Concert Review Archive
 

Solaris

Sunday, 15th November 2015
MOM Kulturális Központ, Budapest, Hungaria

Article and photos by Owen Davies

Each year inevitably welcomes an anniversary of one sort or another, but 2015 is a particularly special year for DPRP and also for the Hungarian band Solaris. DPRP is celebrating its 20th anniversary and since its inception it has developed into one of the premium portals for fans of progressive rock. Solaris is celebrating their 35th anniversary and since that time, the band has developed to become one of the foremost exponents of symphonic progressive flute rock.

Solaris

It is therefore, fitting that in this year of anniversaries that DPRP should acknowledge Solaris' distinctive contribution to prog over the years with a number of features about the band. These include an interview with their flautist Attila Kollar, a review of their November 15th 35th anniversary concert, mini reviews of their discography and a review of their recently released CD and DVD

Solaris last played together in October 2014 and that concert was so successful it achieved the highly prestigious 'Best Music Event of the Year 2014' awarded by the Hungarian Bureau for the Protection of Authors Rights.

Solaris

Just over a year later, Solaris took to the stage once again to share three decades of their music with an appreciative and well informed audience. Once announced, the concert quickly sold out. The concert was also calendared to coincide with the launch and release of a DVD and CD of last year's award winning gig.

Any fears that such infrequent performances would result in a below par performance were soon dispelled as the band launched into the lengthy and outstanding Martian Chronicles 11 suite. The sound quality was superb. The band members and numerous guest musicians displayed an enviable and natural empathy to each other. They combined to collectively produce an outstanding banquet of two plus hours of dazzling entertainment.

Solaris

In some forty five years of attending prog shows, I have seldom witnessed such a consistent level of skill and intensity and have rarely left a concert feeling so totally satisfied by a bands performance.

Solaris are a band who are comfortable with each-others abilities and confident that in concert each player will achieve the high expectations that are set. The atmosphere created by the bands hugely exciting performance and glorious light show was electrifying.

Although the performance was buffed and polished to perfection, it also shone brightly with the laid back irregularity of an uncut jewel. The players rode the peaks of the music with confidence and displayed an obvious joy at being a part of an organic creative process. This joyous enthusiasm enveloped the audience and was an endearing feature of the evening.

Solaris

There were many highlights in the bands lengthy set which reflected different eras from the bands discography and included a number of their most popular tunes. The set list also included a selection of pieces from last year's highly recommended Martian Chronicles 11 album. As well as the Martian Chronicles 11 suite, the band choice to play Voices from the Past, Pride of the Human Insects, The Alien Song, Impossible and The World Without Us from this release. Whilst these compositions were thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying, I particularly enjoyed the bands sparkling renditions of their classic tunes such as Undefeatable, When the Fog Clears, Hungarian Dance, M'ars Poetica and the E-minor concerto.

Prior to being transported to Solaris' mysteriously beguiling world of the red planet the audience shared a moment of earthly reality with the band; heads bowed, all stood, in a moment of silent reflection to remember the victims of the Paris atrocity that had occurred two days earlier. It was a respectful and appropriate way for the band and the audience to unite and show their collective solidarity.

Solaris

This simple heart felt act appeared to solidify the bond between the players and the audience. The band were able to tap into the emotional energy created by this collective act and went on to produce an energetic and thoroughly engaging performance that was both highly appealing and spiritually uplifting.

Decades of playing together and an extensive rehearsal schedule ensured that the band were note perfect from the start. As the Martian Chronicles 11 suite unravelled, the path chosen was tightly spun and well mapped, but also allowed numerous opportunities for the band to stretch out. The audience were soon swathed by cascades of the bands flowing creativity as Solaris' live interpretation of the suite began to take on an organic nature and vibrant hue.

Violinist, Szirtes Edina Mókus quickly took the piece, to unworldly alien parts with a lengthy solo that was full of invention and improvisation. Her solo spot centered on the inventive use of a looping station. The haunting arrangement was totally absorbing and was one of the most interesting examples I have witnessed of how to utilize this technology in concert. Set around an incessant beat, each layered part added to, and exploited the growing mélange of bowed sounds. The skillful unpredictability of the layered improvisation brought to mind Eberhard Weber's wonderful use of similar technology during his solo slot as a part of Jan Garbarek's band. I can pay no higher compliment than to say that Szirtes' solo was as equally enthralling and satisfying as Weber's colourful use of similar technology.

Solaris

This was the only totally obvious improvisation and detour from the bands recorded arrangements. Other excursions into improvisation were much more subtle but nevertheless, were frequently present to enrich the original arrangements. These subtle expansions to the band's sound and arrangements added greatly to the music's overall appeal.

During the suite the band consisted of a number of core players. They were, Attila Kollár on flute, László Gõmõr on drums, and lead guitarist Bogdán Csaba. Keyboard wizardry was as usual provided by the highly talented Róbert Erdész. Bottom end duties were skillfully handled by Chapman stick player Szendofi Balázs; additional ensemble guitar parts were provided by Hámori Máté.

As the concert proceeded guests and extended members of the Solaris family entered and exited the stage at regular intervals. These included founder member and bassist Seres Attila (Jata), who on this occasion played a slick looking stick bass, backing singer and violinist Szirtes, backing singer Ullmann Zsuzsi, vocalist Krasznai Tünde, acoustic guitarist Péter Gerendás, saxophonist Muck Ferenc and former band member and drummer Raus Feri. In total, thirteen musicians were involved at various points during the evening.

Solaris

Past members of Solaris were also remembered during the performance. The bands signature tune Solaris involved a moving tribute on screen to drummer Tóth Vilmos who died in 2013. Founder member and guitarist Cziglán István died suddenly in 1996, but his importance and legacy to Solaris continues. His unreleased music contributed to Martian Chronicles 11 and formed the basis of the piece Voices from the Past.

During this piece István's image and archive film of him playing at varying stages of the bands history were also displayed. In the First Movement of the composition the warm synthesiser sounds of Robert Erdesz dominated. The deep resonance created reminded me of Alan Gowan's work with Hugh Hopper in their atmospheric Two Rainbows Daily album. The crowd responded with sustained applause at the end of these two highly charged memorial pieces. The outpouring of respect, from the audience for these members of the Solaris family was real, heartfelt and spontaneous. The band were visibly moved and responded by playing with even greater emotion and intensity.

The excellent use of guest performers was put to good use in Part Seven of the Martian Chronicles 11 suite. This part of the suite is highly influenced by Pink Floyd's great gig in the sky composition. In the context of the suite it works very well, but as an original composition, its influences are perhaps a little too obvious. I have never really appreciated the album version, but performed in concert it was a different matter. It was beautifully furnished by an outstanding introductory acoustic guitar solo provided by Péter Gerendás. The piece was further enhanced and made particularly memorable by the performance of Krasznai Tünde. Her presence dominated the stage and her powerful voice was dynamic in its range and emotive appeal. Her outstanding vocal performance brought the house to its feat amidst a crescendo of vocalese solos and twisted gut wrenching electric guitar parts.

Solaris

One of my favourite Solaris tunes is When the fog clears; it has a great melody and contains just the right amount of tension between its pastoral and electric parts. The band deftly managed its frequent and subtle variations, to create a dynamic and memorable version, complete with Solaris' trademark flute sound.

Kollár Attila is a highly skilled flautist. His skilful approach in this tune exemplified his ability and displayed a wide range of the technical ability he has at his disposal. The dynamic and swirling flute parts throughout the concert were played with great panache. The set list gave an opportunity for a brief flute solo. This was stirringly delivered by Kollár and showcased to good effect, his flexible range of styles. In his solo slot, Kollár also utilised the strident humming and throat rasping overblowing sound associated with Roland Kirk and developed by players such as Harold Mcnair.

His playing throughout the gig was impressive. His style is undoubtedly influenced by the lyricism of Herbie Mann, but he frequently incorporated elements of a melodic baroque flute sound into his extensive repertoire. On other occasions his playing had an aggressive and distinctively lyrical edge. This perfectly complemented the bands arrangements. Kollár's versatile range of styles provided a soaring counterpoint to the explosive and crushing guitar flurries of Bogdán Csaba and a harmonious accompaniment to Erdész' accomplished keyboard frills.

Solaris

Tunes such as Impossible and the hugely impressive Apocalypse showcased all of the positive attributes that the band has to offer. They simply riffed along with fluty abandon, and featured some fantastic keyboard and flute interplay. The renditions of M'ars Poetica and Hungarian Dance were simply stunning and were probably amongst the most satisfying pieces played during the evening. Hungarian Dance is a particular favourite of mine and to see it performed with such enthusiastic aplomb was a mesmerising experience.

Humour has always been present in the music and live performances of Solaris. This was exemplified by the bands rendition of Alien Song. It was the final track on the bands last studio release and in my view was not a particularly satisfying way to end that album. Nevertheless, when presented as part of the bands live set; the tune found its own identity and had a much greater appeal.

For |The Alien Song, Kollár appropriately donned a Robotic mask as a prop. Frank Zappa's Cheepnis came to mind, and just as Frank found the props of b movies enchanting and alluring, the Robotic mask, despite its tacky nature was equally endearing. The performance of this song was also further enhanced by the premier of a specially commissioned film for the occasion. This provided an alternative quirky visual back drop for the song. The film can be viewed at the following link.

The E - Minor concerto often signifies the conclusion of a Solaris show and this gig continued that custom. As tradition dictates, Kollár dons evening dress and takes the role of an orchestral conductor. The piece begins with a simple recorder melody that Kollár requests the band members to play. Eventually, they successfully negotiate the simple tune and from then on the piece grows in ever increasing circles of complexity. The band reaches full throttle in response to Kollár's increasingly frantic conducting to play at break neck speed. The piece reaches its conclusion by developing into a foot tapping, bombastic extravaganza with strong classical influences. It was a highly entertaining and effective way to end the concert.

Solaris

After the rousing version of E - Minor concerto, the band received a rich acknowledgement of their efforts from the audience and responded with two encores. The second encore was a reprise of Martian Chronicles 11 Suite, part seven. All thirteen players who had taken part in the concert at varying points remerged to collectively perform this final piece of the night.

This was without doubt the best gig I have attended this year, outshining concerts by bands such as Anglagard, Ian Andersons Band, Lazuli, Magma, Focus, Soft Machine and Gong. I can see why Solaris remain so popular within Hungary and are regarded by their fans as a national treasure.

I can also fully understand why Solaris received the coveted award of best gig last year. If you get the chance to see Solaris, I thoroughly recommend that you take it; I do not think you will be disappointed. I certainly hope that I do not have to wait too long before I have another opportunity to witness the bands own unique brand of symphonic progressive flute rock. I have even already begun to clear my diary in anticipation of next year's proposed annual concert.

Setlist
Martian Chronicles II/1
Martian Chronicles II/2-6
Martian Chronicles II/7
Undefeatable
When the fog clears
Hungarian Dance
Flute solo (theme of Bonus game)
Solaris
Voices from the Past
M'ars Poetica
Drum solo
Pride of the Human Insects
Alien song
The World without us
Impossibile
Apocalypse
Mickey Mouse
E-minor concerto

Viking comes back
Martian Chronicles II/7

Links
Solaris official Website

MOM Kulturális Központ

 


© 1996 - 2017 : Dutch Progressive Rock Page