On November 24, 2023, German bands Chandelier and Flying Circus open their joint tour at Das Rind in Rüsselheims, Germany. DPRP's Armin Rößler reports.
It's a pleasure to see Chandelier back on stage after a long twenty-five years! Chandelier, the German prog band that should delight fans of Marillion and early Genesis, that caused a sensation in the early 1990s with Pure (1990) and Facing Gravity (1993) before disappearing from the scene after the somewhat weaker Timecode (1997). They have made a remarkable comeback since the reissues of the old albums in 2018/19: the supposedly one-off reunion concert as part of the Night Of The Prog 2019 at Loreley. Then surprisingly, more gigs followed, and now the brand-new studio album We Can Fly. Great to see Chandelier are back! And live too, at the Rind in Rüsselsheim in a double bill with another German band, Flying Circus, who have also been active for thirty years.
To take a closer look on Chandelier's performance: Martin Eden (vocals), Udo Lang (guitar), Herry Rubarth (drums) and Christoph Tiber (bass) are now supported by Armin Riemer (keyboards), and Toni "Moff" Mollo (ex-Grobschnitt) is also present – as he has been since Facing Gravity (1993) – providing vocal support on several songs. Space Controller (like almost all this evening's setlist's tracks, from the new album We Can Fly) is the perfect song to kick off the concert. From the very first notes the sound is familiar as typical Chandelier, and with Martin Eden's characteristic vocals, the supposed journey through time is perfect. No, this is not the nineties, this is the here and now, Chandelier are back, and they are good. Very good.
They continue with Mixed Magnificent Arts, the song with the coolest title on the new album, albeit perhaps the most inconspicuous musically. Help Me – and I'm quoting myself – sounds fresh and refreshing, rocks forward nicely and still has its proggy moments. There is a strong organ part to be heard and the guitar sets short but concise highlights. In general, and without wishing to diminish the performance of the whole band, singer Martin Eden with his usual charmingly eccentric performances (is it still eccentric when you've got used to it?) and guitarist Udo Lang, who plays one brilliant solo after another but also acts absolutely song-oriented in between, are the two players who make it special. Riemer elicits many facets from his keys, Tiber and Rubarth are more than just the reliable rhythm section, but a strong foundation – and yet there is this unmistakable voice and the almost magical guitar that make Chandelier the band they are. On the subject of eccentricity: Who dances on stage with his hands in his pockets? We won't name names...
In Between is a very beautiful ballad, Toni "Moff" Mollo sets the tone here for the first time. Half Empty, Half Fool is the first older track – released on Timecode (1997), but already played live four years earlier. It brings back memories. Spring is the essence of the new album. Epic, anthemic, practically the title track of the new album thanks to the recurring "we can fly" in the lyrics. According to Martin Eden, it is more hopeful and joyful than one might have expected in the current times. Wars, pandemics, inflation and general doom and gloom? "I'm stubborn, I don't want to be part of that," he says and advises people to "live a wonderful life". Spring fits in perfectly, being, not only in the singer's opinion, "the most hopeful song ever" on the new album. All My Ways (from Facing Gravity) then places Toni in the center, as he did on the studio recording and at the live concerts back then. Light, largely "borrowed" (in Eden's own words, albeit with permission, as he adds) from a larger work by Slovakian composer Peter Machajdík, is a sublime contrast, a welcome breather before the powerful finale.
The sea is rushing, there's Martin Eden's voice a cappella. Forever And A Day, the finale of the album and the regular set in Rüsselsheim, is a grand conclusion in both respects. The shanty refrain naturally has a high recognition value, plus an extended instrumental passage early on, lots of drama in the vocals, high tempo and much-loved bombast. Of course, the next brilliant guitar solo is a must. What do the lyrics say? "Sail on, sail on ..." Yes, guys, please carry on. Why not "forever and a day"?
After so much new material, the encores are pure nostalgia and party: first Start it, then Wash & Go, which makes you want more, which unfortunately doesn't come... After ninety minutes, Chandelier have to make room on stage for Flying Circus, and as sad as it is not to have heard old songs like Itai, Stay or Glimpse Of Home, the focus on the new songs was ultimately successful. Of course, they're not as familiar as the old stuff that you'd like to hear again, but they're definitely good. A very good concert.
Space Controller Mixed Magnificent Arts Help Me In Between Half Empty, Half Fool Spring All My Ways Light Forever and a Day
Start It Wash & Go
Flying Circus have a rather hard time in direct comparison, which may also be due to the fact that I didn't know the band myself before these joint concerts were announced. Even though they released their first album, Seasons, back in 1997, which has already featured singer Michael Dorp and guitarist Michael Rick from the current line-up. Bassist Roger Weitz has been on board since 2000 (Out Of The Waste Land), albeit on keyboards back then. Those are now played by Rüdiger Blömer, who also provides beautiful moments with his violin. Like drummer Ande Roderigo, who also takes over the lead vocals on two songs, he has been with Flying Circus since the 2013 EP Ones And Zeros. Musically, the band straddles the line between hard/classic rock and prog – if you read comparisons such as Uriah Heep, Rush or Led Zeppelin and perhaps add Saga, that sums up the band's range quite well.
Flying Circus play through their entire band history, and many of the tracks from the current set are featured on the live CD A Live History (released in 2022), which was given away for free in a great promo campaign in exchange. The focus is on the concept album 1968 (2019) and the album Starlight Clearing (2016).
It may come as a surprise that the debut Seasons, which was re-recorded by the current line-up in 2022 as Seasons 25, is only included at the very end of the gig. The title track is the strongest song of the evening, partly because of a fantastic violin part by Rüdiger Blömer (who can also be heard as a guest on two tracks on the new Chandelier album We Can Fly), and partly because the entire band underpins it perfectly with strong ensemble playing.
In any case, the musicians of Flying Circus are excelling on their respective instruments, singer Michael Dorp has an impressive voice – sometimes he is too much of a hard rock shouter in the more proggy moments, which is perhaps in some moments a bit over the top, but it does fit on several other tracks. The fact that he also sings in the Led Zeppelin cover band Mad Zeppelin explains a lot.
There will be further opportunities to see the two bands (who also performed on their Doppeldecker Tour at Zeche Carl in Essen on November 25) live together on February 10, 2024 at Logo in Hamburg, on March 23 at Kulturbahnhof in Jülich, on April 5 at the Art Rock Festival in Reichenbach and on April 20 at Club Zentral in Stuttgart.
The World Is Mine Fire (I Wanna Go) More Than One No Way Back Voices In The Rain Follow The Empress Derry My Lai The Hopes We Had (In 1968) Waste Land, 432 Your Liege Forever New York Seasons
The Jewel City