In 2022, several concerts that took place at De Boerderij were captured with the intent of future releases. One of those was Lifesigns' show on the 20th of August which they played in support of Altitude, their third and highly acclaimed studio album from 2021. The live-recordings of this concert, attended by yours truly, were taken care of by the band's fifth member Steve Rispin and resulted in their new double album Live In The Netherlands. A short European tour prior to its release date (3rd of July) was planned, including an album launch party at De Boerderij on the 1st of July. Here's a recollection of that memorable night.
League Of Lights
Arriving at the venue shortly before opening hours Lifesigns' rising popularity was instantly visible, for I lined up behind what seemed to be the whole of Holland's prog community. All waiting in high anticipation for a night of excellent prog this, next to familiar prog-concert visitors, included just about every existing website (Background magazine, Progwereld), magazine (IO-pages) or Radio show (Xymphonia) dedicated nowadays to our beloved genre. We would all be well catered for over the next few hours, starting off with support act League Of Lights.
Walking on stage under modest applause the duo of vocalist Farrah West, dressed for the occasion in a black ballroom dress wearing a black swan-like diadem, and Richard West (keys, programming) of Threshold fame blasted straight into their set with Shockwave. A catchy synth art-pop composition soothingly surrounded by brightness of sound that perfectly placed Farrah's angelic vocals over Richard's hovering synths.
Accompanied by befitting backdrop visuals of the highly addictive Ms Pacman game from the 80's, the infectious pop melodies reminiscent of Kim Wilde/ Agnetha Fältskog (ABBA) of Ghosts followed. This song, as many would manage to do later on, acted as a perfect showcase towards the timeless contemporary freshness of League Of Lights' music and Richard's composing and playing skills, ending the song with his elegant piano play in perfect sync to the Game Over stage of the game projected in the background.
Dedicated to those who recently lost a dear one I Still Remember then delivered a personal chocking up moment when unforgettable fiery red stage lighting was embraced by warmth of flowing synth melodies set further aflame by Farrah's heartfelt emotional delivery. LoL's 'happy song about Death' Persephone soothingly washed this touching experience away with an attractive breeze of endlessly uplifting melodies reminiscent to Delain, after which Due Diligence's intricately shaped atmospheric synthpop melodies brought flirtations with Berliner Schüle sequences and beautiful Tangerine Dream-like synth flows.
Holding a captivating synth-pop grasp over the audience via the earworm melodies embedded in With You and The Collector, both from their most recent album Dreamers Don't Come Down, the brilliant Fox then highlighted their set with a chase of emulated guitar riffs and delightful arrangements that alternated symphonic bombast with intricate atmospheric musical passages embraced by classical themes. Offering even stronger Delain impressions with Forever's elegant melodic prog-metal approach, a song originally featuring Threshold's Glynn Morgan guesting on vocals, League of Light's well-balanced musical overview finally rounded off with the stately pleasantries of the grandiose Kings and Queens from their 2019 album In The In Between.
All in all League Of Light provided a splendid warm-up for Lifesigns, who themselves took to the stage some twenty minutes later.
Shockwave Ghosts I Still Remember Persephone Due Diligence With You The Collector Fox Forever Kings And Queens
Lifesigns, Set 1
By then the venue had filled itself up nicely with many fresh new faces joining those who had both been present when Lifesigns played with Dilemma in 2019, and when recordings took place for the double album Lifesigns were now about to officially launch. The biggest missing out within this gathering of prog minded friends, due to other touring obligations, was Lifesigns' own Steve Rispin.
This left his understudy Sam Staton in full charge of tonight's sound, which he did masterfully well. Apart from a short interfering ringing sound of keyboards halfway down in opening track Lighthouse, the singular change in Lifesigns' set list to the one performed the year before, I could have sworn it was Rispin's magic all along. No matter where and how you were standing or flying; the overall accomplished sound was perfectly balanced and crystal clear throughout.
Because of this beautiful sound and the clearly visible eager joy of playing again at De Boerderij it didn't take long for Lifesigns' concert to lift off, reaching a first euphoric pinnacle point after a mere nine minutes when Dave Bainbridge's magistral guitar solo provided everyone with ecstatic goosebump in the overwhelming instrumental finale of Lighthouse. This first roof-status checking moment was followed by a much heavier sounding rendition of Open Skies due to Bainbridge's feistier guitar play, after which keyboardist/vocalist John Young addressed the audience in his usual relaxed, British humour included, way. Much to the delight and smiles of many, including his equally exceptionally good-spirited bandmates.
These smiles would stay on permanently and increase in size on many occasions, like for instance when after Young's invite of clapping along to drummer Zoltan Csörsz rhythm in Different everyone was joyously derailed when Zoltan altered the song's momentum. Once the excellent song had finished a brief comical sketch between bassist Jon Poole and Zoltan would lead to similar experiences of joy, which would evolve into a frequently returning show element that brought about many hilarious and spontaneous 'slapstick' moments with the rest of the band pitching and growling in comments or anecdotes as the show progressed. As I stated four years ago: 'You would have had a great time and a great laugh even if you didn't like the music'.
All those witnessing surely did enjoy the music, as the many joining vocals, hands and fingers pointing to the imaginable sky in the thereafter played fan favourite At The End Of The World so obviously showed. With Bainbridge bringing the audience to laughter and tears once again by chipping in a hilariously sobering story on the success of Impossible, the final song before the break, Lifesigns' "Greatest Hits" set ended on a high, leaving all happy and ready to indulge at Julie Crowe's Merch desk.
Having done so upon entering the hall previously I however seized opportunity to cross-examine Richard West on all things Threshold, League Of Lights' perfect paring to Propaganda (or XPropaganda as they are now known by), and his upcoming The Fall Of The Shire album with Oblivion Protocol that sequels Threshold's concept of Legends Of The Shires. Learning and reminiscing all I could in this short period of time it was about 20 minutes later Lifesigns returned to the stage for their second set.
Lifesigns, Set 2
Positioned closer to the stage for optimum enjoyment and better photo opportunities, which like taking notes proves impossible and difficult enough as it is, this set included an integral performance of Altitude. Starting off with the magnificently played, beautifully sung and loudly applauded title track itself, although Poole might have other recollections of this in light of the various times he had to adjust and fix his earpiece during the song.
Regardless of this everyone was truly flying by the time Bainbridge blessed this phenomenal song with his amazing guitar work, thankfully blowing De Boerderij's roof off just in time for the song's dreamy enchanting coda of luscious synth flows and guitar melodies to soar higher and higher and finally fade away into the glowing distance. Landing safely back in time for a spirited version of Gregarious, which featured beautiful harmonies from Bainbridge and Poole complemented by flawlessly executed playful melodies, it was then time for Young to introduce the various members of the band, which ultimately led to Young becoming the pirouetting middle point of attention himself when an impromptu Bonnie Tyler song was started by Poole. Or was it Bainbridge?
Anyway, another obvious fan favourite in form of Ivory Tower followed, passionately sung along to by overjoyed fans, after which Shoreline and the exciting Fortitude completed the progressive party with a delightful touch of Jazz alongside fantastic interplay from all. Especially Fortitude proved highly memorable with Bainbridge brilliantly multitasking on keys, vocals and guitars while Poole and Zoltan had their fair share of comical interactive fun and Young's swirling synths as a warm bath streamed endlessly over the mesmerized audience in the songs sublime symphonic coda.
After a final piece of Poole-foolery Last One Home marked the end of Lifesign's stunning second set. A revelation four years ago when I heard this momentous song first, tonight's performance would be no different and left everybody speechless with its epic moving melodies and Bainbridge's dazzling solo. With goosebumps all over once the band left the stage, returning shortly for a parting gift with a thrilling version of Kings, this song alone made me realise omitting Altitude from my 2021 year-list was a serious mistake.
As a near carbon copy of tonight's concert I am convinced that Live In The Netherlands will end up high on my list this time around though. Judged on the rapidly shrinking supply of CDs at the extremely busy Merch desk when Lifesigns' magical performance was well and truly over I reckon I won't be alone in this.
Lighthouse Open Skies Different At The End Of The World Impossible
Altitude Gregarious Ivory Tower Shoreline Fortitude Last One Home
Winding down at the bar shortly, talking to newly befriended and on the night easily converted Lifesigns fans about next day's Dutch Rush Fan Event at De Boerderij, it was not long after I started the journey home and fell asleep like a baby about an hour later.
Following on from Leaugue Of Lights' and Lifesigns' words of praise a big thanks once again to volunteers and staff of De Boerderij for making everyone feel so perfectly at home and providing yet another memorable evening of prog. Next time Lifesigns are in town, or other up and coming prog band for that matter, I'll make sure to visit again. If you happen to have a pulse or other favourable symptom towards prog my advice is to do exactly the same, for tonight's entertainment value was exceptionally high and a fabulous time was had by all. There even was music so what more can you ask for?