Twelfth Night – The Peel, 17th May 2008

After their triumphant return to the live stage last year, 80s neo-prog veterans Twelfth Night are back for more.

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(Photo © Jane Vincent, used with permission)

I caught the second of their two UK dates, at The Peel in Kingston. Not completely sold out, but the place seemed pretty packed. If this gig didn’t quite match the incredible atmosphere of the comeback at Deptford gig last year, the performance from the band themselves was on another level entirely. Gone was the hesitant start in the first half; this time the whole band were firing on all cylinders right from the very beginning. They didn’t look like a band who were playing only their fourth gig in twenty years. It was clear the band were really enjoying themselves on stage, Andy Sears prowling the stage like a demented uncle, showing incredible depth and range as a vocalist, both with his own later material, and his interpretations of the older songs by the late Geoff Mann. Andy Revell reeled off some incredible solos, and multi-instumentalists Clive Mitten tripled up on guitar, keys and prog-style lead bass. And yes, there was more than one bass solo.

The setlist was much the same as last year, with the bulk of the set coming from the Geoff Mann years. It’s difficult to point out the high spots from their two-hour set. The “Ceiling Speaks” makes for a dynamic opener, “Blondon Fair” never sounded more sinister and menacing, Andy Sears’ solo piano version of “First New Day” was spine-tingling and the epic “Sequences” was flawless. As last year, the second half of the show was taken up with the Fact and Fiction album played right through in it’s entirety. As Clive Mitten said at the beginning, this is prog-rock, and playing a concept album right the way through without any breaks or announcements is a very prog thing to do, right from the choirboy singing the falsetto parts of “We are Sane” to the Gilmouresque guitar wig-out at the end of “Creepshow”. They ended, of course, with the final encore of “Love Song”.

Easily in my top three or four gigs of the year, and unquestionably the best which didn’t feature female lead vocals. Whether this short run of dates is a one-off, or whether we’ll get to see them again is still an open question.

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