Back to the 1970s in Budleigh

11:00 16 February 2014

The Strawbs  finishing their gig at at Budleigh Salterton Public Hall. Photo: Paul Strange

The Strawbs finishing their gig at at Budleigh Salterton Public Hall. Photo: Paul Strange

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REVIEW: The Strawbs and Peter Knight’s Gigspanner, Budleigh Salterton Public Hall

Peter Knight's Gigspanner at Budleigh Salterton Public Hall. Photo: Paul StrangePeter Knight's Gigspanner at Budleigh Salterton Public Hall. Photo: Paul Strange

WITH an elaborate light show and dry ice swirling from the stage, it only needed a whiff of patchouli oil – or something stronger – and we could easily have been back in 1974.

The timewarp setting was ideal for this revitalised, progressive rock version of the Strawbs, featuring the mid-1970s front line of David Cousins (guitar, vocals), Chas Cronk (bass) and Dave Lambert (lead guitar), joined by Adam Wakeman (son of Rick, keyboards) and Tony Fernandez (drums).

A celebration of past glories, the gig kicked off with some classic Strawbs cuts, including Turn Me Round, New World, So Close and The River And Down By The Sea.

It was also a show for Strawbs aficionados, with minimal announcements, and few clues for the uninitiated. In fact it was around 25 minutes before Cousins introduced the band and the show’s next section.

He explained how he brought the Strawbs to Devon in 1973 to rehearse a new album at Feniton Village Hall, much to the locals’ amazement. And then, to our equal surprise, the band performed that work – Hero And Heroine – in its entirety.

You couldn’t fault the musicianship. Spot-on all the way, Lambert shone on guitar while Fernandez was superb on drums. More worrying was Cousins – whose voice was fragile and who seemed hell-bent to morph into a mad-man character, especially during Round And Round.

A triumphant finale of Lay Down – with the audience at this well-attended show at Budleigh lifting the rafters with their voices – brought the slightly surreal evening to a close.

Support act Peter Knight’s Gigspanner was a work-in-progress. Freed from the shackles of Steeleye Span, violinist Knight was clearly enjoying himself, displaying great virtuosity on a diverse mix of folk, African and traditional material. But the band’s current line-up of Roger Flack (guitar) and Vincent Salzfaas (congas) is too constraining and, at times, sonically inappropriate. Potentially a powerful outfit, some tinkering with the spanner is required.

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