This was my first visit to the Herringthorpe Leisure Centre, having recently renewed my membership with the Classic Rock Society. This was also the only UK gig these guys were doing, so I decided to make the trek up North from London.
The venue is a medium sized hall in the local leisure centre. For the most part, the sound was better than expected, despite some concerns about the PA, but more about that later.
First up were support band White Buffalo, a powerful 3 piece band who performed a short set with a lot of energy, and made quite an impression on the crowd. Think Nickelback, Coldplay and a little bit of Tom Petty thrown into the mix, and that will give you an idea of where they are coming from. I think we will be hearing more from these guys.
After a short break, one of the roadies bounded on to the stage and appeared to be tuning one of Erik Norlander's keyboards. He twiddled away for some time until it became apparent that this was actually a heavily bearded and long-haired Erik Norlander, and the concert had actually started! This was the opening track of his new CD, Music Machine called Project Blue Prince. Lots of electronic noodling and sampled voices soon gave way to a fast paced, hard rocking instrumental.
For the next track, Lana Lane took to the stage, and we were treated to her version of Led Zeppelin's Kashmir from her new covers album. Instrumentally it was excellent, with new guitarist Per Verschuren providing the crunching guitar chords, and Norlander ably filling in for the violins/cello's and other strange instrumentation used on the original. However, there was something noticeably lacking in Lana's vocals. At first, I thought she had just decided to take a low key vocal approach to the track, but as the concert went on it became apparent that the vocals were just too low in the mix. Things would improve a little as the concert went on, but it was still a distraction.
Next track, Beware The Vampires, introduced new vocalist Kelly Keeling. Kelly is an entertaining and energetic performer, even if he does indulge in some of the traditional rock singer clichés occasionally. A well-performed track, but in truth a fairly undistinguished straight ahead rocker.
For Through The Rain, Lana accompanied Kelly on vocals. This was the point where the whole band seemed to hit their stride. You could hear the vocals better, there was some superb guitar work from Per, and some nimble fingered work from the man with the stick, Mr Don Schiff. More about him later.
Other Lana Lane tracks we were treated to were Project Shangri-La, Queen Of The Ocean, Secrets Of Astrology Suite and Symphony Of Angels. And that was all. To be honest, I would have expected Lana to have been given more stage time. She seemed to spend more time sitting in the wings, or on backing vocals than doing her own stuff. A great shame, because she does have a tremendous voice.
That being said, we were treated to a diverse range of music from various quarters, primarily a lot of songs from Erik's new CD Music Machine; Rome is Burning from his previous one Into The Sunset; the wonderful Theme from the TV series Space 1999 from Rocket Scientists, and even a track from Kelly Keeling's solo album, in addition to the aforementioned Lana Lane songs.
Space 1999 was definitely a highlight for me, always loved that track. Another was Don Schiffs solo spot on the N/S stick. This was a perfect demonstration of the versatility of the instrument. He appeared to be able to play bass and lead guitar notes at the same time, and was also producing what sounded like synthesiser notes from it as well. Tremendous stuff.
And what of the man himself, Mr Norlander? I like Erik's keyboard style, he is not of the "look ma, no hands" variety of players. He's a very spontaneous and inventive musician, preferring to explore his keyboards for interesting sounds and textures. But he's no slouch when it comes to soloing either - he can burn the ivories with the best of them. His wonderful synth soloing on the epic Sky Full Of Stars was quite breathtaking. During his solo spot, he created some interesting sequencer rythms, intermixing them with sampled sounds and other electronic noises and percussion, ending the session with some delicate, tasteful piano playing.
Despite some minor reservations, I really enjoyed this gig. Was it worth the trip? I would say most definitely yes.