Galaxy at Noorderlicht, Drieborg, Netherlands, 17 March 2023
Last year Galaxy's album Runaway Men made it all the way to the top of my year list. Many other raving and high appraising reviews followed soon after, much to the enjoyment of the band who probably never expected such a result after 25 years. With this ongoing success in mind, and the fact that Bart Schwertmann's timetable was sufficiently cleared when Kayak announced their final live shows, thoughts of a reunion slowly formed as early as May 2022.
With rehearsals starting, the motion in my review was finally met! An announcement was made for an upcoming live show to take place at the 10th edition of the ProgDreams Festival (De Boerderij, Zoetermeer, Netherlands) on the 9th of April. Two warm-up gigs (try-outs) were also planned, to take place in the lovely province of Groningen, where it all began way in 1983. Unable to attend the second try-out in Engelbert on the 26th of March, as this coincided with scheduled whisky-appointments in Groningen (off all places), I made an effort to attend the other try-out on the 17th, and entered the town of Drieborg in my navigation for an anticipated night of excellent music.
Leaving work at around six o'clock, I started my journey to Drieborg. Located in the farthest eastern region of the provenance, it's probably the lengthiest drive possible from where I normally reside, but accompanied by the sounds of their recently retrieved EP Back Before The Storm, time passed quickly. Once I left the lovely skyline of Groningen city behind me, the scenic route led me past a vast amount of cities that rapidly expanded my "name a town starting with the letter..." car game knowledge. I finally parked opposite to Drieborg's community centre Buurthuis Noorderlicht around eight thirty.
Contrary to the official announcement of opening at 9, the venue thankfully proved to be open already with a small crowd of locals present. Meeting up with David van Hartingsveldt, initiator behind the release of the album, I made my way to the bar to order myself a drink at an otherworldly affordable price. Over the next hour or so, I was accompanied by an audience of approximately 75 attendees that ranged from villagers, friends, family, fans and lucky admirers once bottle-fed by Galaxy's music from the age of seven all those years ago. Then lights dimmed at ten and chased by sirens the band made their way onto the stage.
Stopped in their tracks by a technical glitch, the charms of a try-out show, they soon where running fully concentrated into Answers, the opening track of their album. Positioned right side of the stage, some sound limitations were detectable still, which slightly drowned out Niels Lingbeek's guitar, but this was soon solved by their sound engineer. His name was mentioned during the gig, but never booked down in my memory as enjoyment of music made it impossible to take notes.
During Answers, it became clear they had quite a few rehearsals under their belt and smiling all ears performed with confidence, conviction and expressed joy. Bart Schwertmann's joyous smile was slighter smaller as he had to concentrate on the difficult task to handle vocals and bass at the same time. Something he according to tradition pulled off easily a quarter of a century ago, but not having executed both at the same time for the past decades this now understandably demanded his full attention and focus.
Mastering both, his smile was full-on as well when they dove into Look Into My Eyes, and he revealed his compelling vocal calling card, sharing occasional vocals with Lingbeek. This marvellous composition soared by with solid harmonies and dynamic versatile guidance from Nils Offers on drums, to which Niels and Ard Offers (keys) went all out with spectacular play.
Addressing and welcoming the audience briefly, the simply irresistible rearranged Never The Same followed. Rocking like a cradle from beginning to end, this exquisite song alone succeeded in convincing many in the audience not yet acquainted to the album to secure a copy. Splendid performances all around, Bart impressed with his bass play. It was then time for him to switch to a 12-string acoustics and slow things down with a passionately executed In Her Head.
This beautiful composition is strongly reminiscent of that "one hit wonder" by Queensrÿche, and melted away any last resistance within the audience. Niels' emotional guitar solo, it was met by a standing ovation and much approving faces. Not letting go of this momentum, the empyrean Lady Of Fire was up next. Just like on the album, it elevated previously shown glorious moments into those of overwhelming divinity with rich symphonic decorations by Ard and the rest of the band.
Introduced as "quite a heavy song", the personally favoured Talk To Me was up next. It supplied a blissful memory gap through its six-minute brilliance, after which it was time for the (no longer) instrumental Gallery Play. Next to musical rearrangements and a magical twinkle of chemistry between the various members, it showcased an unleashed Ard who, completely in his element and in the midst of all his dance steps, was just short of a handstand on his keyboards.
The saying goes that all good things come an end, and so too here. The memorable way in which the band finally embraced emotion, passion and melancholy in the transcending Runaway Man still resonates fully today. Easily worth the price of admission plus the efforts of the journey alone, this song is a constant goosebumps affair with passionate, emotional deliveries by Bart plus phenomenal touching guitar extravaganza by Niels, while the Offer Brothers completely sacrifice themselves towards the beautiful interpretation of the song. A thoroughly enjoyable and most befitting finale to a wonderful set and Galaxy's welcomed return to stage.
Small talk, beverage sharing and a few conversations later when the various members mingled in the remaining crowd, I assured them of my intended presence in Zoetermeer, instantly repaid by sound short-cut travelling advices from Nils. A short shake of hands followed and I started my journey home. I passed picturesque and red-lighted places Groningen in no time (Thanks Nils!), after which Google Maps decide to pick up the route and provide me with a luxurious city-detour (no thanks, Google!). Determined to make it home I finally defeated Google in the end and found an alternative route, and at long arrived home early in the morning, still buzzing from Galaxy's stellar performance.
Meanwhile, the band has played a sold out try-out show in Engelbert and is anxious to perform on the ProgDreams Festival this coming Sunday. With the foresight of a DVD recording and my experience from the Drieborg gig, my advice is to not go hunt for eggs on Easter Monday, but travel to Zoetermeer instead, where the band will make their appearance alongside Yuval Ron, Kyros, Ranestrane, and Icefish ft. Virgil Donati. Take the family if needed... Or alternatively, come along and see them for free on the fifth of May at the Liberation Festival in Garst Maintebos (Winschoten), newest G-spot location to my car game data bank. You won't regret it!
Answers Look Into My Eyes Never The Same In Her Head Lady Of Fire Talk To Me Gallery Play Runaway Man
Text and photos by Jan Buddenberg, used by kind permission.