Tag Archives: Live Music

Outside the Comfort Zone

Steven Lands of The Session at The Swansea Jazz Festival

A lot of people swear by streaming services like Spotify for music discovery, but for me it’s live music. It may be in part because I’ve got a couple of medium-sized venues within walking distance, but when venturing outside my musical comfort zone I’m more likely to go to a gig than anything else.

In the past year I’ve seen New Model Army, Public Image Limited, Lazuli, Peter Knight’s Gigspanner and The Session having heard little or none of their music beforehand. They’ve all been great gigs, all bands I would definitely see again, and in most cases I’ve followed up by buying some of their records.

It’s also an argument in favour of well-chosen support acts and well-curated festivals.

How about you? Do you like to discover new bands and new genres through experiencing them live? Or do you prefer to be familiar with the music first before seeing it performed on stage?

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Support Live Music

Close up of a guitar

This is a bit of a rant.

I’m not going to name the band because it won’t do them any favours having this come up in Google searches for their name. You can probably work out who they were if you really want to know. But it’s not really about them, it’s about you.

I travelled to a gig a couple of hours away from home and booked an overnight stay in a hotel since it would finish well after the last train back. It was in one of the largest cities in England other than London. The gig was in an established rock venue within easy walking distance of the city centre, in the smaller of two rooms, but still with a capacity of a couple of hundred at least. The band have released several albums, won annual “best of” awards, and gone down a storm at festivals, and they’re on fire live on this tour. It was a Friday night rather than a midweek graveyard shift.

There were thirty-five people there.

Thirty-five people.

The band themselves gave what could easily have been their best live performance of the year, pulling out all the stops. And only a tiny handful of people were there to see it, most of them familiar faces you see at gigs all across the country. Many of them were not local but, like me, had travelled a significant distance to be there.

People constantly complain on the interwebs than nobody plays gigs in their towns. The trouble is, when bands do book gigs, these people then can’t be arsed to turn up. It’s not for me to tell the band where they should or shouldn’t play, but if I was in their shoes I wouldn’t be playing either that venue or that city again in the foreseeable future. There’s no way such a poorly-attended gig could have covered its costs.

I know that time and money are finite, and some people have a lot of other commitments in their lives. But a lot of you have no such excuses. If superb bands like this are to survive, and are to be able to continue making music, you’ve got to get off your collective arses and support them. I’ve seen too many bands fold due to lack of success, only to see “fans” complain that they “never got to see them live”. Perhaps if you’d bothered to see them when you had the chance, they might not have split?

If a band you like or have heard positive things about are playing a small club near you, and it’s physically possible to get there, support them. Otherwise the live scene outside the corporate mainstream will be nothing but tribute bands.

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Cambridge Rock Festival 2010

The Cambridge Rock Festival is one of the many small rock festivals held up and down the country.  The CRF specialises in classic rock, blues and prog, and as I’ve said before it’s like visiting an alternate universe where punk never happened.  You won’t find much NME-friendly corporate landfill indie on the bill here.

This was my third CRF, and my second spending the full weekend under canvas.

I travelled up with my mate Andy, a fellow Mostly Autumn and Breathing Space fan, and we soon met up with fellow-fans Colin, Helen and Chris (a.k.a. The Cider Monster) on the campsite. Of course, we were to meet many, many more old friends over the course of the weekend,

For the early part of Thursday evening we decided to avoid the tribute bands on the main stage and check out some of the young bands on the second stage, such as Rowse, JoanovArc, The Treatment and The Virginmarys, before heading for the main stage for the headliners, Danny Vaughn’s The 80s Rocked.  They were billed as “an all-star band playing classic 80s rock hits”, and more or less did what they said on the tin, as cheesy as a very cheesy thing, but thoughoughly entertaining nevertheless.  Name an 80s rock hit, and they probably played it.  Eye of the Tiger?  You Give Love a Bad Name?  The Final Countdown? Of course!

The Classic Rock Society sponsored the second stage on Friday, with a bill made up of prog and metal. So we decided to stay in the smaller tent for most of the day then move to the main stage for the last 2-3 acts. The CRS stage opened with the acoustic four-piece Flaming June, whose red-headed singer reminded me more than a bit of a female version of Chris Johnson both in style and lyrics.  Best bands on the CRS stage were Winter In Eden, a British take on the European female-fronted symphonic metal genre, and Crimson Sky, who play female-fronted prog but with a quite punky/new wave style singer that sets them apart from other bands in the genre.  Final Conflict and The Dreaming Tree also played some entertaining progressive rock.  I didn’t see much of the main stage in the early part of the day, although I did catch some of UXL and Newman during intervals on the CRS stage, the latter of whom I heard described worryingly accurately as sounding “like filler tracks on Journey albums”.  At the end of The Dreaming Tree’s set I headed over to the main stage and caught the bulk of Danny Bryant’s Redeye Band, the excellent blues power trio who’d played the exact same slot the previous year.

Deborah Bonham, the late John Bonham’s younger sister, took Friday’s special guest spot, and even though I knew none of the songs, she was probably the best artist of the day. She played a set of raw and rootsy blues-rock with more than a hint of Led Zeppelin about it. Certainly she can reach the high notes that Robert Plant can’t get to any more.  After her set came The Tygers of Pan Tang, who I thought were a bit out of their depth as headliners, and suffered from an appalling sound mix that rendered the vocals all but inaudible in the early part of the set. Still I enjoyed their set quite a bit, and I seemed to get shown on the big screen rather a lot.  This is what happens when you’re with mates who drag you to the front row!

I spent most of Saturday in the main tent, kicking off with some no-nonsense rock’n'roll from Wolf Law, which was just the sort of thing we needed to wake us up first thing in the morning. The real sensation of the day was second on the bill, the young blues guitarist Chantal McGregor, who simply blew us all away. How on earth does someone that young get to play guitar like that?

After that it was over to the smaller tent to catch Emerald Sky’s set. Perhaps because I’d mentally confused them with Crimson Sky.  I was expecting a prog band, but they turned out to be an all-female metal power trio.  After that I spent the rest of the day back in the main stage tent.  Stray were as entertaining as they were last year, but another high spot was blues guitarist Larry Miller. If you remember, he (along with Karnataka) got bounced from the main stage due to the PA snafu last year – and on the strength of his performance on Saturday I think I’d have preferred those two to Focus and Asia!  His solo on the slow number (don’t remember the title) was utterly brain-melting.

Saturday’s special guests were the Oliver Dawson Saxon, who turned out to be the only real disappointment of the whole festival. They’re basically trading as a Saxon tribute band in competition with Biff Byford’s official Saxon, yet they played a whole load of mediocre new songs instead of many of the hits.  And their singer was awful.  Every festival must have it’s dud (it’s a rule, it seems), and they were that dud.

Saturday’s headliners were the Monsters of British Rock, originally billed as The Moody Murray Whitesnake until the intervention of David Coverdale’s lawyers forced a change of name.  As well as Micky Moody and Neil Murray from the original British incarnation of Whitesnake the band also included Laurie Wisefield of Wishbone Ash fame as the second guitarist, and Harry James of Thunder and Magnum fame on drums. While they weren’t perfect, they could have done with a better singer, and a bit more keys in the mix, I still enjoyed their set a lot.  Part of that was down to the company I was with (what’s better than listening to whole load of Whitesnake songs in the company of three extremely beautiful women?), and part of it was because the pre-hair metal Whitesnake songbook is absolutely full of classic tunes.  My one quibble is that it’s “Hobo”, not “Drifter”. Band and audience sang the wrong version!

On to Sunday, the day I was looking forward to the most, with Mostly Autumn, Panic Room and Breathing Space on the bill.

Opener IO Earth divided opinions; some loved genre-bending mix of female-fronted prog, jazz, dance and Joe Satriani-style guitar pyrotechnics, while they left others scratching their heads. While their guitarist was very good indeed, they came over to me as something of work in progress, just too many differing styles to sit comfortably in one band.  We’ll have to see how they develop.

Next up, Panic Room, who played an absolute blinder of a set. As readers of this blog will know, I’ve seen them a lot of times over the past couple of years, and that was at least as good a performance I’ve ever seen them do.  Apart from the surprise cover of ELP’s “Bitches Crystal” the whole set came from the most recent album “Satellite”, ending with a soaring rendition of the title track.  Just a pity they were on so early that many people missed them; on the strength of that set, if they come back they’ll be much higher up the bill.

I’d seen Kyrbgrinder last year on the smaller Radio Caroline stage, this year they returned on the main stage. Certainly the most in-your-face metal band of the whole festival. Like last year, frontman drummer Joannes James is still very much the visual focus of the band, but this we also had some amazing guitar shredding from their new guitarist Tom Caris.

In April in Gloucester I witnessed the rebirth of Mostly Autumn with Breathing Space’s former singer Olivia Sparnenn taking over lead vocals.  At Cambridge we witnessed a similar  rebirth as the new-look Breathing Space took the stage with new members Heidi Widdop on lead vocals and Adam Dawson on guitar. It’s never easy for a new singer to sing often quite personal material written by the previous singer, but Heidi took songs like “Searching For My Shadow” and made them hers. She has a rawer, bluesier vocal style compared with Livvy, which completely transforms the sound of the band.  You’d never have known that she’s suffered from throat problems that forced the cancellation of a warm-up gig a couple of days earlier. Adam Dawson also impressed, completely nailing the solos.  This is a band who have landed on their feet after some enforced changes, and the two news songs premiered promise some exciting times ahead.

Aireya 51 were by far the weakest band on Sunday’s bill; we’d seen a lot of people doing the singer-guitarist thing over the weekend and doing it far better. That was up to the point where Don Airey joined them on stage on Hammond organ and showed us the difference between an anonymous session muso and a Rock Star.  That last 20 minutes was great, and more than made up for the rest of the set.

Praying Mantis were another of the revelations of the festival. I’d seen them at one of the early 80s Reading Festivals, and they’d seemed one of the also-rans of the NWOBHM scene.  Fast-forward 30 years and what we have now is an absolutely superb melodic rock band, awesomely tight, great vocals and some wonderful twin-guitar harmonies.

Hazel O’Connor and the Subterraneans seemed a bit out of place on the bill; an 80s new-wave pop act in a sea of classic rock and prog. But the enthusiasm of her performance soon won over the crowd, aided by a tight band featuring some superb sax playing from Claire Hurst.  After a weekend of axe heroes seeing a band where the lead instrument isn’t a guitar made a welcome change. Apart from the big hit “Eighth Day” and a cover of The Stranglers’ “Hanging Around” I didn’t know any of the songs, but it didn’t matter. And I wasn’t the only person to note the Irish-themed song played as an encore bore more than a passing resemblance to Mostly Autumn’s “Out of the Inn”.

Prog veterans The Enid took the special guest spot. I know a few people I spoke to afterwards just didn’t get what they do, but down the front it was a different matter and their unique brand of largely-instrumental symphonic rock had the audience absolutely mesmerised, the festival crowd stunned into silence. While I didn’t recognise everything they played, the set included faves like “In the Region of the Summer Stars”, a big chunk of the new album, finished with a spellbinding “Dark Hydraulic”.

After that, only my favourite band could possibly end things, and they didn’t disappoint. Their 80-minute set might not quite have been up to the standard of their very best performances on the spring tour, but given the constraints of a festival it was still a very good performance, far, far better than the gremlin-plagued set from last year’s festival. No surprises in the setlist, but given the fact they band have been busy in studio writing and recording the new album we didn’t really expect any.  Highlights were a great version of “The Last Bright Light”, one that hasn’t always worked for me live, the former Breathing Space song “Questioning Eyes”, and a very powerful “Heroes Never Die”.

While this year’s festival may have lacked any of the sort of bigger name headliners who’s played in previous years, it nevertheless gave us four days of excellent music, some spellbinding performances, some great company, and last but not least, some great beer. (If you find a pub selling Leo Zodiac, buy a pint or two, it’s excellent!).  The whole thing had such a wonderful vibe that I was still on a high more than a week later.  Great credit to the organisers, and to the stage and PA crews who made the whole thing run as smoothly as it didn’t last year. Overall I found I enjoyed it far more than the far bigger High Voltage festival in London too weeks earlier.

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Mostly Autumn, The New Era

Olivia Sparnenn at Bury Mey

Anyone who’s not being going to Mostly Autumn gigs since Heather Findlay left the band in April really doesn’t know what they’re missing. Admittedly a lot of people had reason to be sceptical; few bands manage to survive the loss of a singer, and those that manage the transition the best are those that use it as an opportunity to re-invent themselves.

At Olivia Sparnenn’s first gig as lead singer, in Gloucester, just over a week since Heather’s tearful farewell gig, we saw the new-look Mostly Autumn hit the ground running. Manchester a couple of weeks later saw a great (if very loud) gig. And Saturday’s performance at Bury Met was better still. Livvy has grown in confidence as the tour has progressed.

Although nothing from the forthcoming album “Go Well-Diamond Heart” has been premièred live yet, we’ve still seen a major shakeup of the setlist. Gone are most of Heather’s deeply personal songs such as “Shrinking Violet” and “Unoriginal Sin”. We’ve seen the welcome return of some oldies such as “Out of the Green Sky”, which I’d always thought would suit Livvy’s voice, and a great new arrangement of “Dreaming”. They’ve also brought in a couple of Livvy’s own songs originally recorded with Breathing Space, including a version of “Questioning Eyes”, which fits the MA set far better that I expected, as well as “Slow Down” from Bryan’s solo album. It’s also great to see the return of Liam Davidson’s effects-drenched solo spot, particularly good at Bury; it makes you realise how great a guitarist he can be.

The end result is a rawer, rockier sound that sounds like the beginning of a completely new band. It’s now making me really look forward to the album, to see what the new-look band is capable of doing in the studio.

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Four Days, Four Gigs

It’s been one of those bank holiday weekends – four gigs in four days, which I think is the greatest amount of music in the shortest time I’ve ever done outside of a festival!

Thursday was The Reasoning ably supported by Morpheus Rising at Bury Met. Morpheus Rising are a five piece band shamelessly citing the 1980s NWOBHM as a principle influence, now reclassified as hard rock following boundary changes. Entertaining high energy stuff, and I’m sure I’ve seen their bass player before somewhere – he looked naggingly familiar!

I’d seen The Reasoning a week earlier in London, where a very poor sound mix really hadn’t done the music justice, and the performance suffered badly as a result. Tonight was far, far better. Bury Met is always a great gig whoever is playing, and The Reasoning I know and love were back with a vengeance, now expanded to a seven-piece with new members Jake Bradford-Sharp on drums, ex-Fish keyboard player Tony Turrell and vocalist Maria Owen. The new album “Adverse Camber” features heavily, which takes a slight step back from prog-metal in favour of some elements of the atmospheric melodic music that Rachel did with Karnataka. Not that the twin guitar attack of Dylan Thompson and Owain Roberts doesn’t still rock hard plenty of times, but the overall effect is to make their live set a lot more varied and multi-dimensional, which cannot be anything other than a good thing.

On Friday I travelled down to Cardiff to see Hawkwind supported by Panic Room at St David’s Hall. I’ve seen Panic Room many times before at their own shows, here they made the most of their five-song 30 minute slot, naturally including a great version of “Apocalypstick”. Blessed with a good sound mix for a support, they seemed to go down well with Hawkwind’s audience, and told me they sold a lot of albums after the gig.

Hawkwind themselves I hadn’t seen since 1980, and had lost track of what they’ve been doing since the mid-80s, so I really didn’t know what to expect. They turned out to be amazingly good – they played a great mix of 70s classics like “Lord of Light”, “Magnu” and “Lighthouse” with more recent material. And there plenty of Theramin courtesy of Tim Blake. Nowadays they seem to be the missing link between metal, prog and rave/techno culture – Their music ranges from heavier songs atmospheric floydian bits, and several moments where they all started playing laptops and looked and sounded like Orbital. On quite a few songs they had two bass players, with guitarist Niall Hone playing ‘lead bass’ and Mr Dibs playing ‘rhythm bass’, strumming chords like Lemmy used to do, producing a sound with an awful lot of bottom-end. And hats off to drummer Richard Chadwick for getting Simon King’s very distinctive drumming style off to a tee. Amazingly Dave Brock looks no different from how he looked 30 years ago. The first encore of Hasan-I-Sabah with a lengthy techno middle section was amazing, and I really wasn’t expecting them to finish with Silver Machine.

Saturday was Veteran Welsh proggers Man at The Garage in Swansea. There were two supports ,the first being a bluesy-rock trio who all looked about 15, some meaty riffs and good songwriting let down by poor vocals, but their youth must show long term promise. Next up was a truly dire landfill indie band. There might have been a few flourishes from the guitarist, clearly a frustrated rocker, but the tuneless songs did nothing for me at all, not helped by the fact they were louder than Hawkwind.

Man themselves were great, even if, like so many veteran bands, they only had a couple of original members left, Martin Ace on vocals and bass, and Phil Ryan on keys. Without knowing any of their songs, I found the most enjoyable moments were when when they went off into extended jams, with the rhythm section saying down a solid groove with Hammond organ soloing over the top. Proof that grey-haired wrinkly rockers can still do it.

As for Sunday, I’ve always meant to step out of my comfort zone of prog, metal and classic rock and investigate genres like jazz and folk, so spending a weekend in Swansea at the same time as The Mumbles Jazz festival seemed like a opportunity not to be missed. From the programme, the most attractive sounding one seemed to be Sunday night’s double bill, even though I’d never heard of either act. First on was the Mark Nightingale All Star British Jazz Quintet. With trombone, sax, electric piano, bass and drums, it was pretty muso stuff, with 13/8 time signatures (7/8 and 9/8 favoured by prog is for wimps!) and many, many bass solos. Still very entertaining even if they occasionally strayed into easy listening territory.

The second act, Protect The Beat, were billed as “seriously funky jazz/groove from five top UK session musicians”. Their session credit CV read like a who’s who of rock and pop with artists like Massive Attack, Sting, Chaka Khan and, er, take that. Led by sax player Derek Nash they were both awesomely tight and completely on fire, and clearly enjoying every minute of their two hours on stage. One of those nights when you realise that recorded music on CD is just a pale imitation of live music; there really is nothing like being in the same room as a bunch of great musicians giving it all they’ve got. Not that anyone reading this needs to be reminded.

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April is Mental Gig Month

Everyone being on tour at once is usually what happens in November and December, but this year April is just silly. It seems every female-fronted prog band is on tour that month.

It starts with what is likely to be a very emotional farewell gig for Heather Findlay with Mostly Autumn on April 2nd in Leamington Spa. Just two days later will be Olivia Sparnenn’s final performance with Breathing Space at Bilston Robin 2. I hope to attend both if I can sort out the logistics.

The following Saturday is Olivia’s debut as Mostly Autumn’s official frontwoman, in Gloucester. It’s a long way to travel just for one gig, but I attended the Gloucester shows on the last two occasions MA played there, and they were among the best of the tour each time.

Friday 16th April is the only currently-announced gig by Karnataka that doable for me – the others are all just too far away. They’re playing The Flowerpot in Derby.

The following weekend is one of those with two gigs in two different cities. Mostly Autumn return to Manchester Academy on the Friday, a rare local gig for me, and on Saturday The Reasoning play the O2 Academy in London.

There’s another two gigs in two nights the next weekend – The Reasoning play Bury Met on the Thursday, and on Friday Panic Room are supporting Hawkwind in Cardiff. I haven’t seen Hawkwind for many, many years; indeed I’m not even sure of Anne-Marie Helder was even born last time I saw them.

As I said, a bit of a manic month. And there are gig in March and May too…

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Another 2009 Roundup – Live Music

Yet another end-of-year roundup, this time live music.

  • Best Gig – Has to be Progressive Nation at Manchester.  A great performance from headliners Dream Theater, a superb one hour set by co-headliner Opeth, and good supports from BigElf and Unexpect, neither of whom I’d seen or heard of before.
  • Worst Gig – Pure Reason Revolution playing in an awful venue that really didn’t do them justice.
  • Strangest GigBreathing Space playing a sold-out village hall in Nottinghamshire in snowy February.
  • Biggest Disappointment – Not seeing Karnataka at the Cambridge Rock Festival due to PA company snafu.
  • Band of the Year – Has to be Mostly Autumn, of course.  I saw them no fewer that twelve times over the year, always good, with their Halloween show at Burnley possibly the best of the year.  They recorded the whole of the spring tour, of which I saw several gigs, and the recordings make up the excellent Live 2009 pair of albums. A great band, and a lovely group of people too.

The overall verdict for the year can be summed up with the word “Progtastic”.

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What I did on my holiday, part 1

Been a while since I’ve blogged about anything much – been too busy doing things rather than blogging about them. So we’ll go back a few weeks to my week’s holiday in mid-September.

Paul Davies at Swansea

The week started with a gig, Panic Room at their home town in Swansea. On the previous tour I’d managed to get to several of the shows, but other commitments meant that this one was the only one of their short tour I could get to.

The Milkwood Jam is a funny venue, a sort of glass box on the top of the building.  The band were as tight as ever, with great performances from all five members, and the sound was as good as can be expected for a smallish club venue.

With their new album Satellite written and recorded, new songs made up the bulk of the set, interspersed with a few favourites from the debut album. When I say new songs, quite a few of them have been in the set for a while, with the likes of “Sandstorms”, “Black Noise”, “Go” and “Yasumi” already becoming live favourites.  The band are moving more in the direction of shorter, more direct songs rather than sprawling prog epics, and this material comes over very well live.

I took quite a few photos, but the lighting, with low levels and all the light coming from the side of the stage, meant the results were disappointing.

66204 at Newport

Monday was trains day, and a chance to use my new Sony 50mm Lens for action photography in full sun. I’d bought it for use in low light, especially for situations like Panic Room’s gig in Swansea.  In full sun you don’t need to stop the lens right down to f1.4, and I was amazed by the sharpness of the images I was getting – completely blows away the kit zoom.

Newport doesn’t quite have the volume of freight traffic I remembered from previous visits in the 80s and 90s, but there was still quite a bit of steel traffic. EWS class 66s seem to be ubiquitous nowadays; there weren’t any 60s to be seen. There were, though, a couple of loco-hauled passenger trains; an FGW Cardiff-Taunton top-and-tailed by a pair of 67s, and Arriva Wales Cardiff-Holyhead, complete with first class and a dining car, allegedly subsidised by the expense accounts of members of the Welsh Assembly (me, cynical?)

As with the Panic Room gig, I’ve uploaded some of the photos to my fotopic site.

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Best (and worst) Gigs of 2008

Some of my highlights (and low points) of the 30+ live gigs I attended this year.

Most hard-rocking gig by a newish band
The Reasoning, when they blew the roof off Crewe Limelight. I’ve seen this band six times this year, and they’ve never disappointed. This one was the best of the six.

Most hard-rocking gig by a bunch of grizzled veterans
The mighty Uriah Heep at Manchester Academy 2. They were good the last couple of times I’ve seen them playing greatest hits sets. This time they took the gamble of playing their new album “Wake the Sleeper” in it’s entirety, which might have flopped if the album hadn’t been up to scratch. But with an excellent album, it turned into a triumph.

Most emotionally moving gig
This has to be Breathing Space at Mansfield. This was about two weeks after the death of lead singer Olivia Sparnenn’s father Howard from a brain tumour. The whole show was intensely moving, especially the final encore of the Mostly Autumn song “The Gap is Too Wide”. Not long after this I lost my temper with a Guardian Journalist who insisted that “Amy Winehouse is an icon because she can articulate pain and heartbreak in her songs”. He just doesn’t get it.

Most totally bonkers gig
Has to be The Mars Volta at Manchester Apollo. A three hour set, no support, no interval, and they played right up to the curfew without going off and coming back for an encore. And the whole thing was one continuous jam. Despite owning all four of their studio albums, I recognised very little of what they actually played. It was intense, complex and very, very loud. Even after nine months I’m still not quite sure what to make of it.

Worst performance by a so-called classic artist.
Andy Fairweather-Low at the Cambridge Rock Festival. “I’m a great sixties icon – you have to bow down and worship me”. Reminded me of The Kinks at the 1981 Reading Festival in 1981, and not in a good way. Tedious set of 50s and 60s covers, made no attempt to connect with the audience, and gave me the impression he was was playing for the benefit of Radio Caroline rather than the people in the hall.

The gig that didn’t actually happen
Panic Room at the Peel where the power failed, and we didn’t get any music apart from 20 minutes of the support band. Fortunately I did get to see the excellent Panic Room a further three times, and there’s a rematch of the cancelled gig on January 31st next year – see you there!

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Panic Room – Crewe Limelight, 5-Dec-2008

Back to the world-famous Crewe Limelight for Panic Room’s final live appearance of 2008.

Support was Jump, who I’d seen (briefly!) at that ill-fated double headliner at The Peel when the power failed just at the point where things were starting to come to life. Tonight we got to see them complete a whole set, and they were very good indeed. More prog-tinged bluesy rock than prog, although you can hear a strong Fish influence in the lead singer. Nice one; I’m looking forward to seeing them again at the rescheduled Peel gig in the new year now.

This is the fourth time I’ve seen Panic Room, and was the best one I’ve seen them play to date. Their sound is an eclectic multi-layered mix of hard rock and prog with bits of folk and electronica, and the five-piece band do a splendid job of reproducing it live; amazingly tight, but they also rock out pretty hard.

Sound was pretty good, certainly better than for either Breathing Space or Karnataka’s gigs in October. Anne-Marie Helder was on stellar form vocally, despite suffering from a cold which I hope she didn’t get it from me, and struggling with a non-functioning pedal board. Can you name any other band where the singer has more effects pedals than the lead guitarist?

Setlist was much the same as the Halloween gig in Worcester, right down to the cover of ‘Enter Sandman’ as the final encore, albeit with a few changes in lyrics. High spots were many; ‘Apocalypstick’ was fantastic, and of the new songs ‘Yasumi’ and ‘Go’ are rapidly becoming favourites. Anne-Marie’s Santa outfit for the encores raised a few eyebrows; I think the rest of the band should have dressed as elves.

Next gig is at The Peel in Kingston on January 31st. Be there!

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