Concert Review Archive

 

IO Earth

Sunday, 22nd April 2012
The Robin 2, Bristol, The UK

Article by Ian Hall and John O’Boyle
and photos by Wendy Vissers-Hagenbeek

John O’Boyle's Review

IO Earth promised something rather special for the night’s proceedings and boy did they deliver. This was the warm up show for their soon to be played show at RoSfest and based on what was witnessed tonight our American compatriots are going to be seriously entertained.

IO Earth
From the opening and title track of their latest opus Moments, the first of seven songs this evening featured from their sophomore release, Dave Cureton and co meant business as they worked their magic presenting their creations to a rather responsive audience, musical soundscapes that took the participants on a magical musical journey that hit the spot repetitively. A song that was just swathed with electric and acoustic delights, one minute sedate the next, powerful expressional constructs, taking in all the delights of their musical diversity, climatic crescendo’s full of eastern tones and promise.

For me it really allowed the band time to warm up and set the pace for the rest of the evening’s events. Whether it was the sultry opening narrative of Wendy Vissers-Hagenbeek or the beautiful tones of Claire Malin’s vocals, who proved that less is more, letting the music proverbially do the talking. It was also nice to see Adam take up the six string adding an extra layer to the proceedings, something that he seemed to rather enjoy.

As if this wasn’t enough Drifting carried on the proceedings, its ethereal presentation twisted and turned, prosed conversation as Claire’s cloaked and masked figured set the scene, acting out the lyrical content whilst the Theremin offered up its unearthly tones that was matched by Luke Shingler’s wind incursions. The inclusion of the Asian passages really set the piece alight.

Up next was Cinta Indah which was a perfect match for the previous number with its repeating lyrics that was punctuated perfectly again with some stunning and heavier interludes. Dave Cureton knew how to work the stage and was doing it for all its worth, presenting another number that had musical shades of both dark and light uniqueness.

The forth number in, EEEE saw IO Earth delve into their past, playing with the dynamics of the complex structures, almost duelling, the brothers Cureton really trying to outdo each other with big grins on their faces, knowing that whatever they did tonight, would never be wrong. This along with a few other numbers that were played tonight touched the edges of musical nirvana making the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.

IO Earth

The beauty of IO Earth’s music, especially live is that intrinsically it has a very memorable and rewarding approach which caresses you, igniting that warm glow inside, yet retaining an air of mystery and uniqueness. That statement sums up the power that is The Creation, a soliloquy, the act of the character talking to itself, yet still voyeuristically entertaining the masses that feature guitar work that was very reminiscent of Andy Latimer.

Even when the band hit the two part epic Live Your Life, a firm favourite of Claire Malin’s and in all honesty, a firm favourite of the audiences too, the whole ambience and atmospherics changed.

The audience was entranced in the soundstages being created, a theme that actually ran throughout their whole set. One couldn’t be but in awe of what Dave Cureton, Adam Gough and co were creating, a meld of rather stunning, sultry melodic tones that incorporated music from the genres of Classical, World Music, Rock, Prog and the downright impressive.

Smokey Wood was the perfect complement to Live Your Life, a masterclass of balancing the musical elements, a profound approach that had depth, a musical joie de vivre so to speak; an exaltation of the spirit that engulfed those present.

With Adam having found the correct sound samples for Finest Hour, something they laughed about, due to issues at a previous show, paved the way for Dave to step up and take lead poll position on the vocal arrangement seeing Claire’s vocal contribution being kept to a minimal, adding another feather to Mr Cureton artist cap.

Storyteller with its eerie fascinating guitar tones was up next, an instrumental that was highly memorable, allowing the band time to really work their constructs for all their worth. On top of this Mr Cureton got chance to work his fingers over the neck of his guitar, confirming that this was a class instrumental played by a class act and proving that he is a force to be reckoned with.

Whereas Harmonix was a masterclass of musical prowess, Home was a masterclass vocal prowess. Claire Malin stunningly nailed the vocals living the moment like there was no tomorrow and in all honesty for this alone the entry price was worth every penny spent. The crescendo of musicality reinforced the succinct and towering vocal, both rhythmic and lead harmonies allowing Claire to breathe and absorb the energy from the crowd and feedback that energy via her performance.

IO Earth One could be forgiven for thinking that Light and Shade had a more basic approach, but as each member of the band contributed it became very obvious that this was not the case. The nuances were very subtle as its meter and timbre journeyed. The skill and dexterity of the piece was heightened again by the time perfect syncopations especially by Dave and Richard.

The show closer and absolute show stopper Harmonix did exactly what it said on the tin, a powerful statement of intent, seeing its soundstage oscillate around the four walls. The guitar sound with its pizzicato technique stunned the audience into perfect silence, having everyone hanging on every note exuded from the amps, delving into the world of complex timbre. The rest of the bands contribution really added an extra dimension to the piece which received rapturous applause on its completion bringing the evenings proceedings at The Robin 2 to a fitting close, confirming that IO Earth have arrived and are here for the duration. The band in all honesty seemed to have enjoyed theirselves as much as the audience, something that was confirmed by the rather humorous banter that was going on between each song, which is always a good sign.

All in all the entire band offered an evening of entertainment of the highest order that fed the insatiable appetites of those in attendance, creating a buzz with their rather interesting and unique approach. It really is bands like this that make a difference with their unique and impressive approach, which in all finality culminated in a night of perfect entertainment. Does live music come much better than this? In all honesty after what I witnessed tonight the answer has got to be a big emphatic and resounding NO.

All I can add to this is that the RoSfest crowd are going to be wonderfully rewarded by IO Earth who are at the top of their game, a band that cares and a band that does really bring something different to the table.

 

Ian Hall's Review

I have to admit to being extremely excited at the prospect of seeing IOEarth live, even though I’ve only been a fan for a comparatively short time. Although they only have two albums out, what superb ones they are. The subtleties and complexity of the music contained in them had me really intrigued as to how they would be able to pull it off live......

First up though, were Solstice, a band I wasn’t previously all that familiar with. They were billed as “Folk-rock” which had me half-expecting a similar act to Jethro Tull. In the event they appeared to have chosen their set-list for a more rock-oriented audience, as the set contained lots of good riffing and soloing from the superb Andy Glass on guitar. Jenny Newmans violin playing was first class and complemented his playing beautifully. A highlight was Andys“duet” with keyboard player Steve MacDaniel, where guitar and keyboards blended together so well as to become almost one instrument. The whole band were very tight and played with real skill. Several songs were from the excellent “Spirit” album, which I subsequently bought after their set was finished. A very rare occurence for a support act! The standout songs for me was Flight, from “Spirit”. Emma Brown’s vocals were occasionally lost in the mix, but not enough to spoil things and that was really the only minor quibble with Solstices performance. Definitely a band to see again soon!

IO Earth
IOEarth opened with the title track of the current album, Moments. An excellent choice to start with and it gave them the chance to hit the ground running, which they did with relish. Dave Curetons soaring lead guitar was perfectly complemented by Adam Gough on rhythm guitar, showing that he is far more than a keyboard player.

Richard Curetons drums and Christian Nokes bass were incredibly tight and gave a surging energy to the song, as they would continue to do all night. Luke Shingler on clarinet (yes, clarinet!) and Claire Malin on vocals also got the chance to perform early on. As is a constant theme with IOEarth, the music is chock full of all sorts of unlikely influences, with a very “eastern” feel to this and several other tracks.

Next off was Drifting, a slower paced more “ethereal” song, again from Moments. One thing that had soon become apparent, was that the band had adapted their incredibly varied and subtle recorded sound to better fit the live environment. Thus, the “choral” vocals on this track were missing, but due to the way the band had approached things neither this nor subsequent changes had any negative effect on the gig.

Claire added a very welcome touch of “stagecraft” with her costume and mannerisms. Adam got his chance to use the mighty Theremin which should really be compulsory for any prog band.

Third song was Cintah India, showing how good an album Moments is. Another song with a very strong “world music” influence, Dave got to do some very deft acoustic guitar as well as the usual electric. As before it had a very different feel live to the album and it’s almost as if there are two different versions of many of the songs, with both being equally valid.

IO Earth

EEEE, from IOEArth, was the next one. The slightly ominous chords of the slow, gentle opening gradually building to a real rocker with an almost funky riff from Dave. Richards drumming needs to be noted here. With a relatively small kit, he still managed to get a huge amount out of it and you wonder if the likes of Messrs Peart and Portnoy really need those enormous kits, when Richard can do so much with so little.

IO Earth

The Creation is another with beautiful soaring lead playing from Dave and some excellent bass from Chris. With a solo that put me in mind of a kind of bizarre cross between Slash and David Gilmour, it was at times breathtaking - even daring to dip a toe into the land of shred. As ever, Adam did a superb job of filling in the spaces and complementing Daves work when not required to come to the for. Richard showed some real subtlety in his drumming. As in all their songs a very strong melody made it a real joy to listen to.

Probably my favourite IOEarth track came next: Live your Life Parts 1 and 2. Delicate piano and Claires beautifully pure and precise voice took centre stage in part one. It was only partially spoilt by some oafs at the back of the audience having a loud conversation. I was touching the stage, so the band must have heard it too, but carried on without any effect on the music. Even sitting here three days after the concert, I still get a shiver down my spine remembering this track.

The song merged into Part 2, with Daves riffing intro giving sure intent of what was to follow. Another really strong rocker, with Adams piano again taking a full part. The Gilmour-esque solo towards the end was yet another highlight. Very often, IOEarth songs are instrumentals with no “live” vocals and Claire therefore doesn’t have all that many chances to shine. Here though she is really given that chance.She takes it with gusto and shows she can rock with the best of them.

Smoky Wood up next and more of the same as far as quality, influences and mood. On paper maybe an unlikely live song, but again works beautifully. Another one that appeared to have been given a slightly different treatment and was much more dynamic live.

One of the real jewels in the IOEarth crown came next. Finest Hour - complete with sampled Winston Churchill. Another track which might have been difficult to pull off live, but again IO didn’t put a foot wrong and gave a superb rendition of it.

Storyteller is another favourite and contains more wonderful guitar playing with passages of gorgeous sustain as well as more frenetic ones where Daves fingers really fly along the fretboard.

IO Earth Home; a gentle subtle start, building up to a crescendo and the receding again, only to repeat the process. Another showcase for Claires remarkable voice showing her full vocal range.

The finale, Light And Shade is another personal favourite That opening riff is instantly recognisable and Dave was really blasting it out by now, before the sudden slowing of pace into yet another atmospheric and uplifting lead part. This is great on CD, but again the band have transformed it live into a real barnstormer.

After the usual "band leave stage, crowd go berserk, band reappear to huge cheers" malarkey they launch into the encore - Harmonix (the only track off disc 2 of IOEarth, by the way).

Starting with a stunning bluesy emotion-filled solo from Dave that Gary Moore would have been proud of, the song progresses beautifully. Again, without the “choral” vocals found on the cd, this doesn’t matter as the band have adapted the song to be different yet still very recognisable. A fitting end to a great nights music.

Mention must be made of the excellent acoustics and sound system in The Robin 2, which really helped the intricacies of the music come across. Even Lukes flute was perfectly placed in the mix and everything was audible at just the right level. The band really appeared to be thoroughly enjoying themselves and this wave of positvity really swept down from the stage and engulfed the audience.

Daves witty repartee and his rapport with Claire really helped make the gig an even more memorable occasion. I don't think I saw anyone who wasn't smiling and talking animatedly with their friends when the lights came up.

The evening was rounded off by the opportunity to meet and chat to all the members of the band (all really friendly and amenable people) and getting my copy of IOEarth signed by all. The night hadn’t quite finished though, as after I arrived home at just after midnight, I found I had IOEarths stunningly unique music still flying around inside my head and even with the help of a very large whiskey, still couldn’t get to sleep until well after 1.30. A sure sign that they had done everything they had set out to do.

Setlist
Moments
Drifting
Cinta Indah
EEEE
The Creation
Live Your Life (Part 1)
Live Your Life (Part 2)
Smoky Wood
Finest Hour
Storyteller
Home
Light & Shade

Harmonix

Links

IO Earth Official Website
IO Earth Myspace

DPRP's Review of IO Earth's "Moments"

The Robin 2

 


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