Concert Review Archive

 
Cambridge Rock Festival 2011

Also Eden, Morpheus Rising, Angstrom, Manning, Godsticks, Paul Menel, Kyrbgrinder, Ebony Tower, Stolen Earth, Panic Room, Aireya51, Chantal McGregor, Larry Miller, Jebo, Crimes Of Passion, Credo, John Young band, Mr. So&So, Mostly Autumn, Caravan, The Enid

Friday - Saturday, 5th - 8th August 2011
Cambridge, the UK

Article By John O'Boyle

Well what a fantastic weekend it was for music. I say weekend as the festival actually ran over four full days, a festival that is in its eighth year and a festival that offers a variety of music, set in a nice location that is well organised, friendly and relaxed. The real beauty of the festival though was that is was attended by true music lovers, people who were at home listening to the blues, rock, prog.... well I think you get the picture.

Listed below are some of the highlights of what I witnessed, some bands that were unknown quantities and there were some old favourites too. This was a festival that was highly enjoyable and a festival I would highly recommend to anyone.

Not only would I like to raise my glass to Dave Roberts the organiser, but I would also like to thank all those that made this happen. A big cheer also goes out to the sound guys who provided excellent soundstages for all the bands who participated.

Friday, 5th August 2011


Classic rock stage

Also Eden

As said first band to play Martigan. German band Martigan (Official website/Myspace) are around for awhile yet they are not that well known in progressive circles as they perhaps be should be. Friday was the start of the festival for me, where I spent most of my time at the CRS stage with the first band I caught being Also Eden who for me were the band of the day offering up their excellent high energy show.

Setlist Also Eden
Seeing Red
Artificial Light
Think of the Children
Oversight
Photographs
1949
A Widow's Eyes
 

Morpheus Rising

Next up was Morpheus Rising (Official website/Myspace) a very dynamic rock band from Yorkshire who gave a very good account of themselves, a band that have been influenced by the likes of Iron Maiden and Wishbone Ash, a band that were tight, having a strong vocalist which made a difference. They also had a very impressive lead and rhythm section who played some very nice twin guitar parts. This was a band that was brimming with confidence and a band that pleased the crowd with their varied and applied sound which kept everything fresh.

Setlist Morpheus Rising
Save the Day
Brave New World
Fighting Man
Fear of Nothing
Those Who Watch
Lord of the North
Gypsy King
Shades of Grey
Hold On
 

Angstrom

Local band Angstrom (Myspace) entered the stage, a band that was unfamiliar to me who seemingly have just reformed after a long hiatus. A female fronted band that played their vision of psychedelic prog rock complimented by the feisty vocals of Gwenda Wood. I was really fascinated by their musical presentation especially Carina, Deep Space and Tatu, but was somewhat bemused as was most of the audience, by their stage dancer who I might add was no Stacia, who apparently is their keyboard player, but just didn’t have any keyboards available. Definitely a band I would like to see again.

Setlist Angstrom
Carina
Pin Down
No
You
Deep Space
Broadgates
Tatu
Still Nothing Yet
Shaken Not Disturbed
 

Manning

A firm favourite of mine Manning (Official website/Myspace), someone I have seen several times took to the stage with his cut down band to play some of his songs that probably wouldn’t normally get an airing. It is always nice to hear Guy play his songs this way as it offers a change to be able to hear the unique and what I consider to be a very musically emotional voice. His folky feel was very endearing on the ear, an impassioned performance that more that entertained the audience, offering up stunning renditions of Clocks, Margaret Montgomery, Antares and The Mexico Line. This was music that held you captivate dragging you into the world of the songs that all in all was highly entertaining.

Setlist Manning
Silent Man
View from My Window
Clocks
In Swingtime
Tears in the Rain
Castaways
Margaret Montgomery
Night and the Devil
Antares
Revelation Road
The Mexico Line
 

Godsticks

Godsticks (Official website/Myspace) entered the occasion with style playing their convoluted if not slightly off kilter prog that more than called to mind Frank Zappa in place. The trio were tight as ever, they worked their way through the set that was full of guitar inflection, jazzy one minute and rocking out the next and a tight back line and all which confirmed the proficient and musical dexterity these guys possess which made for a very exciting set. The band offered up great versions of R.R.R, Zappa’s Enchidnas (Arf of you) and the intriguing Norman.

Setlist Godsticks
Not the face
The Offer Still Stands
Put Seven in Bold
Only when Provoked
Enchidnas (Arf of you)
Timshel
Withdrawn was the Giveaway
Puppy Gardener
RRR
Norman
 

Paul Menel

Paul Menel (Official website/Myspace) has re-entered the music world after a long hiatus with his album release just around the corner. Not having heard any of Paul’s new creations I wasn’t sure what to expect and unfortunately I didn’t get chance to see the whole set. What I did get to see though was excellent with Paul working every inch of the stage, a set that was full of energy he just never seemed to stop working. He opened with IQ’s Falling Apart at the Seams from the Are You Sitting Comfortably album and worked his way through material from his up and coming album which was very enjoyable. I managed to catch up with Paul and there is certainly some very interesting times ahead. Watch this space.

 

Kyrbgrinder

Kyrbgrinder (Official website/Myspace) closed the evening set with their high velocity high powered set that drew the biggest audience for the CRS stage. The band is a power trio featuring Johannes James of Threshold fame on drums, Tommy Caris on guitar and Alberto Fliaibani on bass. Johannes was an amazing front man that really interacted well with both the band and the crowd, not only displaying his drumming techniques but having a wicked sense of humour too. There were two young kids aged about nine moshing at the front of the stage, two young kids the band saw fit to get up on the stage to help them out with the vocals, both complied, soaking up the atmosphere created. Shredding guitars, powerful drumming and stunning bass playing was the order of the day making sure that they offered a fitting and closing set to the day proceedings.

Setlist Kyrbgrinder
Cynical World
Don't Be So Cold
Defiance
Through These Eyes
What About Me
Not in My Name
The Guide
People of the Free World (Paranoid American)
My heart Bleeds
Where Do We Go From Here
 
Band of the day

Also Eden

Well this was the first time I have seen Also Eden with Rich Harding, and to be quite honest I was rather impressed with what I heard. The band has moved away slightly from their Neo prog sound having a slightly hard edge, a sound that has served them well. Rich Harding’s stage presence was slightly hampered due to a serious accident, but no matter, his vocals gymnastics were excellent, where he threw himself into the songs giving a very impassioned performance.

Simon Rogers and Ian Hodson displayed their melodic interactions adding perfection to the music as Steve Dunn and Lee Nichols kept everything time perfect as they worked their way through some rather excellent songs. This was Neo prog at its best. This was an impassioned performance from the band with all the twists and turns you would expect as the band working their way through such glories as Seeing Red, a stunning new piece 1949 that came to fruition after Rich Hall’s horrific accident and a very convincing Window’s Eyes seeing Rich fill Huw Lloyd Jones shoes well.

There was only two downsides to this set, firstly the frustration of Rich not being able to work the stage with these songs and secondly the set was far too short.


Saturday, 6th August 2011


Main stage

Ebony Tower

A new day a new set of bands, a day of looking forward to some great music. Ebony Tower (Official website/Myspace) walked onto the stage offering their themed Alice in Wonderland set that was highly impressive. This was a band that had the full package, two female singers, the image, bags of confidence and the material to back it up. Zandra King, who called to mind Sonja Kristina, provided the vocals being accompanied by Lee Seger. The band strutted their stuff as Wilson McQueen confidently supplied the notation, beautifully releasing each note from his guitar creating some rather excellent atmospheric music, being another excellent highlight and a band to watch out for in the future with their prog and gothic elements. Unfortunately all things have to come to an end much to the disappointment of the audience who called for an encore, but due to time constraints it just couldn’t happen.

Setlist Ebony Tower
White Rabbit
Ebony Tower
The Passing
Labyrinth
The Mirror
LSA
Caterpillar
Angel
Mad Hatter Looking Glass War
 

Stolen Earth

The festival may have included many things Mostly Autumn related in one way shape or form, but to see Heidi Widdop fronting five piece Stolen Earth(Official website) a band that rose from the ashes of Breathing Space was more than welcome. This was their debut live show but in all honesty you wouldn’t have known had they not announced the fact. The band mainly played new material from the up and coming album which really spoke for itself which included Unnatural Disaster, Tuscany Sun and Perfect Wave amongst others. This was a band that seriously complemented Heidi’s soulful voice playing music that was sultry, atmospheric, moody and seriously grooved. The reaction from the audience again proved that they had just witnessed something rather special which was becoming the theme of the day.

 

Panic Room

Panic Room (Official website/Myspace) Anne-Marie Helders band, an artist that walked the stage more than once this weekend got chance to showcase her bands music. She is a woman of many talents and her band mixes up prog, supplying some rather nice melodic and colourful music, which could be heard with the unrecorded opener Song for Tomorrow or the ELP cover of Bitches Crystal. Paul Davis worked his passionate guitar sounds throughout the songs, ripping the guitar up when needed and dropping back into a more sedate approach accompanied by Jon Edwards who added that final depth with his colourful interactions. Full of expression and feeling Anne-Marie made sure the delivery was perfect. The band worked there way through yet another superb song called Promises which only reassured people that the next album is probably going to be something special. The rest of the material most of which was from the stunning Satellite album made for a high quality set which was all brought to a close by the titled song off the aforementioned album.

Setlist Panic Room
Song for Tomorrow
Freedom to Breathe
5th Amendment
Exodus
Reborn
Promises
Bitches Crystal
Dark Star
Satellite
 

Aireya 51

Now Aireya 51 (Official website/Myspace) are a band that have played the Cambridge Rock Festival before and by all account caused a little storm with their music. 2011 saw the band repeating that response with their rather powerful and imaginative musical soundstages. This wasn’t music that was everyone’s cup of tea, but it was interesting and highly entertaining to watch. Band leader Keith Airey led his band cohorts who included the likes of Bob Skea (Wishbone Ash), Steve Rodford (The Zombies) and not forgetting Kerry Gallagher, through some very interesting psychedelic blues rock, which included three new numbers. The buzz grew around the band toward the end of the set when it was announced that he was going to bring his brother on to help out on the keyboards. Unfortunately due to touring commitments his brother Don couldn’t make it, so he had to get his brother Paul out to help who duly complied performing an excellent job.

 

Chantal McGregor

Some one gave me the heads up about the next artist, telling me this was one to watch, a young lady who goes by the name of Chantel McGregor (Official website), who turned out to be both my artist of the day and in all honesty the festival.

Setlist Chantal McGregor
Had To Cry Today
Starship Trooper
Fabulous
Like No Other
A New Day Yesterday
Daydream
Caught Out
Sloe Gin
 

Larry Miller

Only someone of the standard of Larry Miller (Official website/Myspace) could have followed Chantel McGregor. Larry more than stepped up to the plate. If Chantel McGregor tore the roof off the build Larry was going to make sure that the roof would never go back on again. Hard rocking blues from a man that has more than paid his dues throughout the years gifted the audience with his mind blowing high energy set. His blues workouts more than pleased the rabid crowd who all fed off his magnetic energy and by god did he have some energy. The real highlight though was his muscular workout which include a medley of songs from Page, Clapton, Gallagher and Hendrix, which started with All Along the Watchtower and ended with Rock and Roll which just turned the heat up on the crowd. He had the audience feeding from his hand and he knew it, being the perfect showman he just kept coming making sure that no one was ever going to follow that.

 
Band of the day

Chantel McGregor

It’s not often that I’m speechless after watching an artist, but this really was the mouse that roared. Chantel McGregor, remember that name people, was an absolute powerhouse, one of the most amazing guitar players I have ever, yes ever seen. A young lady that wrung out the full emotional gamut of musicality from here chosen instrument that mighty powerful six string and boy did she rock, not since the likes of seeing Warren Haynes have I witnessed such fluidic and heartfelt sounds from a blues player. From the opening Had to Cry Today it was obvious that Chantel meant business and the audience in attendance and there was many had come to see and hear her contributions to the world of music. The band was only a three piece but boy did they make some noise, even Jethro Tull’s A New Day Yesterday rocked like the proverbial just proving that she could turn her hand. Interesting as you watched her play she was just grinning from ear to ear unbelieving as to what she was witnessing, the response, never mind the audience look back unbelieving of what they were witnessing. Just to prove to everyone though the lady herself played a trio of songs off her debut album, her own numbers, Fabulous, Like No Other and Caught Out which in all honesty on hindsight rocked better than on the album, that’s the way live music goes, confirming her song writing ability and getting serious recognition from the crowd. The piece de resistance though was a fifteen minute cover of Robin Trower’s Daydream an outlet that really displayed her as an awesome guitarist and vocalist that sent shivers down your spine which was the final straw that brought the house down. As if all that wasn’t enough the set closer a version of Joe BonamassaSloe Gin was the icing on the cake, truely confirming that this was a show that will go down in the history books of the festival, a set that had everyone buzzing once it had ended. An awesome set from a lady, a lady that has a seriously bright future in music, proving that you can have the cake and eat too..


Sunday, 7th August 2011


Main stage

Jebo

The final day of the festival was on paper for me the best day. Unfortunately I missed the Final Conflict set but did manage to capture the rather interesting Jebo (Official website/Myspace). Jebo presented a somewhat entertaining set presenting a balanced mix of keyboards and guitar all backed by the rather fine vocals of Kevin J Messenger. The band opened with And You Will Rise which was certainly a crowd pleaser as was Nothing Ever Works That Way. The band married classic rock soundstages with prog elements, for me the real highlights though were Diamonds and 7th Day.

Setlist Jebo
And You Will Rise
Nothing Ever Works That Way
Bring You Down
40 Miles
Diamonds
7th day
No Angels
Vital
 

Crimes Of Passion

Crimes of Passion (Official website/Myspace) for all intense and purpose were a high quality Heavy Metal band who have just got back from touring Europe with Saxon. The band were tight as was their music and the lead singer worked both the stage and crowd coming across like Ted Poley of Danger Danger fame. The band new what they wanted to achieve and without a shadow of a doubt they succeeded like a bunch of young Turks. No prisoners were going to be left untaken, the band rocked the audience with the likes of Blackended Heart and a cover of Dio’s Holy Diver, an audience who were having fun and more than willing to participate, enjoying the band like it was one of those heady 80’s rock days when Heavy Metal ruled the waves.

 

Credo

Neo prog band Credo (Official website/Myspace) arrived on stage playing their last set of the tour, the familiar call was made by Mark Colton, “We are Credo and this is what we did next”, saw the band kick into Round and Round which enticed the audience to participate with its familiar and bouncy melody a firm favourite of both the band and the audience. As there was time constraints and this is prog the band only had chance to play four songs in total, the band chose wise and next up was Staring at the Sun from Against All Reason, another perfect melodic interaction from the band with some stunning work from both Mike Varty and Tim Birrell that really created the piece. The sombre but rather hooky The Ghost of Yesterday was up next an emotional presentation and now live favourite weaved its magic entrancing the audience with its rhythmic and hypnotic beauty. What can be said about the final song, From the Cradle to the Grave, a song that really encapsulates what Credo are all about, this is the band at their best, their classiest never disappointed throughout. I tip my hat to Mr Colton, Varty, Birrell, Murdoch and Meads for another excellent and entertaining set.

Setlist Credo
Round N Round
Staring at the Sun
The Ghost of Yesterday
From the Cradle to the Grave
 

John Young Band

Carrying on the prog theme, up next was the John Young Band (Myspace). The last time I saw John Young he was part of Uli Jon Roth band for the Beyond the Astra Skies Tour if memory serves me right. Although John was suffering from a sore throat he worked his way through his set, with the only clue of his sore throat being the fact that he informed us. The band followed his lead as he played and sang his impassioned lyrics on such beautiful songs as Unknown Soldier, Childhood’s End and Open Skies. Robin Boult’s guitar work really filled the sound out as the pair worked in tandem creating a poignant and memorable set, a set that was all about the songs, a set that I would love to have been much longer, but that’s festivals for you.

Setlist John Young Band
All Grown Up
Different
Unknown Soldier
Childhood's End
Open Skies
Kings
 

Mr. So & So

Mr So&So (Official website/Myspace) raised the temperature when they came on stage, another firm favourite and in my eyes, a band that can’t do any wrong and yet again the band didn’t disappoint. When you put Shaun McGowan and Charlotte Evans on stage backed by Stuart Brown, Dave Foster and Andy Rigler something magical happens. The band just delivered working their way through the set. Shaun who sang most of the songs was complimented by Charlotte’s harmonies, with Charlotte taking lead on a few occasions. The feeling the band emanated was one of fun, lapping up the moment whilst Charlotte who never stood still worked the audience, coming across as a band who just loving being on stage. Opening Bi Polar set the standard as the band worked their through their songs including the rhythmic Overlap, the fantastic and mesmerising Celtic toned Coup De Grace and set closer The Visitor. Another short set from another fantastic band.

Setlist Mr. So & So
Bi Polar
Overlap
Photograph
So Near So Far
Rainbow
Coup De Grace
The Gold
The Visitor
 

Mostly autumn

The festival had already seen several members of the Mostly Autumn (Official website/Myspace) machine already play through the festival and it was now the bands turn. The band now seems to have found some stability which was more than noticeable during their set, a set that was highly intense, taking the attentive audience on a journey, a band that were firm favourites with the audience. Whether it was the powerful vocal presentation of Olivia Sparnenn or Bryan Josh’s stunning guitar work, one thing for sure was that this was a band out to prove that they are at the top of the game, presenting a master class displaying the power of their music. From the start, the set was mixed with old and new with the standout songs including Evergreen a stunning rendition of Deep in Borrowdale and Heroes Never Die. The highlight for me though was the powerful performance of the Breathing Space song Questioning Eyes which really confirmed Olivia’s presences as a vocalist, not that it needed confirming.

Setlist Mostley Autumn
Distant Train
Answer the Question
Evergreen
Deep in Borrowdale
The Last Climb
Ice
The Dark Before the Dawn
Hold the Sun
Questioning Eyes
Heroes Never Die
 

Caravan

And now for a band I have been waiting to see for a long time Caravan (Official website) who would have been the band of the day but for The Enid. Caravan is band that requires no introduction and a band that knows how to entertain having a back catalogue that they can pull from. Pye Hastings and the band stepped up and delivered their jazz flavoured prog rock, a sound that has influenced and a sound that more than entertained. The band opened with two numbers from For Girls Who Go Plump in the Night, which really set the standard for the rest of the set which included songs such as And I Wish I Were Stoned, Smoking Gun and Golf Girl. The real highlight of the set though was the band playing the whole of the epic Nine Feet Under. From Pye’s fantastic guitar work, the inclusion of violin, flute, spoons, stunning keyboard Caravan rocked and so did the audience.

 
Band of the day

The Enid

Well the last night of the festival did not disappoint or loose any of its impetus. Make no mistake tonight The Enid (Official website/Myspace) stole the show even though the other bands that had played before brought something special to the table.

To everyone’s surprise not only had the band turned up with a seven strong choir but they also brought a full orchestral brass section too. As Robert John Godfrey informed everyone that this was a prequel to the Birmingham Symphony Hall show, which will, I am sure be the symphonic prog spectacular of the year.

The set consisted of six movements; the complete re-enactment of their latest album Journey’s End, which just gets stronger each time I hear it being played live, the addition of the choir really added another dimension. The band gelled as one, being really precise, exacting a perfect rendition that was bolstered by the choir. The audience were held captivated throughout, rooted and hanging in silence, a masterstroke of the composition, the audience offering rapturous applause.

Usually at this juncture, the band has an intermission, but due to time constraints this couldn’t happen. As ever Robert humbly introduced the next three pieces, allowing the stage to be cleared of the choir and revealing the brass section informing the audience of the nature of the songs being played.

As part of the Arise series, a re-working of old classic Enid tunes, the band offered a new rendition of Something Wicked This Way Comes the title track off their biggest selling album. Robert John Godfrey and Dave Story led the band through the song, whilst the rest of the band complied offering their own personality, embedding their virtuosity throughout giving it a refreshingly new sound. Childe Roland was up next with its jaunty, bouncing melodies that flounced around with confidence, mischievously creating imagines, musical passages that conversationally talked perfectly to each other and the audience for that matter.

And so for the moment everyone had tentatively waited for arrived Fand, The Enid’s masterwork, in full glory being accompanied by a full orchestral brass section. This was a piece that was played to perfection, being majestic, reverential, being embodied by the additional instrumentation that added depth, power and magnitude. God only knows what the full orchestral piece is going to sound like, as even in this presentation it was a rather moving experience. Jason Ducker impassioned guitar work was absolutely stunning being complemented perfectly by Nic Willes. On its conclusion the audience broke into rapturous applause, an applause that made it the perfect mark of acknowledgement that this piece truly deserves. For the encore the band played the vaunted Dam Busters March in respect and memory of the Wallace family which segued into Land of Hope and Glory a song that had the audience singing, bringing the whole affair and weekend to a fitting conclusion.

 


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