Concert Review Archive

 

Progresiste

Sky Architect, Versus X, The Tangent, Riverside

Saturday, 15th October, 2011
Spirit Of 66, Verviers, Belgium

Article and Photos by Dave Baird

Sky Architect X

I was late arriving at Loreley this year and as a result missed most of Sky Architect's set and would you believe it, but the same happened at Prog Resiste, except that I missed the whole thing. I was very annoyed with myself, but at least got to speak to the band and buy their two CD's, the first of which Excavations of the Mind is one of the best debut CD's I've heard for years. Back in my Loreley review I think I said they sounded a bit neo-prog, well I've no idea where I got that impression from, they're not that at all, having more of an avant-grade, retro approach. Closest I can think of is Beardfish, but at the same time they're totally different (does that make sense?). However you want to label them, they're a really fine band and it never ceases to amaze me when these new ands come on the scene sounding so original and fresh. On top of that they're so young and very well spoken. Here's hoping the vagaries of the music industry doesn't knock the wind out of their sails because they have so much to offer fir the future of the genre.

 

Versus X

After meeting up with Andy and Sally from the Tangent camp and having a snoop around the CD sales upstairs, the lights dimmed and the next act, Germany's Versus X, took to the stage.

Versus X

I'd never heard of these guys, despite them being around for 20 years or so, and to be honest I didn't have high expectations, but isn't that always the best starting point? Unfortunately they only played three songs, but, but, but, the good news, prog-lovers, is that each one was 20 minutes! And what fine songs they were too, leaning heavily on classical prog influences, Genesis, VDGG, Yes, Tull and the like with some neo-prog thrown in the mix. Curtain Call from their album Disturbance was my personal favourite, and I wasn't alone in my appreciation with the generous applause from an attentive audience. Arne Schäfer's vocals were pleasant and very clear, and his fluid lead guitar is wonderfully melodic, occasionally rocking out, but never dominating the mix. Obviously Arne commanded the bulk of the attention, but I was really enraptured by Ekkehard Nahm's keyboard skills. Alternating mostly between piano and organ with the occasional Moog for good measure, for me it was a masterclass to anyone watching. Two Thomas's, Reiner on drums and Keller bass (and occasional Moog) underpinned the lead instruments wonderfully.

Versus X

I caught-up with Arne and Ekkehard afterwards and bought the three CD's with the tracks they had played live. They were a couple of truly lovely fellows with a grand sense of humor (there are some pre-conceptions about Germans out of the window!!) and I was amazed to hear that they'd only played on average one gig every year and a half. Given the tremendous reception they got from the capacity crowd they might want to rethink that strategy. In any case, this band was a real find for me, and many others I think, a little gem.

Setlist Versus X
Cutting the Veil
The Pulse of Earth
Curtain Call
 

The Tangent

With quite a break between acts due to the space constraints of Spirit of 66 (impossible to setup more than one band's equipment on stage at once), there was plenty of time to relax, browse the CD's stalls (again), chat to artists, make new friends and get outside for some fresh air. This made for a very relaxing experience, quite a contrast to a typical music festival. The Tangent were up next and of course they're a band I know very well and in their case I was expecting them to be good, just a question of how much, and with a new bassist, Dan Mash, having taken over from Jonathan Barrett just a few week previously there was a healthy dollop of the unknown.

The Tangent

Andy had told me that Dan was "bricking it" (that's an English expression for being highly nervous) as it was his first time leaving the United Kingdom. If that was indeed the case then he didn't show it in his playing which was really tremendous and quite different from Jonathan's very unique approach; it gave the band more energy than I've ever send before. Probably helps that Dan has played for years with Luke (Machin) in Concrete Lake, but had you not known then you could have easily come to the conclusion that this was a well-established line-up. Luke's talents on guitar are well documented, he's a real find for Andy and counterpoints the keyboards beautifully. Tony "Funkytoe" Latham has been behind the drums for a while now, but seemed to me that he was really on top of his game - whether that's because he's more comfortable with Dan's bass approach, more familiarity with the songs, or just what he had for breakfast, I have no idea, but the feel for the music was fantastic.

The Tangent

With his band on full-throttle Andy fed off the energy and ramped it up a notch himself. Andy's all blood-and-guts on stage and hardly a shrinking violet, but tonight he was on fire. The World We Drive Through essentially warmed the band up, but the rendition of A Crisis in Mid-Life nearly blew the roof off and the packed audience roared with approval. Perdu dans Paris brought things down a gear and the band got to show their mellow side. This was a track on which Jonathan really used to shine, but Dan navigated his way through with finesse; Luke's tasteful licks punctuating throughout. It was then time to dip into the present, with my personal favorite from COMM, Titanic Calls Carpathia that went down a storm only to be topped with a highly charged Where Are They Now. The band left the stage with the audience in uproar, returning to play GPS Culture - not one of my favorites normally, but played with such panache that I found myself falling into its infectious organ groove. The crowd begged for more, but the time constraints to get the headline act, Riverside up-and-running meant no more music was possible.

The Tangent

So in a way it was a big shame to get such a short set as the band were on fire, but what we got was truly magical and by far the best I've seen the band play. Andy was entertaining the crowd between songs with his fluent French and he took off his shirt half-way through the set to reveal a Sky Architect t-shirt underneath - seems they have another new fan too! The Tangent go from strength-to-strengh and I hope this line-up can stay together because everyone needs the chance to see them play. Awesome!

Setlist The Tangent
The World We Drive Through
A Crisis in Mid-Life
Perdu Dans Paris
Titanic Calls Carpathia
Where Are They Now?

GPS Culture
 

Riverside

After a lengthy break, Riverside hit the stage at 22:00. Although there must have been many fans disappointed that Pallas had to back-out of the show, there's no denying that securing Riverside in their place was a major coup for the event and almost guaranteed a full house. There must have been some punters only arriving for this set because it got decidedly packed in Spirit of 66 and the atmosphere was fantastic. I must admit to being underwhelmed with Riverside at Loreley, they left me cold, but this was a different experience altogether. In the small, cosy venue they blew me away. On top of that, whereas they seemed rather aloof on that evening in July, here they were smiling throughout, joking, goofing around a bit - I'm certain the intimacy of the venue had a lot to do with this. Hell even guitarist Piotr Grudzinski cracked a smile, taking time out from his usual 'orgasmic' visage.

Riverside

The core setlist was pretty much the same as Loreley and to be honest I couldn't say they played better or worse, but the whole feel was far superior. The songs from Anno-Dommini Hi-Definition: Hyperactive, Egoist Hedonist, Left Out all came across particularly well and increased my appreciation greatly of the album that I hadn't yet fully got into. That's often the great benefit of seeing a band live, can open their songs in a different way from the original. Of course Left Out has the crowd interaction with Mariusz Duda getting the audience to sing the main repeating riff, which they did with some enthusiasm, not really wanting to stop. The new material from Memories in My Head: Living in the Past and Forgotten Land had a hypnotic quality that had been missing from Night of the Prog, the latter making a surprisingly good first encore.

Riverside

02 Panic Room got everyone's bums wiggling and I think it's a shame they don't play more from Rapid Eye Movement (I'd melt to hear Schizophrenic Prayer live…) which I think is a truly great and perhaps underrated album. Somewhat predictably, and for me a big boring, they rolled out Conceiving You. Personally I'm tired of this track and would much rather hear the superior I Turned You Down if they want a singalong piece; or even better how about Volte Face, I still remember hearing the Second Life Syndrome CD for the first time and this track just blew me away. Likewise I consider Artificial Smile one of the weaker tracks from the album (although 'weak' is a relative term of course), however some form of redemption is on hand with the albums superb title track closing out the main set, albeit somewhat shortened.

Riverside

The crowd roared their approval and started singing the riff from Left Out to coax the band back on stage. The aforementioned Forgotten Land really worked very well before the night ended with The Curtain Falls from their debut CD. It was a memorable performance and I'm pretty sure the band really enjoyed the intimacy of the venue. A very satisfied crowd spilled out into Martyrs' Square to wend their happy way home.

Setlist Riverside
After
Artificial Smile
Hyperactive
Living In The Past
Ultimate Trip
Conceiving You
Egoist Hedonist
Left Out
02 Panic Room
Second Life Syndrome

Forgotten Land
The Curtain Falls
 

So a really great day. I saw three amazingly good performances and I'm sure it would have been four had I arrived in time for Sky Architect. It was so great to see Spirit of 66 full and the event was a credit to the venue with the cosy atmosphere going a long way in making such a success of the festival.

A very special thanks must be extended to the sound engineer. Every band was mixed to perfection, not too loud, not too quiet, all instruments clearly heard and in particular the vocals cutting through just right. Given all the technology available today it's beyond me why more gigs don't have this standard and are usually way too loud.

The only damper on the evening was that I bought Riverside's Reality Dream Trilogy box set only to see that it was half the price on the label's website when I got home. Merchandise sales at gigs is a very important revenue stream for bands and as they have a captive audience I always feel they should give competitive prices to encourage purchases. On this occasion I felt rather ripped-off. That being said, it's a wonderful set of 6 CD's...

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