It is hard for me to get my head around the fact that it is now over two years since we grappled with the terrible news that Dave Greenfield, our maestro of the keys, had succumbed to COVID-19. He has been in my mind, if not daily, weekly ever since. Of course Dave had a funeral but like thousands of others it was limited due to COVID restrictions. Many people had been denied the opportunity of being able say goodbye until now.
When an online announcement appeared (perhaps a little prematurely!) that a charity gig was taking place in Dave's memory, I was quick off the mark to get tickets for what was effectively Dave's wake. This was my first visit to Somersham, Dave's adopted home village. I had intended to see Dave and Baz play some years previously but as I recall work travel requirements got in the way. I bitterly regret that now.
The line up looked great, a mix of collaborators and recent tour supports. On the day, sadly Ruts DC were not with us. They had to pull out due to personal circumstances, but no matter, as disappointing as it was, today was about Dave and the gathering of friends brought together by Dave and the music of The Stranglers.
The first band that I ventured into the hall for was Department S or more accurately their guitarist Phil Thompson. An all round nice guy, Phil also plays with The Rezillos and deps for The Vapors. As such he is steeped in that New Wave UK thing. He played a great set that took in 'Turning Japanese', Do Anything You Wanna Do', a bit of 'Psychokiller' and of course 'Is Vic There?'. A good start to the days proceedings.
My time was split between the activities on stage and the makeshift box office in the bar. This was not a problem as the box office table was commandeered by Owen, Jacquie, Nick and Elayne, so the conversation was good and the near proximity of the bar meant that the beers (and cider) flowed.
I missed the Countess of Fife (who has a lovely hound by the way) but did see the acoustic Rezillos. In this respect the running order posted on the wall was rather misleading, suggesting as it did that the set would run to 40 minutes. In the event, the set ran to 3 songs, but that was OK, it was fun and presented Rocky with a new challenge... quieter drumming!
At this point the need for food intervened. The fact that I was drinking Stella Artois, a strong beer and never one that I would choose normally.... I did it all for Dave... meant that some manner of food related interlude was the best idea.
Early evening saw the worst excesses of this mad July weather abate to a degree.... or a few degrees... and we could sit outside.
Enter Baz Warne.
At 9.30 if the running order had any meaning at this point in the day.... I certainly wasn't keeping track of the time at the point that we filed in for Baz's set, we came to the most poignant part of the events of the day.
Throughout, performers had spoken fondly of Dave and their personal recollections of this remarkably talented and enigmatic musician. However, Baz's take on things was always going take things up to a higher emotional level.
Baz opened the set with a declaration that he was going to play a selection of songs that meant a lot to Dave. I was thrilled that he opened with Johnny Cash's 'The Man Comes Around', my album of the year back in 2002 when it was released. To hear a Strangler perform a non-Stranglers' song that means so much to me was wonderful. With it's visions of Armageddon it could have been a 'Gospel' era B-side!
The set that followed was career spanning but what came across strongly from the stage was just how supportive the quiet man on the keyboards had been of the new boy in the band. more so it seems than another band member that had significantly less Stranglering time under his belt than Dave, Jet or JJ!
The penultimate song, 'And If You Should See Dave' was clearly the most poignant point of the day. I think that the decision to close the set with 'Always the Sun' thus ending his contribution was a good call on Baz's part as it lifted the crowd after the reflective solemnity of 'Dave'. I was pleased to hear my vocals on the recording!
Dave was a part of my life for 41 years, initially from a distance of the rock star/fan but in later years rather closer. On one of the last times I spoke to him in France there were just four of us and the four members of the band drinking beer in the dressing room and I was able to talk to Dave about his early years in Brighton (my neck of the woods as well).
So thanks Dave Greenfield for serving up the soundtrack of my life all the way from a teenager to a middle aged grump! It meant a lot!