Hawth Theatre, Crawley, 12th February 2004

Set List

I’m Alive / Here I Go Again / Jennifer Eccles / Yes I Will / On A Carousel / Sandy / Listen To Me / Can’t Tell The Bottom From The Top / I Can’t Let Go / We’re Through / Fire Brigade / Look Through Any Window / Blowin’ In The Wind

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Long Cool Woman / Sorry Suzanne / Just One Look / The Baby / Soldier’s Song / Gasoline Alley Bred / Too Young To Be Married / Bus Stop / Blackberry Way / Carrie Anne / Stop! Stop! Stop! / The Air That I Breathe / I Can Hear The Grass Grow / Tiger Feet / He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother / It’s In Every One of Us 

It was with some anticipation that I made my way to Crawley to see The Hollies.  I was thoroughly looking forward to it. The only thing that concerned me was that I was bringing along six other friends who had yet to witness The Hollies live in concert.  

Locating our seating, there was a buzz in the theatre as the lights dimmed. We were soon on our way as they launched into “I'm Alive”.  A quick check of my chums revealed feet tapping and heads nodding - a perfect start!

Carl almost immediately started working the crowd as I have seen him do many a time before - a hello and a nod here, a wave to the balcony there - a quick point to let some of the audience know he thought they weren't joining in on the singing front, all well received.

The set list was the same (understandably) as Hayes on the opening night. The old 60s sounds of “I'm Alive”, “Here I Go Again”, “Jennifer Eccles” “Yes I Will” (Carl's favourite) and “On A Carousel” were quickly dispatched with consummate aplomb giving the audience hardly any time to catch their breath. When my housemate remarked "they're good", I knew this was progress!

The tempo was subdued slightly as they then did "Sandy", a personal fave of mine. Carl has a very effective way of singing this, lingering on some of the words for pronounced effect and giving a very emotive vocal.  His reward for this display was a quick break and the chance for bassist Ray Stiles to join Tony Hicks and Alan Coates at the front.  They then proceeded to do a beautiful rendition of “Listen To Me” which featured a spine-tingling a cappella opening and great harmonies throughout.  “I Can't Tell The Bottom From The Top” followed with a faithful piano offering from Ian Parker.

Carl reappeared and the band went back to basics, reeling off “I Can't Let Go” and “We're Through” - the latter causing some confusion amongst my friends when they spotted Ian on walkabout with his miners lamp!  Carl did his traditional bit of keyboard playing on this one. There was a new stage set up which featured a projector beaming various images on to a backdrop behind Bobby Elliott which allowed you to see what Carl was playing. This added another dimension to the performance.

Tony rightly paid tribute to Carl's own 60s achievements with The Move which led rather nicely into a brilliant version of “Fire Brigade”.  I wasn't sure how they would follow that, but if anything they topped it with a cracking version of “Look Through Any Window”. This version started in a lazy Sultans Of Swing style, but halfway through dramatically changed tempo with Tony Hicks delivering a frenetic guitar solo that proved what an underrated talent he is.

Carl then led us into the last song of the first half – “Blowin’ In The Wind” - 'the break is for you' he said, 'we don't need one'.  Bob Dylan was credited with yet another birthplace, and not for the first time that evening Carl delivered a very powerful vocal, complimented by the musicianship of his band mates. Thumbs up from my friends who were looking forward to the second half. 

This duly started with Long Cool Woman which had everybody reacting positively and was followed at breakneck speed by “Sorry Suzanne” and the very popular “Just One Look”.

The audience were then introduced to Tony's guitar sitar which heralded a very true performance of The Baby.

Carl then stepped up and introduced Soldier's Song, commenting on its relevance to war today. His stunning vocal was complimented by some powerful and thought-provoking images of war being projected onto the backdrop.  A neat and very effective offering.

Another acoustic set followed – “Gasoline Alley Bred” and the appealing “Too Young To Be Married” which featured Tony Hicks singing a song he wrote himself whilst delivering the well renowned timeless guitar solo. “Bus Stop” followed this one (interesting video footage!) and we were then treated to another of Carl’s early songs, “Blackberry Way”.  This proved to be a good sing-a-long with almost everybody now in good voice and willing to join in. Tony Hicks then reached for the banjo and did his warm up on it for a few minutes before launching into “Stop! Stop! Stop!”  Carl was in a good mood as he sang his heart out before introducing the crowd pleasing “Air That I Breathe” This was delivered with great harmonies and a wistful guitar solo from Tony Hicks.

The band then powered into “I Can Hear The Grass Grow” The music was coming thick and fast and before we knew it, Ray had appeared at the front of the stage to take the reins for the rendition of "Tiger Feet".

With the audience cheering for more, Carl popped out the harmonica and a hush fell over the audience as he sang the opening lines to “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”.  A soulful rendition of this song had the crowd cheering on their feet at the end.

This was followed by “It’s In Everyone Of Us” - Ray, Carl, Tony and Alan layering on harmony after harmony in an a capella fashion whilst the audience listened in appreciative silence.

It was a great way to finish the set and the crowd gave a standing ovation and a rousing cheer as the band heralded their imminent departure.

For me, it was a fantastic night, full of the treats I had eagerly been awaiting. For my friends, an overwhelming thumbs up – and from one of them, ‘where are they playing next?’

Simply brilliant.

Review and photo by Rob Bird

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