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Author Topic: Review - Steve Ashley's 60th Birthday Concert, Cheltenham  (Read 6781 times)
The relish on the baguette
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Posts: 433
Loc: East Midlands, UK

Sir John gives me guidance

« on: March 14, 2006, 11:14:41 PM »

TWO magnificent gigs in one weekend - first Swarb, now this... Different, but both magnificent.

I was first knocked out by Steve Ashley in the 1970s, when he was one of the residents at the fabled Merlins, run by Anthea Joseph and Heather Wood. When I say that some of the other residents were Richard and Linda Thompson, Simon Nicol, and the Dransfields you can see we're talking class acts, and Steve was no exception. I've seen him since then with approximately the same frequency as his albums!

The concert took place at the Bacon Theatre in Dean Close School, Cheltenham, which is rather a swish place - and some of the audience were rather swish too! So I made a tactical switch to red wine at the bar, remembering not to spill it down my top.

A svelte, bearded figure wandered around at the back of the stage - oh, only Peggy. However, the birthday boy himself then strode shambled on - alas, no longer does he wear an Afghan and long hair, but is still as thin as a rake and is hardly grey! The only concession to age appeared to be a somewhat "drape" jacket and specs (end of Vogue bit).

I'm sorry that I can't reel off a set list; my brain just doesn't work like that. I suppose the concert could be divided into "acoustic" and "electric" halves. But really it was more "orchestral" in the first half - because the composer Robert Kirby had been invited and had got together a small orchestra to replicate his arrangements on Steve's early albums. I ought to mention that Mr. Kirby also arranged for Nick Drake - nuff said.

Highlights were the first appearance of Tinderbox (Dave Menday and Steve) for around 40 years, also a reunion of Ragged Robin (Steve, Brian Diprose, Bunny Byers). And, a recorder consort and a brass section!  The second half featured support from Dave Pegg, Simon Nicol, Chris Leslie, Paul Downes, and Phil Beer. In fact, practically a cast of thousands. And Steve's wonderful songs - Fire and Wine, Rough with the Smooth, Follow On....Oh God, just buy all his CDs NOW!

The whole evening just went to confirm what a master songwriter and singer Steve is. I had a quick chat with Robert Kirby at the bar after the gig (anybody who's seen him will know that he's unmistakable!) and he said that some repeat concerts would be held - I think Shrewsbury was mentioned as one. So that's great for those who missed the Cheltenham one. And do have a look on Steve's website - - in particular there's a very good article about Steve's career - talk about struggling folkies!

Hope this is not too incoherent - it's been a long few days. Thanks to my dear wife Joy for the return drive!

Cheers - Ed           

Sorry dear, Rabelais' off
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