Crimson Sky have returned to the live stage with a couple of co-headline gigs with The Mighty Bard, each band playing an hour-long set. The first of these was at The Old Firestation in Windsor, and a week later the two bands came to The Railway in Winchester.
The Mighty Bard were on first. The six-piece could be described as “Morrissey covering Grendel” although to be fair they’re a lot more than that. Certainly some of the arrangements, especially the keyboard sounds and ornate soloing strongly recalled very early Marillion. There was a slight folk-rock edge at times, although 80s neo-prog was by the strongest flavour. They certainly had their moments, but there were other times when I wasn’t completely convinced. They were at their best when the material fitted the singer’s vocal style rather than pulling in a different direction. The electric violin added an extra dimension; too many of today’s prog bands don’t stray enough from the standard keys and guitars frontline, but I felt it was a little underused. Still an enjoyable set, despite a few areas that need work.
Crimson Sky are on an upward trajectory at the moment. The new lineup with Jane Setter on lead vocals and Moray McDonald on keys is started to gel nicely, and the new members are making more and more of a stamp on their sound. They’ve still got that 70s classic rock meets 80s new-wave sound, where you hear influences as diverse as Uriah Heep and The Teardrop Explodes. To my ears they still fall under the broad umbrella of progressive rock, but they avoid all of the worst prog clichés. Like most good bands, you can hear influences, but their sound is their own.
Jane Setter has now established herself as frontwoman, and has taken the older songs and made them hers. The setlist naturally includes the two new songs from last years’s EP “Dawn”, though the rest of the set comes from 2009′s “Misunderstood”. While they’ve got some great songs, especially the closing “Misunderstood III”, the band have now reached the stage where they could do with some new material in the live set.
While Martin Leamon’s superb fluid guitar playing still dominates, Moray McDonald’s often understated keyboard playing fills out the sound, and has gradually become more of an integral part of the band. He plays some great classical-style piano fills, some of his Hammond organ riffs recall Uriah Heep’s Ken Hensley, and there’s a hint of Marillion’s Mark Kelly too.
Crimson Sky have matured into a strong live band who deserve a wider audience, and I hope the new album the band are currently writing will take them to the next level.