Chapter 11: Into The Underworld
Two days later, the band, along with John Avis their roadie, travelled to London for the reunion gig the following night. The next day, Friday 2nd December 2011, a sound check was made in the afternoon and the band then relaxed before the gig. Showtime was at 8.30pm, by which time the Underworld in Camden was packed with fans from around the world.
Probably fewer than a handful of people present had seen Cressida back in 1969-70. This was a new audience, of all ages, with many young people who hadn’t even been born when the band first played together. An air of nervous excitement and anticipation could be felt through the crowd as the band stepped out on stage to a warm welcome. After months of preparation four of the original five members of Cressida were finally back onstage together in London!
After a brief introduction and an overture from Peter on the keyboards, the band launched into Survivor and then straight into Only Earthman In Town. The opening bars of each song drew loud applause from those who recognised every number from their legendary albums. The band went through a repertoire of their best-known numbers, displaying the full breadth of their musical talents and influences spanning rock, jazz, classical and folk. The set included Angus’s solo acoustic song Spring 69, Peter’s intricate arrangements and stunning Hammond solos on Munich and Lisa and an extended jazz-funk version of the late John Heyworth’s Let Them Come When They Will.
Angus: “I don’t think we were really prepared for the reception we received. From the outset the audience were behind us, and that helped to lift our performance. And because there was a sense that this was a special occasion there was a real focus to the band’s playing. Considering the situation I thought we played well.”
At the end, the band received a standing ovation. Demanding an encore, the crowd chanted and stomped their feet until finally the band returned to play one more number (Tomorrow Is A Whole New Day) and take a final bow. The Cressida fans, old and new, had not been disappointed. The show had been a genuine triumph.
Kevin: “It was truly a night to remember. I never dreamt that Cressida would ever get back on stage again and it was wonderful that we pulled it off and put on a show for the audience. We didn’t want to let them down as without those fans it would never have happened.”
Renowned music journalist Chris Welch was there that night and wrote:
After the encore, Ian Shirley of Record Collector Magazine got up onstage and made the surprise announcement that Cressida would be playing the following night at the Forum in Kentish Town, London, supporting the band Cathedral at their farewll gig.
With this news, the crowd slowly departed and made their way to the bars upstairs where the band later joined them to meet and greet and sign autographs.
The following night the band played a surprise 30-minute set at the band, Cathedral’s sold-out farewell gig at the Forum.
Iain: “Lee Dorian of the band Cathedral were playing a farewell gig at the Forum, Kentish Town and were due to be supported by another band from Cressida’s era, Comus. Unfortunately, their lead singer had been taken to hospital and they had to pull out. Lee, who was a big fan of Cressida, emailed me the night before we travelled to London to ask if we would like to step in and do a short set. We thought about it and said OK. It was very much a case of “in for a penny, in for a pound!”
For the 2,000 Cathedral fans crowded into the HMV Forum in Kentish Town that evening, Cressida’s unbilled appearance was a big surprise. As one fan later put it in an email: “I was standing there rubbing my eyes in disbelief that there, right there on stage before me was Cressida, one of my all-time favourite bands. I had no idea you would be playing and didn’t even know about the Underworld gig the night before. What an unbelievable surprise. Thank you so much. You were great!”
And so, 40 years after they broke up, Cressida had reunited and played three gigs in five days. At the end of an extraordinary weekend the band’s members embraced one another and went their separate ways, to the north of Scotland, to southern France, to London and to California.
They carried with them an enormous sense of achievement at having shared in a unique and special event they would remember for the rest of their lives. And while everyone assumed the reunion gigs at The Underworld and then The Forum were the end of the Cressida story, they were wrong!
There was one more chapter to come.