Touchstone, Islington Academy 2, 5th March 2011

Photo © Roger Allen

Islington O2 Academy saw the final night of the “Prog 2.0 tour” came to London, with rising stars Touchstone topping the bill.

On record at least, openers Enochian Theory are a prog-metal act with a nice line in atmospherics, and have been compared with the mighty Opeth. But tonight’s performance suffered from a very poor mix, with overpoweringly loud drums drowning out the guitar and bass, losing a lot of the subtlety. While they’re clearly talented musicians, their songwriting and compositional skills have yet to reach the level where their music can survive that sort of treatment from the soundman. I’m sure I’ve seen their frontman before somewhere – he certainly looked as though he wouldn’t have looked out of place behind a model railway layout at DEMU Showcase. Saying that, I certainly wouldn’t write them off, and there’s a lot of potential for the future.

Jurojin were a very different beast. They started as a straightforward four-piece prog-metal act, up to the last few numbers when they were joined first by a tabla player, than by virtuoso violinist Anna Phoebe. At that point they morphed into a kind of folk-metal-world music fusion that sounded like an utterly different band from what we’d heard at the beginning of the set. Like IOEarth when I saw them last summer, there music is going off in many different directions, and they need to pick one and run with it. The last part of the set was genuinely exciting, and that feels to me like the direction in which they ought to go.

As for Touchstone, well, they were the band everyone came to see, and their tight high-energy performance delivered in spades. As for most of the past year and a half, the setlist drew heavily from their second album “Wintercoast” with a few selected songs from their earlier “Discordant Dreams”, including a great version of “Being Hannah”, a song I don’t think I’ve heard live for a while.  As always, Kim Seviour makes an great frontwoman and visual focus for the band, but one thing that was very obvious this time was how much Moo Bass’ playing dominates the sound. From the machine-gun riff of the title track of “Wintercoast” onwards, his bass both drives the rhythm and acts as a principal lead instrument, leaving Rob Cottingham’s keys and Adam Hodgson’s lead guitar to add colour to fill in the sound. Like Panic Room the weekend before, with performances like this they seem destined for far bigger things.

While I’d hardly say the O2, with it’s overpriced beer and often indifferent sound and atmosphere was a favourite venue of mine, this was certainly the best gig at this venue I’ve seen to date. With the tour promoted by Classic Rock Presents Prog, attendance was very good indeed, with over two-hundred and fifty through the doors. And nice to see Porcupine Tree’s Steve Wilson in the crowd.

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4 Responses to Touchstone, Islington Academy 2, 5th March 2011

  1. Archangel says:

    Actually there were more songs from ‘Discordant Dreams’ in the set than from ‘Wintercoast’. It was good to hear some of the older songs played live again. And you haven’t mentioned the new song, ‘Throw Them To The Sky’, which while perhaps not an instant classic certainly augurs well for the new album they’ll be writing and recording shortly.

  2. ManorGreen says:

    Wait! Steve Wilson was there? Why did nobody tell me this?
    Seriously though, great review, much better than mine…

  3. Tim Hall says:

    Jerry Ewing only told me just after you’d left. He was lurking near the merch stand.

  4. Ben says:

    haha, just come across this randomly.
    What an amazing quote about me and model trains…