I managed to catch Cardiff’s The Reasoning three times on their short “Dark Angel” tour. Their mix of melodic rock and metal with progressive seasoning always works well live, and with an excellent second album under their belt, this was a tour to look forward to.
First up was the Classic Rock Society’s gig at Wath-upon-Dearne. I’ve not been to a CRS gig or this venue before; the venue reminded me of the Drill Hall at Lincoln; raised seating at the back with a level standing area at the front. This was an all-age gig, with loads of kids in the audience; it makes for a very different atmosphere. There seemed to be a good crowd; I estimated two hundred or so.
Support was Combination Head, a band I’d never heard before. Hearing then described as ‘a bit like ELP’ made me fear the worst. I’m not a big fan of ELP, the band that wrote the rule books for Bombastic and Self-Indulgent. But Combination Head, while they had plenty of Hammond organ pyrotechnics reigned in the self-indulgent widdling and threw in some decent tunes instead. Not bad at all.
Introduced as “An Evening of Gorp-Metal”, The Reasoning’s set was powerful and impassioned, much improved from their slightly hesitant set at the Cambridge Rock Festival. With their new album out they’ve revamped the setlist completely, playing almost all of more metal-orientated “Dark Angel” plus the best half of their debut “Awakening”, a superb 90 minutes of great music with no let up at all. They’re a band that really mean business now. The new material came over well live; ‘Dark Angel’ and ‘Sharp Sea’, already familiar from January’s gigs have already established themselves as live favourites. ‘Call Me God?’, premièred at Cambridge, is an absolute monster live, and Rachel dropped some unsubtle hints as to who it’s about. The epic ‘A Musing Dream’ also comes over well on stage. They encored with a cover of Alanis Morrissette’s ‘Uninvited’ and the old Karnataka favourite ‘Talk to Me’.
Sunday’s acoustic gig at Kimberworth was a quite different affair; a relaxed and laid-back performance before a select audience of fifty or so dedicated fans. So laid back that the some of the band took to the stage and were ready to start while one member of the band was still in the loo; he got a huge cheer when he turned up. They played an hour’s worth of acoustic reworkings of material from both albums.
The third and final gig I went to was Crewe Limelight. Recent gigs there had been very hit-and-miss sound-wise, but I still love this venue. It’s one of those slightly seedy but atmospheric small clubs, walls completely covered in posters and album sleeves. Pure rock’n'roll. And they attracted a good crowd; significantly more people than the last time they played this venue in January.
Support this time was Mermaid Kiss, with their new keyboard player Colin Henney. I’ve seen a lot of them this year, with their earlier support slots for Panic Room and Breathing Space. While they’re definitely not to everyone’s taste, I love what they do. Their semi-acoustic lineup emphasises Evelyn Downing’s distinctive voice and Wendy Marks’ assorted woodwinds. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another band use a cor anglais on stage. While I’d like to see them do some gigs at some time with a full electric lineup reproducing the atmospheric progressive rock of their albums, the stripped-down acoustic arrangements of many of the songs from “Etarlis” work well live. Tonight’s set was slightly shorter, with some material from their forthcoming “American Images” omitted, but still pretty good.
The Reasoning played an absolute blinder this time around. They’d been good at Wath, this took their performance to another level entirely, helped by the best sound I’ve heard at The Limelight for ages. Three dates into their tour, the lineup had fully gelled, with that incredible mix of high energy, tightness and emotional intensity they’ve established a reputation for. The setlist was much the same as we’d heard at Wath, but with a rearranged running order for slightly better pacing, opening with ‘Sharp Sea’ rather than ‘Dark Angel’, and swapping ‘Talk to Me’ and ‘Awakening’. New guitarist Owain Roberts has really fitted in now, reeling off some amazing solos that always stop well short of anything remotely self-indulgent; restrained virtuosity indeed. He absolutely nailed the guitar parts of earlier “Awakening” material, and shone on his own work on “Dark Angel”.
Reports I’ve read of later dates in Cardiff, London and Bilston suggest the final dates were better still. They’re on the road again supporting Fish next month; I hope to catch at least one of the dates – on this form they’re going to give the headliner a serious run for his money.