South but not before a show at the famous Cluny and sitting on the wall outside enjoying the evening sunshine all the band came over to say "hello" as they passed by, enjoying a dose of fresh air ahead of the performance.
DC eulogised as he passed, about the voice of young female singer who was performing in the bar of a pub across the road and although I popped over for a listen the poor thing was battling lots of one of those age old problems - lots of noisy pub chat (don't you just hate that !) - so I never got a real good listen..very frustrating, given the recommendation.
All that was all very relaxing, but the best was yet to come. Clearly this bar and venue is very popular and with the performance area holding 250, most of whom were standing and without doubt clearly out to enjoy themselves. By the time the band hit the stage the area must have been reaching close to capacity.
This was to prove an excellent evening and the band got a terrific reception. Indeed, such was the atmosphere and energy inside, that the walls must have been dripping - the level of communal singing amongst the audience showed many fans were also present. The ovations at the end of each number raised the temperature even higher and everyone witnessed an absolutely brilliant show and made this a real night to remember.
Before I forget, many thanks to Ali to for giving me a lift back to my digs for the night.
However, at the end of the evening one question still remained unanswered. Just how many bricks did it take to build that bridge ? Wouldn't it be great if the band returned to play there and we could then start to count them, but maybe they would need to play for a week, but who would care, this was a great night.
AMAZING PERFORMANCE - Comments from Phil Delafield
What an amazing performance and a fabulously chosen playset - summed up for me how good they are and always have been.
And as for Oliver W, deja vu springs to mind. I, and I guess the rest of the audience, were waiting eagerly for him to be let loose and when the opportunity came he didn't disappoint - it was fantastic and a good reminder of jut how brilliant Antiques and Curios is.
And the rest of the band watched on with perhaps fatherly affection - the eye contact and Oliver's smile were very endearing.
They all seemed in excellent form -I thought the sound was great - it was very tight - the night just went too quickly.
THE STABLES, WAVENDON, MILTON KEYNES, TUESDAY 26 MAY 2009
I GO AWAY FOR A WEEK .... - Review by Dick Greener
Slightly jet-lagged, I nevertheless head out for Milton Keynes after my first day back at work (checking e-mails, writing out to do lists, shoving work in other peoples' direction, transatlantic telephone conferences, usual stuff first day back). Surprisingly all the roadworks which have plagued my route to MK in the past few years have been removed- it's a clear four lane road once you hit the M1 and all goes smoothly and I get there early enough to have some very tasty fish and chips with some of the usual suspects (nice little restaurant just off the main bar - the Stables is SUCH a nice venue).
There isn't really a duff seat in the place - even those sitting at the very side of the stage have great acoustics and a unique view. But Nigel Bennett Tours have come up with the best seats in the house - centre facing the stage on the first row of raised seats - couldn't be better.
The band are even tighter than the Worcester show, which I'd thought was going to end up one of the best of the tour, but this performance surpassed that by a country mile. More assured, relaxing into the show, they're all playing phenomenally well, with DC's vocals soaring above, notwithstanding his bad cold. Some of DL's guitar parts are still a bit quiet - I really think the guitar needs to be cranked up a bit generally - but Paul at the desk is tweaking the solos up, which helps.
High spots for me:
"New World" came over really really well; maybe THE archetypal Strawbs song.
"River/Down By The Sea" is a perfect ending to Act 1.
"Tell Me What You See In Me" has lots of energy to start off the second set and gives Oliver a bit of space for a piano section.
But without doubt, THE highlight of the show has to be the stunning encore. When I went away, it was pretty damn good, but it's now become astonishing. Wakeman's added a few more bits to his solo, and looks as though, obviously retaining the cues to the other band members, he now has the confidence to vary what he plays. A new flourish is added when he walks round the front of his keyboard whilst carrying on that trademark arpeggio playing (don't try this at home children!). Truly a bravura performance, which had the already very appreciative audience cheering loudly.
A good long chat in the bar afterwards, I find on the way home that whilst the roadworks going north are done away with, going south is a different story, so I get home pretty late, tired but very pleased with life generally and very glad indeed that I got to see that show, possibly one of their best ever.
DEFYING TIME AND ASSUMPTIONS - Review by Heather Malcolm
I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it for myself. I have been watching the Strawbs since they re-formed, (though thankfully they don't appear to have reformed), and have grown used to there being a consistently high standard of performance and musicianship, and an always-remarkable degree of passion from DC. I've also got somehow used to the idea that the band might be winding down a bit - that we can't expect so much from them now that - em - how do I say this diplomatically - now that local transport organisations may view them with an increased degree of generosity.
I was shocked when I saw that they were sitting down for acoustic gigs - appalling! How could they possibly deliver powerful songs if they can't use their diaphragms properly? (sorry, I occasionally channel my old singing teacher), and anyway - it smacked of giving to aging. "Stand up and give us our money's worth" I wanted to shout at them - except for Chas, because he hasn't got enough feet to operate the pedals, and stand up, and sing harmony, and play the guitar all at the same time. Not that he uses his feet to play the guitar, or sing for that matter - oh you get the idea...
And I was wrong - they can, and they do inject every bit as much energy and passion into acoustic gigs as they do electric ones. But the worry remained in the back of my mind - they've got to slow down sometime - it's inevitable. Well, they are defying time and my assumptions again.
I've always loved "Hero And Heroine", can't get enough of it: an almost cloyingly jolly melody counterpoints the biting allegorical lyrics - a Cousins masterpiece. And it needs energy, verbal dexterity and a memory like a bear-trap. And all the vocal weight is on Cousin's shoulders. So at Frome the other day, I expected to see DC putting every ounce of energy the song with nothing left over.
WRONG! Not only did he deliver the vocals with full-bore intensity (and accuracy), he also got air! And not those pathetic little hops Ozzy Osbourne claims to be "his jumps" - it was proper pogo-ing. I take it all back. DC says he'll be back in 25 years. I wouldn't bet against it.
GREAT SETLIST, GREAT PERFORMANCE- Comments from Andy Slack
Agree with Ralph, OW adds something extra to the band (I bouught one of his CDs on the strength of it and it's great.) Can't wait for new Strawbs album.
Not a great venue as the heat was becoming almost undearable, crowd and band seemed to be suffering particularly Rod (maybe that's why drum solo was dropped), in fact all except 'Mr Cool' Lambert who kept his jacket on throughout!
This was Strawbs at their rockiest (how I like to hear them) and certainly not letting age slow them down, great setlist, great performance.
Perhaps 'The Oven', Derby would have been more accurate; it was 'hot' in every sense. The place was packed and the heat steadily increased; I don't know how the band managed to perform with such energy and passion.
They did, however, and apart from a few reservations regarding the sound quality during the early songs, this was a power-packed set. Standing right next to the PA was probably not a good idea, particularly for the opening of 'Sheep' as my ears were still ringing the next day. It was a pleasure though to hear this live for the first time. All were in great voice - DC's last note of 'Don't be sick' seemed to last forever.
A great night with 'The River/Down by..' for me, the highlight, although 'Autumn' was one of the best I'd heard.
Many thanks to Ralph and Ali for the photos of me and Chas and DL - that made the night extra-special.
Fantastic gig last night at a rather unusual venue, The Flowerpot in Derby.
Great to see a host of the usual faces, and particularly great to share in the communal amazement at Oliver Wakeman's brilliance, and particularly the amazing performance of 'Where is this Dream of Your Youth' as the encore. I almost didn't go to the gig as have been suffering from a particularly bad cold, but am glad I did, despite feeling very rough the day after...
Setlist was as other nights, and it's a good selection. I can see why 'Sheep' is in there, but have never been that keen on it - however it was very enjoyable.
Three main highlights for me - 'The Winter and the Summer' which was stunning; 'Autumn' which was possibly the best yet that I've heard, and the encore of 'Where is this Dream' which was just mind-blowing with its power, and its showcasing of Oliver.
The sound was a bit patchy in the first half and I think this was down to the tiny stage and the slightly weird layout - bit of shrieking from DCs microphone. The quieter numbers were obviously easier to mix. We were standing near the PA though and my ears were ringing afterwards.
I was a little disappointed that DC's 12 string was playing up as would have like to have heard it. For me, the definitive Electric Strawbs sound has to feature 12 string - e.g. 'New World'.
It was a really enjoyable show - well worth the five-hour jouney to get there, and particularly good to see Oliver Wakeman with the band (only heard him before on the album 'Jabberwocky'). What a brilliant keyboard solo! Also very good to hear the reworking of 'Tell me....' as I managed to get a copy of the vinyl album featuring Sandy Denny only recently which was a real find!
It was a terrific show, and I was pleased to see a good turn out this year, compared to last. At the end Dave Cousins joked that they'd return in '25 years time,' but on the response they got it should be a lot sooner!
It was a blistering, gritty, rockier concert, and it as good to hear songs from their earlier albums that I'd not heard live before.
Oliver Wakeman on the keyboards was a rare treat. He performed a cracking solo in the encore that would have his Dad giving up in disgust. Having Wakeman Minor in the team also meant that songs from the Witchwood album, such as 'Hangman' and 'Sheep' could be heard again in they way nature intended.
At the end I left with that blissful after-gig buzz resonating in my head - or should that be 'ringing down the ears'?
I must now be into double figures for Strawbs gigs in Glasgow and can honestly say the last 2 have been my favourites. This line up with Hawken or Wakeman is for me THE Strawbs line up.
From the huge back catalogue available the set's material taken is with only 1 exception taken from pre 1974 and nothing from the post Ghosts (still a favourite of mine) period is included apart from the title track from The Broken Hearted Bride. The set opened with 'Lay Down' and from the first chord of Dave Lambert's guitar through to the keyboard wizardry of Oliver Wakeman on 'Dream' the Glasgow crowd although rather on the small side enjoyed the performance. Isn't it great to see these guys still playing and I do believe Chas Cronk's bass playing and backing vocals are the best I've heard them, or is it just that the sound mix is better?
Dave Cousins introduced 'The Hangman and Papist', which got it's usual rousing reception, by recalling Top of the Pops Pans People trying to dance it, and described 'The Winter and the Summer' as one of the bands loveliest songs and after 'Down by the Sea' came a short break. Dave you may need to reset the pacemaker but we need the interval also as we do not seem to be able to last a full set without a comfort break!
The 2nd part included 4 tracks from the Hero and Heroine album before the encore of 'Where Is this dream Of Your Youth' with Oliver Wakeman showcased.
Stand outs for me were 'Autumn' and 'Tell Me' with the only down side for me personally being the drum solo (but then I really just don't enjoy any drum solo) although most in the audience don't share my view.
THE CENTRE OF A SONIC BLAST - Review by Nigel Bennett
First there was Sutton and then Worcester followed swiftly by Worthing all of which were outstanding and superb for differing reasons, but tonight, oh tonight, it was Bilston which has become somewhat of a 'Midlands Mecca' for Strawbs and their fans.
One of our all time favourite places to play said DC and from my point of view one of the best venues to go to in the country.
Although shorn of a few of the usual companions due to their own commitments, a good bunch of friends still gathered. Adie ....now, talking of shorn, wait to you see his new cropped hairstyle... you'll need a second look to recognise his metamorphosis, particularly as I had seen him on Saturday in full regalia. Bob and Lou, Roy, Sandy, Ali of course, Paul (Les C's pal & his friend - was it Malcolm?) , Dave and Paul and others too numerous to mention.
Now if Sutton had been loud and Worcester exquisite tonight brought a new meaning to the word loud, no more dreaming of your youth, this was a full return to a hard rock club stuff, with DC reaching the threshold of ear piercing pain at times, as he hit the high notes. This was great stuff absolutely superb and the whole band played their part - as Chas said afterwards 'he felt caught in the centre of a sonic blast' as the interplay between Dave L and Oliver reached what seemed to be new heights and crescendo, driven along by Rod's outstanding contribution.
It's the stuff you dream of and when it all comes together, the playing, the sound and the venue, you just want more and more.
For those going to Glasgow tonight, you might just need to take lifejackets, the power the band are producing, may just blast that static ferry adrift from it's moorings and you'll sail away down the Clyde and out to sea.
PS Before I forget a brief mention of Jake Flowers, probably the best and most entertaining support act we have seen on the tour so far.
The most perfect evening. Plinston packed. On a Tuesday night! Seventies folk rock gods, Strawbs, with their classic Hero And Heroine line-up still intact, some thirty five years on, John Hawken replaced by the debonair Oliver Wakeman.
A set list to die for. Kicked off in some style by chart hit 'Lay Down'. The highlights are many. The most glorious 'Down By The Sea' featuring some spellbinding Lambert Les Paul riff magic. Wow! This band rock. Frontman Cousins' perpetual introductions and recollections, a sheer delight. Engaging, enlightening, entertaining. Wakeman takes the spotlight on the incomparable 'Round And Round'. His extended solo utilises just about every single key on his battery of keyboards. The set ends strongly with four essential selections from 'Hero And Heroine'. This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the release of the band's first album. Aptly, the encore song is taken from it, the timeless 'Where Is This Dream Of Your Youth'. Bravo! With thanks to Chas Cronk [bass], Rod Coombes [drums], Oliver Wakeman [keyboards], Dave Lambert [lead guitar] and Dave Cousins [guitar].
Republished with permission from Plinston Plus website.
A Fine Mix Of Pure Nostalgia And Theatre - Review by Richard Brennan
It's been a long, long time since I last saw Strawbs. Excluding the Cambridge Folk Festival gig the last concert occasion was the 'Ghosts' tour.
Why did I leave it so long? I won't dwell on that as it will only depress me having just watched a truly excellent show by the band.
Yes there were a couple of stop/starts at the beginning (anyone seen the roadie?) but they were quickly overcome and a truly disciplined show was served up.
The vocal delivery from Dave Cousins was incredible throughout. From the manic passion of 'Sheep' to the subtle tenderness of 'Out In The Cold' he still after all these years feels with the mood of the song and holds every note.
Dave Lambert was in excellent form and just about for me stole the show. A classic guitar man from a bygone era that can still turn it on with his presence and style and what a great vocalist. 'Autumn' was as emotionally charged as it was when I first heard it all those years ago.
'Hero and Heroine' is as always a fine and fitting finale; sounding as fresh and powerful as ever.
Oliver Wakeman's performance on the free flowing encore of 'Where is this Dream of Your Youth' was up there with his dad's highlights. Quite spooky actually just how much he looks like Rick.
The set was a fine mix of pure nostalgia and theatre; that left me quite numb with anticipation of my next opportunity to see the band. When renditions of 'Shine On Silver Sun' and 'Promised Land' will again surface.
After a shaky start to the day (rather self-inflicted) we set out in various cars on the lengthy journey from Worcester to Worthing. A pleasant deviation for me, dropping in to surprise old friends en route, meant that I got to Worthing by about 6.30, meeting up with the others in Sofa, a rather good bar/cafe opposite the pier and the Empress Suite, the new venue for tonight's show after the gig was switched from the Half Brick pub (we passed this unprepossessing building on our way out of town as we left later on, and on balance I think the substitution may have been in our favour in some respects).
Looking into the room, it was rather as I expected - a function room, suited for weddings and parties, with flouncy purple drapes covering the ceiling and a glitter ball hanging from the ceiling. A small stage with very low lighting - Rod waved a few times, his disembodied hand rising out of the gloom. However, there be gremlins - by the time we got in at 8.00 or so, the sound check hadn't happened, the PA had had to be rather cobbled together, and tempers were ready to flare. Notwithstanding all of this the band played a blinding one set performance, and Paul managed to secure a marvellous sound out of the room, which tuned out to have better acoustics than feared.
A single set meant the drum solo and 'Tell Me' were dropped, but the remaining numbers were played with gusto and verve. 'Sheep' once again was a standout, as was 'Dream' but, as everything was just so good despite slightly adverse conditions, it's hard to pick out standout tracks.
Jealous that I'll miss the next few shows - I get back from the States in time (just) for the last two shows of the tour - if I'd not been going away, I think I'd have tried to emulate Ali, who's travelling to see all bar one. No matter who or what has gone before, this is a line-up of the Strawbs which will live on as a favourite for many, and you don't get quality like this too often, so see them while you can .....
STRAWBS WITH A DASH OF WORCESTER (AND A WHIFF OF WORTHING - Review by Lindsay Sorrell
I'd never been to Worcester before and fancied having a look round - I got my wish, and so did Pete Rand, when he gallantly waited for me to withdraw some cash from a machine. We ended up with our own un-guided evening tour of Worcester, and unfortunately the rest of our throng were in danger of losing consciousness from hunger by the time we found the agreed restaurant (very nice, but I can't remember the name). Luckily a monsoon had come and gone by the time we had to leave for the venue. I'd never visited the Huntingdon Hall before, and it has to be one of the most fascinating places I've seen Strawbs play.
From the front row of the Methodist chapel's raised tier, about half way back, the view of the stage was excellent and I don't think I've ever been able to watch one of Rod's spectacular drum solos so well - it was possible to see what his hands were doing from start to finish, making it ever more awe-inspiring. The sound was almost impossibly good, with astonishing clarity and balance. Chas added thumping or gentle bass in all the right places, as ever, and the band was ablaze, with Dave Cousins' vocals sounding staggeringly compelling. If I was bound and gagged and forced to moan about something it would be that I'd personally like to hear Dave Lambert's guitar turned up a tad, to give a slightly more equal balance between the guitar and keyboards. When Dave Cousins introduced 'The Winter and The Summer' he generously referred to it as '...probably the most beautiful song Strawbs have ever recorded..' or something along those lines. It really is great to see that song back in the set this time round. The whole band rocked superbly, and it was a pleasure to watch the interaction between Oliver Wakeman and Dave L., both grinning broadly at each other for much of the time. Dick was approached in the interval by a woman who thought he looked like someone 'famous', possibly John Peel(RIP), and it was nice to catch up with Dan again along with all the rest of the crew. A terrific night, which ended with post-pub (can't remember the name of that either!) munchies at around 3.30 a.m. - surprisingly the whole town still seemed to be wide awake. Maybe Worcester has a lot of insomniacs or something.
Worthing next day was rather a strange one - a fairly dingy outdated 60s or 70s Butlins-style ballroom, complete with mirror ball and ruched purple fabric covering the ceiling. An illuminated Christmas tree had presumably been placed on a table to camouflage the entrance to the toilets. Very different from the previous two evenings which had been packed out - unfortunately because of the change of venue and lack of advertising the audience was a lot smaller. Neil's Sue had kindly bagged us a prime table in the centre of the hall, towards the back - we began surreptitiously shuffling it forward inch by inch with the intention of ending up onstage by the encore, until Nigel pointed out that there was probably a chandelier on the ceiling beneath us wobbling furiously every time we moved, so we gave up on that idea.
There had been a few concerned mutterings among the band about how good the sound quality was going to be too, given the PA they had to work with. No-one need to have worried on that score however, the sound was once again excellent (what a master of his craft Paul must be!). I remember thinking to myself that 'The River/Down By The Sea' was every bit as good as the previous night, which had scored off the top of the scale in my book. A brief chat with the band and then most of us legged it fairly quickly after the gig, dropping Ali off at her hotel en route. I had the school run followed by a day at the office looming (a rest at last!!!), while Dick, who had kindly offered me the hospitality suite at The Greener Towers yet again, decided to forgo sleep until his early morning flight to Noo Yoik. Time to recharge the pacemakers as someone once mentioned.
BUILDINGS ALL AROUND ARE SHAKING - Review by Dick Greener
The splendid surroundings of Huntingdon Hall in Worcester were the backdrop for the second the gigs on this tour - formerly the Countess of Huntingdon Church apparently - pews, a gallery supported on slender pillars - now incorporated tastefully into the Crowngate redevelopment of the central Worcester shopping area. At the back, a huge pipe organ (sadly not available for use, or I think Oliver would have been all over it) and a pulpit, in front of which the band were set up on a slightly raised podium. A fantastic backdrop for the choice of songs currently in the set, and a sound to die for.
I'd love to show you a picture of it, but, it's one of those venues where they don't allow photography - the reason given this time health and safety - too dangerous to have flashing lights going off in the audience. For goodness sake people, get real!
Anyway, Paul did a masterful job on the sound, aided and abetted by the naturally good acoustics of ecclesiastical buildings (they knew what they were doing back then). A two set show - adding in at the front of set two, the re-interpretation of 'Tell Me What You See In Me', with some interesting vocal call and response dynamics going on. And, in front of 'Hero And Heroine' Rod had his now-famous drum solo - enthralling to watch, finished off with a little smile from Coombes and the raised drumsticks which signal the onset of 'Big H'.
The sound this band creates is big and powerful - someone commented to me that the box in which they were sitting was vibrating to the beat - appropriate given the lyrics of 'Where Is This Dream', which continues to grow - Oliver is flexing his muscles, great playing from everyone.
Everyone was very pleased after this one as, after a while in the bar waiting fir the kit to be broken down, we all repaired to a great pub nearby - The Plough - friendly landlord and staff, and great beer, staying open very late too.
Splendid night at the Boom Boom Club in Sutton - a large social club attached to the local football club. Low ceiling made for interesting acoustics, the sound was much better up near the front than at the back (unusual), but the place was just packed out, and had a great atmosphere.
A great show, lots of power and presence, the Strawbs really let rip, in a set that showcases Oliver Wakeman's considerable talent, with the keyboards well up in the mix. Highlights for me, difficult to pick out because the whole thing was pretty marvellous - 'New World' benefits from the multiple keyboards, 'Sheep' (which has moved to song 3 after 'New World') is just superb, and 'Down By The Sea' is growing to be one of my favourites in the new set (ironic given that a while ago I lobbied for it to be dropped).
Whilst Dave plays the first half (or set if they play two sets) on 12-string, he's now switching to 6 string for much of the latter, which I think works a lot better for the intricate fingerpicking on the middle section of 'Autumn' and 'Out In The Cold'.
Once again though, the star piece is 'Where Is This Dream Of Your Youth', which continues to develop. Stunning tour de force from all concerned.
The official opening gig (there had been pre-tasters at Rochester and Cromer) of the Electric Strawbs UK May tour kicked off at the 'Boom Boom' club in Sutton, S.W. London last night. The Boom Boom club operates from the large social club, which is part of the complex of modest buildings owned by Sutton Football Club. It is clearly a well run club and is well supported by its regulars who clearly like their ale and their music. With the band not on till 9:30pm'ish and a build up of 200 to 250 souls who'd all had a drink or three there was already an excellent/expectant atmosphere present before DC and the boys walked onto stage, helped by an impromptu 'happy birthday' chorus lustily sung by the Witchwooders at the front - birthday boy Rod Coombes gave a broad smile. He personally was in fantastic form all night and whatever dispute there might be about the overall sound his drumming and cymbal work was explosive and he finished the night with a beaming smile as well, as he crashed down exquisitely for the llast time to close the set some 90 minutes later.
Although traditionally the Strawbs have always defied pigeon-holing - with this combo and their current shortish but block-busting single set, this ain't no 'folk-rock' folks , this is ball-breaking prog rock at its best. I personally didn't think the sound was mixed as well - or came across as well thanks to the dubious acoustics of an incredibly low ceiling - as at Rochester a fortnight earlier (but as you can see from other reports this, as usual, is in some dispute) but what was not in dispute was the sheer awesome/wall of sound/power prog endings that concluded the likes of 'New World', 'Down By The Sea', 'Autumn', 'Round And Round' and 'Hero And Heroine' - the audience were seemingly blown off their feet, and showed their appreciation openly - it was a proud night to be a Strawbs fan!
'Where Is This Dream Of Your Youth' - the current encore is developing into an absolute classic track of what the Strawbs are all about on stage...the pithy, plaintive, emotive verses from DC, the three voice spiritual chorus line, the attacking guitar riff from DL, the pulsating rhythm from CC and RC , and then a mercurial piece of keyboard wizardry from OW. The keyboard section from Oliver obviously invites comparisons with his Dad, which perhaps is a bit unfair but inevitable. For my part I think Oliver gives a fantastic piece of key-board virtuosity which is well-suited to being live on stage whereas Rick's version showed a bit more clinical control to the melody - much more suited to a vinyl version. There you go - a score draw!
'Where Is This Dream Of My Youth ?' - well forty years on they are still on stage and kicking serious ass big-time! Make sure you go, to remind yourself what you should be capable of doing in your sixties and beyond!
ROCH-CHESTER, OH ROCH-CHESTER - Review by Nigel Bennett
Roch-chester, Oh Roch-chester, well OK not quite Canada where this line-up first surfaced in public, but tonight it was the UK for the first time.
The Town itself was in the midst of it's weekend /week? Folk Festival and the high street was full to the brim with Chavs in different states of inebriation and unlikely at that time to know the difference between an ebow or their elbow. However, despite that, it didn't take us long to forget all that, after all we were there to take in our own particular pleasure, the first date of the UK tour.
I did wonder if I would get to see the gig having been sent to gather chips down that rather packed high street but fortunately there were no incidents unlike another member of our party who when gathering drinks got 'chatted up' by one of the drunken throng, with the immortal line 'you smell rather nice' probably not realising that the smell was probably the lager and wine he had managed to spill from her glasses after jogging the arm that was carrying them!!
I had arrived in the town mid afternoon and just in time to catch the Hot Rats with Ian Cutler and their troop of exotic dancers perform their stuff, including the 'Orange Blossom special'. During which the dancers 'excelled' with their interpretation. That tune gets an outing of course with the Blue Angel Orchestra.
Met up with Jin Aka 'Fatty Fudge' who has been championing the Strawberry Fools on the monthly Stackridge podcast.
And so to the gig. Nothing like queuing for an hour to raise anticipation for the first gig of the tour, especially when joined and chatting with Witchwooders from far and wide. Indeed, most who had been at Hampton Court the previous night for the Acoustics and the 6 Wives extravaganza, each of which had some how found their way to Rochester using all sorts of modes of transport.
We were not to be disappointed. You can sprinkle superlatives around like gay abandon, brilliant, exceptional, superb, this was to turn into one of those never to be forgotten weekends. OK Strawbs Rochester was a shortened set, but the power and majesty of the performance swept all before as the band rocked away with some classics.
Sat three rows back, the sound was booming and loud, dovetailing nicely with the pre gig anticipation. If this was an example of the tour to come it is going to be another exceptional one.
It felt so perfect and Oliver was just err...fantastic and a real model of concentration as he observed the playing and signals from the others. All on stage smiling at each other from time to time as if they were enjoying this, as much as we were.
Oliver was switching freely between the different keyboards and creating the full and lush sound of early Strawbs and equally moments of intricate piano.
The show was yet another lift on my perception of the weekend and the encore of 'Where is the Dream of Your Youth' with Oliver's long solo brought memories of the past flowing back and another great re-introduction.
The rest of the guys played and sang like we know they can and when they hit the mark like this, the best bits of last 40 years come flooding back. Do get out and see this tour it's bound to leave its own triumphant and special mark in Strawbs history.
AN EMPHATICALLY POWERFUL BEAST - Review by Dick Greener
'A recruiting sergeant rode through the streets of Rochester' goes the old traditional song on a Strawhead album I have from the 70s, set more or less to the tune of 'Waltzing Maltilda'. Well any such would have had no difficulty in dragging off a few of the fairly blotto twenty-somethings or younger spilling out of the pubs into the streets of the town - all down to celebrate the Sweeps Festival with gallons of lager, cider and real ale. Great castle, absolutely stunning cathedral, the streets were closed off to traffic allowing a promenade (dodging through the larger groups) up and down the picturesque high street - some fantastic old buildings, and some great second hand bookshops - I'll be back when it's all a bit quieter!
Picked up my tickets from the Corn Exchange - nearly frustrated by some Council moron who denied all knowledge of everything - 'we don't do tickets here'. Fortunately this prat was overheard by one of the nice ladies in the office, who asked my surname and came out immediately with my tickets. 'Apparently you do do tickets' I said as I waved them at him, highly tempted to say more. If anyone from Rochester involved with the gig reads this - please point out to the prat in question exactly what he is.
Got to the castle gardens just as it was closing the gardens in preparation for tonight's gig - had bumped into Ian Cutler on our way round the town, but wasn't in time to hear him play with Hot Rats earlier in the afternoon. A queue to get in had already started - Stefan & Mimi from the West Coast of the US in pole position, with a few other of the other usual suspects hovering round. Afteer wandering down the hill to pick up a pint from the heaving pur at the bottom of the hill, spent a sociable hour or so chatting, enlivened by various traffic coming in and out of the narrow gate, before being let into thegrounds and making a bee-line for the marquee to grab front and second row seats with good views.
Can't say I took to the support act, Lupen Crook - a 20-ish year old (I think) with thrashing twelve string guitar, attitude and more four letter words than even Roy Hill can manage in this act, but without the stage presence or the quality of songwriting to get away with it. I warmed to him a bit during the two quieter numbers but, overall, not for me. The 14 year old lad Luke Jackson who opened for Brian and Cathryn in Maidstome the other week had him beaten hands down. See Sue Holton's review at Sue Holton's site and Luke Jackson's MySpace.
To be fair, others (including DC) disagree with me - 'interesting' 'unusual' and 'obviously has talent' were various comments. Check out Lupen Crook's MySpace and make your own mind up:.
After an interval spent chatting with various folks and introducing Americans to each other (hi Allan), Strawbs took to the stage opened up with 'Lay Down' - the massed wall of sound from the three vocalists making for a great start. Should add that Cousins and Lambert were both in excellent voice throughout, and Chas's harmony vocals very audible, making for stunning full-on harmony sections. One of the 'new' numbers from the Canadian tour, 'Sheep' came next, allowing DC a chance to deliver highly emotionally charged vocals against a great backdrop of sound; very dynamic, great interplay with Oliver - I'm looking forward to hearing that more over the coming weeks.
'New World' followed, with some excellent mellotron and organ sounds from Oliver, who was looking fairly serious throughout - when I spoke to him later, he commented that it had been a while since they had played in Canada so he was concentrating very hard on what came next and which keyboard it came out of. Oliver led into the next song 'The Hangman And The Papist' which went down very well, before Dave Lambert took the pace down with his 'The Winter And The Summer', during which his guitar went through some sort of pedal to add a warbly effect.
'The River/Down By The Sea' back deservedly in the set whilst 'Ghosts' takes a rest, was very very good indeed, with Lambert thrashing out the chords during his mid-section vocal, and a great solo over the top of the riff. I love the bit where the bass takes us out of the middle bit and into the third section 'Last night I lay in bed'; Chas's bass playing was as ever impeccable throughout, as was Rod Coombes' drumming and percussion work (I don't think he plays a single drum during 'The River').
An outing for 'The Broken Hearted Bride' was very much in keeping with this powerful set, followed by DC switching to 6-string for 'Out In The Cold/Round And Round' - the interplay between Oliver on synth and Lambert on guitar in the intro of 'Round And Round' and Chas's bass were especially good, as was the opening sequence to 'Autumn' which followed. A great rendition, buiding to the power chord finish, with DL flailing at the sky. Last in the main set was 'Big H' as DC referred to 'Hero And Heroine', which cooked along nicely.
But, I have to say, the encore is what stood out for me, and what I was really looking forward to see live - 'Where Is This Dream Of Your Youth'. DC put down his guitar, and Lambert set up that repetitive riff to start with (presumably originally played by DC on his Danelectro on the Antiques album), with the rest of the band joining in. DC delivers his first verse with expressive gestures in a sneering, tone reeking of distate and Chas and DL come in for the mediaeval/plainsong 'Where Is This Dream Of Your Youth' refrain; excellent ! But the showpiece is of course, Oliver Wakeman's fantastic solo, echoing but not copying his father's original. Starting out on organ, whilst the rest of the band he moved from keyboard to keyboard with sweeping movements, at one point threatening to sweep one keyboard entirely away. The synth got a good workout, too. DC stands towards the back, obviously pleased with his 'new boy'. It really is a tour de force and well worth experiencing. Back in comes DC for the third verse and final chorus, then the song moves to a dramatic close. Stunning. For me, this song was the high spot of the whole show - the Greener grin very much in evidence throughout.
The new Strawbs line-up with Oliver on board is an emphatically powerful beast, capabable of presenting the songs with a real belt to them. If I had one wish, I'd have turned down the keyboards just a tad (piano especially), left Lambert's guitar where it was (that effect he's using seems to cut the overall volume a bit), and brought the vocals, especially DC, up a bit - they tended to get a bit lost when the band were playing full tilt (as on 'Broken Hearted Bride' and 'Dream'). But overall, really good sound and the whole thing knocked you back on your feet - if anyone at that show ever thought Electric Strawbs were a folk band, they'd have left with a neww perspective.
A fantastic start to the tour, with another date following at the Cromer Festival before the tour proper starts on 15th May.