Concert Review Archive

 

Danfest

The Moscow Riley, Grey Lady Down, Guy Manning, IOEarth, The Tangent

Saturday, 26th November, 2011
The Musician, Leicester, the UK

Article by Brian Watson
and Photos By Paul Johnson

Now, Iíve been to some concerts in my time. I was at the Monsters of Rock festival way back when, to see my beloved Blue ÷yster Cult, a gig famed for Eric Bloom jumping up and down on a framed award the band were presented with, venting his anger at recurring power failures. I was at the Leeds Festival to see Green Day when all the toilets were set on fire. I went to New Jersey to see echolyn when the airline lost my bags and emergency underpant shopping was required. Iíve seen Glass Hammer play with a 150-person choir, Rush play at the MGM Grand in Vegas and Pearl Jam play in a pub in Bradford. But nothing, and I mean nothing can compare with seeing The Tangent at Danfest. Let me explainÖ

Organised and promoted by a good friend of mine, Danfest promised a full day of progressive rock, in a great city centre venue, The Musician, in Leicester. It was always going to be a long day, the itinerary suggesting a 12 noon Ďtil midnight running order. And thatís without any delays. At all. Itís no small thing to organise a rock festival, and Danny deserves tremendous credit in getting it off the ground but if truth be told it wasnít so much organised as allowed to progress organically. And yes, Iím being kind.

Timings werenít so much set in tablets of stone as loosely aspirational fictions. Itís been said that organising musicians is a bit like juggling cats, but I do think that a firmer hand was, perhaps, required on the day.

 

The Moscow Riley

Mine began when I got to the hotel at around twelve noon, dumped my stuff, and walked over the road to find the venue, which the map said, was a short walk away. Excepting the very nice young man at the hotel, my first human interaction, in what Americans would quaintly refer to as Ďthe warehouse districtí was with a chap urinating in a doorway. He was, however, very polite. First band, The Moscow Riley, were already in full flight by the time Iíd bought my ticket and ordered a pint of the exceptionally good Jousters ale. The venue was small but well laid out, there was a decent crowd in and they seemed to be enjoying the set immensely. I did too, even buying a copy of the new album, Big Bang Machine. A power trio from Margate, comprising Jon Kirby (guitar), Chris Dempsey (bass, vocals and moog) and Mark Jordan (drums) The Moscow Riley were tighter than a gnatís chuff and benefited from an absolutely fantastic live sound, courtesy of the in-house sound guy. Kudos, sir. Particularly noteworthy was the bass playing of Dempsey, which was an absolute joy to behold. If you like Rush, Cream, The Stranglers, The Police, A Perfect Circle or The Jam to name but a few then you will Iím sure like Moscow Riley and the album is very good. I didnít get a setlist, despite asking for one but they seemed nice and looked to be having a really good time, so I wonít vent my spleen.

Besides, there was real ale, so the day was shaping up quite nicelyÖ

 

Grey Lady Down

Grey Lady Down

Next up was Grey Lady Down who have reformed after a ten year hiatus. The band, whose members have gone on to grace such prominent prog outfits as IQ, Darwinís Radio, Thievesí Kitchen and Sphere3 had a lot of fans along and turned in a great set that will have gained them quite a few new ones. Original vocalist Martin Wilson is still at the helm and, with Darwinís Radio on hold that freed up Sean Spear (bass). Mark Robotham (drums) was available too, having left Thievesí Kitchen. Steve Anderson (guitar) was also keen and (as Mark Westworth (ex-IQ) was unable to commit to the band for family reasons) he contacted an old friend, the extremely talented Piers de Lavison, who played keyboards in the Genesis tribute bands G2 and Re-Genesis. Guitarist Julian Hunt is back too, completing the six-piece lineup. With musicians of this calibre it shouldnít come as a surprise that Grey Lady Down offer up some seriously good neo-prog.



As you might imagine, thereís a classic Genesis and early Marillion / IQ tinge to the sound. Weíve previously given DPRP recommendations to the live album The Time of Our Lives (1999) and the studio album Star-Crossed (2001). Indeed the fifteen minute epic The Perfect Dream, which the band play today, prompted our reviewer to deem that GLD were ďone of the best bands in neoprogĒ and on the strength of todayís performance I wouldnít disagree. Fan favourite 12:02 also gets an airing, as does the third part of the Crime suite, Paper Chains and all in all itís a highly accomplished set. A new record is in the pipeline, and all four of the bandís previous studio albums are now available Ė check out their website for details.



Setlist Grey Lady Down
Sliding
Without a Trace
The Perfect Dream
24
And Finally
Paper chains
The Flyer
12:02
 

Guy Manning

Guy Manning

Guy Manning was here with a new album Margaretís Children to promote, his seventh album since 2004, and the seventh consecutive album to gain a DPRP recommendation. However we only got the one track, Revelation Road, from the new record, this being an acoustic set showcasing over a decadeís worth of high quality output. Guy got to play the acoustic guitar and was ably supported on stage with not one, but two female backing singers as well as members of his electric band on more acoustic-y instruments, including an upright stick bass played by Kris Hudson-Lee, who should be well known to Classic Rock Society members and gig attendees. Keyboards were provided by one A.Tillison, esquire. So nice to see these two sharing a stage again.



He has of course been releasing records since 1999ís Tall Stories for Small Children which along with The Cure (2000) and The Ragged Curtain (2003) also received DPRP recommended reviews. In fact the only two to miss out on this accolade were 2001ís Cascade and The View from My Window (2003) and both of these received 7 out of 10 ratings. Personal favourite Clocks from 2010ís 10 out of 10 album Charlestown got an airing, as did Margaret Montgomery from 2006ís Anserís Tree, the precursor stylistically to Margaretís Children.



If you havenít heard any of Guyís work Iíd heartily recommend that you check out some, or preferably all of the aforementioned albums. He was in fine voice, his unique style perfectly suited to the proggy/folky material. Jethro Tull comparisons are made from time to time (OK, just about all the time), but first and foremost Guy is a songwriter, and a storyteller of the very highest order.

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

There then came a much needed break, as Iíd been up since early oíclock sorting the girl out, getting her to her nanaís and whatnot, but there were still four bands to play and time, she was a-getting on. Catching up, on food, sleep, and with friends meant, unfortunately, that I missed both Alan Reed and Paul Menel. Missing the latter was largely due to a Chinese restaurant that seemed to have little or no conception of time. Which in the context of the day seemed quite apt. Even if the promoterís own timings were followed to the second, the day was due to finish at midnight, so I knew full well Iíd have to pace myself! And letís face it, how many festivals have you been to that didnít overrun? Neither singer needs much introduction to readers of this site, however, and the people I spoke to seemed to think that both performers delivered strong sets and went down well in front of an appreciative crowd.

 

IOEarth

IOEarth

Rested and fed I managed, thankfully, to catch all of IOEarth , the Birmingham-based band led by guitarist and vocalist Dave Cureton and keyboardist Adam Gough, with Richard Cureton on drums, along with bassist Christian Nokes. Claire Malin shares vocal duties and the lineup is completed by Luke Shingler, who adds some lovely flute and saxophone flourishes. Their eponymous debut album had Ken Truman gushing with praise and their set showcased some sublime guitar work by Dave Cureton. Thereís a lot going on with the music, showcasing full on rock guitar histrionics, electronica, symphonic prog, Female Fronted Prog Band (FFPB) stylings and fragile, ethereal soundscapes. There were some great instrumental sections, showcasing all of Daveís prowess on the guitar.



Unfortunately the band had to cut short their set, given that it was going on for midnight already, and The Tangent had been slated to begin at 10.45pm, so they werenít able to play Harmonix, Take Me, Come With Me, Sun is Goiní Down and another new song, The Finest Hour. Dave Cureton deserves a lot of credit for this, and his decision was well received amongst the audience.



Thereís a new album coming out at the beginning of next year, entitled IOEarth Moments and on the strength of this performance it is definitely one to look out for in 2012. Which should please Ken, who had this to say about the debut: ďFor lovers of inventive, complex, powerful, symphonic music this album is an absolute must. Canít wait for the next oneĒ.

IOEarth

Setlist IOEarth
Moments (new song)
Drifting (new song)
Cinta Indah (new song)
Live Your Life Part 1 (new song)
Live Your Life Part 2 (new song)
Storyteller
Smoky Wood
The Creation
Home
Light & Shade
 

The Tangent

So, thanks to the good graces of Dave Cureton and the rest of IOEarth, it looked like The Tangent would be going on over an hour after they should. Could be worse, right?

The Tangent

It has been a great year for the band, what with the 10 out of 10 triumph that is the live DVD Going Off On Two and the spectacularly good new album COMM. Not only that but there has been a series of fantastic concerts, including their rip-roaring appearance at Summerís End as well as an incredibly well received tour of Russia. This, then, would be their last concert of the year before a well-deserved rest to recharge the creative batteries. What could possibly go wrong?

The Tangent

There was a guy in the audience called Rodrigo who had come all the way from Brazil to see this show by The Tangent. And heíd got in to Leicester so late his hotel reservation had been cancelled. So imagine how he must have felt when it looked like - because of an equipment snafu on the part of the promoter Ė the band might not actually be able to perform at all. It was a surreal time, as those fans that hadnít already rushed off for buses, taxis and trains wandered about in a daze, unable to properly comprehend just what was going on. At one point Andy Tillison even addressed those still assembled to inform us that, unfortunately, the gig would not be able to go ahead. Yes, for the first time ever, and despite the fact that all the band members had been present since noon, The Tangent would not be able to play. I imagine French DJ, raconteur and existentialist Gilles LeFevre would have been moved to announce quel horreur! Had he been there.

The Tangent That much needed organisation I mentioned at the top of the piece had by this time dissipated and the band were, it has to be said, left to their own devices. If ever there was a case for a two person organisational set-up like there is at Summerís End then this was it. Someone has to remain clear-headed and handle the Ďartistesí if a festival is in with even the remotest chance of going to plan.

The first ever Tangent gig, in a sports hall in Chippenham as I remember, saw Roine Stolt emerge on stage to announce he had lost his lyric sheet, requiring Andy Tillison to sing every song, so heís used to the unexpected but tonight must have tried even his patience.

But wait. What wonders are the prog gods weaving? Or summoning, or whatever it is that gods do? Firstly, we had the prospect of a solo keyboard performance by Mr Tillison, which drew a cheer. Then step forward IOEarth, who provided the equipment (cymbals, hi-hat and stool) needed to put on a full Tangent show and who deserve huge credit. Had it not been for them then The Tangent just could not have played. I bet you can imagine the cheer when it was announced they would. So, whereas some bands had spent half a day, or so it seemed, soundchecking and what not, The Tangent plugged things in, turned a few knobs, twiddled with some dials and off we jolly well went.

With a curfew looming, with a bass player suffering from the mother of all colds and with a tiny drumkit made to seem all the tinier by drummer Tonyís ample frame the band launched into The World That We Drive Through. And proceeded to deliver the most sublime concert performance I have ever witnessed. The audience were treated to progressive rock music of the most amazing scope, beauty and technical prowess. A Crisis in Midlife was delivered with an energy and an enthusiasm that belied the fact that the band had been sat about for 12 hours and Luke Machinís soloing on Perdu dans Paris was as good as it gets.

Dan Mash delivered one of the most breathtaking bass solos youíll ever hear, and how Tony Latham managed the complex percussion solo that preceded the epic Titanic Calls Carpathia on his makeshift kit Iíll never know.

The Tangent

And as for Andy Tillison, he turned in probably the best vocal performance of his career, let alone the day. It was a note perfect keyboard display too. My only regret is that the band didnít have time to play GPS Culture, as Guy Manning was slated to possibly make an appearance on stage for the song, but I am, of course, being picky.

Everyone seemed genuinely happy at being able to play, and at playing so well. Out of adversity comes triumph, I suppose. Now, Iíve come in for a bit of stick recently regarding a recent live review I did for a band at Summerís End but after tonight I wholeheartedly stand by it. One can only imagine what over-inflated egos would have added to the mix. And I can only wonder at how other less talented drummers might have coped.

The Tangent

It was well after 1 a.m. by the time it all finished, victim of the venueís curfew. Iím sure the band could have gone on all night, such must have been their adrenaline levels at pulling off such a stupendous show; and the audience - by now delirious with delight, devotion and sleep deprivation in equal measure - would have happily stayed until morning had the band been allowed to play on.

So there you have it. Thanks to egg and chips, Lemsip, Otrivine and the kindness of (relative) strangers The Tangent, in this one performance, have cemented their reputation as the finest European progressive rock band working today. Huge thanks to Paul Johnson, by the way, for the photographs.

Setlist The Tangent
The World That We Drive Through
A Crisis In Mid-Life
Perdu dans Paris
Titanic Calls Carpathia

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