Live Review – YES At Manchester Bridgewater Hall – by John Wenlock-Smith

This was a particularly good show, if not just a little strange at times. The evening started with a few words from legendary album cover artist Roger Dean, who has worked with Yes for over 50 years, a true gentleman and very enthusiastic about the works he has created for the band over the years.

He started off by talking about the loss of Alan White and played a short sequence of images of Alan’s time with the band, then Yes came onstage and started their first set with On the Silent Wings of Freedom from the ‘Tormato’ album, a song that rarely gets played live. The band were up for it though with Steve Howe especially energised for the proceedings.

There were a few gremlins sound wise but the band got through it very professionally. Billy Sherwood’s Bass was a huge sounding behemoth, very Chris Squire like in tone, and he played some exceptionally good lines throughout. Billy has a certain air about him, like a rock god from a bygone age with his long flowing hair and his boots very much an image, but he can certainly play that bass like a master. New drummer Jay Schellan kept things very tidy at the back, solid and uncluttered, much like Alan White used to really.

This latest incarnation of Yes is very much orchestrated, led and driven these days by Steve Howe, who was constantly issuing instructions to the other band members with his hands or voice. Steve is the last member with a connection to their golden age (of which ‘Close To The Edge’ is a major capstone of course). Sure, you could moan about the lack of the presence of either Rick Wakeman or Jon Anderson, however the integrity of this band stays true under Steve’s guidance. Jon Davison may not have the presence of Anderson but he is a very fine singer for this version of Yes.

The band then played Yours Is No Disgrace, which was the first of several longer pieces performed tonight. This song was obviously a long-time favourite of many of the audience who’s average age was sixty plus. It is very strange being part of a crowd this old and you definitely know it is odd when the toilet queue is twice as long for me as it is for women!

We then moved onto No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed, from the ‘Time and a Word’ album, one that no one onstage had been a part of but still played it with much gusto, making it one of the highlights of the evening so far. This was followed by a rousing version of Does It Really Happen from ‘Drama’ and Geoff Downes’ keyboards really shone making it really stand out. We were then treated to Steve Howe’s solo guitar piece, The Clap, which he delivered to much acclaim and a rapturous response.

The latest Yes studio album is ‘The Quest’, which got a mixed critical response. Well, here tonight ,the two tracks they played, The Ice Bridge and Dare To Know, were both very well received, with Steve howe really on fire with his playing, he gave the recurring riff and melody some real oomph! This led to Heart Of The Sunrise from ‘Fragile’, another lengthy workout for all the members again with the thunderous bass from Billy really made this memorable, it was another highlight for me.

After a short break and queuing for the toilets the show recommenced with the main event of the evening, legendary album ‘Close To The Edge’ in its entirety.

The three songs, Close To The Edge, And You And I and Siberian Khatru are possibly the very essence of Yes, they were certainly different to much that was around in 1972. These pieces both retain and contain all that makes Yes so loved, mystical lyrics and driving and unorthodox time signatures where musicians really worked and stretched a piece of music to the maximum. This evening the songs did just that, with an especially fine rendition of And You And I. With some dramatic and effective pedal steel guitar from Steve at the end, it soared out over the audience and was again very well received. Siberian Khatru was also well received and was an excellent finale to proceedings, with the crowd up on their feet clapping along with the music.

Then it was encore time and what could it be but Roundabout and Starship Trooper, both of which really rocked out, sending everyone home extremely happy and satisfied at what they had seen, Yes doing what they do best, remembering a lost colleague and progressing onward as only they can. It was an astonishing and wonderful evening and performance plus, to top it all, Roger Dean signed my copy of the Topographic Oceans CD!

You can buy tickets for the remainder of the shows at this link:

https://yesworld.com/live/

Marillion – ‘The Light At The End Of The Tunnel’ Tour – Live At Hull City Hall – Sunday, November 14th, 2021

“Live is Life…”

Life came full circle at Hull City Hall on Sunday evening, 14th November 2021. I first saw Marillion at this venue on the 9th July, 1990 and, thirty-one years later, here I was, about to watch one of my favourite bands on the first gig of their ‘The Light At The End Of The Tunnel’ tour.

It’s been a long time since Marillion last played live to their loyal fans, as Steve Hogarth said at the start of the gig, over 700 days! and you could sense the excitement in the venue beforehand. For the only time in living memory, the queue for the merch stand was way longer than the queue for the bar!

Antimatter

The support act was a duo called Antimatter and their short set was an excellent appetiser for what was to follow. Powerful vocals with electric and acoustic guitars made for a great listen and the audience were very appreciative.

The atmosphere in Hull City Hall had been building to a crescendo as the band came onto the stage full of vigour and enthusiasm and an honest joy at playing in front of a live audience again.

I saw the band last at the Royal Albert Hall nearly two years ago, in November 2019 and they just seemed to be so up for this gig, Steve Hogarth was laughing and smiling had a great rapport with his band mates, Pete Trewavas was bounding around the stage with obvious energy, Ian Mosley was a powerhouse behind the drum kit, Steve Rothery patrolled his corner of the stage in his usual stately manner and Mark Kelly was dominant, raised at the back of the stage behind his impressive bank of keyboards.

Steve Hogarth explained that the setlist would be a sort of greatest hits that the band had collaborated on and the concert opened with a blistering version of Sounds That Can’t Be Made and followed it up with the iconic King, Hogarth central on the stage with his guitar raised in tribute. There was a fizzing intensity and power to the band’s performance this evening and, while the venues acoustics may have not been up tot he standard of some of the modern arenas, it certainly did not effect the enjoyment of the enthusiastic crowd.

A rather emotive version of Beautiful had a lump in my throat and a scintillating rendition of one of my favourites, You’re Gone, had the whole hall in thrall. It’s been so long since we have been able to enjoy live music that everybody in the room was obviously enjoying themselves immensely, standing up and cheering and whistling at the end of every track.

The party was in full swing and Mr Hogarth was evidently enjoying himself as the band ran through really strong renditions of The Party, Bridge, Living With The Big Lie and Runaway, every song raising the roof even higher. Steve Rothery’s guitar playing just blows me away every time and the power and precision of Ian Mosley’s drumming has to be seen in a live setting, the man is just a machine!

Steve Hogarth is a most engaging frontman and has a very special rapport with the audience, his utter joy at being out at the front of the stage was obvious to all, no more so than when introducing Be Hard On Yourself, the first single form the forthcoming new album ‘An Hour Before It’s Dark’ and, according to Steve, ‘It’s going to be a belter…”.

Well, Be Hard On Yourself was an absolute belter in itself and Steve was in fine vocal form, delivering a finely tuned and stirring vocal, ably backed by Pete Trewavas, the band building in confidence as every song was performed. Fine performances of Berlin and The Release led into my favourite song of the evening, an utterly spellbinding arrangement of perennial favourite, the haunting and electrifying Neverland that closed out the set.

Of course there was going to be an encore, the crowd demanded it with their hands, voices and feet (all in a good natured fashion, of course!) and the band returned to rapturous applause to deliver a rather fantastic version of every part of The Leavers, a phenomenally compelling and powerful piece of music that always makes it mark. We weren’t happy with just that song though and, as the band left the stage again, the noise levels rose to a crescendo before we were treated to a rocking, fun, sing-along version of Garden Party that brought the house down and finished things on an ultimate high!

Nearly two years of frustration and pent up energy were released in considerable style at Hull City Hall tonight and it will be a gig that will live long in my memory, oh what a night…!

Setlist:

  1. Sounds That Can’t Be Made
  2. King
  3. Beautiful
  4. You’re Gone
  5. The Party
  6. Bridge
  7. Living With The Big Lie
  8. Runaway
  9. Be Hard On Yourself
  10. Berlin
  11. The Release
  12. Neverland

Encore:

  1. The Leavers: I. Wake Up in Music
  2. The Leavers: II. The Remainers
  3. The Leavers: III. Vapour Trails in the Sky
  4. The Leavers: IV. The Jumble of Days
  5. The Leavers: V. One Tonight

Encore 2:

  1. Garden Party

Marillion With Friends From The Orchestra – Live at The Royal Albert Hall – 18/11/19

“Marillion, that’s that band with that Fish bloke in, did that song called Kayleigh…?”

If you’re a fan of the very long career of UK progressive band Marillion then you’ll have heard that question many a time. They have made it fashionable to be unfashionable in an ever changing industry that rewards the latest thing, in fact they’ve made a successful career out of it.

So then, how is it that a band most people seem to think ceased to exist in the mid 80’s can sell out the holy grail of live venues for two nights? There’s two reasons really, first because of a fan base that revere and love them (almost obsessively, if last night was anything to go by) and, secondly, because they are a live experience that should be on your bucket list!

Having played the RAH two years ago with a six piece orchestra, Marillion have decided to reinvent some of their tracks that they feel fit especially well in that format and are releasing an album (Marillion With Friends From The Orchestra) at the end of this month.

So it made sense to go out on a UK tour to promote the album and play in venues that would give the format some stunning backdrops? Of course it did!

The evening started with a short support set of cleverly crafted singer songwriter material from the talented Harry Pane, whose short but enjoyable acoustic guitar and double bass material was warmly received by the building audience.

Harry Pane

However it was the main event that everybody had come to see and as the six piece orchestra walked on to the stage, followed by the band, the anticipation of the audience could literally be felt.

Marillion launched into an intense version of Gaza with frontman Steve Hogarth prowling the stage like a tormented soul, his on stage persona and antics are always an integral part of the band’s superb live shows.

The light show and backdrop graphics added to the intensity of proceedings as the band played a set littered with their greatest songs, twenty minute plus tracks that flew by leaving the audience at times speechless and at others rapturous and raucous, the alcohol maybe giving vent to some 50 and 60 year old fan’s long years of admiration where normally they would be more reserved.

The orchestra fitted in seamlessly with the strings bringing a euphoric feel to the somber brilliance of Estonia and lifting my all time favourite Marillion track, Season’s End, to incredible new heights, Steve Rothery’s solo bringing a lump to my throat and I’m sure I had something in my eye…

A wonderfully theatrical version of The New Kings from the band’s latest album F.E.A.R had the audience hooked on every word, engrossed as Hogarth led us through the mire of the modern world and this was followed by a brilliantly spirited Man of a Thousand Faces that had the audience singing along.

This once in a lifetime experience was finished by a two piece encore starting with a rocking take on Seperated Out with an excerpt from Led Zep’s Kashmir that even had the orchestra rocking out.

Things finally came to a close with an emotive and tumultuous version of long time fan favourite This Strange Engine that ebbed and flowed superbly for over twenty minutes before bringing the house down with heartfelt applause and adulation.

Thirty years on from when Steve Hogarth joined the band, Marillion still do things there own way. They did crowd funding before it was fashionable and they put on a live experience like no other. On nights like these they are untouchable to their fans and long may it continue. Now, who’s that Fish bloke…?

18th November 2019

Set List

  1. Gaza
  2. Power
  3. Beyond You
  4. Seasons End
  5. Estonia
  6. A Collection
  7. The New Kings Parts I – IV
  8. Man Of A Thousand Faces
  9. The Space
  10. Encore 1 – Separated Out
  11. Encore 2 – This Strange Engine

Live Review – Marillion at York Barbican 22nd April 2018 – by Progradar

“Play Seasons End, play Seasons End, please.play.Seasons.End…Fuck, they’re playing Seasons End!!”

And that, my friends, made what was already an incredible, emotive and stunning gig by one of my all time favourite bands the best gig I’ve ever been to. Yes, it was that bloody good!

Now I know I’m a lucky sod, I get to go to all sorts of live music events for free just because I write (hopefully, pretty well) about them but this was something different. I’d gone with one of my oldest friends (and a Marillion gig virgin) and we were meeting my great friend Iain Sloan of Wynntown Marshals and Abel Ganz fame (to name but two!), who had made the long journey down from North of the border, for a quiet beer or two before the show (see picture above).

York Barbican is a great venue, quite intimate while also having a very decent capacity and brilliant sound. This created a suitably intense atmosphere as the crowd built awaiting the support act Roxanne de Bastion. This talented singer/songwriter came on to a big round of applause from an already three quarters full venue.

Roxanne had broken her left ankle before the tour began but took it all in her stride as she sang her haunting and beguiling songs with more than a flavour of roots music to them. With stories garnered from personal experience she managed to keep the attention of the crowd and her voice and pared back, simple guitar and piano playing were pretty impressive. The only issue for me being that she did look slightly out place on her own in what is quite a big venue, not that this affected her performing in any way. As an appetite whetter before the main event, I was very impressed and this gifted musician is one I will be seeking out in the future.

A quick nip back to the bar to re-imbibe before the anticipated brilliance of Marillion

A dynamic and powerful opening salvo of El Dorado got the crowd going immediately and you sensed that the band were on good form as an ebullient Steve Hogarth prowled around the stage, his animated delivery a real highlight. This was immediately followed by a seriously compelling version of Power that had electricity sparking around the venue, Steve Rothery’s superb guitar playing making the hairs on the back of my neck rise, you just knew tonight was going to be a mesmerising experience.

All of the band were playing with fluidity and an almost carefree attitude, perhaps it was because it was the last night of the tour but, for me, they were putting all of their heart and soul into every note and every word.

Captivating versions of Quartz and The Party followed as the band went through their repertoire of carefully chosen tracks from over 30 years of making emotionally charged music and the adoring audience lapped it all up. It was like being in the middle of a cult but a wonderfully civilised one. There were standing ovations at the end of every track, Marillion could do no wrong tonight…

And then they played bloody Seasons End…What a spine-tingling, jaw dropping eight minutes that was, one of my favourite all time songs played by one of my all time favourite bands and with a guitar solo that soared to the heavens and was so full of emotion that I was lost in reverie. After the rapturous applause had died down Marillion delivered a thunderous performance of Living In Fear, the second track from current album ‘F.E.A.R’, one that seems to have given the band a new lease of life and attracted quite a few new followers to these veterans of the progressive scene.

The setlist took a ninety degree turn next as a band full of the confidence of a succesfull tour traded banter with the appreciative audience, Steve Hogarth asking Mark Kelly if they could swap Out of This World for a fan suggested White Paper and, to the cheers of the audience, they did! There was a real warmth and humour evident throughout the evening, the band were relaxed and obviously enjoying themselves and that came through in the performance.

A stirring rendition of The Leavers followed by Wave and Mad ramped the atmosphere through the roof, here is a band at the height of their not inconsiderable musical powers, Pete Trewavas bouncing around the stage and engaging in some gentle banter with Hogarth while Ian Mosley was an animated demon behind the drum kit, as ‘h’ would say, a bloody impressive pub band indeed!!

The set was completed by a blistering Afraid of Sunlight and a truly emotive performance of perennial fan favourite The Great Escape that surely had more than just a few eyes moist. At the end of every track virtually the whole theatre were on their feet cheering and clapping, just lost in the wonderful moment.

You know when the band leave the stage that there is going to be an encore and what an encore it was, a poignant and evocative Easter which contained possibly Rothers’ most impassioned solo ever and then a reverently received version of Sugar Mice that left the audience emotionally charged.

At this point I left, hoping to avoid the crowds but the opening notes of Garden Party had me rushing back in to the side of the stage to experience what was a group of friends enjoying themselves and playing music that they truly love, it was just magnificent!!

This time the crowd really did go wild…

So, there you have it, Marillion live at York Barbican, music really has the power to move you and bring a lasting joy to your heart and soul and, on this night, I had my most special musical epiphany ever and it just doesn’t get any better than that.

 

Live Review – Paul Draper – Bristol SWX – 21st February 2018 – by James R Turner

It’s been a long time coming, but former Mansun frontman Paul Draper reappeared recently onto the music scene with a new album called ‘Spooky Action’ (wonder where he found that title…..) and a fresh young touring band.

This year, on it’s the 21st anniversary of Mansun’s debut long player, ‘Attack of the Grey Lantern’ and, ahead of K Scope preparing to release it in a remastered and expanded (and 5.1, oh be still my beating heart) deluxe set, Mr Draper set off on a UK tour performing two sets.

The first made up entirely of solo ‘Spooky Action’ material, and the second being ‘Attack…’, performed in its entirety for the first time ever.

Now, I know the gig was back in February, and we are now into April, but in my defence I have moved to a new house and so when I looked on the calendar and arranged a date to complete (and be out of the flat complete with all our wordlies boxed up and ready for the removal van) I had agreed Feb 22nd.

So, a gig I’ve been waiting to see since ‘Attack…’ first hit my stereo back at the fag end of Britpop over 20 years ago (and it’s astonishing how many influential albums that I consider contemporary are getting the 20th and beyond anniversary, ‘OK Computer’, ‘Urban Hymns’, ‘His and Hers’, ‘Be Here Now’, ‘Boys for Pele’, this was, amongst many others, the sound of my adolescence and dear reader it makes me feel old) and yet I needed to have every boxed up and ready to go without any stress.

So I did what any sensible human would do, and go the gig, but drive – best of both worlds and in hindsight the right move, as it took me back 20 years and the stress of the moment was relieved.

If anyone here doesn’t believe in the healing power of music, then my friends you’re missing out.

Now the gig had been moved from the Bierkeller which shut down in conflicting circumstances at the start of February, luckily SWX round the corner is a nicer and more modern version, with an excellent sound system, and from where we were we had an excellent view of the stage, so as an aside, if you see anyone promoted here and wonder if it’s worth going, it’s a Yes from me (& it’s very close to town and about 20 minutes’ walk from Temple Meads – see, who needs trip advisor?)

Unfortunately, I didn’t catch the name of the support act, who was a local lad with a guitar and a penchant for checked shirts and listening to Nick Drake and Bob Dylan, it was pleasant enough and I’m sure his Mum enjoyed it, but it didn’t set the world alight, and his acoustic guitar sound was lost at points in the venue.

Then came the part we were waiting for, Mansun always exuded an aura of mystery and a certain disconnect that set about as far away from the Britpop scene that they were lumped in with, like a square peg in a round hole, and it was great to see Paul Draper, slightly older, bearded and full of chat between songs and with plenty of stage presence.

Even better, he still has the power in his voice, and an incredibly tight and talented young band around him, with Ben Sink on guitar doing a lot of the heavy lifting, allowing Draper to focus on the singing and being the frontman, he has always been.

I know the audience were there for ‘Attack…‘ but the ‘Spooky Action’ material really holds its own with the gig opening as the album does with the superb Don’t Poke the Bear, and songs like Grey House, Jealousy is a Powerful Emotion, Friends Make the Worst Enemies and Who’s Wearing the Trousers all went down a storm.

Then, after a brief interval, the band came back on stage with a nod from Paul thanking his ‘support act’ and then, the rousing strings of the best James Bond theme there never was The Chad Who Loved Me came ringing out, and the auditorium was lost in a magical musical time warp, as the classics like Wide Open Space, Stripper Vicar, the legendary Taxloss, Dark Mavis and the rest all came out in a blaze of glory.

Don’t get me wrong, this is no nostalgia act, as the first half proved, and as a band who were always slightly out of time, Mansun’s tunes have proved timeless, as this album still sounds fresh, exciting and contemporary even 21 years later.

I went into this show not knowing whether it would be worth my money (&yes dear reader – this is one of those rare occurrences where I review something I paid for!) and it was worth every penny.

During the gig Paul Draper said he would back soon, performing ‘Six’ in it’s entirety – take all of my money, now!!!

 

 

Live Review – Magnum at Hull City Hall – February 25th 2018 – by Progradar

Let’s keep music alive. There have been many posts on social media about venues shutting down and sparse audiences for many live gigs but, if Magnum’s gig as guests of Saxon at Hull City Hall last Sunday is anything to go by then the older generation are happy to go out and support live music in their hundreds (if not thousands!).

Now I was there on a press pass to review the Magnum gig so you’ll not hear too much about the other artists here but, suffice to say, it was varied enough to suit all rock music tastes and while Rock Goddess sounded good from the bar (I was in the bar, not the band), Diamond Head were consummate performers with a drummer who was a dead ringer for Matt Sorum of Guns n’ Roses fame. However the vocalist just didn’t gel for me, not to say he didn’t have a good voice, it just wasn’t one for me.

As for Saxon well, they put on a hell of a show, a very LOUD show which the packed crowd absolutely loved. There was a bit of argy bargy in the mosh pit at the front but a few well aimed expletives from a resplendently attired Biff Byford soon calmed that down. What a voice he has got too, you’d never guess he was nearly 70, he hit every note with power and glory. For me it was a shame that new material from ‘Thunderbolt’ just seemed to blend into one but the classic tracks like 747 (Strangers In The Night) actually threatened to bring the house down!

For me Magnum were the definite highlight of the evening and put on one hell of a live show, Bob Catley wanders the stage like your favourite uncle nowadays but, boy, does he still have one hell of a voice. Opening the set with crowd pleaser When We Were Younger from ‘Princess Alice and the Broken Arrow’, the band never hit a duff note and silent assassin Tony Clarkin showed just what a genius he is on the guitar, orchestrating the band’s every move with precision.  A powerful version of Sacred Blood, Divine Lies (from the album of the same name) had the crowd in rapture as Bob’s partner in crime Al Barrow provided a bassline powerful enough to knock over mountains. It has to be said that Hull City Hall doesn’t have the best acoustics but the guys were on top form so it hardly seemed to matter, Tony firing off a wicked solo and the applause threatening to drown out the sound.

Next came the first (and title) track from the new album and Rick Benton’s first chance to really shine on the keyboards, I have a feeling Lost on the Road to Eternity is going to become a firm fan favourite at live gigs and seemed to fit the setlist perfectly. A wild rock ride with Bob leading the way, there were middle-aged (and older) people rocking away in front of me and it was great to see more than a smattering of young faces joining the fun. The slow burning intro of Crazy Old Mothers ramps up the anticipation of this anthemic track. Bob had the crowd in the palm of his hand on the emotive verse before Lee Morris leads in the mighty chorus with his thunderous drums. A song and atmosphere that just had you riding the crest of a wave with a ridiculous grin on  your face.

We return to the new album for the balls out rocker Peaches and Cream with Tony’s hard rocking riffing and the energetic drumming from Lee leading the way. It’s hard to believe Bob and Tony are both over 70 as they can rock with the rest of them and, boy, can they write a banging tune! The crowd are starting to jump and wave in the air and the energy can be felt throughout the hall, Mr Catley still has huge lungs, his vocal power is amazing and his voice has lost none of its whiskey soaked edge. We head back to the 1980’s and the wonderfully evocative Les Mortes Dansant from the band’s classic album ‘On A Storyteller’s Night’ and what a spine tingling version it is, Bob’s voice and Rick’s keyboards have the hairs on the back of your neck rising. I’m surprised there were no lighters lifted up (or is it iPhones nowadays?). An emotional and truly stirring rendition with a compelling vocal and mighty guitar, wonderful stuff!

The new album has some excellent rock standards on it, as well as the already played Peaches and Cream there’s the excellent Show Me Your Hands where guitar and keyboard lead us on a rollercoaster ride of hard rock and Bob has virtually the whole audience raising their hands and swinging them from  side to side. I swear the applause, cheering and whistling gets louder after each song. Another classic from On A Storyteller’s Night’ follows and it’s a track I’ve not heard much, the hard rocking All England’s Eyes is accorded a great welcome from the knowledgeable crowd and the band proceed to give us a dynamic and forceful version of the song that, once again, has us all dancing and singing along. To my eyes (and ears) the guys are really enjoying themselves and are on top form tonight.

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any better the band launched into a rocking version of the classic Vigilante (from the album of the same name) and it gets the audience bouncing even more, as soon as the highly recognisable riff begins they are off. Just like Bob actually, he is really on it tonight, his voice and presence commanding the stage and hall, everyone in the crowd are in the zone and enjoying every note. The mountain crushing rhythm section of Lee and Al go into overdrive on this song and you can feel it right in your solar plexus, I’m singing along to the chorus as if I was 19 again! Too soon it is time for the show to come to an end but Magnum go out with a bang with one of my favourite tracks of theirs. ‘Wings of Heaven’ was the band’s biggest album, released in the late 1980’s and spawned a few hit songs but it also contained the lengthy Don’t Wake The Lion (Too Old To Die Young), ten minutes of almost progressive tinged hard rock and we are treated to a superb version this night. Bob prowls the stage like the leader of the pride and the crowd are in rapt attention as Rick delivers the slow burning keyboard section. You can feel the tension rising in the hall as the music plays, Bob’s vocal building up to the compelling chorus and the crowd finally bursts out along with Bob to sing, “Too old to die young, too big to cry, too old to die young, say goodbye…”. I went along with some friends who didn’t really know much about Magnum and they were absolutely blown away, especially by this track and it surely took me back many a decade but that’s what music does, isn’t it? When a night is as good as this, it’s always a shame for it to come to a close but the guys finished to rapturous applause, cheers and whistles and a see of happy faces.

A fantastic evening of music and a wonderful performance from one of my favourite bands, music, for me, is fantastic and life affirming and live, like tonight, it just doesn’t get any better.

 

 

Live Review – The Pineapple Thief (featuring Gavin Harrison) and Godsticks at Bristol Bierkeller – by James R Turner

I once stole some coconut shampoo, I don’t know why, I didn’t have a coconut, however Bruce Soord has been getting away with Pineapple Thievery for over 18 years, and despite the gig being on a Sunday night, I was glad to finally see them on their latest musical jaunt, a worldwide tour de force promoting the latest long player ‘Your Wilderness’. In fact these dates were added later, as it seemed very odd when the tour was first announced that they bypassed the West Country entirely, and we can’t all afford to ship off over to that London for a gig

In fact this was the last gig of the tour, and practically a local one, as Bruce doesn’t live a million miles away, so it was almost a homecoming for him.

It’s always strange to go to a venue that is so intimate to see bands that you think should be playing such bigger venues, particularly when the venue is the Bierkeller, which is an odd little place. A cross between a traditional rock club and a German drinking haus, managing to not quite be one thing or t’other, and it’s also funny to go to the merch stand and see the latest release by the band being an audio/visual document of the show that you’re about to watch. (Where we Stood).

(Godsticks)

Support was by Welsh boys and K-Scope label mates Godsticks, whose set was made up of a majority of new material from their forthcoming album ‘Filled with Rage’, I had never heard of them before, and as I have probably said elsewhere one of my criteria for what makes a great gig is how good the support band are.

Godsticks are good, very good indeed, they have a wonderfully chunky sound, big riffs and big beats, and have that knack of turning up the amps but not losing the melody, whilst the set was bias towards the new record, ‘Faced with Rage’, which is out on October 13th, the older material from ‘Emergence’ fitted in superbly.

As a rock band go Godsticks are entertaining, musically adept and according to someone who was with me in the audience who had seem them before, they have come on leaps and bounds. All I know is they were a superb start to the show, and got the audience warmed up before the main event.

Last time I saw Bruce and the boys was on the ‘Magnolia‘ tour, back in The Fleece in Bristol in 2014, and then I thought they should be playing somewhere far bigger.

Now, with the addition of the busiest man of the night Godsticks guitarist and vocalist Darran Charles, who joined The Pineapple Thief live line-up, the amazing Gavin Harrison on drums, the Thief’s live sound is suddenly enhanced, and those simple tweaks helps take the burden of Bruce, so he can be the frontman he was always destined to be, and with Gavin on board this group of excellent musicians suddenly have raised their game even more.

There is a reason why the tickets say The Pineapple Thief with Gavin Harrison, and that is because Gavin is the contemporary musical equivalent to Bill Bruford, and is mesmerising to watch and hear as a drummer, astonishingly despite being a massive fan of his work, both solo and with bands like Porcupine Tree or King Crimson, this was the first time I have ever seen him live, and whilst I love The Pineapple Thief, and their latest album, seeing Gavin Harrison in action was something I couldn’t miss.

Being biased towards some of the later albums, and of course ‘Your Wilderness’, the entire album hits the stage at one point or another tonight, and songs like In Exile, Where We Stood and Tear you Up come across with power and intensity, the sound that a band confident in their ability can deliver with panache.

With Darran doing some of the heavy lifting, Bruce is like a man freed, playing to the audience and turning in some fine banter (‘forgetting’ to remember the album title of Godsticks new release being one of many exchanges), whilst material from ‘Magnolia’, including The One you left Behind (the strongest track from that album), absolutely rips the place apart with the power and skills of the band. With long term collaborators Steve Kitch on keys and Jon Sykes on bass, a lot of the focus is of course on the man in the corner of the stage. Every note is timed to perfection, every fill, every beat is on point, and nothing is superfluous, I feel a lot of prog drummers can get a lesson in how to do it from Gavin Harrison. Everything he does added so much to the songs that every so often I would get a great big grin on my face, as the whole sonic template meshed together to create an almighty sound.

I said before when I saw them at The Fleece a few years ago how I couldn’t understand why they aren’t playing bigger venues, and ironically the Bierkeller is slightly smaller than the Fleece, and I wish I could fathom why a band this powerful, with songs this melodic, this intelligent and this epic aren’t selling out and playing to the sort of crowds that bland wallpaper peddlers like Coldplay are doing. There is more musical intelligence in one of Bruce’s riffs or one of Gavin’s fills than there is in Coldplay’s recorded output for the last 5 years, and music this big and this powerful and emotional deserves a bigger platform. I guess that the benefit for us is that we get stadium-sized performances in smaller venues and to hear this music, this close is something we should all be thankful. If, and I say if, Gavin Harrison is still playing with The Pineapple Thief next time they tour then you owe it to yourself to go see them. If not, then we’ll always have ‘Where We Stood’, and the Bristol Bierkeller.

Beatrix Players – Magnified Tour – Hoxton Hall , London, 12th May 2017 – by Rob Fisher

You would never know it was there. The automatic sliding doors give no hint of the majestic secret hidden within. Originally built in 1863, Hoxton Hall is a wonderful example of a good old fashioned saloon-style music hall, the modest central stage fronting a spacious ground floor, with impressive cast iron columns supporting two levels of galleries on all three sides. The overall effect creates a casual, relaxed and intimate atmosphere and the eager audience complete the perfect setting for tonight’s launch of the remarkable debut album ‘Magnified’ from the thrilling Beatrix Players.

The hushed murmur of voices give way to a polite ripple of applause as they take the stage and a happy silence descends as the opening notes of the haunting Rushlight gently fill the room. The insistent call of the piano gradually increases in emphasis and urgency, matched by a vocal harmony which is initially delicate but also grows with a matching power and intensity. The unwavering menace of the cello brings a grounding strength and depth as the song builds to a defiant, majestic crescendo before, passion spent, it falls away to the tranquil calm of the beginning once more.

The effect on the auditorium is spellbinding: not for the first time during the course of the evening, people are utterly enthralled and completely captivated by the graceful energy and compelling spirit of the performance. The confines of the stage enforce a close proximity between the three main musicians, which in turn accentuates and highlights the wonderfully intuitive interplay and understandings which exist between them. There is a dynamic and deeply creative relationship between keyboards, cello and voice which is delicately attuned to the shifting ebbs and flows of the rhythms of each song and which is absorbing to see unfold.

They are joined tonight by Robyn Hemmings on double bass, Jez Houghton on French horn, Maria Kroon on violin and Emanuela Monni on drums and percussion. The subtle alterations to the musical arrangements for some of the songs are breathtaking in the impact they bring. The integration of the French horn and violin in particular are absolutely inspired, creating a more open and expansive soundstage which provides greater emotional resonance and clarity of expression. Never Again and Walk Away possess a biting vitality which is not as readily apparent on the album, but with these additions is an absolute pleasure to experience live.

During the evening we are provided with some unexpected treats in the form of songs from their original EP and a beautifully moving cover of Hurt before an almost apologetic and low key introduction ushers in All That Thinking. A song about female infertility and the impact it has on relationships, the performance tonight is emotionally charged and profoundly moving. The sheer extent of the impact it has on the audience defies description and I know I was certainly not alone in being overcome and shedding a tear by the often unspoken heartbreak it creates.

One further surprise remains in store for us as the raised dias behind the main performers fills with the arrival of the SOUND choir for the final three songs. Their presence and influence is striking and uplifting, bringing new dimensions and insights to songs which, as a result, carry an embracing immediacy and sparkling warmth. The mesmerising Ophelia and the sizzling encore Roses spring to life with an astonishing and breathtaking vibrancy to mark the perfect end to a magnificent evening of stunning music.

A second concert has been announced for St Pancras Old Church on the 5th October 2017. Tickets are available now and I cannot recommend highly enough what a mesmerising, captivating and thoroughly enchanting experience awaits if you decide to go. Do not hesitate.

Setlist
Rushlight

Never Again

Walk Away

Not for the first Time

Hurt (cover)

Molehill

Elsa

High Heel Shoes

All That Thinking

Obey Me

Lady of the Lake

What Do You Say

The Road To Gordes

Ophelia

Roses

Beatrix Players are:
Amanda Alvarez – Cello
Amy Birks – Lead & Backing Vocals
Jess Kennedy – Piano, Flute, Backing Vocals

 

Live Review – Lonely Robot – The Big Dream Album Launch by Gary Morley

The following was scribbled on my phone as I watched from the vantage of the Merch Desk’s Forward command post (thanks to Brigadier Nellie Pitts).

It’s a good crowd of people with hair that time forgot… I’m jealous. My locks decided to leave me years ago, sacrificed to the trinity of job, mortgage and respectability. A plethora of tour t shirts…  Yes, sundry variations on a theme of keep calm and prog /play on.

I can report that Nellie doing a brisk trade in robot paraphernalia
everyone seems to know each other and the atmosphere is good, a smell of anticipation in the air. I’m amazed that my hometown has all these like minded people.

Where do they hide? Why don’t I know anyone?  Is the Lonely Robot me?
Perhaps Mr Mitchell and his crew will enlighten me. It will be an experience, seeing him on stage rather than nodding in passing as we orbit around Reading.

Sub 89 is filling up nicely and the band are on stage…

And they’re off, a quartet of songs from the debut album setting their stall out with panache and style. John Mitchell’s on stage banter is honed to a fine precision.

Craig Blundell on drums – he’s not shit!”, being the first bon mot to raise a groaning cheer…

And the robot appeals to all,  as can be seen from the Reading wildlife grooving to the first new song,  a slow burn with gorgeous guitar and a hypnotic vocal.

More banter, Ian Holmes, on bongos…”, then it’s their theme song, Lonely Robot, with its chiming guitars and thunderous drums… Some fine piano over that hypnotic drone, a robot’s soul exposed as a dark broody labyrinth of noise .

John is on fine form, singing with vigour and passion, then peeling off intricate guitar parts casually,the way only a true expert can. Equal parts Peter Gabriel and Chris Martin, he has a distinctive voice, suited to Prog or Pop.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Robot, they mix rock, prog and pop into a swirling mix that, like a black hole, draws you ever deeper in. There are flashes of Porcupine Tree guitar, those thunderous drums, a solid bass rumbling throughout and keyboards that fill out the few spaces left.

John now introduces his special guest, Kim Seviour to perform a track. Much more pop and upbeat, their voices fit and the music steams on. The hook line, “don’t forget me”, is an instant earworm and the song gets heavier until the middle 8 breaks down to a heartbeat drum pattern with some fine synth layers draped over it.

There is a commonality in Mr M’s work, from The Urbane through Arena and It Bites to The Robot clan, a melodic core, songs that burrow and charm in equal measure, vocal harmony as important as the instrument. “Are we copies” demonstrated that, with the impassioned vocals equal to the guitars.

We are then treated to a lighters in the air moment, as the next track floats over us, building the castle of sound, the voice and guitar increasingly emotive and the crowd rapt in attention, following the melody and swaying with the chorus. It was a beautiful moment. And finally, a vocal tour de force, Mr Mitchell and keyboards drifting weightlessly across our event horizon before Mr “Not Shit” thunders and bashes a drum piece, more demolition job than drum solo. He hits as hard as John Bonham and the electronic percussion effects add to the Bonham groove.

We are then warned that we are getting a velociraptor riff, a T- Rex, according to it’s creator  , and the next track does just that, guitars roaring and snarling to a climactic finish.

Now for a short personal interlude, fellow passenger, Jane Armstrong has retreated from the front to recuperate and berates me for looking nothing like my Facebook avatar!  It’s loud but very clear here at the merch desk, the band are in full flight now, and what a band they are, jamming away, first the keyboards taking the lead then John and his cybernetic guitar scything through the mix.

We then are treated to another of the new tracks, Sigma, which is all Nirvana approved quiet/ loud /quiet and another earworm chorus, great keyboards and stun guitar, in fact a fitting end to a great set.

So, there it was. The 4th Law of Robotics – “Thou shall Enjoy the sounds emanating from the Robot Clan , even if you know no-one, are run down and in need of a battery charge”.

After that set, my life meter was reading full again and I slipped off into the night, clutching a copy of the new CD that Nellie insisted I purchase as, “It’s alright and they’re OK people …”

Far be it from me to question the wisdom of a Prog Queen, but sat here listening to the CD, you know what? She had erred on the side of caution. It’s a great CD, well worth investing in.

I know, I was that Lonely Robot.

Order ‘The Big Dream’ from Nellie Pitts at The Merch Desk

 

 

 

Live Review – Maddison’s Thread – Sixty Minutes An Hour – Launch Gig at Hartlepool Cricket Club – 7/1/17

A huge thankyou to Howy White for use of his excellent pictures!

“Why will people pay £3 a time for a fancy coffee and yet complain about forking out £10 for a gig ticket for two hours plus of excellent live music?”

The definition of frustration for a music lover like me. The thought came to me on Tuesday afternoon as I sat in a motorway service station branch of Starbucks sipping my £3.20 Flat White that had lasted me less than 10 minutes. The previous Saturday evening me and my better half Sally had made the trip up to Hartlepool to see my good friend, and excellent folk musician, Lee Maddison perform to over 100 people at the cricket club and what a bloody superb night it was.

Not only was Lee performing tracks from his new Maddison’s Thread album, ‘Sixty Minutes An Hour’ (released the day before), but he was also playing with a full band including a string quartet. Yes! a string quartet! In Hartlepool of all places! For us it was a two hour drive up to the venue and then two hours back again in a pea soup like fog but, believe me, it was worth every minute spent on the road because live music, when it is as good as this, is what life is all about, well mine anyway!

The evening started with a catch-up with some of the great people I have met through music in the North-East. Brendan Eyre (he of Riversea and Northlands fame) was there and we had a good chin wag and me and Sally spent the evening in the company of long time supporters of Lee, Howy White and his wife Amanda. Howy is a well known photgrapher who takes Lee’s publicity pictures (and all the pictures of this live gig) and Amanda is a talented artist who has done the cover art for both the Maddison’s Thread releases.

Then, as the enthusiastic audience quietened down, Lee introduced the opening act, folk singer Edwina Hayes, who hails from my neck of the woods and also sings on this latest release.

Edwina has a delicate songbird-like voice which works perfectly with her pared back acoustic guitar to give a wonderfully fragile performance. She has also perfected the art of in-between-song banter and regaled us with some really funny stories. Hopefully, one day, her ‘stalker’ Martin (not me by the way!) will get his way and she will release another album but, in the meantime, if you get chance to see Edwina play live then do take the opportunity. Her thoughtful and insightful lyrics really hit a chord with the audience and I thoroughly enjoyed her performance, especially the refined version of Dylan’s Mr Tambourine Man with which she closed her set.

After a short break it was time for the main attraction and Lee had taken the decision to split his show into two sets. A first set of more laid back, acoustic music and a second with, as he put it, a bit more oomph!

Joining Lee to make up this night’s version of Maddison’s Thread were long time cohorts Stuart Hardy on violin (and who also arranged the strings) and Nigel Spaven on bass. To this considerably talented duo were added Darren Moore (Drums), Paul Donnelly (Guitars – Nylon string guitar in Thomas Hardy and Sixty Minutes) and Sue Ferris (Flute & Sax in Night Circus). Joining Stuart’s violin to make up the string quartet were Emma Fisk (Violin), Jill Blakey (Viola) and Fiona Beyer (Cello).

From the first self-titled Maddison’s Thread release, a beautiful rendition of Where Eagles Fly got proceedings of to a perfect start. Lee has a very unique voice and he was totally on form this evening and the added immediacy of a live peformance gave an added touch of vivacity to the songs. In a live setting The Fledgling from the new album had such meaning it left a lump in my throat and the flute was just wonderful. The audience were just rapt and carried on by a wave of emotion as Lee carried on with the simple, wistful charms of Weightless, a song that seems to have its childlike innocence exacerbated when performed in front of an enthralled audience. The nostalgic feel was lifted by the jaunty feel of Making The Morning Last, feet were tapping on the floor, heads were nodding in time with the music and those who knew the words (quite a lot, surprisingly) were singing along with the chorus. The impish and perky strings (especially Stuart’s expressive violin) gave a real playful feel to the song and the applause that followed was thoroughly deserved. Lee was keeping the audience entertained with a few anecdotes between tracks (mainly while he kept having to re-tune his guitar!).

Next up we were reintroduced to the dulcet tones of Edwina Hayes as she joined Lee on stage for an engaging version of the country music tinged Love Like Autumn from the new record and there was a great rapport between the artists as they performed a delightful vocal duet backed by the ever impressive strings. A bewitching performance of perennial favourite The Viking’s Daughter (possibly the first track I ever heard from Maddison’s Thread) came next. Hauntingly sincere, Lee’s vocals have never been better and Stuart’s violin graced the track with its stylish and elegant brilliance. The first set was closed out with the childlike innocence of Jessica, dedicated to his daughter, a simple yet captivating song that lifted your heart and soul and the final track Don’t Say Goodbye. A slightly melancholy piece of music that was exquisitely performed and pulled on your heartstrings all the way through and then it was time for the interval, where had that hour gone? An utterly absorbing sixty minutes of sublime, delightful music that came directly from the heart and was applauded with utmost gusto.

The second set opened with the funky jazz style of Night Circus, one of my all time favourite songs and it was immediately apparent that this part of the evening was going to upbeat and punchy. A really catchy tune that, played out in a live setting, was just about perfect. Lee’s voice took on a husky tone and the sax playing from Sue Ferris put a huge grin on my face. The evening was really rocking now. A song of highs and lows The Flycatcher had a subdued grace which blossomed into a powerful statement and was really intense live, leaving you in a thoughtful mood. Lee has the knack of writing some incredibly infectious songs and the title track from the new album is one of the best. Sixty Minutes An Hour really got under your skin, the haunting vocal and descriptive violin giving it almost a life of its own. I remember catching Howy’s eye and us just nodding at each other in quiet affirmation that Lee was ‘on it’ tonight, so to speak! The audience were clapping and singing along and the cheers, applause and whistling was increasing in volume at the end of every track. Whimsical, wistful and nostalgic, One Day is a song that seems to occupy a different time zone to the rest, the live performance took us to a place of repose and quiet contemplation where your worries just melted away. Lee’s voice was almost hypnotic in its delivery and the utterly chilled guitar playing contemplated it perfectly, utterly divine.

From the divine to the acerbic, Lee’s voice took on a more edgy tone with the tale of ne’er do wrongs that is Charlatan’s and Blaggers. A tongue in cheek performance with more than a hint of cynicism, the barely held back vitriol was evident in the harder edged vocals and sardonic tone of the violin, a really great tune to hear live. That laconic, sarcastic feel carried on with Tumbleweed and it was delivered in a style not too far apart from Bob Dylan and Neil Young, Lee letting a feel of world-weary pessimism creep into his voice perfectly. Stuart matches that irony with his staccato violin playing, almost derisive in places, I loved it. I know Lee Maddison is extremely proud of the track A Thomas Hardy Evening and rightly so. Played live to a receptive audience it was one of the highlights of a memorable evening, the subtle splendour of the vocals and the refined dignity of the music really come through and I was left a little open mouthed at the end.

Serious and thoughtful, Lines On A Fisherman’s Wife was another highlight of the evening for me. A traditional folk tale, Lee infused it with a somber, downcast and yet sweetly earnest tone. The audience greeted it with a hushed reverence, listening to every word. A really exquisite performance of what is such a dignified and reverential song. Paul Donnelly’s superb guitar is what I immediately noticed when Chasing The White Dove began. A slightly frenetic song that careered along at its own pace and one to which you couldn’t help but tap your foot. The evening was really in full swing now and the audience were lapping up what was being presented to them, some of them were even dancing at the back. One of Lee’s most biting and satirical tracks, Parasiteful was given even more caustic acidity in the live arena. Biting lyrics delivered in a hard and unforgiving manner, you see the other side to this usually affable man’s nature and it went down a storm with the audience. This lengthy and utterly brilliant set came to a close with the upbeat Wonderful Day, a song that gets you singing along and bouncing in time with the music and the musicians were all on top form as they delivered a great crowd pleasing rendition. Everyone was one their feet cheering but, as you already knew, it didn’t finish there as shouts of ‘More, more…!’ echoed around the room, yep, it’s time for the encore!

Lee knew he wasn’t going to get away with just one encore song and delivered two emphatic encore tracks, following Come Friday Night with a resplendent version of Lindisfarne‘s Lady Eleanor that had everyone clapping and singing along and the dancers at the back were up once more! What a brilliant end to a wonderful evening of live music.

Lee Maddison and his fellow musicians had delivered a welcome antidote to the trials and tribulations that we deal with on a day to day basis. Believe me, if you get  a chance to see him play live then do anything you can to get there, even if it means selling your children, he really is that good!

And, on another note, please do support these amazing artists, they don’t do it for the money and, without us attending gigs and buying their music, they wouldn’t be able to do it at all!

You can buy ‘Sixty Minutes An Hour’ here:

‘Maddison’s Thread – Sixty Minutes An Hour’