The Canterbury Scene, as it became known, concerned the emergence of a string of bands in and around Canterbury predominantly in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Amongst those bands that appeared were Soft Machine, Gong, Hatfield & the North and Camel. Caravan was another of those bands, formed from the remnants of the Wilde Flowers, in 1968.
Founder member, Pye Hastings, is the only original member remaining with the band and, as the primary songwriter, has carried the band through from 1968 until the present despite several attempts to disband.
This year sees the 50th anniversary of the band’s critically acclaimed, but commercially poor, ‘In the Land of Grey and Pink’ and also the release of a brand new album, ‘It’s None of Your Business’, their first release for 8 years.
Needless to say, these two albums formed the backbone of the show tonight which was a sell-out.
The line-up comprised founding member Pye Hastings, very well supported by Geoffrey Richardson (no relation), Jan Schelhaas, Mark Walker and new kid on the block Lee Pomeroy who arrived with a substantial pedigree having performed with Yes, Rick Wakeman, Steve Hackett, ELO and, dare I say it, Take That!
Like the band, the audience tended to be on the ‘mature’ side so probably just as well that all were seated for a two-set performance with no support band.
We get underway with ‘Memory Lain, Hugh’/’Headloss’, a double header from the band’s 1973 release ‘For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night’. In these tracks the viola of Geoffrey Richardson (still no relation) is prominent over the guitars & keyboards and the sound is typical of the band’s early ‘progressive’ style.
As might be expected it didn’t take too long before ‘In the Land of Grey and Pink’ made an appearance. In fact through the evening the entire album would be played, including the multi-phase ‘Nine Feet Underground’. The title track was the first to be performed and it was here that Geoffrey Richardson, co-MC for the night, asked for some audience participation in the form of a pseudo bubble blowing exercise at certain points in the song – it went quite well! ‘Golf Girl’ followed then ‘If Better Days are to Come’. It was the turn of the new album, coincidentally released on the day of this show, to be heard and nothing less than the title track would do.
I have to admit that, for my taste, this was a bit too pop-prog, an upbeat offering which was completely at odds with the songs that had gone before. The audience, however, thoroughly enjoyed it and the album has already received some very positive reviews.
We reach half time by going back to the band’s roots with ‘For Richard’, another multi-layer song, this time taken from the 1970 album ‘If I Could do it All Over Again, I’d do it All Over You’.
The second set gets under way with the oddly name ‘The Dog, The Dog, He’s at it Again’, from ‘For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night’. The lyrics and style reminding me of the late Neil Innes for some reason. One of the more rock-y songs of the night.
‘Smoking Gun’ from the more recent ‘The Unauthorised Breakfast Item’ (2003) followed before the band returned to the present with two more tracks from the new album, ‘Every Precious Little Thing’ and ‘Wishing You Were Here’, both more relatable to than the earlier title track.
Back to the 1970’s again with the excellent ‘Nightmare’ from ‘Better by Far’ and this followed by a further two songs from ‘In the Land of Grey and Pink’; ‘Winter Wine’ and the rather epic ‘Nine Feet Underground’ which took us to the end of the main part of the show.
After a short breather the band perform a couple of encores; one from each end of the Caravan album spectrum. First was ‘I’m on my Way’ from 2013’s ‘Paradise Filter’ and this followed by the only missing track from ‘In the Land of Grey and Pink’; ‘Love to Love You’.
After almost 2 hours of a hugely entertaining show the band take their applause with many of the audience now on their, sometimes unsteady, feet. Throughout the night the steady sound of the guitars and keyboards were frequently pierced by Geoffrey Richardson’s viola, flute, rhythm guitar and, wait for it, spoons! I can’t leave off however without mentioning the frequent Muppet’s Animal impersonations by drummer Mark Walker who tub-thumped like a trooper, spending much of the time on his feet as he beat the drums mercilessly. Brilliant stuff from a band that’s been around for more than half a century – go and see them if you can.
Words & images: Reg Richardson