Concert Review Archive

 

Symforce

Focus, Lady Lake, Lazuli, Isopoda, Riverside, The Pineapple Thief, Pendragon, The Aurora Project, Beardfish, The Flower Kings, Bootcut

September 15th 2007
013, Tilburg, The Netherlands

By
Bart Jan van der Vorst, Derk van Mourik, Dries Dokter, Edwin Roosjen, Joris Donkel, Martien Koolen and Martin Kikkert
Photos by Bart Jan van der Vorst and Dries Dokter

Annual prog festivals. Every country seems to have at least one of them, but for some reason The Netherlands, a country never short of a prog gig or two, has never really had a proper annually recurring indoor festival with solely prog bands. Time for a change, or so John 'Bobo' Bollenberg must have though, as the part-time DJ and music journalist decided to celebrate his 50th birthday by inviting 1300 prog enthusiasts and 11 bands...

Focus
By Edwin Roosjen

Just after 15:00 hours the doors opened and I investigated the place for the location of the stages and the merchandise stands. The main stage holds a capacity of about 1600, the small room 350 and the bat cave 150. The latter proved a bit small for some acts. The merchandise stands for the acts performing on the main stage were located very badly in the cellar next to the toilets.
I had a bad feeling when 15 minutes before the start the venue was still rather empty. Fortunately in a few minutes it changed from rather empty to pleasantly filled.
At 16:00 hours organizer John Bollenberg (DJ Bobo) welcomed all the people to Symforce. He wished everybody lots of fun at this musical picknick what is sure to become the European answer to Nearfest.

First to go was legendary band Focus. In 2001 Thijs van Leer reformed Focus but without guitar hero Jan Akkerman. A few years later original drummer Piere van der Linden rejoined and guitar –talent Niels van der Steenhoven replaced guitar player Jan Dumée. Their latest album Focus 9 ~ A new skin is an album that holds the unique Focus style of the past, mostly instrumental songs with lot’s of organ and guitar melodies and use of whistling and nonsensical vocals.

Most of the audience knew Focus from the 70’s era but were curious about what Focus would sound like 3 decades later. Apart from House of the king the set was nicely split in two, first part mainly new songs and the second part featured old songs. Because the new material also has that distinctive Focus sound people not familiar with their latest releases could easily appeal to the new songs.
Niels van der Steenhoven, who turned 28 that day, was the revelation of the show and maybe of the whole day. Playing up-front center stage he played flawless with an ease seldom shown. The chemistry between him and Thijs van Leer, who is more than twice his age, was noticeable. During Eruption it was clear that the whole band played very tight, difficult time changes were easily overcome like a well-oiled machine. Bass-player Bobby Jacobs was given a solo spot to show his high skill of playing. For some reason drummer Pierre van der Linden was given two, though during the drum-solos he never reached the level of playing as he did during the songs.

Focus showed that they’re still alive and kicking and that their new material is worth checking out for people who were grabbed by the magic of the band. For lot’s of people it was very nice to hear old classics like Sylvia, Harem Scarem and Hocus Pocus. The last one was played very powerful and got lot’s of response from the audience. Symforce started off with a perfect performance and the level was set very high for the other bands yet to come

Focus
Setlist Focus
Sylvia's Stepson - Ubatuba
House of the King
Tamara's Move
Focus 7
Aya-Yuppie-Hippie-Yee
Eruption
Sylvia
La Cathedrale de Strasbourg
Harem Scarem
Hocus Pocus

Lazuli
By Bart Jan van der Vorst and Joris Donkel

LazuliI skipped the last 20 minutes of Focus in order to ensure a good spot in the small hall for my new favourite 'newcomers', the French band Lazuli. I had seen these guys perform last year at the Progpassion festival, and they completely blew me away. Their latest album En Avant Doute is one of my favourites of the past year, and live the band is even better than on the studio album.

The unique sound of the band is largely created by 'La Léode' the instrument invented by Claude Leonetti which is a cross between a fretless keyboard, a chapman stick and a melodic saw. The instrument produces a sound that lies somewhere in between a guitar and a keyboard and signifies itself since it smoothly slides from chord to chord instead of picking note for note; you actually can compare it a bit sound-wise with the glass harmonica and instruments with a similar sound. But the rest of the band is equally responsible for its uniqueness: a drummer who stands up behind his adapted kit, a percussionist who plays a wide array of marimbas and percussion, a bassplayer who plays solely on Warr guitar (15 strings!), and a guitarist and singer/guitarist who limit themselves to more conventional instruments.
The band played a most of their latest album, as well as a good selection of tunes from their previous album Amnésie. Everywhere people were blown away by the performance and it was during the magnificent solo of Capitaine Coeur de Miel [part II] that my fellow DPRP reviewer Dries walked up to me and said "Damn these guys are good, you were right!". Mission accomplished.

Lazuli ended their set with their usual encore Mon Marim'bat which sees all six bandmembers play one set of marimbas. It's a very melodic piece which makes an interesting spectacle, both musically as visually.

Already early on at this festival we had stumbled on the surprise and best act of the day, an opinion shared by many
Lazuli
Setlist Lazuli
En Avant Doute
Chansons Nettes
Laisse Courir
Film D'Autore
Mal De Chien
Le Repas De L'Ogre
L'Impasse
Capitaine Coeur de Miel [part II]
La Valse
Nos Voix Se Mélangent
L'Arbre
Cassiopee
Amnésie

Mon Marim'bat

Lady Lake
By Joris Donkel

Not willing to leave before the really last note of Lazuli I arrived quite at the end of Lady Lake's concert in the small Bat cave. They were just joined by Thijs van Leer who provided one long instrumental, as all songs are by this long lasting Dutch group, his excellent flute playing.
The long instrumental jam was about the only thing I heard of this group, but it was already enough to make a note to check out more of them.

Riverside
By Dries Dokter

RiversideRiverside was without a doubt one of the bands people came to see. The room was fully loaded and Riverside T-Shirts were all over the place. As I have been a big fan from day one this was going to be my 7th live encounter with Riverside. So I already knew they could bring a smashing live performance.

Although the music has always been good it is the little details that appear to develop in their live performances. This time it was very noticeable that they had just supported Dream Theater on part of their European tour: the band breathed a very calm and relaxed atmosphere and looked very self-confident. Must have been the experience of playing for thousands of people a couple of times.

Still that does not mean that their podium style changed completely, Mariusz is still very modest but did get people to sing along with Conceiving you. Walking around on stage like e.g. Nick Barrett joking and making fun is not Riverside's style. I heard people say that the music was ok but the live performance lacked something, it might have been just that.

But I was not one of them, putting emphasis on the music is ok in my book. The set was started set with a new track: Beyond The Eyelids, in fact the first track of the upcoming album. At the start of the set Piotr's guitar had a very low volume in the mix. Especially the so much appreciated solos were hard to make out at times. Luckily this changed throughout the performance and halfway the set the sound was pretty good.

After this first introducton to Rapid Eye Movement I was hoping for more of an introduction of the new album, unfortunately that did not happen. Only 1 other track form Rapid Eye Movement was played: Ultimate Trip. A track well over 10 minutes but still, I would have liked to hear Cybernetic Pillow and of course the single 02 Panic room. Then again this being a festival the band probably choose a showcase of their work. And in that respect these 2 new ones fit in nicely.

Noteworthy was the version of I Believe: the first half with a slower more jazzy approach and after that the second half closer to the version on the album. I had heard that version before at Ittevoort and it is a really powerful one. Ultimate Trip, as most people will soon discover, is one of the best tracks of the album and therefor it was good to hear it live. And it has a bit more power and a bit more emotion even, when performed on stage. But that can be said of most of the songs: they all sound a bit heavier and a tad more energetic. The highlight of the set was of courese the splendid Second Life Syndrome. This songs gets to me very time and to hear it live, eyes closed to let myself drown in it, is like a dream.

Riverside again did not dissappoint me. They have an excellent live performance and this was one of the best performances I saw them do. I can understand the sentiment that they might need more of a stage presence and that that would give them more appeal if you see them a number of times in a row. But I just love the music and that has always been the centre point of their performances.

Setlist Riverside
Beyond The Eyelids
Out of Myself
I Turned You Down
Ultimate Trip
Conceiving You
Loose Heart
Volte-Face
I Believe
Second Life Syndrome

The Pineapple Thief
By Bart Jan van der Vorst

Another band that I had seen only once before on a festival. Three years ago I saw them play at ProgsFest in the UK where their solid performance really blew me away. Unfortunately since that time Bruce Soord and his band seem to have reached a creative standstill with the disappointing 10 Stories Down and equally unexciting Little Man.
Their gig at Symforce exactly illustrated what I dislike about the band these days: all their songs sound the same. Fortunately some great 'oldies' like Part Zero and Kid Chameleon livened up the set, but on the whole everything was just a bit samey, culminating in the awfully repetitive I Will Light Up Your Eyes (of which they fortunately only played the first 7 minutes).

Their upcoming album What We Have Sown bodes well, but unfortunately they failed to make an impression at Symforce. A real pity considering this was their first ever gig in The Netherlands.

Setlist The Pineapple Thief
God Bless The Children
The World I Always Dreamed Of
Dead In The Water
Kid Chameleon
Freefall
Part Zero
Wait
I Will Light Up Your Eyes pt 1
Snowdrops
Run A Mile
God Bless The Child
We Love You

We Subside

Isopoda
By Joris Donkel

Back in the Bat cave I could judge for myself that the title of "Belgian Genesis" wasn't chosen without reason for Isopoda that was reformed especially for this festival.
The keyboards played a main role in their music and its player played them just as relaxed and emotionless as Tony Banks does. Their show surely deserved a bigger stage and audience and I for one fully enjoyed it; another discovery for me.

Pendragon
By Dries Dokter

Pendragon
I have been a fan of Pendragon for a long time. In fact The Jewel was one of the first albums in my CD collection. It is because of that that it is a disgrace that I had not seen the band perform live before. Of course I have seen some of the Live DVDs but that's not the real thing. So going to Symforce I was really looking forward to the Pendragon show.


Compared to Riverside it was noticeable that the venue was not filled as much. I can't really explain why that was. Maybe because many people were curious about Riverside and Pendragon only attracted people that really liked them. But there were still more than enough fans there!
The sound was really bad at the start of the show: guitars were gone completely because the bass guitar had eaten all the sound. In fact standing at the front the sound was better through the monitors than through the actual speakers. Based on what Nick Barrett said on our forum it is understandable the sound had some startup problems because they had not brought their own sound engineer. Pendragon

But all that aside: it is a real pleasure to see Pendragon on stage!. Nick Barrett knows how to connect to an audience and how to have them join in on the fun. The vibrant and energetic bass playing of Peter Gee also adds to that atmosphere. It is very clear that having fun is not an act, it is for real and only then you are able to convey it to the audience.

Nick had some fun with a number of people from abroad, because Pendragon did not come to visit them they came to Pendragon all the way from Norway (devoted fans!). Then it turned out a lot more foreigners were there and he had to address them all of course.

When explaining about spam and how annoying it is that every 2nd mail tries to sell you viagra, Nick came up with the following historic line: "The Dutch are the Viagra of Prog rock". Of course it was not only fooling around some pretty good music was played too. This all for instance served as an introduction to the The Wishing Well, a track from their last album Believe. Although there were 2 other songs from Believe the emphasis was not that album at all the setlist was a nice mix of Pendragon's back catalogue. The setlist was in fact a shortened version of the setlist on the And Now Everybody To The Stage DVD.

Highlights in this setlist: Nostradamus (easy to sing-a-long), Dance Of The 7 Veils (a real epic, ending in another sing-a-long) and of course the intimate and touching Am I really Losing You, with the guitar riff that keeps haunting you for days, every where you walked through the 013 venue you could hear people whistling the tune.

I must admit that I highly enjoyed my first Pendragon gig. More must follow....

Pendragon
Setlist Pendragon
Believe Intro
No Place For The Innocent
As Good As Gold
The Wishing Well
Nostradamus (Stargazing)
Dance Of The 7 Veils
Paintbox
Breaking The Spell
Masters Of Illusion
Am I Really Losing You?

Beardfish
By Derk van Mourik and Martin Kikkert

Based on nothing more than a few recommendations, the nomer "complex music made fun", and the similarity of their name to that of another band that has made that principle its trademark, I had made Beardfish my top priority for the second half of the festival. After all, seeing Spock's Beard with even less prior knowledge back in January '98 had made me a lifelong fan.
Not so here, but that is in large part due to my growing detachment from the genre in general.

Beardfish


In any case, Beardfish had been programmed in the tiny bat cave, which, ten minutes before the start of the performance, was already uncomfortably packed. Wriggling my way to the middle of the room - one couldn't possibly call it a hall - I observed the band going through their soundcheck. What immediately caught my eye was the large piece of furniture on the right of the stage, which undoubtedly housed an organ, a mellotron, or some other piece of classic musical equipment that the Scandinavian bands are all so fond of.
Beardfish
During the concert, frontman Rikard Sjöblom would alternate between the aforementioned instrument and guitar, while also handling all the leadvocals. About the music Beardfish plays much has already been said better than I ever could: read the relevant reviews on this website and others. Their setlist covered all three albums they have released so far, but surely only their most recent output Sleeping In Traffic part 1 (on InsideOut) would have been known to a decent amount of onlookers. Of that album they played a couple of tracks, including Sunrise and Roulette, the latter being one of the highlights of the whole set.
The promised complexity was there, but it was probably more in the melodies than in the odd time signatures - if my memory serves me right. Bass player Robert Hanssen's onstage antics deserve a special mention. I've known some whacky Scandinavians in my day, but this guy really takes the cake. Some of the faces he made wouldn't have been out of place on the masks of Aztec battle priests! That, the quirky lyrics and Sjöblom's rambling song introductions made up the fun part. And fun was had!

The Aurora Project
By Dries Dokter

The Aurora Project

The Aurora Project played Prog Power 2005 and were the support act for one of the most memorable concerts I have ever seen: Riverside in the basement of Sjiwa, Baarlo. So although it had been sometime ago that I saw them this would be my third concert. Unfortunately they were programmed back to back with Pendragon, so I had to rush out after Pendragon finished, luckily I did not miss too much.

But what a surprise this performance was: the sound and intimacy of the small hall fitted The Aurora Project well. It all seemed more powerful and better than I remembered from my previous encounters. Of course it always helps that you know the material and yes it did help that I could sing a long with a couple of them. But then if you take into account that I especially liked the new pieces there must be more to it than that. These new songs show such big promise for TAP's next album. One of the new tracks was referred to as "the heavy one" and the other as another new one (although just as heavy). These tracks were powerful and still very melodic. Not only the power but also the build up and diversity of the new tracks hit the right spot with me. So really looking forward to their new release.

The sound to their performance was really good: just loud enough a good balance between guitars and vocals. Unfortunately the lady that they had invited to play the flute got a bit of a raw deal: the sound was not too good
for her. Maybe next time she should also think of a new outfit because the red dress looked kind of silly, it made me laugh.

But still through the concert looking around I saw a couple of people singing along (like I did) familiar to the band but also people that were new to and surprised by the sound of The Aurora Project. I think the guys did themselves a real favour and earned them a couple of new fans too! The Aurora Project must have been the band closest to the progmetal genre but I don't think the Symforce audience had any problem with that. Most people seemed to be enjoying themselves. I sure did!

Setlist The Aurora Project
Intro
Human Gateway
Event Horizon
Unspoken Words II
The Betrayal
The Confession
Nocturnal Lament
Boinkeboink
Unspoken Words II
Untold Prophecy
Trial

Trip

The Flower Kings
By Martien Koolen

And last but not least the kings of prog entered the 013 stage, kicking off with a 20 minute instrumental jam session with fragments from songs like Garden of Deams, Retropolis and Rumble Fish Twist. A remarkable opening of a rather "obscure" set list, which was not even clear for the guys in the band at certain times... The new fantastic album The Sum of no Evil, was released two weeks later, so unfortunately The Flower Kings decided to play just one new song tonight, as most of the audience had not heard any of the new material. The last song of the new album, Life in Motion was played tonight – after a rather weird and nervous introduction by Roine – and it was a real treat to my ears. A typical flower power Flower Kings track filled with lots of heavenly solos and breathtaking melodies. Especially the Yes-like harmony vocal part "Feels like coming home, coming home again” gave me the first gooseflesh of this day...

Sadly, not all that the band did this evening was exciting, because after a certain time we were (mis)treated to a bass solo by Jonas Reingold and a rather boring drum solo by Zoltan Csorsz. As this was the last time that Zoltan will be playing with the band it was a sort of farewell drum solo, but nonetheless very redundant indeed! From the album Unfold the Future they played The Truth will set you free, although is was not the entire 30-minute song. However it is always a pleasure to hear that one.

The Flower Kings


One of my alltime Flower Kings favourites There is more to this World had also found its way on the set list and here the band really shone like a true grand vintage style symphonic prog rock band; top of the world.

However, the set list was much too short as everybody knows that The Flower Kings are just like a diesel engine; slow starters, but when they get going there is no stopping them. An enjoyable, but rather “weird” performance therefore and I am looking forward to the real Sum of no Evil tour in November.
Setlist The Flower Kings
Retropolis jam
The Truth Will Set You Free
Life In Motion
Drum solo
Babylon
Hudson Rivers
What If God Is Alone
There Is More To This World
I Am The Sun (pt 1 & 2)

Bootcut
By Joris Donkel

By the time The Flower Kings had finished their last song, I only managed to hear the final song of Bootcut's performance in the Bat cave. This band, that only consists of the keyboard player of Beardfish and a drummer, plays a progressive version of the instrumental organ based 60's band Booker T & the MG's and I must say it rocks!
Judging by their album I bought afterwards I can say this minimal combination works out real fine and delivers some interesting stuff, surely if you're an organ lover!

 


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