22 March 2014

Classic Legends of Rock at Fairfield Halls

It took several pub conversations for the four of us to agree to go to this. Part of the initial reluctance was mine, but I am not sure why.

I did not help that it was in Croydon's Fairfield Halls that is a lot harder to get to from Kingston than it should be.

I allowed a reasonable amount of contingency for the travel, catching a train from Norbiton (with lots of AFC Wimbledon supporters, which I could have done without) at 6:20pm for a concert starting at 8pm. I had to use all that contingency due to earlier signal failures near Waterloo. These forced me off the train at Raynes Park to catch a bus to Wimbledon and then the tram to Croydon. I got there with about ten minutes to spare.

The Strawbs were on first. This is not a band that I ever knew much about so the various line-ups and versions of the band did not matter to be. Apparently this was the acoustic version of the band.

One of our group knew the venue well and did the booking. He chose well and got us seats in the centre of row K (I was in K23) which is the second of the rows that is in the sloping section of the stalls. The view from there was perfect. Thanks Pete.

The Strawbs' folksy set was pleasant enough even though the only song that I recognised was Lay Down from 1972. They did not play Part of The Union, for which I was grateful.

The set was delivered as a story of the Strawbs with original member Dave Cousins (centre) as narrator. That story went back to the late 60s with them doing folk/gospel covers in a local club. As a device the story worked well though one of the people I was with said that he had heard it several times before. There must have been a few Strawbs fans in the audience for whom that was true.

Next on were Curved Air, a band that I also knew little about.

That little was not much more than that Darryl Way was the violinist but he left (most recently) in 2009. I also knew that the lead singer was Sonja Kristina, which was still true though her name had elongated to Sonja Kristina Linwood.

Their sound was a lot more jazzy, as the extended line-up suggested. There was still a prominent violin to go with the two guitars, keyboards and drums.

Curved Air pushed the chronological boundaries and included in their set both a song written in the late 60s before the band was first formed and a couple from their 2014 album North Star. That was something like 45 years of music in 45 minutes.

Somehow they attracted the most active fans of the evening and a small group of young people stood and danced in a corner at the front while the rest of us remained sedately in our comfortable chairs.

I only knew one of their songs, Back Street Luv (1971) and they duly played it as their final song.

Then we had a beer break.

The only band in the second half of the concert was Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash (I can call them that, they cannot for legal reasons). This was the band I had come to see and, judging by the reaction, so had most of the other people there.

This was a solid rock formation with Martin centre on bass and vocal, flanked by the two guitars of Ray Hatfield (left) and Danny Willson (right) and with Tim Brown on drums. The drummer was new but otherwise it was the same line-up that I saw perform Argus in 2009. The solid rock formation rocked solidly.

We were treated to some blistering Wishbone Ask classics like The King Will Come and Warrior from Argus (released in 1972, Marting joked that it was from 1927) and, also from the early 70s, songs like Phoenix and Persephone.

It was not a greatest hits show though and there was also a new song written by Ray Hatfield.

The band were very comfortable together and the interplay between them was good. In the second picture you can see the two lead guitarists standing together. They also did a little Glen Miller sequence for one song (moving their guitars in unison) and there were some Chuck Berry Duck Walks thrown in too.

It was all good music played with the expected skill and the required passion. They seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as we were. And we were most definitely enjoying ourselves. So much so that we forced them back on to the stage for two encores.

Having started at 8pm we finished around 11pm, which is good value in anybody's books. It also left just enough time to get back to the Willoughby for a nightcap.

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