Tag Archives: Touchstone

Elkie Returns!

As reported by Prog magazine, former Touchstone singer Kim “Elkie” Seviour reveals album plans.

She plans to release a solo album to be produced by and co-written with John Mitchell of Lonely Robot, Frost*, Arena and It Bites fame, a man who’s in so many bands because he’s so prolific that nobody else can keep up.

There is to be a single “Fantasise To Realise” released next month, a standalone track that will not feature on the album.

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2015 in Live Music – Ten of the Best

Touchstone Farewell Gig

It’s harder to rank gigs in any kind of order than it is for records, since you can’t relive a one-off experience. These ten are those which have particularly stuck in the mind, and there is probably a bias towards the end of the year since those are freshest in the memory.

The Marillion Convention

There is nothing else quite like the fan conventions Marillion hold every other year. They see the band perform seven hours of music over three nights including a lot of rarely-played material, all before an audience of fanatical hardcore fans. This year’s was no exception, the highlight of which was the double album “Marbles” played in full on the Saturday night.

The Session at The Swansea Jazz Festival

One cannot live on prog alone, so The Swansea Jazz festival is always a good opportunity to explore something outside of the usual comfort zone. Some sets had far too many bass solos, but this New Orleans-based quintet were the undoubted highlight, with a frontline of sax and trumpet. The first solo from trumpeter Steven Lande was like hearing a really good blues or metal guitarist cutting loose.

Ramblin Man Fair

My first open air festival since High Voltage in London a few years back took place in leafy Maidstone. Saturday saw great sets in the sunshine from Touchstone, Blue Öyster Cult and the legendary Camel, the only disappointment being the lacklustre phoned-in set from Dream Theater. But the musical highlight was much of Sunday, with a bill beginning in the rain with Anna Phoebe, Knifeworld (“Excuse me while I towel down my guitar”), The Pineapple Thief and Riverside, and ending in a mesmerising set from headliners Marillion after the clouds cleared and the moon came out.

King Crimson at Hackney Empire

The unexpected emergence of a new incarnation of King Crimson didn’t disappoint in the slightest, and the seven-piece lineup with three drummers went from intense improvised jazz-metal workouts to fresh interpretations of the stately magnificence of their 70s classics. Some too-cool-for-school mainstream critics just didn’t get it at all, but it was their loss; the set included superb performances of some of the greatest music of the 20th Century, and that’s not something you say lightly.

Steven Wilson at The Royal Albert Hall

In terms of profile, Steven Wilson stands head and shoulders above any other contemporary progressive rock act, able to sell out venues that are otherwise the preserve of the 70s legends of the genre. I made the mistake of booking for just one of the two nights rather than both, for the sets were completely different. So I didn’t get to see the bulk of “Hand. Cannot. Erase.” played live, but did see Porcupine Tree classics and an intense “Raider II”. It was still an amazing experience.

Gazpacho & Iamthemorning at Islington Academy

I got wind of this gig via a fan of Iamthemorning who was wondering aloud if headliners Gazpacho were worth seeing live. Both bands turned out to be mesmerising; the way you could have heard a pin drop during the acoustic support act really says it all, and the headliner’s absolute mastery of atmospherics managed to outdo even Marillion. Progressive rock needs more violins.

Gloryhammer at Islington Academy

One support band of 2015 deserve a mention. Scotland’s heroes were special guests to Finnish power-metallers Stratovarious, and it’s been a while since I’ve seen a support act so completely outclass the headliners. They has better songs, better stagecraft, and a level of fire & passion that the headliners completely lacked.

Public Image Limited at Reading Sub89

The artist formerly known as Johnny Rotten has still got it, and his singing style is totally unique. The other three quarters of PiL are tremendous musicians; a tight rhythm section and always inventive guitarist in Lu Edmonds meant that you spent as much time listening to the bass grooves or the guitar lines as the vocals. It’s a long way from classic rock, but it’s got more in common with the avant-garde end of progressive rock than you might think.

Touchstone & Magenta at Leamington Assembly

The farewell show for Kim Seviour and Rob Cottingham pulled a packed crowd to the magnificent central England venue. Because Kim had suffered a throat infection days before they gig, they added former Mostly Autumn singer Heather Findlay to the band as cover, and the band turned into a kind of heavy metal ABBA. It certainly brought a triumphal close to one chapter in the Touchstone story. And that’s before any mention of special guests Magenta, with a performance strong enough have been in this list in its own right.

Mostly Autumn at Leamington Assembly

Rather than their customary multi-date Christmas tour, Mostly Autumn decided to end 2015 with a single showcase gig in a central venue, what an event it turned out to be. Five hours of music included remarkably varied acoustic set that featured Angela Gordon singing lead at one point, a mesmerising but all-too-short set from violinist Anna Phoebe, what was probably the last full performance of “Dressed in Voices”, a Mostly Floyd set that was far, far better than any sceptics expected, and those traditional Christmas covers. And stunning versions of the rarely-played “The Night Sky” and “The Gap Is Too Wide”.

Those were just some of the many highlights of a great year of live music. Honourable mentions to Panic Room, Karnataka, Chantel McGregor and Luna Rossa, which have featured in this blog a lot, and to New Model Army and Lazuli, both “new” to me in terms of seeing live.

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Touchstone & Magenta, Leamington Spa

Touchstone Farewell Gig

Touchstone made the sad announcement early in the year that frontwoman Kim Seviour was stepping down from the band for health reasons. Initially their scheduled appearance at HRH Prog in March was to have been the farewell. But there were many dedicated fans who were unable to travel at short notice to the far end of Wales. so the band made the wise decision to play a headline show later in the year to give her a proper send-off. In the end it turned out to be two shows, one in London and one at The Assembly in Leamington Spa. the second of them a co-headliner featuring Magenta, and these would also be keyboardist Rob Cottingham’s last appearances with the band, making it a double farewell.

The Leamington show proved to be a major gathering of the clans, and after some depressingly badly attended gigs by some other bands this year it was great to see this magnificent venue not far short of full.

Lonely Robot

John Mitchell and keyboardist Liam Holmes opened the show. Billed as Lonely Robot, they played an entertaining set, largely stripped-down arrangements of songs from the album “Please Come Home” plus piano and vocal version of David Bowie’s “Life on Mars” and Peter Gabriel’s “Here Comes The Flood”. John Mitchell introduced the latter by describing himself as a Tescos Value Peter Gabriel, but his spine-tingling rendition proves he’s far more than that. A beautiful “Why Do We Stay” with a guest appearance from former Mostly Autumn singer Heather Findlay was another highlight.

Magenta at Leamington Spa

Magenta are always an amazingly tight band considering the complexity of their 70s-sryle symphonic rock and how infrequently they play live, and tonight was no exception. They suffered some early technical problems, such as the rumbling bass feedback that Christina blamed on Chris Fry eating too many mushy peas. But they overcame them to deliver a stunning performance even by their standards. Highlights included “Lust” from the 2004 album “Seven” and a sublime “Pearl”, the evocative ballad from their most recent album, one of their simplest songs, before they ended with dense and dark epics “Metamorphosis” and “The Lizard King”.

Guitarist Chris Fry was on superb form on guitar, with the occasional not to Yes’ Steve Howe in some of his solos, and Christina Booth balances precision with emotional depth in a way few other singers can match. As always, there was a passion and intensity in their live performance which merely hearing them on record never quite prepares you for.

Immediately before the two shows in London and Leamington, disaster struck for Touchstone; Kim went down with a throat infection. The band had the choice of postponing the gigs at very short notice, going ahead and hoping for the best, or geting some backup. They went for the last option and asked Heather Findlay, who had worked with Rob Cottingham in past, if she would help out.

Touchstone Farewell Gig

Friday’s gig in London had been great, despite Kim saving her voice for the following night, and Heather having very little time to learn the songs. This second night, with Kim’s sounding more confident and Heather more familiar with the material, was just phenomenal. The effect was a kind of heavy metal ABBA. Much of the time Heather doubled Kim’s lead vocals and covered the high notes, though quite often Kim’s voice was in good enough shape to cope on her own without help.

Beginning with a thunderous medley of “Discordant Dreams” and “The Beggars Song”, Touchstone took us through most the high points of Kim’s eight years fronting the band, The emphasis was on the harder-rocking side of the songbook, keeping the energy at roof-raising levels throughout, and drawing heavily from “Wintercoast” and “Oceans of Time”, perhaps their two strongest albums. They did find room for one real oldie, “The Mad Hatter’s Song” from the band’s début EP from before Kim joined. She told us the song was her audition for the band all those years ago.

They encored with a monstrous “Wintercoast” and their rocked-up cover of Tears for Fears “Mad World” with John Mitchell guesting on guitar, and so ended what had to be one of the best gigs of the year. Both Touchstone’s and Magenta’s performances were in best-of-the year league on their own; having both of the same bill lifted things to stratospheric levels.

It made a great send-off for Kim Seviour and Rob Cottingham, and whatever projects they work on next will be awaited with interest. Meanwhile Moo Bass, Adam Hodgson and Henry Rogers will be recruiting a singer and keyboard player for the next incarnation of Touchstone, and begin a new chapter.

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Rob Cottingham to leave Touchstone

Touchstone at the 2012 Cambridge Rock Festival

Touchstone have announced that the two farewell shows for Kim Seviour in November will also be Rob Cottingham’s final gigs with the band. As quoted in Prog:

“It’s been a privilege to see the band grow from the very early days when I kicked the band off with a totally different line up in a small village hall.

“After recent discussions, however, the time is clearly right for me to bow out gracefully at the same time as Kim. I want to thank my bandmates old and new for everything, and wish them every success in their exploits going forward”.

The band had previously announced that they’d be going on indefinite hiatus while various members worked on individual projects, but this announcement implies that the three remaining members intend to continue to work together under the Touchstone name. It’s a case of “watch this space”.

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Touchstone announce stage times for farewell show.

Touchstone at the 2012 Cambridge Rock Festival

Touchstone have announced the stage times for their farewell gig in Leamington Spa on the 21st of November, which is going to be filmed.

16.30: Doors
16.50: Lonely Robot
17.35: Changeover
18.10: Magenta
20.00: Changeover
20.50: Touchstone
22.30: Curfew, followed by after-show event (til Midnight)

Information on tickets for the aftershow will be announced shortly.

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Touchstone’s FInal Show

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The flyer for the final show at Leamington Spa on November 21st with special guests Magenta and support from John Mitchell’s Lonely Robot. Be there.

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Lonely Robot to play Touchstone farewell shows

John Mitchell at the Lonely Robot launch partyTouchstone have announced that John Mitchell’s Lonely Robot will be the support act for their London farewell show at Boston Music Rooms in London on November 20th, and at Leamington Spa Assembly on November 21st, the latter of which also sees Magenta as special guests.

John Mitchell will be performing a stripped-down semi-acoustic set with keyboard player Liam Holmes, seen above at the Lonely Robot launch party earlier this year.

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Touchstone Announce Farewell Shows

Kim Seviour at HRH Prog

After their roof-lifting performance at HRH Prog in March, Touchstone have announced the dates of their two farewell gigs with Kim Seviour, who is stepping down for health reasons.

They will be a Boston Music Rooms in London on November 20th, and the following night at The Assembly in Leamington Spa on the 21st. Full details will be announced on the Touchstone website.

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HRH Prog 3

Jessie May Smart of Steeleye Span at HRH Prog 3HRH Prog is now in its third year, and it’s second at Hafan-Y-Mor, the former Butlins holiday camp just outside Pwllheli in north Wales.

Pwllheli is a long way from anywhere, at the far end of a winding single-track railway line, and the train stops many, many times at little request stops where the train might only stop if you know how to pronounce the station. So by the time I finally got there after a whole day’s travelling I missed the opening band. But I did catch most of The Dream Circuit’s set, with a space-jam sound that owed a lot of Ozric Tentacles.

Knifeworld were the most eagerly anticipated band of the Thursday night. They opened with a brand new song which Kavus Torabi dedicated to his great friend, the late Daevid Allen of Gong. With his white and gold Gresch guitar, Torabi looks most un-prog, but with it’s Zappa-style horn orchestrations, psychedelic soundscapes and layered vocal harmonies the music is as progressive as it gets. There were one or two who didn’t ‘get’ what they do, implying they’re not “proper prog”, but it’s their loss. Knifeworld are the real thing.

Thursday headliners The Skys, hailing from Lithuania had a far more traditional prog sound, but were very good at what they did. They displayed some strong Floydian atmospherics at times, with a harder-rocking edge at others. They had a great keyboard sound with big washes of Hammond, and one guitar solo in particular was brain-melting.
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Kim Seviour leaves Touchstone

Touchstone's 2014 Christmas gig at Bilston Robin 2

Sad news from  Touchstone

It is with regret that we announce the departure of Kim Seviour from Touchstone.

Kim has decided to leave due to ongoing medical issues. Here are a few words from her…”I’m sure that this will come as a shock to many people, and for that I’m very sorry. As many of you will know, I’ve dealt with a health condition, M.E for the last five years of being in Touchstone. The condition and the lifestyle changes that it has resulted in, including a move cross-country, have made it impossible for me to commit to Touchstone in the way that it truly deserves. I need to take time to concentrate on my health and getting myself back to peak condition. Who knows what lies ahead after. I love my boys to bits and we’ve shared many amazing adventures, which would have been impossible without the support of incredible music lovers, and friends such as yourselves. I wish the guys the very best and know that they will continue to make awesome music, which I fully support all the way. For those who can make it, I would love to see you and share a drink at HRH, which will be my last Touchstone gig. Thank you so much for everything, I love you all. God bless xxx”

All the band fully accept this situation and support her decision and we know that you will join us in wishing Kim all the very best for the future. We will still be in very close contact. It’s been an amazing journey for all of us and we sincerely appreciate all the fantastic support from our fans and friends, given to us over the years.

Kim will be leaving after our performance at Hard Rock Hell on Friday 20th March, so if you want to get a last chance to see this lineup, it’s a trip to North Wales…!!!

As for the future of Touchstone, there are no immediate plans for a new release; the band is currently on indefinite hold and remaining members will pursue other projects.

At some time in the future the Touchstone phoenix may arise again…;

Kim will be a very hard act to follow with her dynamic stage presence and distictive voice. I first saw her ar her very first gig with the band, supporting The Reasoning at Crewe Limelight.

This incarnation of Touchstone should go out with a bang at HRH Prog.

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