The Progressive Aspect

This news story was originally published here: https://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2019/11/28/steve-hackett-9/

Symphony Hall, Birmingham
Monday, 18th November 2019

There is so much love for the music of Genesis from the years 1970 to 1977, and Steve Hackett, guitarist with the band during that period, has revitalised that affection with his live Genesis Revisited tours. Following the magnificent orchestral tour of 2018, Hackett and band have returned to perform the classic Selling England by the Pound album in its entirety on the latest tour, Steve Hackett’s most successful to date.

The first set was devoted to Hackett solo material, and with 2019 marking the 40th anniversary of Spectral Mornings, one of Hackett’s most popular solo albums, it was with the first track Every Day that he opened the show. This was an early opportunity for Hackett to harmonise with vocalist Nad Sylvan and then demonstrate his sublime guitar technique with a soaring solo.

Nad Sylvan and Steve Hackett

Hackett was superbly supported by his regular touring band of Rob Townsend (flute, sax, keyboard, percussion), Roger King (keyboards), Nad Sylvan (vocals, percussion), Jonas Reingold (bass), together with renowned drummer Craig Blundell (Frost*, Steven Wilson) making his tour debut with the band.

Knowing that the faithful had assembled in anticipation of hearing Selling England in full, Hackett joked that they would have to listen to some modern stuff first. Three tracks from his latest album At the Edge of Light followed, including Under the Eye of the Sun. Hackett has already declared his pride in this piece which will, no doubt, become a concert favourite for years to come.

Returning to Spectral Mornings, Hackett was joined by brother John on flute for the gentle, acoustic folk melody of The Virgin and the Gypsy. Tigermoth, inspired by war-time pilot memoirs, is a much more aggressive piece for Hackett to get his teeth into and he switches styles from delicate patterns to hard-edged riffs to soaring solos with such ease.

John & Steve Hackett

John Hackett returns to duet with Steve on the pretty, oriental The Red Flower of Tachai Blooms Everywhere. The tone switches and Clocks – The Angel of Mons paints a brutal image of the First World War battle, a golden opportunity for Blundell to introduce his skills with an extended exploration of his drum kit.

The eagerly-anticipated second set featured Selling England and a cheer greeted the first sight of Nad Sylvan, shrouded in mist and cutting a Dickensian figure, bedecked in crumpled topper and overcoat, as he delivered the iconic opening lines of Dancing With the Moonlit Knight. Filling Peter Gabriel’s shoes for Selling England is a huge ask but Sylvan, whose tones are not dissimilar to Gabriel’s, excelled. He created his own theatrical character, a chance to ‘stamp and shout’ as he made these songs his own.

Nad Sylvan's Dickensian outfit

Sylvan remained in character for an extended I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe) which included a free-form jazz interlude from Rob Townsend’s sax of and a guitar solo from Hackett. There are so many opportunities within Selling England for the band to display their individual talents and Firth of Firth was the first for Roger King on keys, ahead of one of Hackett’s most celebrated solos.

Each track concluded to a round of rapturous applause. Selling England is Hackett’s favourite outing with Genesis and highly regarded among the fans, so it was a delight to hear three songs rarely, if ever, performed live. More Fool Me is a tender ballad, sensitively delivered by Sylvan with Hackett on acoustic guitar, while The Battle of Epping Forest was Genesis at their most playful, an epic tale of gangland rivalry with a host of unsavoury characters – Liquid Len, Bob the Nob, Harold Demure, etc. – for Sylvan to animate.

After The Ordeal, of Epping Forest, we are treated to what Hackett describes as a ‘pallet-cleanser’, a delightful instrumental and one of Hackett’s finest, yet understated moments. Selling England has so many obvious highlights, it is easy to overlook just how many guitar passages and solos link the whole, weaving their magic, almost anonymously, through the fabric of the album. Watching Hackett standing centre stage, leading this celebration of Genesis at their theatrical best, I was struck by the beauty of another sublime yet measured guitar solo. Back in Gabriel’s day Hackett would be seated, to the left, quietly delivering the goods almost unnoticed. His contribution to this treasured era of Genesis’s catalogue was immense, and to Selling England in particular. It is easy to see why he loves this album so, and it is fitting that he is now getting the recognition for his contribution and for keeping this music alive.

  • Hackett Gallery_01
  • Hackett Gallery_03
  • Hackett Gallery_02
  • Hackett Gallery_04
  • Hackett Gallery_05
  • Hackett Gallery_06
  • Hackett Gallery_09
  • Hackett Gallery_07
  • Hackett Gallery_08
  • Hackett Gallery_10

The Cinema Show has always been a live staple, again magnificently delivered by all, and time to mention the fantastic light show, a kaleidoscope of colour throughout. The Dickensian Sylvan returned for the finale, the pun-laden Aisle of Plenty, and a special treat: Deja Vu, rehearsed by the band but never completed and left off the album, “is something Pete brought to the band,” says Hackett, “but not finished until hundreds of years later! Nad sings this beautifully,” he added.

To close the evening, Dance On A Volcano was greeted with a standing ovation demanding the obligatory encore, the signature Los Endos embellished with passages from Hackett’s Myopia and Slogans. John Hackett rejoined the band on stage as they gathered to salute the audience, a truly memorable night.

Steve Hackett UK Tour 2019 - Curtain call

SETLIST
Every Day
Under the Eye of the Sun
Fallen Walls and Pedestals
Beasts of Our Time
The Virgin and the Gypsy
Tiger Moth
Spectral Mornings
The Red Flower of Tachai Blooms Everywhere
Clocks – Angel of Mons
Dancing With the Moonlit Knight
I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)
Firth of Fifth
More Fool Me
The Battle of Epping Forest
After the Ordeal
The Cinema Show
Aisle of Plenty
Deja Vu
Dance On A Volcano
~ Encore:
Myopia / Los Endos / Slogans / Los Endos

MUSICIANS
Steve Hackett – Guitar, Vocals
Rob Townsend – Flute, Sax, Keyboard, Percussion
Roger King – Keyboards
Nad Sylvan – Vocals, Percussion
Jonas Reingold – Bass
Craig Blundell – Drums & Percussion
~ With:
John Hackett – Flute

LINKS
Steve Hackett – Website | Facebook | Twitter

Geoff Ford (Photojournalist) – Website

This news story was originally published here: http://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2019/11/28/steve-hackett-9/

Symphony Hall, Birmingham
Monday, 18th November 2019

There is so much love for the music of Genesis from the years 1970 to 1977, and Steve Hackett, guitarist with the band during that period, has revitalised that affection with his live Genesis Revisited tours. Following the magnificent orchestral tour of 2018, Hackett and band have returned to perform the classic Selling England by the Pound album in its entirety on the latest tour, Steve Hackett’s most successful to date.

The first set was devoted to Hackett solo material, and with 2019 marking the 40th anniversary of Spectral Mornings, one of Hackett’s most popular solo albums, it was with the first track Every Day that he opened the show. This was an early opportunity for Hackett to harmonise with vocalist Nad Sylvan and then demonstrate his sublime guitar technique with a soaring solo.

Nad Sylvan and Steve Hackett

Hackett was superbly supported by his regular touring band of Rob Townsend (flute, sax, keyboard, percussion), Roger King (keyboards), Nad Sylvan (vocals, percussion), Jonas Reingold (bass), together with renowned drummer Craig Blundell (Frost*, Steven Wilson) making his tour debut with the band.

Knowing that the faithful had assembled in anticipation of hearing Selling England in full, Hackett joked that they would have to listen to some modern stuff first. Three tracks from his latest album At the Edge of Light followed, including Under the Eye of the Sun. Hackett has already declared his pride in this piece which will, no doubt, become a concert favourite for years to come.

Returning to Spectral Mornings, Hackett was joined by brother John on flute for the gentle, acoustic folk melody of The Virgin and the Gypsy. Tigermoth, inspired by war-time pilot memoirs, is a much more aggressive piece for Hackett to get his teeth into and he switches styles from delicate patterns to hard-edged riffs to soaring solos with such ease.

John & Steve Hackett

John Hackett returns to duet with Steve on the pretty, oriental The Red Flower of Tachai Blooms Everywhere. The tone switches and Clocks – The Angel of Mons paints a brutal image of the First World War battle, a golden opportunity for Blundell to introduce his skills with an extended exploration of his drum kit.

The eagerly-anticipated second set featured Selling England and a cheer greeted the first sight of Nad Sylvan, shrouded in mist and cutting a Dickensian figure, bedecked in crumpled topper and overcoat, as he delivered the iconic opening lines of Dancing With the Moonlit Knight. Filling Peter Gabriel’s shoes for Selling England is a huge ask but Sylvan, whose tones are not dissimilar to Gabriel’s, excelled. He created his own theatrical character, a chance to ‘stamp and shout’ as he made these songs his own.

Nad Sylvan's Dickensian outfit

Sylvan remained in character for an extended I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe) which included a free-form jazz interlude from Rob Townsend’s sax of and a guitar solo from Hackett. There are so many opportunities within Selling England for the band to display their individual talents and Firth of Firth was the first for Roger King on keys, ahead of one of Hackett’s most celebrated solos.

Each track concluded to a round of rapturous applause. Selling England is Hackett’s favourite outing with Genesis and highly regarded among the fans, so it was a delight to hear three songs rarely, if ever, performed live. More Fool Me is a tender ballad, sensitively delivered by Sylvan with Hackett on acoustic guitar, while The Battle of Epping Forest was Genesis at their most playful, an epic tale of gangland rivalry with a host of unsavoury characters – Liquid Len, Bob the Nob, Harold Demure, etc. – for Sylvan to animate.

After The Ordeal, of Epping Forest, we are treated to what Hackett describes as a ‘pallet-cleanser’, a delightful instrumental and one of Hackett’s finest, yet understated moments. Selling England has so many obvious highlights, it is easy to overlook just how many guitar passages and solos link the whole, weaving their magic, almost anonymously, through the fabric of the album. Watching Hackett standing centre stage, leading this celebration of Genesis at their theatrical best, I was struck by the beauty of another sublime yet measured guitar solo. Back in Gabriel’s day Hackett would be seated, to the left, quietly delivering the goods almost unnoticed. His contribution to this treasured era of Genesis’s catalogue was immense, and to Selling England in particular. It is easy to see why he loves this album so, and it is fitting that he is now getting the recognition for his contribution and for keeping this music alive.

  • Hackett Gallery_01
  • Hackett Gallery_03
  • Hackett Gallery_02
  • Hackett Gallery_04
  • Hackett Gallery_05
  • Hackett Gallery_06
  • Hackett Gallery_09
  • Hackett Gallery_07
  • Hackett Gallery_08
  • Hackett Gallery_10

The Cinema Show has always been a live staple, again magnificently delivered by all, and time to mention the fantastic light show, a kaleidoscope of colour throughout. The Dickensian Sylvan returned for the finale, the pun-laden Aisle of Plenty, and a special treat: Deja Vu, rehearsed by the band but never completed and left off the album, “is something Pete brought to the band,” says Hackett, “but not finished until hundreds of years later! Nad sings this beautifully,” he added.

To close the evening, Dance On A Volcano was greeted with a standing ovation demanding the obligatory encore, the signature Los Endos embellished with passages from Hackett’s Myopia and Slogans. John Hackett rejoined the band on stage as they gathered to salute the audience, a truly memorable night.

Steve Hackett UK Tour 2019 - Curtain call

SETLIST
Every Day
Under the Eye of the Sun
Fallen Walls and Pedestals
Beasts of Our Time
The Virgin and the Gypsy
Tiger Moth
Spectral Mornings
The Red Flower of Tachai Blooms Everywhere
Clocks – Angel of Mons
Dancing With the Moonlit Knight
I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)
Firth of Fifth
More Fool Me
The Battle of Epping Forest
After the Ordeal
The Cinema Show
Aisle of Plenty
Deja Vu
Dance On A Volcano
~ Encore:
Myopia / Los Endos / Slogans / Los Endos

MUSICIANS
Steve Hackett – Guitar, Vocals
Rob Townsend – Flute, Sax, Keyboard, Percussion
Roger King – Keyboards
Nad Sylvan – Vocals, Percussion
Jonas Reingold – Bass
Craig Blundell – Drums & Percussion
~ With:
John Hackett – Flute

LINKS
Steve Hackett – Website | Facebook | Twitter

Geoff Ford (Photojournalist) – Website

This news story was originally published here: http://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2019/11/27/kayo-dot-blasphemy/

Toby Driver is one of a few true musical visionaries in this corner of creativity, but there’s a good chance you have not heard of him. For many years now he has been steering the good ship Kayo Dot into waters barely charted, and this new album Blasphemy is the latest instalment on that long, strange trip.

The best bands redefine themselves from album to album. While refinement might be a target, simple repetition of a successful formula is never on the menu, and because of that they never fit neatly into one category. The veteran New York-based Kayo Dot are one such example. I am reliably informed that Kayo Dot used to, or maybe still do, fall within a loose term by the name of “avant metal”, whatever that is. This handy catch-all might reference their unique way with electric and electronic instrumentation and the more than occasionally visceral noise they produce, but “Metal” is now such a fractured genre it makes “Prog” and all its many labels seem simple by comparison – but we do not care for labels, do we?

Kayo Dot’s previous three albums have seen them move from the grinding of tectonic plates, powered by unfathomable forces, on the maleficent and magnificent Hubardo, and onward through the Gothic Kosmische music of Coffins on Io, and then out on a limb with some dark and heavily synth-inflected tuneage on the swirling Plastic House on Base of Sky. The distillation of all this leads us right here to Blasphemy. This new album is based around a novel by Jason Byron, who has a long history with the band. A future-retro sci-fi seafaring story weaves its way through the album, courtesy of Jason’s lyrics, which I will not spoil for you here, you’ll just have to investigate further. Suffice to say, in a similar manner to his work on Hubardo, Jason conjures an otherworldly vision that transports the listener across the wide-open oceans of their imagination to distant alien shores.

Given the wilful musical eclecticism of the past Kayo Dot, one shouldn’t be surprised by the unexpected twists and turns this vessel takes on its journey to a peculiar redemption. The music on offer here is as occasionally strange as you’d expect, and the layers of production make for some interesting constructs. Even the dreaded autotune gets wheeled out during An Eye For A Lie, a composition that seems to be facing all ways at once. It is with some relief we land on Lost Souls on Lonesome’s Way, to find it inhabiting a more familiar Gothic post-everything territory.

Toby Driver’s voice has always been a step beyond the average, and now inhabits an alternative crooner’s bar stool on the upper deck, and is often used as another instrument, soaring effortlessly above the churning seas below. At a shade over eight minutes Vanishing Act in Blinding Grey is the longest song here, and it is a mystical and mythical tale, where not a second is wasted. “Passing time across the clouds of Q’Sh”, the music builds from becalmed beginnings to a tumultuous roiling tempest, the urgency in the voices ever more pressing. The lyrics and music combine to make an evocative whole, and the album highlight.

The story wends its magickal and metaphysical way, and we find ourselves ending on a prophecy of dark intent, open to interpretation. The triumph of the yin over the yang is only the half of it. Musically, Blasphemy – A Prophecy rollicks along on a tribal rhythm, and big keyboards. It does not get much more Gothic than this.

To be completely honest, and for all the above blather, my jury is still out on this album. There are more than a few intriguing songs, and Vanishing Act… is something of a triumph. However, after a few listens Blasphemy still refuses to be any more than the sum of its parts, and because of that I am having trouble getting a handle on it. It’s not a bad album, so maybe it will grow on me, we’ll see. I can’t just leave it there…

TRACK LISTING
01. Ocean Cumulonimbus (3:59)
02. The Something Opal (5:43)
03. Lost Souls on Lonesome’s Way (5:20)
04. Vanishing Act in Blinding Gray (8:07)
05. Turbine, Hook, and Haul (6:09)
06. Midnight Mystic Rise and Fall (5:33)
07. An Eye for a Lie (5:21)
08. Blasphemy: A Prophecy (4:13)

Total Time – 44:27

[There are various special editions of the album (see Bandcamp link below), which all include a 6-track bonus album of remixes by Matthew J. Serra aka WET MATH.]

MUSICIANS
Toby Driver – Guitar, Bass, Synths, Vocals, Percussion, Electronics, Production
Ron Varod – Guitar
Leonardo Didkovsky – Drums
Phillip Price – Drums
Tim Byrnes – Trumpet (on “Turbine, Hook, and Haul”)
Timm Mason – Additional Synth Design
Matthew Serra – Remixes

ADDITIONAL INFO
Record Label: Prophecy
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 6th September 2019

LINKS
Kayo Dot – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp

This news story was originally published here: https://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2019/11/27/kayo-dot-blasphemy/

Toby Driver is one of a few true musical visionaries in this corner of creativity, but there’s a good chance you have not heard of him. For many years now he has been steering the good ship Kayo Dot into waters barely charted, and this new album Blasphemy is the latest instalment on that long, strange trip.

The best bands redefine themselves from album to album. While refinement might be a target, simple repetition of a successful formula is never on the menu, and because of that they never fit neatly into one category. The veteran New York-based Kayo Dot are one such example. I am reliably informed that Kayo Dot used to, or maybe still do, fall within a loose term by the name of “avant metal”, whatever that is. This handy catch-all might reference their unique way with electric and electronic instrumentation and the more than occasionally visceral noise they produce, but “Metal” is now such a fractured genre it makes “Prog” and all its many labels seem simple by comparison – but we do not care for labels, do we?

Kayo Dot’s previous three albums have seen them move from the grinding of tectonic plates, powered by unfathomable forces, on the maleficent and magnificent Hubardo, and onward through the Gothic Kosmische music of Coffins on Io, and then out on a limb with some dark and heavily synth-inflected tuneage on the swirling Plastic House on Base of Sky. The distillation of all this leads us right here to Blasphemy. This new album is based around a novel by Jason Byron, who has a long history with the band. A future-retro sci-fi seafaring story weaves its way through the album, courtesy of Jason’s lyrics, which I will not spoil for you here, you’ll just have to investigate further. Suffice to say, in a similar manner to his work on Hubardo, Jason conjures an otherworldly vision that transports the listener across the wide-open oceans of their imagination to distant alien shores.

Given the wilful musical eclecticism of the past Kayo Dot, one shouldn’t be surprised by the unexpected twists and turns this vessel takes on its journey to a peculiar redemption. The music on offer here is as occasionally strange as you’d expect, and the layers of production make for some interesting constructs. Even the dreaded autotune gets wheeled out during An Eye For A Lie, a composition that seems to be facing all ways at once. It is with some relief we land on Lost Souls on Lonesome’s Way, to find it inhabiting a more familiar Gothic post-everything territory.

Toby Driver’s voice has always been a step beyond the average, and now inhabits an alternative crooner’s bar stool on the upper deck, and is often used as another instrument, soaring effortlessly above the churning seas below. At a shade over eight minutes Vanishing Act in Blinding Grey is the longest song here, and it is a mystical and mythical tale, where not a second is wasted. “Passing time across the clouds of Q’Sh”, the music builds from becalmed beginnings to a tumultuous roiling tempest, the urgency in the voices ever more pressing. The lyrics and music combine to make an evocative whole, and the album highlight.

The story wends its magickal and metaphysical way, and we find ourselves ending on a prophecy of dark intent, open to interpretation. The triumph of the yin over the yang is only the half of it. Musically, Blasphemy – A Prophecy rollicks along on a tribal rhythm, and big keyboards. It does not get much more Gothic than this.

To be completely honest, and for all the above blather, my jury is still out on this album. There are more than a few intriguing songs, and Vanishing Act… is something of a triumph. However, after a few listens Blasphemy still refuses to be any more than the sum of its parts, and because of that I am having trouble getting a handle on it. It’s not a bad album, so maybe it will grow on me, we’ll see. I can’t just leave it there…

TRACK LISTING
01. Ocean Cumulonimbus (3:59)
02. The Something Opal (5:43)
03. Lost Souls on Lonesome’s Way (5:20)
04. Vanishing Act in Blinding Gray (8:07)
05. Turbine, Hook, and Haul (6:09)
06. Midnight Mystic Rise and Fall (5:33)
07. An Eye for a Lie (5:21)
08. Blasphemy: A Prophecy (4:13)

Total Time – 44:27

[There are various special editions of the album (see Bandcamp link below), which all include a 6-track bonus album of remixes by Matthew J. Serra aka WET MATH.]

MUSICIANS
Toby Driver – Guitar, Bass, Synths, Vocals, Percussion, Electronics, Production
Ron Varod – Guitar
Leonardo Didkovsky – Drums
Phillip Price – Drums
Tim Byrnes – Trumpet (on “Turbine, Hook, and Haul”)
Timm Mason – Additional Synth Design
Matthew Serra – Remixes

ADDITIONAL INFO
Record Label: Prophecy
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 6th September 2019

LINKS
Kayo Dot – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp

This news story was originally published here: http://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2019/11/26/marillion-with-friends-from-the-orchestra/

St. David’s Hall, Cardiff
Saturday, 16th November, 2019

‘WHY IS NOTHING EVER TRUE?’

Climate Change… Humanitarian Crisis… Fake News… Super-Rich oligarchs running society…

When did Marillion start to reflect the important issues of our time – the Zeitgeist? When did Marillion start to seem almost ‘cool’?

A band that have been going since the early 1980s, and have eternally been perceived as being unfashionable or terminally ‘uncool’ by those who presume to define what acceptable or ‘cool’ is, are producing well-respected material with real political and cultural resonance (even achieving 5-star reviews in The Guardian!). They are playing these impactful songs to sell-out national audiences and easily managed to sell out the Royal Albert Hall TWICE in one week. Well, many long term fans will tell you that Marillion have always focused some of their material on important issues, even if others persisted in making lazy or misinformed assumptions about the nature of the band and their music. Nevertheless, it has to be said that with songs like Gaza and their most recent album F.E.A.R., Marillion have focused powerfully and insightfully on crucial and controversial subjects. They have bravely eschewed the touring strategy of many other veteran bands who indulge in virtual ‘Jukebox’ tours, playing all the tired old ‘Golden Oldies’ and Hits, instead choosing to play their recent and most ambitious pieces that are not afraid to say important things about our modern world.

Marillion - photo by Alan Jones

No compromise. Marillion go their own sweet way, preferring artistic freedom of expression rather than chasing audiences or diluting their material. A sold out St. David’s Hall in Cardiff with its outstanding sonic environment is a perfect venue for Marillion to perform, and on this night they are on fire, as the cameras roll for a future live Blu-Ray release. Marillion come out and hit the audience straight between the eyes with a massively powerful Gaza, laying bare the horror of the experience of those having to live there, faced with the constant threat of violence and deprivation:

“There are grieving mothers on both sides of the wire
And everyone deserves a chance to feel the future just might be bright
But any way you look at it – whichever point of view
For us to have to live like this
It just ain’t right, it just ain’t right, it just ain’t right.”

Marillion brew up a musical avalanche of Eastern influences and power chords with the orchestra adding extra weight to the imagery. Steve Hogarth is clearly impassioned and moved by the impact of the music and the meaning in the lyrics, prowling around the stage. Reports of Hogarth’s voice needing a rest earlier in the week seem curious as he is in very fine voice tonight, alternating between full-on rock vocals with more gentle vocal passages with ease. Steve Rothery’s guitar wails in grief and Ian Moseley handles the complex switches in tempo, feel and changes of rhythm with consummate skill. Hogarth intones menacingly, darkly touching on the apocalyptic poetry of Yeats before concluding with a hint of hope:

“Like a nightmare rose up from this small strip of land,
Slouching towards Bethlehem…
… With the love of our family
We can rise above anything
Someday surely someone must help us…”

Anyone expecting a relatively cosy walk down memory lane, playing the ‘hits’ like Kayleigh or Lavender, are in for rather a shock! The politics eases off for Beyond You from the classic 1995 and recently re-released album Afraid of Sunlight. This is a song which has really benefited from the arrangement with orchestral players on the recent With Friends from the Orchestra album of re-modelled songs, with the strings enhancing the sense of pathos on the opening section and really enhancing the Phil Spector ‘Wall of Sound’ style of the more up-tempo part.

Marillion - photo by Alan Jones

Familiar Marillion themes of water and death appear through the set – portrayed both elegiacally and dramatically in Estonia and the rarely played epic Ocean Cloud. Interestingly, Hogarth explains the origins of Estonia, which resulted from a chance encounter on a plane with a documentary maker who was the only British survivor from the sinking of the ‘Estonia’ in the Baltic in 1994. The filmmaker told him the whole story, in which he witnessed many dying around him, clinging to the upturned hull of a capsized lifeboat for five hours as those around him were swept to their deaths – it’s a sobering story and gives the ensuing performance more resonance, with an orchestral introduction and suitably liquid strings in the mid-section. It’s a starkly beautiful piece and simply one of the best songs the Hogarth-era Marillion have ever produced, played with real feeling and subtlety… but personally I did miss the more subtle balalaika style of guitar from the original version.

The power of water emerges again later in the show as Hogarth introduces the story of the long-distance ocean rower Don Allen who crossed the Atlantic TWICE in a rowing boat. This widescreen epic song is perfect for the augmentation of orchestral instruments with the strings giving a sweeping cinematic effect as the wonderfully evocative visuals are supplemented by sound effects and a tremendous and flawless band performance. It’s a real treat for the crowd to hear this rarity, and one can understand why Marillion just knew it would make a great basis for added orchestration, which adds suitable emphasis without over-powering the piece.

Hogarth announces Season’s End by recalling that he joined the band as “the impurity in the diamond” to make that first album with the band 30 years ago, and they wrote this song “and now it’s become current”. The theme seems more timely than ever and the ominous threat of climate change is conversely conveyed with a lovely interchange between Rothery’s guitar and the strings as they interweave in a swirling ascendancy with Mark Kelly’s keyboards to a stunning crescendo. The politics continues later with The Hollow Man from Brave, which features Steve Hogarth on keyboards centre stage, blending smoothly with the strings, especially the cello. The lyrics are not particularly political but the string of images of leaders such as Trump, Putin, Cameron and May behind a song called The Hollow Man have blindingly obvious connotations!

Marillion - photo by Alan Jones

Marillion’s last album, Fuck Everyone and Run (F.E.A.R.) had a tremendous impact and seemed to reinvigorate the band, reminding many that they were still out there and still producing worthy material. After the political imagery of The Hollow Man it seemed appropriate for them to play one of the F.E.A.R. epic pieces, The New Kings, which Hogarth introduces as his ‘Rant Song’, adding that it is an album which they “suspect is the attitude of most of the people that lead us”… with what’s on offer from the leaders in the forthcoming U.K. election, it’s impossible not to agree!

The New Kings is a truly remarkable piece which is scathing in theme and lyrically acerbic, with Hogarth singing repeatedly in falsetto:

“Fuck Everyone and Run, Fuck Everyone and Run, Fuck Everyone and Run…

Pete Trewavas anchors down this leviathan of a song with perfectly judged bass, as he does all night, and adds effective backing vocals. This is a real tour de force for the band and orchestra as pizzicato strings trip along with the players also adding backing vocals whilst Rothery’s guitar plaintively oozes regret. The dramatic Why is Nothing Ever True? section is stirring as a Spitfire flies across the screen accompanied by the sound of the horn and the band rises in a wave of power with Moseley and Trewavas driving the piece along, Mark Kelly weaving his keyboard sounds around the piece with skill and precision. Hogarth bitterly concludes:

“You Poor Sods have only yourselves to blame, On your knees peasant
You’re living for the New King, You’re living for the New King…”

This is certainly not a ‘feel-good’ Saturday night of fun and frolics – Marillion are up there punching out their uncompromising message… and the crowd are absolutely loving it.

After such intensity, Marillion moved on from the more cerebral to the starkly emotional as they played a truly heart-breaking version of The Sky Above the Rain, a showcase for the strings and one of the best Rothery performances in any song he has played, his guitar dripping with emotion. The main gig ends on a real rock out with Seperated Out, or perhaps that should read ‘ZEParated Out’ as the strings mischievously and enthusiastically slip in a few unmistakable bars of Kashmir, which is great fun.

Marillion - photo by Alan Jones

Fantastic Place seems an apt description for the venue tonight and it is a lovely piece for lush strings and Kelly’s keyboards, following the aforementioned Ocean Cloud in the first encore. The crowd go crazy hoping for a second encore and are rewarded with Hogarth returning with his musical cricket bat and unbelievably they launch into yet another epic with This Strange Engine, a deeply personal and autobiographical piece for Hogarth in which he pours out his heart with an assured and affectingly emotive vocal. It is yet another triumph for band and orchestra as they combine so smoothly in a live setting, adding great impact to the more dramatic sections and lovely touch in the more emotional parts, brilliantly performed by Hogarth, Trewavas, Moseley, Kelly, Rothery and ‘Friends’.

This was a stunning and outstanding performance from Marillion. They do not compromise and such a setlist, full of FOUR epic pieces and shot through with intense and important issues, may have been rather challenging for the more casual Saturday night gig-goer looking for some light relief! Make no mistake, this was a very entertaining gig with a charismatic vocalist, stellar performances from the whole band and orchestral players, along with dazzling and captivating projected images and spectacular lights – it’s a real ROCK show… but lightweight fun or a nostalgic trip down memory lane it ain’t!

Marillion just do what they want to, and they clearly want to express themselves on relevant contemporary issues and tell elegiac, dramatic stories… if you go to see Marillion you simply just have to go along with the ride.

Hopefully it will in some ways move you emotionally, amaze you and make you think. If it does none of these things, can I suggest checking your pulse?!

  • Marillion - photo by Alan Jones
  • Marillion - photo by Alan Jones
  • Marillion - photo by Alan Jones
  • Marillion - photo by Alan Jones
  • Marillion - photo by Alan Jones
  • Marillion - photo by Alan Jones
  • Marillion - photo by Alan Jones
  • Marillion - photo by Alan Jones
  • Marillion - photo by Alan Jones
  • Marillion - Photo By Alan Jones
  • Marillion - Photo By Alan Jones
  • Marillion - Photo By Alan Jones
  • Marillion - Photo By Alan Jones
  • Marillion - Photo By Alan Jones
  • Marillion - Photo By Alan Jones
  • Marillion - Photo By Alan Jones
  • Marillion - Photo By Alan Jones
  • Marillion - Photo By Alan Jones

[TPA would like to thank Alan Jones for the photos, used with his permission and the agreement of Lucy Jordache of Marillion management. TPA would also like to thank Paul Turner for the information regarding the Orchestral players.]

SETLIST
Gaza
Beyond You
Season’s End
Estonia
Hollow Man
The New Kings:
– i) Fuck Everyone and Run
– ii) Russia’s Locked Doors
– iii) A Scary Sky
– iv) Why is Nothing Ever True?
The Sky Above the Rain
Separated Out (including excerpt from Kashmir by Led Zeppelin)
~ Encore 1:
Ocean Cloud
Fantastic Place
~ Encore 2:
This Strange Engine

MUSICIANS
Steve Hogarth – Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards, Electronic Xylophone, ‘Cricket Bat’
Mark Kelly – Keyboards
Ian Moseley – Drums & Percussion
Steve Rothery – Guitars
Pete Trewavas – Bass Guitar, Pedals, Backing Vocals
With ‘Friends from the Orchestra’:
Sam Morris – French Horn
Emma Halnan – Flute
Nicole Miller – Viola
Maia Frankowski – Violin
Margaret Hermant – Violin
Annamie Osborne – Cello

LINKS
Marillion – Website | Facebook

This news story was originally published here: https://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2019/11/26/marillion-with-friends-from-the-orchestra/

St. David’s Hall, Cardiff
Saturday, 16th November, 2019

‘WHY IS NOTHING EVER TRUE?’

Climate Change… Humanitarian Crisis… Fake News… Super-Rich oligarchs running society…

When did Marillion start to reflect the important issues of our time – the Zeitgeist? When did Marillion start to seem almost ‘cool’?

A band that have been going since the early 1980s, and have eternally been perceived as being unfashionable or terminally ‘uncool’ by those who presume to define what acceptable or ‘cool’ is, are producing well-respected material with real political and cultural resonance (even achieving 5-star reviews in The Guardian!). They are playing these impactful songs to sell-out national audiences and easily managed to sell out the Royal Albert Hall TWICE in one week. Well, many long term fans will tell you that Marillion have always focused some of their material on important issues, even if others persisted in making lazy or misinformed assumptions about the nature of the band and their music. Nevertheless, it has to be said that with songs like Gaza and their most recent album F.E.A.R., Marillion have focused powerfully and insightfully on crucial and controversial subjects. They have bravely eschewed the touring strategy of many other veteran bands who indulge in virtual ‘Jukebox’ tours, playing all the tired old ‘Golden Oldies’ and Hits, instead choosing to play their recent and most ambitious pieces that are not afraid to say important things about our modern world.

Marillion - photo by Alan Jones

No compromise. Marillion go their own sweet way, preferring artistic freedom of expression rather than chasing audiences or diluting their material. A sold out St. David’s Hall in Cardiff with its outstanding sonic environment is a perfect venue for Marillion to perform, and on this night they are on fire, as the cameras roll for a future live Blu-Ray release. Marillion come out and hit the audience straight between the eyes with a massively powerful Gaza, laying bare the horror of the experience of those having to live there, faced with the constant threat of violence and deprivation:

“There are grieving mothers on both sides of the wire
And everyone deserves a chance to feel the future just might be bright
But any way you look at it – whichever point of view
For us to have to live like this
It just ain’t right, it just ain’t right, it just ain’t right.”

Marillion brew up a musical avalanche of Eastern influences and power chords with the orchestra adding extra weight to the imagery. Steve Hogarth is clearly impassioned and moved by the impact of the music and the meaning in the lyrics, prowling around the stage. Reports of Hogarth’s voice needing a rest earlier in the week seem curious as he is in very fine voice tonight, alternating between full-on rock vocals with more gentle vocal passages with ease. Steve Rothery’s guitar wails in grief and Ian Moseley handles the complex switches in tempo, feel and changes of rhythm with consummate skill. Hogarth intones menacingly, darkly touching on the apocalyptic poetry of Yeats before concluding with a hint of hope:

“Like a nightmare rose up from this small strip of land,
Slouching towards Bethlehem…
… With the love of our family
We can rise above anything
Someday surely someone must help us…”

Anyone expecting a relatively cosy walk down memory lane, playing the ‘hits’ like Kayleigh or Lavender, are in for rather a shock! The politics eases off for Beyond You from the classic 1995 and recently re-released album Afraid of Sunlight. This is a song which has really benefited from the arrangement with orchestral players on the recent With Friends from the Orchestra album of re-modelled songs, with the strings enhancing the sense of pathos on the opening section and really enhancing the Phil Spector ‘Wall of Sound’ style of the more up-tempo part.

Marillion - photo by Alan Jones

Familiar Marillion themes of water and death appear through the set – portrayed both elegiacally and dramatically in Estonia and the rarely played epic Ocean Cloud. Interestingly, Hogarth explains the origins of Estonia, which resulted from a chance encounter on a plane with a documentary maker who was the only British survivor from the sinking of the ‘Estonia’ in the Baltic in 1994. The filmmaker told him the whole story, in which he witnessed many dying around him, clinging to the upturned hull of a capsized lifeboat for five hours as those around him were swept to their deaths – it’s a sobering story and gives the ensuing performance more resonance, with an orchestral introduction and suitably liquid strings in the mid-section. It’s a starkly beautiful piece and simply one of the best songs the Hogarth-era Marillion have ever produced, played with real feeling and subtlety… but personally I did miss the more subtle balalaika style of guitar from the original version.

The power of water emerges again later in the show as Hogarth introduces the story of the long-distance ocean rower Don Allen who crossed the Atlantic TWICE in a rowing boat. This widescreen epic song is perfect for the augmentation of orchestral instruments with the strings giving a sweeping cinematic effect as the wonderfully evocative visuals are supplemented by sound effects and a tremendous and flawless band performance. It’s a real treat for the crowd to hear this rarity, and one can understand why Marillion just knew it would make a great basis for added orchestration, which adds suitable emphasis without over-powering the piece.

Hogarth announces Season’s End by recalling that he joined the band as “the impurity in the diamond” to make that first album with the band 30 years ago, and they wrote this song “and now it’s become current”. The theme seems more timely than ever and the ominous threat of climate change is conversely conveyed with a lovely interchange between Rothery’s guitar and the strings as they interweave in a swirling ascendancy with Mark Kelly’s keyboards to a stunning crescendo. The politics continues later with The Hollow Man from Brave, which features Steve Hogarth on keyboards centre stage, blending smoothly with the strings, especially the cello. The lyrics are not particularly political but the string of images of leaders such as Trump, Putin, Cameron and May behind a song called The Hollow Man have blindingly obvious connotations!

Marillion - photo by Alan Jones

Marillion’s last album, Fuck Everyone and Run (F.E.A.R.) had a tremendous impact and seemed to reinvigorate the band, reminding many that they were still out there and still producing worthy material. After the political imagery of The Hollow Man it seemed appropriate for them to play one of the F.E.A.R. epic pieces, The New Kings, which Hogarth introduces as his ‘Rant Song’, adding that it is an album which they “suspect is the attitude of most of the people that lead us”… with what’s on offer from the leaders in the forthcoming U.K. election, it’s impossible not to agree!

The New Kings is a truly remarkable piece which is scathing in theme and lyrically acerbic, with Hogarth singing repeatedly in falsetto:

“Fuck Everyone and Run, Fuck Everyone and Run, Fuck Everyone and Run…

Pete Trewavas anchors down this leviathan of a song with perfectly judged bass, as he does all night, and adds effective backing vocals. This is a real tour de force for the band and orchestra as pizzicato strings trip along with the players also adding backing vocals whilst Rothery’s guitar plaintively oozes regret. The dramatic Why is Nothing Ever True? section is stirring as a Spitfire flies across the screen accompanied by the sound of the horn and the band rises in a wave of power with Moseley and Trewavas driving the piece along, Mark Kelly weaving his keyboard sounds around the piece with skill and precision. Hogarth bitterly concludes:

“You Poor Sods have only yourselves to blame, On your knees peasant
You’re living for the New King, You’re living for the New King…”

This is certainly not a ‘feel-good’ Saturday night of fun and frolics – Marillion are up there punching out their uncompromising message… and the crowd are absolutely loving it.

After such intensity, Marillion moved on from the more cerebral to the starkly emotional as they played a truly heart-breaking version of The Sky Above the Rain, a showcase for the strings and one of the best Rothery performances in any song he has played, his guitar dripping with emotion. The main gig ends on a real rock out with Seperated Out, or perhaps that should read ‘ZEParated Out’ as the strings mischievously and enthusiastically slip in a few unmistakable bars of Kashmir, which is great fun.

Marillion - photo by Alan Jones

Fantastic Place seems an apt description for the venue tonight and it is a lovely piece for lush strings and Kelly’s keyboards, following the aforementioned Ocean Cloud in the first encore. The crowd go crazy hoping for a second encore and are rewarded with Hogarth returning with his musical cricket bat and unbelievably they launch into yet another epic with This Strange Engine, a deeply personal and autobiographical piece for Hogarth in which he pours out his heart with an assured and affectingly emotive vocal. It is yet another triumph for band and orchestra as they combine so smoothly in a live setting, adding great impact to the more dramatic sections and lovely touch in the more emotional parts, brilliantly performed by Hogarth, Trewavas, Moseley, Kelly, Rothery and ‘Friends’.

This was a stunning and outstanding performance from Marillion. They do not compromise and such a setlist, full of FOUR epic pieces and shot through with intense and important issues, may have been rather challenging for the more casual Saturday night gig-goer looking for some light relief! Make no mistake, this was a very entertaining gig with a charismatic vocalist, stellar performances from the whole band and orchestral players, along with dazzling and captivating projected images and spectacular lights – it’s a real ROCK show… but lightweight fun or a nostalgic trip down memory lane it ain’t!

Marillion just do what they want to, and they clearly want to express themselves on relevant contemporary issues and tell elegiac, dramatic stories… if you go to see Marillion you simply just have to go along with the ride.

Hopefully it will in some ways move you emotionally, amaze you and make you think. If it does none of these things, can I suggest checking your pulse?!

  • Marillion - photo by Alan Jones
  • Marillion - photo by Alan Jones
  • Marillion - photo by Alan Jones
  • Marillion - photo by Alan Jones
  • Marillion - photo by Alan Jones
  • Marillion - photo by Alan Jones
  • Marillion - photo by Alan Jones
  • Marillion - photo by Alan Jones
  • Marillion - photo by Alan Jones
  • Marillion - Photo By Alan Jones
  • Marillion - Photo By Alan Jones
  • Marillion - Photo By Alan Jones
  • Marillion - Photo By Alan Jones
  • Marillion - Photo By Alan Jones
  • Marillion - Photo By Alan Jones
  • Marillion - Photo By Alan Jones
  • Marillion - Photo By Alan Jones
  • Marillion - Photo By Alan Jones

[TPA would like to thank Alan Jones for the photos, used with his permission and the agreement of Lucy Jordache of Marillion management. TPA would also like to thank Paul Turner for the information regarding the Orchestral players.]

SETLIST
Gaza
Beyond You
Season’s End
Estonia
Hollow Man
The New Kings:
– i) Fuck Everyone and Run
– ii) Russia’s Locked Doors
– iii) A Scary Sky
– iv) Why is Nothing Ever True?
The Sky Above the Rain
Separated Out (including excerpt from Kashmir by Led Zeppelin)
~ Encore 1:
Ocean Cloud
Fantastic Place
~ Encore 2:
This Strange Engine

MUSICIANS
Steve Hogarth – Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards, Electronic Xylophone, ‘Cricket Bat’
Mark Kelly – Keyboards
Ian Moseley – Drums & Percussion
Steve Rothery – Guitars
Pete Trewavas – Bass Guitar, Pedals, Backing Vocals
With ‘Friends from the Orchestra’:
Sam Morris – French Horn
Emma Halnan – Flute
Nicole Miller – Viola
Maia Frankowski – Violin
Margaret Hermant – Violin
Annamie Osborne – Cello

LINKS
Marillion – Website | Facebook

This news story was originally published here: https://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2019/11/25/no-man-love-you-to-bits/

No-man return eleven years after their last album, Schoolyard Ghosts, with their new offering Love You To Bits; an album that is so different from previous recordings that it borders on genius. This is a concept album of sorts, dealing with the effects that love can have on the breakdown of a relationship, presented from two different perspectives. The album appears to be structured to mimic vinyl running time with two five-song cycles and a total running time of just over thirty minutes. The production was handled by no-man, mixing by Bruno Ellingham and mastering by Matt Colton.

Of all the Steve Wilson side projects, no-man, formed in 1987, has to be my personal favourite, mostly due to the magnificent voice and approach of Tim Bowness. This partnership appears to enhance both of their individual skills, coming together to create a wonderful whole. On this release they have not been afraid to push their musical boundaries in new directions, to spellbinding effect, creating an intriguing and interesting listen, perfectly timed and paced, to such an extent that you want to hit replay as soon as the closing notes fade.

The two connecting pieces use a mix of pop, rock and electronica, delivering lots of melody, big beats and great solos, all mixed with ambient and atmospheric textures. Into the mix comes the wonderful voice of Tim Bowness which appears to tie everything together so well.

The first series of five tracks gets off to an atmospheric start which shifts into an electronica feel. Tim’s voice fits well into this style before things get ramped up a bit with some more upfront drums. The tracks segue effortlessly into each other with linking themes, sounds and textures, at first this may appear repetitive, but far from it as these are integral to the idea of the pieces and repeated plays demonstrate hidden depths and the purpose behind it all. The fifth piece of the first track adds some lovely brass work, courtesy of the Dave Desmond Brass Quartet, which lifts the track to an excellent conclusion.

The second series of tracks continues with similar themes, sounds and textures but subtle changes continue to be added as things progress, the lyrics throughout the album chronicling the aftermath of a relationship break up. On Love you To Pieces 2, they use a voice modulation which certainly makes for an interesting and effective listen.

There’s an excellent two-fold effect with this album, it’s incredibly listenable throughout and also very danceable (if that’s your thing), in fact, you cannot help but foot tap along with it.

Overall an excellent return for no-man, demonstrating that they are still on form, not afraid to stretch themselves with some new directions and still turn out a quality listenable album.

So… do you wanna dance? Put this on and let’s go!

TRACK LISTING
01. Love You to Bits 1 (4:53)
02. Love You to Bits 2 (1:03)
03. Love You to Bits 3 (1:34)
04. Love You to Bits 4 (5:15)
05. Love You to Bits 5 (4:19)
06. Love You to Pieces 1 (6:03)
07. Love You to Pieces 2 (4:02)
08. Love You to Pieces 3 (3:03)
09. Love You to Pieces 4 (2:02)
10. Love You to Pieces 5 (3:44)

Total Time – 36:02

MUSICIANS
Tim Bowness – Vocals
Steve Wilson – Instruments
~ With Guests:
Adam Holzman – Keyboards
David Kollar – Guitar
Ash Soan – Drums
Peter Morgan – Bass
Dave Desmond Brass Quintet

ADDITIONAL INFO
Record Label: Caroline International / Universal
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 22nd November 2019

LINKS
no-man – Website | Facebook

This news story was originally published here: http://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2019/11/25/no-man-love-you-to-bits/

No-man return eleven years after their last album, Schoolyard Ghosts, with their new offering Love You To Bits; an album that is so different from previous recordings that it borders on genius. This is a concept album of sorts, dealing with the effects that love can have on the breakdown of a relationship, presented from two different perspectives. The album appears to be structured to mimic vinyl running time with two five-song cycles and a total running time of just over thirty minutes. The production was handled by no-man, mixing by Bruno Ellingham and mastering by Matt Colton.

Of all the Steve Wilson side projects, no-man, formed in 1987, has to be my personal favourite, mostly due to the magnificent voice and approach of Tim Bowness. This partnership appears to enhance both of their individual skills, coming together to create a wonderful whole. On this release they have not been afraid to push their musical boundaries in new directions, to spellbinding effect, creating an intriguing and interesting listen, perfectly timed and paced, to such an extent that you want to hit replay as soon as the closing notes fade.

The two connecting pieces use a mix of pop, rock and electronica, delivering lots of melody, big beats and great solos, all mixed with ambient and atmospheric textures. Into the mix comes the wonderful voice of Tim Bowness which appears to tie everything together so well.

The first series of five tracks gets off to an atmospheric start which shifts into an electronica feel. Tim’s voice fits well into this style before things get ramped up a bit with some more upfront drums. The tracks segue effortlessly into each other with linking themes, sounds and textures, at first this may appear repetitive, but far from it as these are integral to the idea of the pieces and repeated plays demonstrate hidden depths and the purpose behind it all. The fifth piece of the first track adds some lovely brass work, courtesy of the Dave Desmond Brass Quartet, which lifts the track to an excellent conclusion.

The second series of tracks continues with similar themes, sounds and textures but subtle changes continue to be added as things progress, the lyrics throughout the album chronicling the aftermath of a relationship break up. On Love you To Pieces 2, they use a voice modulation which certainly makes for an interesting and effective listen.

There’s an excellent two-fold effect with this album, it’s incredibly listenable throughout and also very danceable (if that’s your thing), in fact, you cannot help but foot tap along with it.

Overall an excellent return for no-man, demonstrating that they are still on form, not afraid to stretch themselves with some new directions and still turn out a quality listenable album.

So… do you wanna dance? Put this on and let’s go!

TRACK LISTING
01. Love You to Bits 1 (4:53)
02. Love You to Bits 2 (1:03)
03. Love You to Bits 3 (1:34)
04. Love You to Bits 4 (5:15)
05. Love You to Bits 5 (4:19)
06. Love You to Pieces 1 (6:03)
07. Love You to Pieces 2 (4:02)
08. Love You to Pieces 3 (3:03)
09. Love You to Pieces 4 (2:02)
10. Love You to Pieces 5 (3:44)

Total Time – 36:02

MUSICIANS
Tim Bowness – Vocals
Steve Wilson – Instruments
~ With Guests:
Adam Holzman – Keyboards
David Kollar – Guitar
Ash Soan – Drums
Peter Morgan – Bass
Dave Desmond Brass Quintet

ADDITIONAL INFO
Record Label: Caroline International / Universal
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 22nd November 2019

LINKS
no-man – Website | Facebook

This news story was originally published here: https://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2019/11/24/hrh-prog-viii/

Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London
26th & 27th October, 2019

After a few years in the beautiful location of the LLeyn Peninsula in North Wales, HRH Prog had to relocate their festival due to redevelopment of the site and chose to split it over two sites, in Sheffield and London over the same weekend with interchangeable line–ups for each day. The iconic Shepherd’s Bush Empire was the impressive setting for the London-based gigs. The change in venue received a mixed reception from festival-goers, many having become ‘Hafn-Y-Mor Veterans’, convening in North Wales for a weekend of rock and camaraderie, enjoying the holiday site location and the attractions of the surrounding mountains and seaside. Friendships have developed at the festival with many returning year after year to stay together, and much of the attraction of the event was the socialising and imbibing in the relaxed surroundings. However, there was one rather large factor which was also quite a disincentive for many attendees and artists – the remoteness of the location, seemingly making it difficult to get to from just about anywhere in the country!

London and Sheffield are clearly better connected with the rest of the country, and in the case of London the Shepherd’s Bush Empire gave many bands the opportunity to play a prestigious venue in the capital in front of large crowds – an opportunity a number of these bands would never have the opportunity to do without HRH Prog, and therefore their music was introduced to a wider range of fans.

For many of the veterans of Hafn-Y-Mor, the loss was the sense of community and relaxed atmosphere in an enclosed environment as the Empire was much more divided in terms of the type of ticket bought, with fewer ‘breakout areas’ for drinking and socialising, and fewer opportunities for buying CDs and merchandise. For new festival-goers, without that experience at previous events, it is likely that they enjoyed the opportunity to see a large number of bands with relative ease with good transport connections and plenty of hotel accommodation nearby for the more distant travellers.

So in short… some will be lamenting the move away from North Wales (and may not be returning again) whilst others will not particularly mind and will have enjoyed the convenience of this event and will be back next time – it is suspected that the loss of some will be easily replaced by the numbers of new attendees feeling more able to get to this event… so what about the music?

Due to the number of artists this review is a series of short impressions (some shorter than others!) rather than full-on reviews, from Leo Trimming (LT), Rosamund Tomlins (RT), Owy Thomas (OT) and Rod Moor-Bardell (RMB), with photos by Stan Siarkiewicz.


DAY 1 – SATURDAY:
MONKEY TRIAL

Monkey Trial kicked off the event for ‘Royalty’ and VIP ticket holder with a fairly ambient unchallenging Floydian or Tangerine Dream-ish trip flowing pleasantly over the growing crowd. Advertised as ‘unplugged’ there did seem rather a lot of electrified and amplified instrumentation from this trio. A gentle if not particularly remarkable introduction. (LT)

  • Monkey Trial At Hrh Prog Viii (15)
  • Monkey Trial At Hrh Prog Viii (11)
  • Monkey Trial At Hrh Prog Viii (8)
  • Monkey Trial At Hrh Prog Viii (3)

4th LABYRINTH

4th Labyrinth followed up with an entertaining set of rock with an engaging German frontman who specialised in amusing and witty banter with a good voice for Rock… and obviously a great taste in Hats!

This energetic set nicely warmed up the event. They were not really ‘Prog’ (whatever that really means), but certainly had some talent as a rock band. The crowd certainly seemed to enjoy them and joined in enthusiastically with some audience participation.
Rumours about the unfortunate fates of 1st, 2nd and 3rd Labyrinths cannot be verified. (LT)

  • 4Th Labyrinth At Hrh Viii (20)
  • 4Th Labyrinth At Hrh Viii (15)
  • 4Th Labyrinth At Hrh Viii (11)
  • 4Th Labyrinth At Hrh Viii (9)
  • 4Th Labyrinth At Hrh Viii (5)

KRANKSCHAFT

Well, at the time of the event I suggested that they should be called ‘Krankwind’ as it felt very Hawkwind in style, but that may have been a little harsh in all fairness. They played a solid and relentless set of powerful acid punk rock (as they describe themselves!), showing a lot of humour and wit in the way they used back projection messages, ostensibly from the frontman who was told not to talk too much as the band wanted to squeeze in more songs. One of them was:

‘THERE IS TOO MUCH MUSIC AND WE ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM’

which was very funny… and in all honesty that’s where Stan and I bailed out for a while, with no disrespect intended to the band who were putting on a good show – we just needed to eat! (LT)

  • Krankschaft At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (15)
  • Krankschaft At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (11)
  • Krankschaft At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (21)
  • Krankschaft At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (18)
  • Krankschaft At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (8)
  • Krankschaft At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (1)

.
– INTERLUDE –

That issue does lead us to raise whether the organisers need to build in some sort of meal break as it’s a relentless day… too much music, indeed?

We still had to check in to our HRH hotel room which had a surprising issue… we found two women (honestly!) already checked in!
Turns out this wasn’t part of some very unorthodox and questionable ‘Room Service’, just a mess up by the Hotel. We found ourselves upgraded to a super deluxe room so they dealt with it very well. The quality of the room and hotel was very good… certainly a step up from the accommodation at Hafn-Y-Mor, although to be fair that was always fine for me… I kind of miss the caravan ethos of that event! (LT)

PEARL HANDLED REVOLVER

This Bedford-based rock band returned to HRH Prog and put on a very high-quality set. They sound like they are from California circa 1968… and that’s not a bad thing.

Excellent Hammond organ work from Simon Rinaldo and rather nifty guitar work Andy Paris. They are a talented band who could really groove, clearly inspired by The Doors, channelling their inner Morrison and Manzarek!

New song Siren from their album Fantasy Reigns was graced with a great harpsichord sounding opening. Lengthy set closer In the Belly of The Whale was very atmospheric, featuring great harmonica and drums. Alongside his fine harmonica skills, charismatic frontman Lee Vernon sang with great power and poise. I saw this band at HRH a couple of years ago and wasn’t blown away then, but to be fair they won me over this time with a really good performance which the crowd loved. (LT)

  • Pearl Handled Revolver At Hrh Prog Viii London (17)
  • Pearl Handled Revolver At Hrh Prog Viii London (12)
  • Pearl Handled Revolver At Hrh Prog Viii London (23)
  • Pearl Handled Revolver At Hrh Prog Viii London (20)
  • Pearl Handled Revolver At Hrh Prog Viii London (5)
  • Pearl Handled Revolver At Hrh Prog Viii London (2)

SOFT MACHINE

HRH Prog moved into a ‘Jazz’ groove with some laid-back sounds from these legendary veterans. Theo Travis excelled on flute and sax, as he always does in any band he plays… and there have been plenty! John Etheridge on guitar soloed at times fluidly and wildly, at other times Soft Machine gently took us into other realms… cool man!

Another band I’ve seen at HRH Prog previously, and last time I was left rather scratching my head as this sort of jazzier music is not my usual cuppa to be honest, but I ‘got it’ this time. (LT)

  • Soft Machine At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (23)
  • Soft Machine At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (22)
  • Soft Machine At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (20)
  • Soft Machine At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (9)
  • Soft Machine At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (7)
  • Soft Machine At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (1)

CARAVAN

Caravan are ‘frequent flyers’ at HRH Prog, and with a set as assured and confident as this veteran band played, it’s hardly surprising why they keep being asked back. Pye Hastings’ distinctive voice still seems strong and his guitar playing was fluid. Multi-instrumentalist Geoffrey Richardson excelled on guitar, viola… spoons! He gave a fine and amusing spoon solo (I kid you not) and is a real star. They have been doing this for years and so are very well polished (the band, not the spoons!) but they also seem so engaged and enjoying the experience of playing live. Highlight of the set was the epic Nine Feet Underground from In the Land of Grey and Pink, along with Golf Girl and the title track from that classic 1971 album.

Jan Schelhaas was outstanding on keyboards, and all driven along deftly by Mark Walker on drums and Jim Leverton on bass.
The Caravan rolls on and on… and long may it do so if it’s this entertaining. (LT)

  • Caravan At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (34)
  • Caravan At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (31)
  • Caravan At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (16)
  • Caravan At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (15)
  • Caravan At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (14)
  • Caravan At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (11)
  • Caravan At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (5)

THE PINEAPPLE THIEF

[Fan Boy Alert!]
I have been a fan of The Pineapple Thief since 2004 and love this band – there, I’ve said it.

Seeing this band play a full Shepherd’s Bush Empire (as they did to the same sold-out venue last year) was a particular personal thrill. I have followed them since their very earliest days when they played tiny venues to three men and a dog… and myself… and then to see them end up headlining a major London venue to thousands of people and absolutely knocking it out of the park, like I always knew they could, felt special indeed.

Featuring the legendary King Crimson and Porcupine Tree drummer Gavin Harrison, The Pineapple Thief have become a very assured and finely tuned live outfit, with Bruce Soord’s soulful voice and fluid guitar leading the way. John Sykes nailed down the bass with his usual cool aplomb whilst Steve Kitch weaved patterns with his keyboards. The lighting was particularly striking and stark for the music. The set was populated with songs from across their career, including their successful 2018 album Dissolution. Perhaps knowing they are playing a more ‘Prog’ audience, they delve back to the extended Part Zero from 2004’s Variations on a Dream. Highlight of the set was the feedback-drenched pyrotechnics of 3000 Days with the usually restrained Soord demonstrating that he too can do the ‘guitar hero’ moves when necessary.

The Final Thing on my Mind from the first album Gavin Harrison played on with the band, 2016’s Your Wilderness, was a suitably epic and hypnotic set closer which generated a great ovation from many in the audience who had never experienced the power of ‘The Thief’.

Having said all that it was a little sad to see a significant portion of the audience leaving early, seemingly not taken with or open-minded enough to experience an immensely talented band probably more aligned to the alternative indie rock of Radiohead and far removed from playing ’70s inspired rock and ‘prog’. Full credit to the organisers for stretching the musical envelope of the gig with a truly ‘progressive’ modern band. The great majority of those that stayed, and that was most of the audience, responded to a great gig with acclaim. (LT)

  • The Pineapple Thief At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (6)
  • The Pineapple Thief At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (2)
  • The Pineapple Thief At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (20)
  • The Pineapple Thief At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (17)
  • The Pineapple Thief At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (15)
  • The Pineapple Thief At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (7)


DAY 2 – SUNDAY:

HATS OFF GENTLEMEN, IT’S ADEQUATE

I have seen Hat’s Off Gentleman a couple of times before and they have been fun, without seeming more than a “filler” act. The use of backing tracks on much of the material made them little more than a quirky pub act, in my opinion. However, at HRH Prog in Shepherd’s Bush things were very different for two reasons: firstly, it was acoustic, so no backing tracks. Secondly, and far more importantly for me, was the addition to the line-up of Malcolm Galloway’s wife on flute. The quirkiness was there, the humour was there, but now there were interesting counter melodies, the music acquired a depth and, dare I say it, seemed “prog” in a way much of the weekend did not. I understand that the flute was only there for the London leg of HRH Prog, but what a difference! One of the surprises of the weekend for me in an extremely positive way. (RMB)

Hats Off, with the addition of Kathryn Thomas, does make it something different, although at gigs with just the two of them (as they did at HRH Prog in Sheffield this weekend) they also do pretty well without her. Mark Gatland on bass is a pocket rocket power pack in himself, bouncing around, and Malcolm’s between-song banter is a clever juxtaposition of humour alongside the points he makes about inequality, hidden disabilities, and saving the planet. His genial oddball quirkiness is most endearing and his songs are from the heart and poignant at times, and rumbunctious and banner waving at others. (RT)

  • Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (15)
  • Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (12)
  • Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (6)
  • Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (4)
  • Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (2)
  • Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (1)

CAPTAIN STARFIGHTER & THE LOCKHEEDS

The group of musicians, including Dead Fred of Hawkwind & Inner City Unit, who occasionally guests with Hawklords, formed to pay homage to Robert Calvert songs, the band’s name inspired by his solo album ‘Captain Lockheed & The Starfighters’.

At HRH Prog 8, they played a couple of tracks from that album plus a pick of iconic Calvert songs from Hawkwind & the early Krankschaft era. It’s a tribute with original musicians but it’s taken on a jolly life of its own, & the collective brings to life songs we’d probably not hear any more otherwise along with some Hawkwind favourites. Clearly held dear in some quarters – essentially the gang down at the front of the stage – the appearance of legendary MC, DJ, & Kozfest organiser Kozmic Ken on stage with them cemented that affection + induced it in others too. The mirrored body-suited dancer, sporting various swirly props, added an extra visual dimension to the enthusiastic on stage space-rock-fest.

It was a little unexpected & slightly odd, with no credit given at the end, & the band didn’t appear particularly to notice the presence of the dancer, but perhaps it was meant as an up-to-date homage to Hawkwind’s Stacia.

Clearly enjoying themselves playing the music they love, they induced the first bit of audience dancing to the whole proceedings, and as part of the exuberant throng down the front, I delighted in their Facebook page’s urge “May the farce be with us”! (RT)

  • Captain Starfighter & The Lockheeds At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (12)
  • Captain Starfighter & The Lockheeds At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (27)
  • Captain Starfighter & The Lockheeds At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (23)
  • Captain Starfighter & The Lockheeds At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (16)
  • Captain Starfighter & The Lockheeds At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (11)
  • Captain Starfighter & The Lockheeds At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (7)
  • Captain Starfighter & The Lockheeds At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (1)

PRE-MED

I personally missed Captain Starfighter & the Lockheeds, but I needn’t have worried because Pre-Med presented us with a very ‘Hawkwind-esque’ set of psych stoner rock… and even played a Hawkwind cover, chanting “Hashish” repeatedly.

This was a competent, powerful band who played their take on psychedelic rock with enthusiasm, if a little short on originality or a distinctive approach.

So after one Hawkwind influenced or inspired band on Saturday (Kranschaft) and then starting Sunday with a Hawkwind off-shoot band (Captain Starfighter) we were presented with this Hawkwind-style band as a warm-up for the next act… and yep, you guessed it, we had another Hawkwind off-shoot band – the Hawklords!

Was this some sort of trip? Had we been somehow sucked through a Black Hole into the annual ‘HawkEaster’ convention?! (LT)

  • Pre-Med At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (25)
  • Pre-Med At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (18)
  • Pre-Med At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (15)
  • Pre-Med At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (8)
  • Pre-Med At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (5)
  • Pre-Med At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (2)

THE HAWKLORDS

The latest instalment in the ‘Hawkfest’… sorry, I meant HRH PROG, were The Hawklords, fronted by the legendary ‘Master of the Universe’ himself (apparently) Nik Turner… once of Hawkwind themselves (fancy that!).

A wall of ‘Hawkwind-y’ stoner rock psychedelically filled the auditorium with the aforementioned Mr Turner wibbling and wobbling a lot to some effect on saxophone… all very… Hawkwind-y (fancy that?!).

I lasted a few numbers but felt lost in an alternate Universe where EVERY band in existence were actually Hawkwind… and having had to consume a health challenging doner kebab at 1am the previous day, because we failed to take a meal break, we beat a retreat from ‘Hawkfest’ to a lovely Italian restaurant nearby… (please see previous remarks about meal breaks…), but don’t worry, we requested that the restaurant play Silver Machine on their music system to keep us all in the mood.

A quick straw poll taken in the restaurant gave the universal feedback from the many HRH Proggers taking sanctuary there that there was very clearly:

‘TOO MUCH HAWKWIND-Y STUFF!!’

Joking apart, the organisers need to consider how bands will interact on an all-day bill… and putting on a series of bands either directly off-shooting from or inspired by one particular band or artist may inevitably have the effect of not satisfying a significant portion of the crowd. The general feedback about the Sunday bands earlier in the day in London was clearly about an over-reliance on Hawkwind style bands… but then again some fans loved that line up… probably fans who love Hawkwind?!

  • Hawklords At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (31)
  • Hawklords At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (29)
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  • Hawklords At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (4)

THE VINTAGE CARAVAN

Well, this Icelandic power trio distinguished themselves with a high energy rock show of outstanding guitars, bass and drums… AND… (I hope you’re sitting down when you read this)… they sounded absolutely nothing like Hawkwind (fancy that!). They really impressed me with their refreshingly powerful rock show… and had NOTHING to do with classic Progressive rock band Caravan (which some were expecting!).

PS, Dear Vintage Caravan, next time you play HRH Prog please learn a cover of Silver Machine. (LT)

Well, slightly late to the party, fashionably so (maybe)… at 6.15 on the second day, and here we go with The Vintage Caravan. Bugger all to do with prog, but the Icelandic psychedelically tinged retro ’70s power trio are certainly talented and turn in an impressive performance. (OT)

  • Vintage Caravan At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (1)
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  • Vintage Caravan At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (10)
  • Vintage Caravan At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (3)

GONG

Gong saved us all… the whole planet (not just HRH Prog) with a mesmerising set of spaced out blissful psychedelia… THANK YOU GONG!!!

Rejoice, I’m Dead indeed… take me in your glorious arms, hit those stratospheric notes, blind me with your divine images and Ascend me to another Astral plain.

Kavus Torabi and his eccentric bandmates put on a dazzling set of inspiring psychedelic rock with gorgeous visual images to accentuate the mind-bending music and quirky lyrics. (LT)

  • Gong At Hrh Prog Viii (London)
  • Gong At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (34)
  • Gong At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (32)
  • Gong At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (30)
  • Gong At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (16)
  • Gong At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (11)
  • Gong At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (5)

URIAH HEEP

What can I say? They don’t really play progressive rock most of the time, more melodic/heavy rock, but they always deliver. Uriah Heep are a band that I have seen live more than thirty times and the reason that I continue to see the band live is two-fold – they play an impressive number of gigs per year, every year and their performances are incredibly professional and joyful. To watch a band play their set with huge grins on their faces, because they love what they are doing is amazingly energising.

To quote Uriah Heep’s latest album – they are “Living the Dream”, and for Mick Box it is a dream he has lived with Heep for almost fifty years. It is hard to fault anything about the performance because the band are such professionals; year after year they mix up the setlist with new and old songs. Unlike Deep Purple, a band of similar age and turnover of members, it seems no song from the back catalogue is considered “off-limits” – which is a source of joy to older fans, as who knows what may be in the setlist from one tour to another?

At Shepherd’s Bush, I believe the band surprised a few, it was a refreshing burst of upbeat musicianship. Old favourites such as Gypsy, Easy Livin’ and July Morning were interspersed with new songs Living the Dream and Grazed by Heaven, all delivered with energy and conviction.

Is it Prog?

Who cares? It is great music! (RMB)

  • Uriah Heep At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (13)
  • Uriah Heep At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (12)
  • Uriah Heep At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (50)
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  • Uriah Heep At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (21)
  • Uriah Heep At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (18)


[All photos by Stan Siarkiewicz, used with his kind permission.]


LINKS
HRH Prog – Website | Facebook
Monkey Trial – Facebook | Bandcamp
4th Labyrinth – Website | Facebook
Krankschaft – Website | Facebook
Pearl Handled Revolver – Website | Facebook
Soft Machine – Facebook
Caravan – Website | Facebook
The Pineapple Thief – Website | Facebook | Twitter
Hats Off Gentlemen, It’s Adequate – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp
Captain Starfighter & the Lockheeds – Facebook
Pre-Med – Website | Facebook
The Hawklords – Facebook
The Vintage Caravan – Website | Facebook
Gong – Website | Facebook
Uriah Heep – Website | Facebook

This news story was originally published here: http://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2019/11/24/hrh-prog-viii/

Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London
26th & 27th October, 2019

After a few years in the beautiful location of the LLeyn Peninsula in North Wales, HRH Prog had to relocate their festival due to redevelopment of the site and chose to split it over two sites, in Sheffield and London over the same weekend with interchangeable line–ups for each day. The iconic Shepherd’s Bush Empire was the impressive setting for the London-based gigs. The change in venue received a mixed reception from festival-goers, many having become ‘Hafn-Y-Mor Veterans’, convening in North Wales for a weekend of rock and camaraderie, enjoying the holiday site location and the attractions of the surrounding mountains and seaside. Friendships have developed at the festival with many returning year after year to stay together, and much of the attraction of the event was the socialising and imbibing in the relaxed surroundings. However, there was one rather large factor which was also quite a disincentive for many attendees and artists – the remoteness of the location, seemingly making it difficult to get to from just about anywhere in the country!

London and Sheffield are clearly better connected with the rest of the country, and in the case of London the Shepherd’s Bush Empire gave many bands the opportunity to play a prestigious venue in the capital in front of large crowds – an opportunity a number of these bands would never have the opportunity to do without HRH Prog, and therefore their music was introduced to a wider range of fans.

For many of the veterans of Hafn-Y-Mor, the loss was the sense of community and relaxed atmosphere in an enclosed environment as the Empire was much more divided in terms of the type of ticket bought, with fewer ‘breakout areas’ for drinking and socialising, and fewer opportunities for buying CDs and merchandise. For new festival-goers, without that experience at previous events, it is likely that they enjoyed the opportunity to see a large number of bands with relative ease with good transport connections and plenty of hotel accommodation nearby for the more distant travellers.

So in short… some will be lamenting the move away from North Wales (and may not be returning again) whilst others will not particularly mind and will have enjoyed the convenience of this event and will be back next time – it is suspected that the loss of some will be easily replaced by the numbers of new attendees feeling more able to get to this event… so what about the music?

Due to the number of artists this review is a series of short impressions (some shorter than others!) rather than full-on reviews, from Leo Trimming (LT), Rosamund Tomlins (RT), Owy Thomas (OT) and Rod Moor-Bardell (RMB), with photos by Stan Siarkiewicz.


DAY 1 – SATURDAY:
MONKEY TRIAL

Monkey Trial kicked off the event for ‘Royalty’ and VIP ticket holder with a fairly ambient unchallenging Floydian or Tangerine Dream-ish trip flowing pleasantly over the growing crowd. Advertised as ‘unplugged’ there did seem rather a lot of electrified and amplified instrumentation from this trio. A gentle if not particularly remarkable introduction. (LT)

  • Monkey Trial At Hrh Prog Viii (15)
  • Monkey Trial At Hrh Prog Viii (11)
  • Monkey Trial At Hrh Prog Viii (8)
  • Monkey Trial At Hrh Prog Viii (3)

4th LABYRINTH

4th Labyrinth followed up with an entertaining set of rock with an engaging German frontman who specialised in amusing and witty banter with a good voice for Rock… and obviously a great taste in Hats!

This energetic set nicely warmed up the event. They were not really ‘Prog’ (whatever that really means), but certainly had some talent as a rock band. The crowd certainly seemed to enjoy them and joined in enthusiastically with some audience participation.
Rumours about the unfortunate fates of 1st, 2nd and 3rd Labyrinths cannot be verified. (LT)

  • 4Th Labyrinth At Hrh Viii (20)
  • 4Th Labyrinth At Hrh Viii (15)
  • 4Th Labyrinth At Hrh Viii (11)
  • 4Th Labyrinth At Hrh Viii (9)
  • 4Th Labyrinth At Hrh Viii (5)

KRANKSCHAFT

Well, at the time of the event I suggested that they should be called ‘Krankwind’ as it felt very Hawkwind in style, but that may have been a little harsh in all fairness. They played a solid and relentless set of powerful acid punk rock (as they describe themselves!), showing a lot of humour and wit in the way they used back projection messages, ostensibly from the frontman who was told not to talk too much as the band wanted to squeeze in more songs. One of them was:

‘THERE IS TOO MUCH MUSIC AND WE ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM’

which was very funny… and in all honesty that’s where Stan and I bailed out for a while, with no disrespect intended to the band who were putting on a good show – we just needed to eat! (LT)

  • Krankschaft At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (15)
  • Krankschaft At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (11)
  • Krankschaft At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (21)
  • Krankschaft At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (18)
  • Krankschaft At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (8)
  • Krankschaft At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (1)

.
– INTERLUDE –

That issue does lead us to raise whether the organisers need to build in some sort of meal break as it’s a relentless day… too much music, indeed?

We still had to check in to our HRH hotel room which had a surprising issue… we found two women (honestly!) already checked in!
Turns out this wasn’t part of some very unorthodox and questionable ‘Room Service’, just a mess up by the Hotel. We found ourselves upgraded to a super deluxe room so they dealt with it very well. The quality of the room and hotel was very good… certainly a step up from the accommodation at Hafn-Y-Mor, although to be fair that was always fine for me… I kind of miss the caravan ethos of that event! (LT)

PEARL HANDLED REVOLVER

This Bedford-based rock band returned to HRH Prog and put on a very high-quality set. They sound like they are from California circa 1968… and that’s not a bad thing.

Excellent Hammond organ work from Simon Rinaldo and rather nifty guitar work Andy Paris. They are a talented band who could really groove, clearly inspired by The Doors, channelling their inner Morrison and Manzarek!

New song Siren from their album Fantasy Reigns was graced with a great harpsichord sounding opening. Lengthy set closer In the Belly of The Whale was very atmospheric, featuring great harmonica and drums. Alongside his fine harmonica skills, charismatic frontman Lee Vernon sang with great power and poise. I saw this band at HRH a couple of years ago and wasn’t blown away then, but to be fair they won me over this time with a really good performance which the crowd loved. (LT)

  • Pearl Handled Revolver At Hrh Prog Viii London (17)
  • Pearl Handled Revolver At Hrh Prog Viii London (12)
  • Pearl Handled Revolver At Hrh Prog Viii London (23)
  • Pearl Handled Revolver At Hrh Prog Viii London (20)
  • Pearl Handled Revolver At Hrh Prog Viii London (5)
  • Pearl Handled Revolver At Hrh Prog Viii London (2)

SOFT MACHINE

HRH Prog moved into a ‘Jazz’ groove with some laid-back sounds from these legendary veterans. Theo Travis excelled on flute and sax, as he always does in any band he plays… and there have been plenty! John Etheridge on guitar soloed at times fluidly and wildly, at other times Soft Machine gently took us into other realms… cool man!

Another band I’ve seen at HRH Prog previously, and last time I was left rather scratching my head as this sort of jazzier music is not my usual cuppa to be honest, but I ‘got it’ this time. (LT)

  • Soft Machine At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (23)
  • Soft Machine At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (22)
  • Soft Machine At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (20)
  • Soft Machine At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (9)
  • Soft Machine At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (7)
  • Soft Machine At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (1)

CARAVAN

Caravan are ‘frequent flyers’ at HRH Prog, and with a set as assured and confident as this veteran band played, it’s hardly surprising why they keep being asked back. Pye Hastings’ distinctive voice still seems strong and his guitar playing was fluid. Multi-instrumentalist Geoffrey Richardson excelled on guitar, viola… spoons! He gave a fine and amusing spoon solo (I kid you not) and is a real star. They have been doing this for years and so are very well polished (the band, not the spoons!) but they also seem so engaged and enjoying the experience of playing live. Highlight of the set was the epic Nine Feet Underground from In the Land of Grey and Pink, along with Golf Girl and the title track from that classic 1971 album.

Jan Schelhaas was outstanding on keyboards, and all driven along deftly by Mark Walker on drums and Jim Leverton on bass.
The Caravan rolls on and on… and long may it do so if it’s this entertaining. (LT)

  • Caravan At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (34)
  • Caravan At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (31)
  • Caravan At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (16)
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  • Caravan At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (5)

THE PINEAPPLE THIEF

[Fan Boy Alert!]
I have been a fan of The Pineapple Thief since 2004 and love this band – there, I’ve said it.

Seeing this band play a full Shepherd’s Bush Empire (as they did to the same sold-out venue last year) was a particular personal thrill. I have followed them since their very earliest days when they played tiny venues to three men and a dog… and myself… and then to see them end up headlining a major London venue to thousands of people and absolutely knocking it out of the park, like I always knew they could, felt special indeed.

Featuring the legendary King Crimson and Porcupine Tree drummer Gavin Harrison, The Pineapple Thief have become a very assured and finely tuned live outfit, with Bruce Soord’s soulful voice and fluid guitar leading the way. John Sykes nailed down the bass with his usual cool aplomb whilst Steve Kitch weaved patterns with his keyboards. The lighting was particularly striking and stark for the music. The set was populated with songs from across their career, including their successful 2018 album Dissolution. Perhaps knowing they are playing a more ‘Prog’ audience, they delve back to the extended Part Zero from 2004’s Variations on a Dream. Highlight of the set was the feedback-drenched pyrotechnics of 3000 Days with the usually restrained Soord demonstrating that he too can do the ‘guitar hero’ moves when necessary.

The Final Thing on my Mind from the first album Gavin Harrison played on with the band, 2016’s Your Wilderness, was a suitably epic and hypnotic set closer which generated a great ovation from many in the audience who had never experienced the power of ‘The Thief’.

Having said all that it was a little sad to see a significant portion of the audience leaving early, seemingly not taken with or open-minded enough to experience an immensely talented band probably more aligned to the alternative indie rock of Radiohead and far removed from playing ’70s inspired rock and ‘prog’. Full credit to the organisers for stretching the musical envelope of the gig with a truly ‘progressive’ modern band. The great majority of those that stayed, and that was most of the audience, responded to a great gig with acclaim. (LT)

  • The Pineapple Thief At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (6)
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DAY 2 – SUNDAY:

HATS OFF GENTLEMEN, IT’S ADEQUATE

I have seen Hat’s Off Gentleman a couple of times before and they have been fun, without seeming more than a “filler” act. The use of backing tracks on much of the material made them little more than a quirky pub act, in my opinion. However, at HRH Prog in Shepherd’s Bush things were very different for two reasons: firstly, it was acoustic, so no backing tracks. Secondly, and far more importantly for me, was the addition to the line-up of Malcolm Galloway’s wife on flute. The quirkiness was there, the humour was there, but now there were interesting counter melodies, the music acquired a depth and, dare I say it, seemed “prog” in a way much of the weekend did not. I understand that the flute was only there for the London leg of HRH Prog, but what a difference! One of the surprises of the weekend for me in an extremely positive way. (RMB)

Hats Off, with the addition of Malcolm’s wife, does make it something different, although at gigs with just the two of them (as they did at HRH Prog in Sheffield this weekend) they also do pretty well without her. Mark on bass is a pocket rocket power pack in himself, bouncing around, and Malcolm’s between-song banter is a clever juxtaposition of humour alongside the points he makes about inequality, hidden disabilities, and saving the planet. His genial oddball quirkiness is most endearing and his songs are from the heart and poignant at times, and rumbunctious and banner waving at others. (RT)

  • Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (15)
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CAPTAIN STARFIGHTER & THE LOCKHEEDS

The group of musicians, including Dead Fred of Hawkwind and Inner City Unit, who occasionally guests with Hawklords, formed to pay homage to Robert Calvert songs, the band’s name inspired by his solo album Captain Lockheed & The Starfighters.

At HRH Prog 8 they played a couple of tracks from that album plus a pick of iconic Calvert songs from Hawkwind and the early Krankschaft era. It’s a tribute with original musicians, but it has taken on a jolly life of its own, and the collective bring to life songs we’d probably not hear any more otherwise, along with some Hawkwind favourites. Clearly held dear in some quarters (essentially the gang down at the front of the stage) – the appearance of legendary MC, DJ, and Kozfest organiser Kozmic Ken on stage with them cemented that affection and induced it in others too.

They had a bonkers intervention bit when a dancer, appearing out of nowhere, came on in a mirrored body-suit sporting various swirly props, which definitely added an extra visual dimension to the enthusiastic on stage space-rock-fest! The others in the band on stage didn’t actually seem to notice this much – which was odd! They were clearly enjoying themselves playing the music they love and lived up to their Facebook Page acclamation ‘May the farce be with us!’.

It all seemed very ‘pally pally’ with those in the know in the audience from Hawkfest, but still entertaining. (RT)

  • Captain Starfighter & The Lockheeds At Hrh Prog Viii (London) (12)
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PRE-MED

I personally missed Captain Starfighter & the Lockheeds, but I needn’t have worried because Pre-Med presented us with a very ‘Hawkwind-esque’ set of psych stoner rock… and even played a Hawkwind cover, chanting “Hashish” repeatedly.

This was a competent, powerful band who played their take on psychedelic rock with enthusiasm, if a little short on originality or a distinctive approach.

So after one Hawkwind influenced or inspired band on Saturday (Kranschaft) and then starting Sunday with a Hawkwind off-shoot band (Captain Starfighter) we were presented with this Hawkwind-style band as a warm-up for the next act… and yep, you guessed it, we had another Hawkwind off-shoot band – the Hawklords!

Was this some sort of trip? Had we been somehow sucked through a Black Hole into the annual ‘HawkEaster’ convention?! (LT)

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THE HAWKLORDS

The latest instalment in the ‘Hawkfest’… sorry, I meant HRH PROG, were The Hawklords, fronted by the legendary ‘Master of the Universe’ himself (apparently) Nik Turner… once of Hawkwind themselves (fancy that!).

A wall of ‘Hawkwind-y’ stoner rock psychedelically filled the auditorium with the aforementioned Mr Turner wibbling and wobbling a lot to some effect on saxophone… all very… Hawkwind-y (fancy that?!).

I lasted a few numbers but felt lost in an alternate Universe where EVERY band in existence were actually Hawkwind… and having had to consume a health challenging doner kebab at 1am the previous day, because we failed to take a meal break, we beat a retreat from ‘Hawkfest’ to a lovely Italian restaurant nearby… (please see previous remarks about meal breaks…), but don’t worry, we requested that the restaurant play Silver Machine on their music system to keep us all in the mood.

A quick straw poll taken in the restaurant gave the universal feedback from the many HRH Proggers taking sanctuary there that there was very clearly:

‘TOO MUCH HAWKWIND-Y STUFF!!’

Joking apart, the organisers need to consider how bands will interact on an all-day bill… and putting on a series of bands either directly off-shooting from or inspired by one particular band or artist may inevitably have the effect of not satisfying a significant portion of the crowd. The general feedback about the Sunday bands earlier in the day in London was clearly about an over-reliance on Hawkwind style bands… but then again some fans loved that line up… probably fans who love Hawkwind?!

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THE VINTAGE CARAVAN

Well, this Icelandic power trio distinguished themselves with a high energy rock show of outstanding guitars, bass and drums… AND… (I hope you’re sitting down when you read this)… they sounded absolutely nothing like Hawkwind (fancy that!). They really impressed me with their refreshingly powerful rock show… and had NOTHING to do with classic Progressive rock band Caravan (which some were expecting!).

PS, Dear Vintage Caravan, next time you play HRH Prog please learn a cover of Silver Machine. (LT)

Well, slightly late to the party, fashionably so (maybe)… at 6.15 on the second day, and here we go with The Vintage Caravan. Bugger all to do with prog, but the Icelandic psychedelically tinged retro ’70s power trio are certainly talented and turn in an impressive performance. (OT)

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GONG

Gong saved us all… the whole planet (not just HRH Prog) with a mesmerising set of spaced out blissful psychedelia… THANK YOU GONG!!!

Rejoice, I’m Dead indeed… take me in your glorious arms, hit those stratospheric notes, blind me with your divine images and Ascend me to another Astral plain.

Kavus Torabi and his eccentric bandmates put on a dazzling set of inspiring psychedelic rock with gorgeous visual images to accentuate the mind-bending music and quirky lyrics. (LT)

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URIAH HEEP

What can I say? They don’t really play progressive rock most of the time, more melodic/heavy rock, but they always deliver. Uriah Heep are a band that I have seen live more than thirty times and the reason that I continue to see the band live is two-fold – they play an impressive number of gigs per year, every year and their performances are incredibly professional and joyful. To watch a band play their set with huge grins on their faces, because they love what they are doing is amazingly energising.

To quote Uriah Heep’s latest album – they are “Living the Dream”, and for Mick Box it is a dream he has lived with Heep for almost fifty years. It is hard to fault anything about the performance because the band are such professionals; year after year they mix up the setlist with new and old songs. Unlike Deep Purple, a band of similar age and turnover of members, it seems no song from the back catalogue is considered “off-limits” – which is a source of joy to older fans, as who knows what may be in the setlist from one tour to another?

At Shepherd’s Bush, I believe the band surprised a few, it was a refreshing burst of upbeat musicianship. Old favourites such as Gypsy, Easy Livin’ and July Morning were interspersed with new songs Living the Dream and Grazed by Heaven, all delivered with energy and conviction.

Is it Prog?

Who cares? It is great music! (RMB)

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[All photos by Stan Siarkiewicz, used with his kind permission.]


LINKS
HRH Prog – Website | Facebook
Monkey Trial – Facebook | Bandcamp
4th Labyrinth – Website | Facebook
Krankschaft – Website | Facebook
Pearl Handled Revolver – Website | Facebook
Soft Machine – Facebook
Caravan – Website | Facebook
The Pineapple Thief – Website | Facebook | Twitter
Hats Off Gentlemen, It’s Adequate – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp
Captain Starfighter & the Lockheeds – Facebook
Pre-Med – Website | Facebook
The Hawklords – Facebook
The Vintage Caravan – Website | Facebook
Gong – Website | Facebook
Uriah Heep – Website | Facebook