My Shrewsbury reviewer Simon Cousins reviews the penultimate gig of Beverley Craven’s last ever tour - 'Strings Attached' with Judie Tzuke at Shrewsbury Abbey (Picture Credits: MoPhoto).
Songs of heartbreak, loss and longing were woven together at Shrewsbury Abbey on Saturday. The acoustics were perfect for these two great songwriters, whom we remembered with such affection. Beverley Craven and Judie Tzuke took their places at the edge of the chancel with a glittering string quartet and Judie’s long-standing musical partner, guitarist Chaz Thorogood. This was the penultimate gig of Beverley Craven’s last ever tour and she was finding it hard to say goodbye. A hushed audience, filling every single pew in the 11th century abbey, was there to help her.
The two of them took it in turns to lead us though the finest songs in their repertoire. Beverley began with ‘Love Scenes’, a song about a boyfriend, an aspiring actor, who broke her heart many years ago. “I wanted to call it ‘You complete bastard’,” she said. Judie told us about the dark moods that have sometimes overwhelmed her during her life. ‘So Emotional’ saw her striving to protect those she loved by telling them it’s not their fault; it’s just the way she is. Judie’s still hitting all the sweetest notes and this song was heightened by a beautiful harmony from Chaz.
“Are you warming up, Jude?” asked Beverley. They didn’t have the benefit of the coats and scarves some of the audience had chosen to bring. “I make believe you’re crazy for me” Beverley sang next, archly handing round tissues to all her fellow musicians at the end so they could dry their tears. Nearly every song had been sung in a minor key so far, though Beverley hit a lighter vein with a tribute to ‘My little sister’, 21 years her junior, who used to sing herself to sleep in her cot. She also tried to console another of her sisters, Claire, who was haunted by the “tick tock of her biological clock” and terrified of being left ‘on the shelf’. Beverley writes about the ordinary vicissitudes of life in a way that instantly connects with her audience. Judie’s ‘Bring the Rain’, from her first album, released in 1979 and the one I remember so well, closed the first set. It featured a beautiful harmonic connection between the two artists. “We’re off into the cold at the side of the church,” she said, as we went off to enjoy our mulled wine.
I met my friend Kate queuing for the bar during the interval and she suggested I take up the spare second row seat in front of her. I thus had an excellent view when the group returned for the second set, which Beverley introduced by telling us that one of her first tours was sponsored by Tampax, who paid for absolutely everything. “It was just sixteen gigs - quite a short period,” she said, with a grin.
“I always wanted to play guitar,” said Judie, when the spotlight fell on her again. “I especially wanted to play like Davey Graham, but I was never good enough. Fortunately, I know someone who is”, whereupon Chaz launched into “A Ballad of Davey Graham”, with that guitarists’s trademark slapping technique. It was a bravura performance. “And it’s not a sad song!” added Judie.
Beverley sang a song to her eldest daughter (“my younger ones were a bit pissed off about it,” she said) and Judie sang “If”, drawing on her favourite poem when she was young, by Rudyard Kipling. After Beverley’s dad’s favourite of hers, ‘Castle in the Clouds’, Judie announced “I get to sing my hit now.” It was, of course, ‘Stay with me till dawn’ accompanied by that lush and soaring string arrangement, played by those “beautiful sparkly women behind me.” It was a joy to hear the song again after all this time. She asked us to join in on the chorus, which we all did.
Beverley followed with her hit ‘Promise me’, which she sang beautifully. “I don’t want the men joining in though,” she said. “It just sounds like moaning.”
Beverley and Judie finished the evening with the song ‘Safe’ for their encore. Chaz took Julia Fordham’s part. “This one life we live has to be enough,” they sang. They were right - and I’m glad ours were touched by such soul-searching performances from these seven gifted musicians.
The next Live in the House event is Scott Matthews with his 'Restless Lullabies Tour' at Shrewsbury Abbey on Thursday, December 7th at 8pm. That's followed by Dan Owen (sold out) on December 20th and Niall McCabe kicks off the New Year on January 20th. For all Live in the House events visit www.liveinthehouse.com/