Strawbs Live

Oliver Wakeman & Gordon Giltrap
Ravens & Lullabies UK tour Autumn/Winter 2013


Well another tour has come and gone, almost...

At the time of writing we just have one more show, a trio show with Paul Manzi for the Classic Rock Society on the 7th December.

Gordon and I decided that we would undertake another tour of the Ravens & Lullabies album in acoustic form because the initial two tours were so well received. However, we were approached by the Summer's End festival as to whether we would be interested in performing for them as special guests as a trio. Soon the offer was extended to become the festival headliners if we would consider putting the whole band together...

After a quick discussion we decided that we would agree to do the show and sort out the practicalities of the concert at a later date.

We started putting the tour together early in the year and, as we were offered the special guest spot with John Lees' Barclay James Harvest tour in November, we thought we would try and tie up the band show and the guest spot with an acoustic tour around the country as well.

Rehearsals for the acoustic show were minimal as we had already undertaken most of the hard work in creating a show. So we agreed to add a couple of new pieces and solos to keep it fresh for anyone seeing the show for a second time.

The tour started with two acoustic shows but we had a very busy weekend prior to that with the full band rehearsing for the festival which is where I'll start...

The line up for the show was myself and Gordon, the "Threshold" rhythm section - Johanne James (who performed on the album) and Steve Anderson - plus Paul Manzi on vocals and second acoustic guitar. We were also joined on electric guitar by Nick Kendall, who plays a lot in the West End and is a very likable and talented bloke! With our newly formed 6 piece band we all met up at the rehearsal room in the Cotswolds near to where I live (and incidentally where Paul and I first met 8 years ago at an Oliver Wakeman Band rehearsal)!

After setting up we decided to just jump straight in at the deep end and started with Moneyfacturing. As this track had been nominated for an Award at the PROG magazine Awards ceremony we wanted to get it right! I didn't need to worry too much, it sounded great straight off and I knew from watching everyone that the room contained enough experience not just for us to put together the songs, but to put on a whole performance which was particularly important to me as it was my first band show since leaving YES.

We spent two days working through our set which included the whole of the Ravens & Lullabies album, some pieces from my past albums, some of our normal acoustic set, some of our acoustic set arranged for a band and a few of Gordon's classic pieces arranged for the full band.

When I read that back that seems such a lot of work but I'm happy to say it all came together really well and is a testament to everyone's hard work and playing ability.

After rehearsals finished, Gordon and I had a couple of days to prepare for our first duo show in Tunbridge Wells in a lovely concert hall built at the back of the church. Unfortunately they were having quite a bit of building work carried out in the foyer but the audience had a great time and we were both pleased to get up and running! The following night was a concert near to my home at the Sundial Theatre in Cirencester. It was probably the first time I'd managed to get home from a concert before midnight ever!

The following day was the Summer's End festival in Gloucestershire and I spent the drive out trying to remember the arrangement changes we had made to accommodate the band. This was made a little harder by having spent two duo shows having to unlearn them!

We arrived in plenty of time and, as the festival was running late, we had an opportunity to chat and relax before setting up. We were a little pushed for time when we actually came to set up and so didn't really get much of a sound check. We just had enough time to make sure everything was working then we disappeared to the backstage area to get changed. Ten minutes later and we were on.

We started with 'Moneyfacturing' and quickly moved through 'Don't Come Running' from my Mother's Ruin album before the first live rendition of 'From The Turn of a Card'. We then performed the title track from the aforementioned album before we performed the full band 'rocked up' version of Elizabethan Pirates featuring organ and Moog!

We then played the lovely 'Anyone Can Fly' from Ravens followed by the re-arranged version of 'Roots' which only appeared in its new form on the double edition of the new album.

The band and I left the stage as the piano was moved to the centre of the stage and Gordon performed his looping track 'The Dodo's Dream'. I returned for Gordon and I to perform a selection of acoustic pieces. These were 'A Perfect Day, 'Fiona's Smile', 'LJW', 'The Forgotten King' and 'Wherever There Was Beauty'.

I was then left alone on stage to perform my piano solo 'A Mayfair Kiss' after which Paul and Gordon returned to join me for a version of 'A Picture of a Lady' from 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' album.

The rest of the band rejoined us in the backing vocal department for the track 'Maybe Tomorrow' after which we launched into the epic 'Is This The Last Song I Write?'.

We were now closing onto the end of the set and finished with 'Credit Carnival', 'Ravens Will Fly Away', (both from Ravens & Lullabies) and 'I Don't Believe In Angels' from my Mother's Ruin album.

After a wonderful response from the audience we performed our encore which was a full band version of Gordon's classic piece 'Heartsong'.

This was the first time it had been performed by a full band in its original arrangement in over 30 years!

We came off stage to a rapturous response and after packing the gear away I spent many happy hours chatting to fans before heading off on the drive home with a big smile on my face!

We are currently in discussions with a promoter about a short band tour for April next year so, all being well, we'll get to do it all again!

If you missed the show you can see a section of the show on my YouTube Channel.

Gordon has written quite extensively about his experiences of the show which can be found below my write up and I am proud to have been involved in his return to the full band arena.

Below Gordons write up there are also thoughts from guitarist Nick Kendall and bassist Steve Anderson.

The following Wednesday it was time to unlearn everything again and continue on the duo part of the tour. I was fortunate to have my keyboard tech Mike Clarke join me for quite a few of them which was a great help.

We had lots of great shows lined up over the next 4 weeks in some beautiful venues across the country. I love the fact that by touring I get to see so many different parts of the country that I know I would otherwise never get to see.

A few in particular stood out as great shows including a return visit to The Brook Theatre in Chatham where we had last performed a year ago to the day!

The Regal in Tenbury Wells was such a beautiful theatre to perform in. It was also great to meet up with my old friends Andy and Diane in Leicester for the show at the Musician.

The following day I did a live on-air interview with BBC Lincoln and was very pleased that they played LJW on air to promote the show that evening at the Terry O' Toole Theatre in Lincoln.

We then had a few days gap before we headed out on our special guest spot with John Lees' Barclay James Harvest.

The tour started in Bath and, as I was travelling with the band after the show, Gordon came and picked me up on route to the concert.

We arrived in plenty of time to have a good look round the venue and see a little bit of Bath. We met up with the guys from BJH (John, Kev, Craig & Jez) and they all seemed really nice. (By the end of the tour we had all become great friends!)

We went on stage to perform our 45 minute set in front of a very appreciative audience. The show went really well and afterwards I stayed to watch the rest of the BJH show which I really enjoyed - especially as I was not too familiar with much of their output prior to the show.

After the show the band and I had something to eat and drink together and we then had a walk through Bath to the hotel where I went to bed straight away as I was shattered! We all met up in the morning for breakfast and started sharing stories...

As we were chatting someone mentioned if there was anywhere we could visit en route to the London show as it seemed a shame to just drive to the hotel and hang around. I came up with a suggestion that Stonehenge was on our way if we took the A303...

Everyone thought it would be a great idea and so we headed on our way. We arrived and as we were having our picture taken in front of the stones I mentioned to everyone that this was probably the biggest prog cliche a bunch of prog musicians could have! This started us thinking about it and I decided to Tweet it with the hash tag #progcliche. The response we got from that posting showed that we were on to something and so we started to think about where we could go next...

As we left Stonehenge we noticed the cuddly toy ravens in the window of the gift shop and as our album was called Ravens & Lullabies I couldn't resist a photo opportunity!

We arrived in London and had arranged with Paul Manzi (who sung on the Ravens album) to join us on stage to perform 'Ravens Will Fly Away' and 'Maybe Tomorrow'. We had a few minutes at sound check to run through the pieces and then before we knew it we were on stage. Paul came up mid-way through the set and as always was terrific.

The following morning we all met at breakfast to discuss the idea of doing a prog cliche everyday and so ideas were thrown around. John then suggested that as we were close to Abbey Road maybe a re-creation of the famous Beatles cover was a possibility. We didn't need asking twice and so bundled into the van and off we went. We managed to get a great shot and Jez (BJH keyboard player) even went the extra mile and removed his shoes (as Paul McCartney did on the original sleeve!).

If you would like to see all the prog cliche photographs we took on tour simply follow me on Twitter!

Our next show was in Milton Keynes at the wonderful 'Stables' venue. Plenty of room on stage and a really nicely designed theatre with plenty of stage room and facilities. I managed to get a bit creative over dinner and re-created Stonehenge out of my few remaining chips...

The following day we headed out on our way to Bilston. On the way out of Milton Keynes we visited the concrete cows to recreate the cover from Pink Floyds famous album Atom Heart Mother for the days prog cliche. Following the photo we took a drive out to Bletchley Park, the famous code breaking location from the Second World War. This became a more poignant moment than usual as it was Remembrance Sunday and you couldn't help but think about all the thoughts and emotions that must have been inside the buildings all those years ago.

Arriving at the Robin 2 in Bilston I met up with my keyboard tech Mike who had come to give me a lift home following the show. It was also nice to meet up with quite a few friends who had come to the concert. Afterwards Mike and I headed back and he kindly helped me load stuff out of the car before heading home.

The following Tuesday Gordon and I had our last full duo show in New Milton near the New Forest. A lovely little theatre and very nice people. I spent quite a while chatting and meeting fans after the show and eventually got home in the early hours of the morning.

A few days later and I was back up north heading to Holmfirth for another guest spot on the BJH tour. We were trying to think of a prog cliche that we would be able to get a photo of. After struggling for a while and toying with the idea of a photo on the Moors, Jez spotted that the pub next door was holding a UFO convention and so we took the opportunity to have our photo taken under their banner.

The following Wednesday I met up again with the bus for the last run of shows, starting with Cambridge. We did our now daily prog cliche by being photographed in front of the Grantchesher Meadows sign which is the area Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd grew up in. Dave Gilmore also lived in the street and it was also the name of a track on the Pink Floyd's Ummagumma album so a touch obscure but still within the boundaries of prog...

Arriving at our hotel, John asked if he could have the quietest hotel room as he needed to rest before the show. At this point we heard an extremely loud rumbling noise and watched as a Hercules army airplane took off from the runway next to the hotel and flew overhead...

Arriving at the venue we set up and started our soundcheck. Strangely a couple of days before one of my pedals had stopped working and so I had replaced it. This night the backup pedal also failed. I was so glad that I'd bought a second spare! There is nothing that evaporates confidence more at a show than intermittent equipment issues! Jez kindly set his keyboard rig up for me to use in case the third pedal failed as well, luckily it didn't come to that.

After the show we all sat in the bar trying to come up with prog cliche ideas for the following day. We all hoped for an airplane free night (we were informed that they stopped flying at 10pm) so after too many drinks we all headed to bed. Next morning, after the early morning airplane alarm call, no-one could come up with a good idea for a cliche and so well used our fall back idea. There was a big hedge outside the hotel and so we all stood 'Close to the Hedge'...sorry...

Our next show was in Southampton at The Brook. An interesting venue with a very high stage which has swimming pool steps at the front of it to get up to it. Something I have never seen before! We had a really good audience and a great show. The evening was slightly spoilt by the food (which was ordered an hour and a half before the show) only arriving 2 minutes before I was due on stage. An hour later I tucked into my lukewarm Chinese...

The following day, as we headed onto the last show of the tour, we decided we needed to finish the prog cliche photos with something really memorable. We firstly went to Cerne Abbas (the chalk man on the hillside) but unfortunately - no matter how we took the shot, the photo wasn't clear enough to use a prog cliche on Twitter and we all felt it didn't really fit.

However, I remembered that Yes Tor on Dartmoor was where Yes had their photo taken for the back sleeve of the Tormato album. Also we were due to drive right past it and, luckily, found the perfect place to stop to get an unhindered photo of us assuming the same stances from that album with the Tor in the background. It came out really well and I managed to 'photoshop' a tomato into the picture for extra authenticity!

When we arrived at Tavistock I met up with my mum, Roz, and stepdad John who had come to see the show. We had a quick wander around Tavistock and kept bumping into Craig, John, Kev and Jez of BJH in the market. I introduced everyone and then the guys all went off shopping. Five minutes later Kev came running back saying they'd found a second prog cliche - a suit of armour with a detachable axe. We couldn't let that one go and so to finish off we did 'Careful with that Axe Eugene' another Floyd classic!

After a nice meal with my mum and John, I headed to the venue for the sound check. The show went really well and I had a great time chatting to fans after the show.

When we all got back to the hotel I found the worlds most out of tune piano in the world in the lobby which lead to some very amusing 'Les Dawson' type piano moments. Eventually I headed to bed and apparently the band got told off for being too loud and were also sent to bed by the hotel owners.

After breakfast we had time for a quick look round the town and a photo with all of us before the long drive back home. The guys kindly dropped me at my house as they made their way back up north. I had so much fun on the tour with everyone and I have really enjoyed all the shows that Gordon and I did throughout October and November.

So a big thank you everyone involved in all the shows - I had a great time and can't wait to do it again!

Oliver Wakeman
December 2013

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Gordon's thoughts on Summer's End

Summers End Festival compared to most throughout the year is really a very small affair, but in terms of commitment by the fans to the music that we fondly call Progressive Rock is a bit special!

When Oliver Wakeman asked if I would be up for doing this I was in all honesty quite terrified, for all the reasons I have mentioned many times before i.e.: it being over 30 years since being on stage with a band, and also that fear of looking a bit daft on stage with a bunch of young dudes strutting their stuff. Fortunately Oliver and pretty much everyone else had more faith in me than I had, and thank goodness I bit the bullet and went for it.

We only had two days to rehearse what turned out to be a full on two hour show. Fortunately it was a mini triumph and in many ways a small miracle BUT let me say here and now that good performances don't happen by accident! This concert took weeks and weeks and hour upon hour of preparation from all involved and probably more time was put in by me because of my age and the old memory scenario not being as good as it was! So when all six members of the band hit the stage it really all came together pretty well because of the aforementioned ingredients. I can't begin to tell you the long hours that Hilary coped with my practise regime, and bloody self-doubt!

Within a few minutes I was totally into it, and was in many ways reminded of how good it can be to be on stage with an amazing rhythm section and great players generally. I shan't give a blow by blow account of the day because this has been brilliantly done by others who will be mentioned elsewhere on this page.

I am a great one for giving credit where it's deserved. Without the talent and vision of Oliver Wakeman, much connected with the whole Ravens and Lullabies package would not have happened.

Let us go back in time to our first meeting and later listening to the joint material put forward for the album. I would have never in my wildest dreams have thought of this being a song based album, but Oliver certainly did. The whole of the albums concept/ theme whatever you want to call it came from Wakeman the younger, and it was he who found the amazing artwork and then brought his artistic skills to the table and created the albums artwork, photos script...everything.

One important ( for me) aspects of his talents was his belief and encouragement for getting me to just "blow away" freely on the electric guitar thus creating soaring solos that I didn't think I was capable of!

As you are reading this you must be thinking, well what has a Gordon brought to the table? Well, let us look at the material shall we.

'Moneyfacturing' grew out of a riff I sent to Oliver under the title of "ideas", Oliver then turned this riff into the fully blown song it is today.

'Anyone can Fly' was a complete instrumental from me which was originally called 'Mercurial' and was written for friends. Oliver took the piece and edited it into one of my favourite songs on the album, when the track builds into the final soaring section at the end. That idea came from something I wrote ages ago as a commissioned piece for a finance company. Oliver heard it, liked it and the whole piece worked perfectly.

'Maybe Tomorrow' was a 12 string riff that I sent through to Ol, and within a couple of days he had created this lovely song. And so it goes on.

The point I'm making is without one element happening, the other elements can't interact and come together. This album and indeed this duo is truly a joint affair, but without Oliver's rock sensibilities and thorough understanding of the genre, none of it would have got off the ground. I owe him a lot. He even secured the recording contract with the wonderful Cherry Red label!

OK, let's get back to the festival. As the day was drawing nearer I think Oliver knew that in order to really do justice to the first full performance of Ravens and Lullabies we needed to recruit the services of another guitarist, and that person was Nick Kendall, a fine player by any standards, and it was a thrill for me to hear this man replicate exactly all my electric lines from the album, and without him being there it would have seriously limited what I was doing on the acoustic.

I know there were a few tears from friends in the audience when the final notes of 'Heartsong' had faded away, and to have Hilary there to witness what once was a young guy in the late 70's doing his stuff with a rock band at major packed out venues throughout the UK must have been intriguing for her, but she said that she loved it in spite of the volume which with her sensitive hearing has always been a problem, but bless her she truly entered into the spirit of it all, and without her constant support none of what I try to do would happen!

So it has come and gone, and in the grand scheme it was but a small thing, but for all the friends and musicians who were part of it, it was a big day for us.

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Thoughts from guitarist Nick Kendall

When I received the text asking if I'd be up for learning a gig's worth of prog rock songs in 2 days, all it took was seeing the names Oliver Wakeman & Gordon Giltrap for me to respond with a big yes! in an instant.

I was surprised at just how quickly the songs sunk into my memory, which just goes to show that when it's a style of music you love and relate to, it isn't very hard to learn at all.

I had a lot of fun learning Gordon's solos off the Ravens & Lullabies album, and felt honoured to have the opportunity to help bring the album to life with the full band at the Summer's End Festival.

Working with Oliver and Gordon was an absolute joy, and during rehearsals I had to make sure I didn't forget my own parts while getting caught up watching the two of them do their thing!

There's something really special about a rhythm section that's been playing together for many years, and having Steve Anderson and Johanne James of Threshold on bass and kit respectively, thundering away, was just brilliant!

With an album of so much light and shade, Paul Manzi's vocals fit the bill perfectly with his sensitive vocal at one end of the table to his raucous rock scream at the other.

For the first gig as a band and with very little rehearsal, I think the Ravens & Lullabies set in Lydney was a success, and hopefully won't be the last!

Thanks to everyone involved!

Nick

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Thoughts from bass player Steve Anderson

Karl Groom from Threshold, who had produced the Ravens and Lullabies album, had asked me if I'd like to do the Summer's End show with Gordon and Oliver. I'm a big acoustic guitar fan and after hearing Gordon's fantastic playing on the Ravens material, there was no doubt that I was up for doing the show ! I knew that Johanne James had recorded drums on the album and was also going to do the show. Johanne and myself have been sharing the stage together in Threshold for the last ten years and so I was quite confident that we could provide a comfortable rhythm section for Gordon and Oliver and make the music groove nicely.

I'd had quite a busy summer with Threshold playing festivals and so was looking forward to having some space to sit down and get the Ravens and Lullabies material under my fingers. Steve Amadeo, the original bass player on the album has a wonderful feel and melodic choice of notes, and so it was a real pleasure to work out some of his lines. Oliver was very thorough at organising everything and supplying all the musical material and charts to everyone. He'd added some more songs from his and Gordon's back catalogue, so a Summer's End full band set was definitely in the making!

I was looking forward to the rehearsals very much and to finally meeting Oliver and Gordon, as we'd only had prior email contact. As expected, they were both great guys and fantastic players! It was also a pleasure to meet Nick Kendall, an extremely talented guitarist, who had stepped in at the last minute to cover Gordon's electric guitar parts, and Paul Manzi our front man for the show. After our two-day rehearsal I felt we all bonded extremely well and I had no doubt that it was going to be a great show and a memorable experience; it was like we'd been playing together for years!

A week later, and the show was upon us, and I must say I was getting very excited about performing with the guys. I'd spent time during the week fine tuning the set and practicing vocal harmonies for some of the songs, as I rarely sing and play bass nowadays, and finally felt ready enough to hit the stage for a show.

The sun was shinning and I had a pleasant drive down to Lydney Town Hall, meeting Johanne along the way. Johanne and I had played the Summer's End Festival with Threshold, a couple of times previously, as well as it's sister festival, Fused, back in 2011, and so I had a good idea about what to expect on the day in terms of festival goers, organization, sound, stage and backstage.

When we arrived at the venue, we could hear the festival was in full swing. We headed in, picked up our passes and made our way backstage. There's a small room backstage and also a large space beneath the stage that we could use. As the sun was shinning, I headed back outside, whilst Johanne stayed behind to warm up. Soon I met Oliver, Gordon, Paul and Nick outside the venue. Everyone seemed very relaxed and happy.

Soon it was time to load in, between bands. I met Stephen Lambe, the festival promoter at the side door, who furnished us with meal and drinks tickets. We had lots of help getting the gear in from Mike Stranks and others, which was much appreciated. We were scheduled to set up and sound check around 5pm and start the show around 6:45pm, but the event was over running a bit and I was aware we needed to get a move on. Soon it was time to set up and suddenly the audience disappeared to give us some time to sound check. Nick Worms, the Summer's End sound man, is so easy to work with and had us all up and running in no time. At this point everything happened very quickly and before I knew it we had all changed into our stage outfits and were standing on stage getting ready to start the show. Suddenly the side doors to the venue opened and the audience came flooding back in. It was wonderful to see lots of delighted eager faces ready to experience the Ravens and Lullabies band.

We started the first full band set with Moneyfacturing and I could feel, as always, that Johanne had raised his playing even higher to performance level, with clean crisp chops and tightness - that felt very nice indeed and I knew then this was going to be a fun show! The sound was quite balanced on stage and I could hear everyone well enough to interact nicely. I had a great time playing the first set and soon it was time for Gordon to go on and do his solo piece followed by duets with Oliver. Johanne, Nick and myself took the opportunity to briefly head out into the venue to grab a bite and have a listen to the front of house sound. I really enjoyed Gordon's solo looping piece, which I hadn't heard before; the man is truly gifted!

Soon we all returned back on stage, nicely warmed up for the final full band set and before I knew it we were playing Heartsong, the encore for the evening, and then taking a bow to tumultuous applause and an array of happy faces.

After the show I could see Oliver and Gordon were full of glee, as were we all, which told me the evening had been a great success. Mission accomplished!!

So, to sum up the event - Summer's End with Gordon Giltrap and Oliver Wakeman- a truly warm and cosy experience. What a privilege to share the stage with such a fantastically talented bunch of guys!

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