Panic Room, The Borderline, London

Photo by Tom Connell

Swansea’s Panic Room began their short UK tour in the capital, with a Saturday night show at The Borderline in Central London. As is typical for London gigs by bands in the extended progressive scene, there were an awful lot of familiar faces in the crowd; the regulars had turned out in force.

York’s Morpheus Rising opened the show with their old-school mix of hard rock and metal. Their set drew entirely from the d├ębut album “Let The Sleeper Awake”, with twin guitar harmonies that owe a lot to Iron Maiden. They proceeded to play one of the best sets I’ve seen them do. Damien James Sweeting was on particularly strong form with some spectacular shredding guitar.

Howard Sinclair was up next. He described himself as “the filling in the sandwich” and told us he’d been expecting to go on first. I find acoustic singer-songwriters need strong material and delivery to make much of an impression. That counts double if they have to come on straight after a high energy rock band. But Howard Sinclair had both the songs and the stage presence to carry it off, with a short but entertaining set, drawn from his new album “The Delicious Company of Freaks”.

As regular readers of this blog ought to have noticed by now, there’s no point in trying to pretend I’m not a total Panic Room fanboy, and there’s no point repeating eveything I’ve said in previous reviews. But even by their standards, this was a astonishing performance. The setlist drew very heavily from their most recent album “S K I N”, with just a couple of numbers from each of the first two albums, including a superb “Apocalypstick”. One surprise was the return of “Blood Red Skies” from Anne-Marie’s 2004 solo EP “The Contact”. But as with the handful of shows in the spring, it’s the new material that really shines on stage. “Chances”, played live for the first time was a highlight, as was an intense take on the album’s wonderful title track.

Anne-Marie Helder’s incredible voice and stage presence, the wonderful restrained virtuosity of the band, and the way they’re both amazingly tight yet play with an incredible amount of energy makes them a phenomenal live band. They ended with a barnstorming “Hiding the World”, by which time the band were already past curfew, so there was no time for an encore.

On Monday night I went to see Nightwish play to 4000 people at Brixton Academy. That was a great gig, as I said in my review. But this gig topped it. People still say there’s no great music any more. They say there are no great bands around today to compare with the great acts of the 60s, 70s and 80s. Those of us present at the packed Borderline know that’s nonsense.

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