REVIEW –Acoustic Strawbs – 8th June @ Assembly Hall, Melksham

Is It Really Fifty Years?

Andy Fawthrop

Having checked my passport and visa for the border crossing, and made sure that my inoculations were up to date, I ventured out of D-Town into the Badlands of Melksham. Just shows what lengths I’m prepared to go to in order to find live music!

After a superb selection of craft ales at The Hiding Place, accompanied by one of Ian Timbers’ wonderful thin-crust pizzas, we picked up our armed escort and made it through the deserted streets of M-Town to The Assembly Hall. This was not a venue I’d been to before, but was pleasantly surprised. It’s not particlularly attractive from the outside, but it opens right up into quite a large hall inside, decently fitted out with stage, lights etc and a full bar (very high prices though – boo!)

We were there to see Acoustic Strawbs on their 50th anniversary tour, although my own research suggests that they were actually formed way back in 1964 in London. That’ll be 55 then. As Dave Cousins said at the break –“this is a chance for you lot to re-charge your glasses, and for the band to re-charge their pace-makers.” Maybe it’s poor memory, maybe it’s dementia, or maybe it’s just poor maths. Who knows?

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Anyhow, we were taken through a swift and fairly air-brushed history of the band by leader Dave Cousins, each stage illustrated by lively anecdotes and one of their songs from that particular era. You may be too young (or possibly too old?) to remember, but it did bring it all flooding back to your intrepid reporter. Names were dropped with gay abandon – David Bowie, Sandy Denny, Blue Weaver, Rick Wakeman – appearances on Top Of The Pops, US & Canadian tours, multi-million-selling albums, the inevitable 20-year “fallow period”, before re-forming as one of the seminal, pioneering bands of the 60s/70s/80s. It was good remember too that they were not just a pure folk band, but had paid their fair dues to such musical movements as prog-rock, folk-rock and commercial pop. But please don’t mention “I’m A Union Man”.

Although they didn’t (thankfully) play the latter, they did remind us that they’d always had a fairly hard-left political agenda, illustrated by a number of their original “protest” songs, including a couple of numbers penned during “The Troubles” of Northern Ireland.

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Although billed as an acoustic set, there was occasional, but subtle, use of backing tracks to fill in some of the more “orchestral” passages – but this was done absolutely seamlessly, and to good effect. Otherwise it was three blokes, three voices, three guitars – and some great material.

In the end a good, solid, competent gig, but not one of the greatest (imho).

If you’d like to see and hear more of The Strawbs, head over to their website which includes every bit of history and background you could ever want, including a list of their future gigs. On 27th July they are appearing at Chapel Arts Centre in Bath.

For future gigs at: Melksham Assembly Hall,  Some immediate future gigs are:

• Saturday 15th June – ELO Beatles Beyond (tribute band)
• Sunday 16th June – Melksham Roller Disco
• Friday 5th July – The New Jersey Boys (tribute band)

 

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