Tag Archives: Panic Room

Panic Room at Bilston Robin 2

Anne-Marie Helder at Bilston Robin 2 with Panic Room

A few photos from Panic Room’s final gig of the spring tour, at Bilston Robin 2. I’ve already reviewed the earlier gig at Bristol in detail, so this is isn’t a review as such.

Yatim Halimi

Good as Bristol was, this one was even better, the best of the four gigs I got to on the tour, with the band back on top form.

Dave Foster with Panic Room at Bilston Robin 2

Yet again it showed how good a fit Dave Foster is as the band’s new guitarist. There was a point late in the set where he strapped on the twin neck and played a few bars of “Stairway to Heaven”, an Jon joined in playing in the style of “Happy Little Song”. Little moments of spontaneity like that say a lot about the chemistry of the band.

Dave Foster

It’s not until you see the band back on top form agan that you realise just how much Paul Davies leaving the band at the end of 2012 knocked them back. In a way Paul was as hard an act to follow as a lead guitarist as  Heather Findlay as lead singer of Mostly Autumn a couple of years earlier.

Jon Edwards

Panic Room will be back with some further live dates in September, and Anne-Marie & Jon will also be playing further Luna Rossa gigs later in the year.

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Panic Room confirm Dave Foster as permanent guitarist

Dave Foster of Panic Room at Bilston Robon 2

After the successful “Wildfire” tour, Panic Room have now confirmed that Dave Foster is joining the band as a full-time member.

Panic Room had not previously appointed a permanent replacement for founder member Paul Davies, who had left the band at the end of 2012.  Morpheus Rising’s Pete Harwood stood in on a temporary basis for the tour in Spring 2013, and Adam O’Sullivan performed with the band throughout 2014 as well as playing lead on the band’s fourth album “Incarnate”.

Dave Foster, who also plays with Mr So and So and The Steve Rothery Band, had previously been announced as playing with the band for 2015, contributing to the soon-to-be-released acoustic album and playing live on the Spring tour. The band had decided to wait until after the tour before making a final decision for the longer term.

Anyone who saw the recent tour will have seen how well he fits into the band. Not only was he adept at playing all of Panic Room’s varied styles from sophisticated jazz-flavoured sounds ro classy hard rock, but just as importantly the chemistry was right. In the end it can’t have been that hard a decision to make.

The band are now planning further tours in Autumn 2015 and Spring 2016, and will be working on a new studio album in the second half of this year.

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Panic Room, The Fleece & Firkin, Bristol

Anne-Marie Helder of Panic Room at The Fleece

Panic Room’s “Wildfire” tour was eagerly anticipated. Although all the individual band members have been active lately, Anne-Marie Helder and Jon Edwards playing as Luna Rossa, Yatim Halimi playing bass for The Steve Rothery Band, and drummer Gavin Griffiths touring with Fish, it’s almost a year since Panic Room’s last live appearances together. It’s also the first chance to see them with new guitarist, Dave Foster, on loan from Mr So and So for the rest of the year.

The tour follows an interesting format, with the band performing a short set from their soon to be released crowdfunded acoustic album, followed by a headline-length electric set, in effect acting as their own support band. For a “school night” they attracted a fair-sized crowd at Bristol’s Fleece and Firkin for the fourth night of the tour.

The acoustic set was semi-acoustic in parts, with Dave Foster adding some bluesy electric guitar on a few songs, and Gavin Griffiths returning to his kit after playing the first couple of numbers on a cajon. With the exception of one brand new number, the beautiful ballad “Rain and Tears and Burgundy”, it was stripped-down reworkings of material from across the band’s history, including a delightful take on the quirky “I Am A Cat”, a reggae-style “Black Noise”, and the less-is-more versions of “Song for Tomorrow” and “Promises” played as encores a year ago.

The electric set focused on the big richly-layered atmospheric numbers and the out-and-out rockers, and turned into a greatest hits set featuring established favourites alongside songs that hadn’t been performed live for years. The way it went from highlight to highlight demonstrated just how strong a back catalogue Panic Room have built up over four albums.

They dazzled with the jazzy “Chameleon” featuring a brief flute solo, the eastern-tinged percussion-heavy “Tightrope Walker”, the soaring title track of “Skin”, and the remarkably emotive “Dust”. They rocked out with “Apocalypstick” from the very first album including a spectacular keyboard wig-out by Jon Edwards, the organ-driven metal monster of “Dark Star”, and the Zeppelinesque “Hiding the World”. As always, Anne-Marie Helder was on superb form vocally, combining range and power with emotional depth and completely dominating the stage. She’s been voted Prog Magazine’s female vocalist of the year more than once for a reason.

Panic Room at The Fleece

Dave Foster made his mark on guitar, demonstrating the versatility that Panic Room’s hugely varied music demands; from atmospheric fills and bluesy soloing to hard-edged riffing and jaw-dropping shredding. We even saw the appearance of a twin-neck guitar on a couple of songs. For music like Panic Room’s the lead guitarist matters as much as the singer, and Dave Foster proved to be a very good fit.

Last year’s tour, good as it was, emphasised the jazz-flavoured adult pop side of the band’s music. But Panic Room have always been a band with feet in more that one camp, and this time around the emphasis was as much on the classy hard rock side, something that had been missing the last time round.

It will be very interesting to see where Panic Room go next. The acoustic album is close to release, after which the band return to the studio to begin work on another new album, again featuring Dave Foster on guitar. But before that there are still two more dates on the tour to go, at Manchester Sound Control and Bilston Robin 2.

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Panic Room – Wildfire Tour

Panic Room - Wildfire

Just a few days until Panic Room hit the road for the spring “Wildfire” tour!

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Panic Room – Velocity

The opening track from Panic Room’s 4th album “Incarnate”, on Reverbnation

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Panic Room announce May Tour Dates

Panic Room at The Komedia, Bath

Panic Rooms have just announced a tour in May, featuring the newest version of the band with Dave Foster on guitar.

They are promising a show containing material from across four albums, presented as a two-part show, beginning with an acoustic set featuring stripped-down remiaginings,followed by a full electric set.

Six dates have been annouced so far, with more to follow

May 2nd – LONDON – The Borderline
May 3rd – MILTON KEYNES – The Stables
May 7th – YORK – Fibbers
May 9th – ST HELEN’S – The Citadel
May 15th – MANCHESTER – Sound Control
May 17th – BILSTON – Robin 2

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Best Gigs of 2014

Chantel McGregor at the 2014 Cambridge Rock Festival

Unlike almost everyone else, I didn’t get to see Kate Bush’s already legendary shows at Hammersmith in the summer. But I did get to see plenty of other bands, from festivals to free-entry pub gigs, so many in fact that I lost eventually lost count. I do remember nine in thirteen days in December, after which I collapsed in a heap.

These are ten of the best of the year, listed in chronological order save for the gig of the year. Several of them are from festivals, where I’ve highlighted individual sets rather than the festival as a whole.

The Pineapple Thief, HRH Prog, March

The first day of HRH Prog was somewhat patchy, with rather too many rather one-dimensional acts. The Pineapple Thief were the exception, with a magnificently intense set that stood head and shoulders above anyone else on Friday’s bill, including headliners The Flower Kings.

Riverside, O2 Academy, April

Poland’s finest proved they’re every bit as good live as they are on record, the perfect band for anyone still missing Porcupine Tree, but with enough of an identity of their own to sound like any kind of pastiche.

Panic Room, Gloucester Guildhall, April

2014 saw Panic Room back firing on all cylinders again after a somewhat shaky 2013, with the new lineup with then-new guitarist Adam O’Sullivan fully bedded it. They kicked off with an impressive performance at HRH Prog in March, and were on consistently good live form thereafter. It’s hard to single out any one show, but this early one in Gloucester was as good as any.

Magenta, Trinity Live, May

Magenta were only added to the bill of the all-day charity gig very late in the day when Christina’s cancer treatment was progressing well enough to allow her to perform. It’s always remarkable how good Magenta are live considering how infrequently they perform; but this time they completely stole the show. And they deserved it.

Jeff Lorber, Swansea Jazz Festival, June

Most of this years gigs have been prog and metal, so the Swansea Jazz Festival was a change of pace. Among others it featured the veteran trumpeter Dick Pierce, the violin-driven gypsy jazz of Sarah Smith, and the jazz-rock of Protect the Beat. But the highlight of the weekend was Friday night’s set of jazz-fusion from pianist Jeff Lorber. The world of prog contains plenty of virtuoso musicians, but jazz can be on another level.

Mostly Autumn, The Box in Crewe, July

Mostly Autumn have bounced back very strongly after a hit-and-miss 2013, touring to promote the best album they’ve made in years and for the first time playing the new album in full on tour. Despite a fluctuating lineup in the early part of the year due some members’ prior commitments, which saw former flautist Angela Gordon standing in for a couple of gigs, they were back to the sort of live form they displayed in 2011 and 2012. An early highlight was their long-overdue return to Crewe in July.

Mr So and So, Resonance, August

Resonance was a strange festival, with an eclectic mix of bands playing across multiple stages, including a small room tucked away at up at the top of the building. One of the bands in that small room, Mr So and So, were an unexpected highlight, a band who have improved immensely over the past couple of years, with Charlotte Evans coming into her own as a singer.

Chantel McGregor, Cambridge Rock Festival, August

The Cambridge Rock Festival was another highlight of the year, with strong sets from Mostly Autumn, Mr So and So, The Windmill, Cloud Atlas and others. One of the highlights was the guitar-shredding set on Friday from Chantel McGregor, who simply owns the main stage at that festival.

Fish, Reading Sub89, December

Fish had planned to tour the UK in May but was forced to cancel due to Guitarist Robin Boult’s injury. The rescheduled shows in December looked in doubt at one point when the man himself went down with viral laryngitis on the continental leg. But in the end all was fine, and the band were on fire, with a completely new setlist compared to last year, with old favourites like “Big Wedge” and “Incubus” as well as the powerful High Wood suite from his newest album played in full.

It’s hard to narrow things down to just ten, so honourable mentions to Touchstone and IOEarth’s Christmas show in Bilston, The Tangent’s mesmerising performance at Celebr8.3 in Islington, Tarja rocking out the O2 Academy, Steve Rothery at Bush Hall, Opeth’s oldies-heavy set at The Roundhouse, and Alestorm’s booze and piracy in Reading.

It’s even harder to pick the best of the lot, but there can only be one, and this came towards the end of the year.

Marillion, The Forum, December

Even after more than 30 years in the business, Marillion never disappoint live, and their sell-out December Christmas shows were no exception. What was surprising was the number of real oldies they haven’t played for years; “Slàinte Mhath”, “Warm Wet Circles/This Time of the Night” and even “Garden Party” from the Fish era, and several song from “Seasons End” including the magnificent title track. It gave the impression of a band comfortable in their own skins and reconciled with their own past in a way they weren’t a few years back.

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Dave Foster joins Panic Room

Dave Foster

Announcement nn Panic Room’s Facebook page:

PANIC ROOM are delighted to announce that for 2015 we will be working with lead guitarist, Dave Foster (Steve Rothery Band / Mr So&So) – a hugely talented musician who will be playing with the band for all of this year’s Live Tour dates, as well as joining us in the recording studio.

PANIC ROOM will be on tour in April-May 2015, and we are preparing to unveil a powerful live show which will celebrate the finest and most-loved music from across all 4 of the band’s Award-Winning albums. Each event will feature a full electric set plus an exclusive acoustic set, and we are very excited to welcome Dave aboard for these shows!

He will also be part of the recording line-up for PANIC ROOM’s 5th studio album, which we plan to begin later this year.

Having seen Dave Foster in action many times with Mr So and So, as wel as with Steve Rothery’s band, and even standing in with The Reasoning, Dve Foster’s style is an excellent fit for Panic Room’s music.

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2014 Albums of the Year, Part Four

And so we approach the end of the albums-of-the-year list. There are numbers 2 to 5, which means there is just the Album of the Year itself to go.

Again they’re listed alphabetically, because it’s too hard to rank them. In truth, any of these records would be worthy albums of the year, as would several others just outside the top five. It really has been that sort of the year.

Crippled Black PhoenixWhite Light Generator

Crippled Black Phoenix  - White Light Generator

A remarkable combination of progressive and alternative rock that sometimes sounds like Swans collaborating with Pink Floyd, with diversions via the pastoral folk-prog of The Decemberists and the high-octane space-rock of prime-time Hawkwind. Loud and dirty guitar riffs alternate with atmospheric soundscapes and spoken word pieces, such that you never quite know what’s coming next. It all makes for an intense and exhilarating listen, thought its depth and scope mean it’s a record that takes many listens to fully appreciate. It’s precisely the sort of record that proves post-70s progressive rock has evolved far beyond the template of 80s neo-prog.

OpethPale Communion

Opeth Pale CommunionMikhael Akerfeld and his men will disappoint anyone still hoping 2011′s “Heritage” might have been a one-off, for Pale Communion is not a return to their death-metal roots. Instead it develops its predecessor’s contemporary take on classic and more obscure 70s sounds, and if anything it’s “Meddle” to Heritage’s “Atom Heart Mother”. There are no cookie monsters, but the record does retain all of Opeth’s mastery of dynamics, and its dark intensity shows there can be other forms of heaviness than bludgeoning riffs. The dense and atmospheric record has a similar mood to Gazpacho’s “Demon”; while the execution is quite different both have a mood that suggests shadowy things in Scandinavian forests.

Panic RoomIncarnate

IncarnateWith a new guitarist in Adam O’Sullivan Panic Room’s fourth album feels like the start of a new chapter for the band, and shows that sometimes a change of lead guitarist can be as big a change as a new lead singer. It’s a step away from the rich wall of sound that characterised their last couple of albums in favour of a lighter, more pared-back feel, with a stronger emphasis on Anne-Marie Helder’s songwriting. O’Sullivan has quite a different style as a guitarist, with jazz and blues flourishes, though he demonstrates that he can still rock out when it’s needed. But it’s still unmistakably Panic Room, with that combination of rock, pop, jazz, folk and prog focussed on strong songwriting and Anne-Marie’s award-winning vocals.

The Pineapple ThiefMagnolia

Pineapple Thief - MagnoliaThe Pineapple Thief are one of those bands generally considered part of the progressive rock scene, but take a modern, streamlined approach to their music. Magnolia sees them combine many of the best elements of their previous three records to result in their most accessible album to date. There are touches of dance/electronica rhythms and of hard rock riffing, but the emphasis is on big soaring melodies. They’re another band who are worthy of mainstream crossover success.

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Panic Room hit the road

Anne-Marie Helder at Reading South Street

Panic Room are back on the road again. The first two shows at Bath Komedia (below) and Reading South Street (above) were great shows, with much the same set as a Gloucester back in April. Next weekend of gigs include Liverpool, Bilston and The Borderline in London.

Panic Room at The Komedia, Bath

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