Quidam, Thursday 23rd January 2003
De Boerderij, Zoetermeer, The Netherlands

By Derk van Mourik

Unbalanced reacquaintance

It had been over three years ago since I last saw Quidam perform live, supporting Camel bass player Colin Bass on his An Outcast of the Islands tour. A silence then entered around the band, which lasted until the release of The Time Beneath the Sky last year. It was in support of this album that Quidam entered the stage of the Boerderij venue in Zoetermeer on January 23rd, in the line-up that has been stable since flutist Ewa Smarzynska was replaced by Jacek Zasada in 1999, that is Emilia Derkowska on vocals, Zbyszek Florek on keyboards, Rafal Jermakow on drums, Maciek Meller on guitars, Radek Scholl on bass and the aforementioned Jacek Zasada on flute.

The Time Beneath the Sky is quite a departure from the "old" Quidam sound, which was characterized by its liveliness and positive energy. The new album is more laidback, mellow, and even moody at times, resembling Wish You Were Here era Floyd and early Porcupine Tree.

This juxtaposition of styles was very evident in the set, the first part of which was almost completely taken up by songs from The Time.... This did not fail to have an effect on the audience and the general mood at the start of the gig was one of detachedness and minimal visible enthousiasm. Sanktuarium (from the debut album) was one of the rare oldies in the first part of the set and it had been extensively reworked to more resemble the new style, which did not help to break the imbalance. The guitar solo in this song, which closely resembles the famous Hackett solo in Genesis' Firth of Firth and has in the past indeed been played live as such, was now played by a very present Jacek Zasada on the flute. During large parts of songs his talents on the flute were not called upon, but rather than disappearing off stage or into the background, he filled that time by being a backing dancer without a spotlight and a backing vocalist without a microphone!

The song order in the set prevented Quidam from getting the audience in their grip, but this was not to say that the music was not enjoyable, far from it in fact, but Quidam may have been better advised to mix the new and the old better than they did this night, for that would have brought the gig to life far sooner. Because come to life it did! After nearly an hour, the band switched direction and played a number of songs from the first two albums, and this finally got the audience going. Band and audience were now playing off eachother's enthousiasm and by the time Quidam played the closing song of the set (an excerpt from title track The Time Beneath the Sky) the party was in full swing, and the band went off stage under a loud round of applause.

Quidam sensed that they had to preserve this atmosphere and so they didn't dawdle backstage too long and came back after mere seconds for the encores. The first encore was a No Quarter, from the latest album. This reflective interpretation of the classic Led Zeppeling song was spiced up by extended guitar and flute solos.

Another reworked song from the first album (sorry, I'm terrible with song titles, especially when they're in Polish!) closed off the encores, with Emilia continually encouraging the audience to participate. This actually worked so well that the crowd kept going even after Quidam had said their goodbyes, forcing the band to return to the stage and pick up where they left off, literally! Quite an original way to please the crowd with another encore when you don't really have one.

The imperfect setlist order aside, Quidam gave a very enjoyable performance. The band have clearly grown a lot over the years, with special mention for Emilia Derkowska, who is well on her way into turing from a lead singer into a full fledged frontwoman, bridging the gap between stage and arena. She remains an amazing singer as well, reaching the heights and producing the power live easily. The two lead instrumentalists Florek and Meller aren't flashy, but their performances are solid, with Florek mostly in a supporting role while Meller is more often found on the foreground of things. Rhythm duo Scholl and Jermakow, finally, hold it all together. A nice reacquaintance with a sympathetic band!


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2003 DPRP