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Progressive Rock Concert Reviews

The Strawbs

Live In Milwaukee, WI, June 2008

Review by Josh Turner

My assessment is mixed like a Strawberry Margarita. Come to think of it; I was told that there was a Strawberry Full Moon shining down on Shank Hall throughout this evening, and I don’t think I was being razzed about it. So even if their instruments weren’t always in tune or their voices weren’t always on key, the stars were in alignment in a sense. Plus, there was something endearing about this show, because it represented a belated reunion between several longtime chaps who were now overseas from their sovereign island country – i.e. they were friendly aliens temporarily displaced from England.

In any case, some songs were great; others were not as hot. To say the lead singer’s voice is an acquired taste is an understatement that honestly borders on a pasty white lie. While Dave Cousins is a mariachi on the acoustic guitar; to be candid, his pipes are slightly rusty and cracked. Still, he has written compelling lyrics and knows what inflection is necessary to convey them. He’s also an amicable individual who bestows joyous stories upon attentive listeners. Think of him as a leprechaun that’s larger-than-life. Yes, his demeanor and stature is somewhere between Hagrid the half-giant and an in-“hobbit”-ant of The Shire.

To be honest, the lead guitarist sang best. Speaking of this mischievous sprite, Dave Lambert was the one who gleamed most lucidly on this star-spangled night. Amidst his wistful licks, he delivered a slew of passionate verses. As for the bassist, Chas Cronk, and the keyboardist, John Hawken, they were steady and consistent from start to finish. Unfortunately, the drummer, Rod Coombes, was on and off and hard to gauge. He seemed to be more comfortable with the groovier movements and nagged by those that called for precision and finesse. To let you in on a secret, Coombes has been known to play guitar, write lyrics and sing tenor. In spite of this, he does possess a moniker that conveniently correlates with his mastery of the sticks.

Nevertheless, everything clicked in “Autumn”. It seemed as if everyone was primed for that piece. Afterwards, the climate changed again and they were back to standard operating procedure.

I should also draw attention to the compositions on the forthcoming album. Aptly identified as The Broken Hearted Bride, it could be a seasonal release from the mind’s eye of Edward Scissorhand’s creator. The songs are very polished and sound quite modern, which is a real head-scratcher when you consider their 30 year hiatus. The title track in particular is so remarkable that it elicits disbelief but not in the same way that Ms. Wilbanks baffled news reporters and their viewers. Whatever the headlines read, the promise of the material was apparent in this early edition – even if the official release was far off in the horizon.

In retrospect [no pun intended], this team will keep you guessing when there will be dissension or ascent and who will command the next score. That in and of itself is progressively acceptable if you ask me, and when you get down to it; it would be a challenge and a chore to count out a handful of compelling singers in the genre. If you put out your palm to give me five while I flicked out digits with arguably defensible nominees, I just might leave you hanging for awhile.

No disrespect should be inferred from my delay or the constructive criticism I’ve relayed throughout this review. The truth is that strawberries are an excellent source of antioxidants, and the band with the similar nom de plume has benefited plenty from the suppressive senescence of this radically delicious fruit.

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