There are times resisting the urge to prog the boat are futile. Especially when this involves (reunion) gigs by bands who, for a variety of reasons, I've never had the good fortune to see. Over the past 15 odd years this amongst others has led to trips abroad to see the likes of Twelfth Night, Tamarisk, and Beltane Fire.
Trilogy was another 80s British neo-prog band who folded just before the movement set foot on our shores, when on September 13th 1986 Pallas and IQ performed their magic at the Paradiso in Amsterdam. When Trilogy announced their first official reunion gig, that short list of mine irresistibly increased with one. Including Solstice, it actually amounted to two at the time, but I had already witnessed them at De Boerderij in April.
Indulging with Trilogy merchandise, including a triple purchase of their EP The Goldust Tapes for anxiously awaiting fellow fans at home and Sweden, I quickly secured the last seat available in the front row. Perfectly in time, because just a few moments later, Mark Bloxsidge (bass), Paul Dennis (guitar, bass pedals, synths, vocals), and drummer Nik Szymanek took their positions on stage and dived straight into A Legion In Morocco and Necrosleep, both heartily welcomed with enthusiasm from the crowd.
Announced in 2022 as their first reunion gig, tonight's show actually turned out to be Trilogy's third, following their June double bill with Haze and an appearance at the Prog For Peart event early July. As a result, together with long hours of rehearsal I gather, they sounded formidably tight and very much up to the task in recreating their songs after 40 years of absence. Especially noteworthy in this respect was how well Dennis' voice was, while working his way impressively between keys, Taurus pedals and vocals the one moment, and guitar plus vocals the other when he left his keyboard stand to pay his attention to the captivated audience.
A relaxed and concentrated Bloxsidge provided some Taurus pedals when Dennis wasn't behind his key stand and looked perfectly at ease in multitasking as well. Next to strong backing vocals, he even successfully had a go at lead vocals later on in the set (Sahara). At the back and less visible behind his toms and cymbals, understudy to the professor Szymanek also demonstrated his perfect control and provided the technical power and dynamics Trilogy's songs so enticingly thrive on. An excellent example of which was given right after Bloxsidge had welcomed everyone to the show, with a special mention to Trilogy's original bass player John Garnett, and they rushed into The Silent Room and the instrumental Dark Hunter which featured some stunning guitar play by Dennis.
A third into their set, Trilogy then turned the heat up with songs like The Unheard Voice and Sahara, songs soon to be found on their upcoming "debut". Bloxsidge mentioned in passing that tonight's gig was filmed for a possible future release! Excellent work-outs of Messages and Amazons, with superb soloing guitar by Dennis, followed.
Bloxsidge opened the third phase of Trilogy's brilliant set by inviting everyone to sing along to the glorious Break!. An invitation met by many a supportive smile and powerful shouts of its title near the end of this thrilling Rush-inspired treat.
A strong convincing performance so far already, Trilogy then opened the gates to prog paradise by delivering a ravishing version of Hidden Mysteries, the one song from the Fire In Harmony I think everybody was waiting upon to hear, considering its responsive applause, and left these gates to heaven open as they concluded the regular set with a stunning rendition of their magnificent anthem Arctic Life.
Goosebumps were still fully intact when Trilogy assumed control one final time with a masterful tribute to one of their influences in form of The Super Duper Rush Medley. After this brilliantly construed and near-perfectly executed rush, the band left the stage with broad smiles of content as the audience rewarded them with a standing ovation. Welcome back guys!
A Legion In Morocco Necrosleep The Silent Room Dark Hunter The Unheard Voice Sahara Messages Amazons Break! Hidden Mysteries Arctic Life The Super Duper Rush Medley
A quick stop at the bar for a refreshment, for not much later Solstice were on. With the stage being half the size of the one at De Boerderij, I wondered how they would all fit, but the eight members miraculously managed to squeeze themselves in splendidly. Admittedly, from my point of view, right in front of band leader Andy Glass (guitar), I could only see the movements of Ebony Buckle (harmony vocals, keys) and Gwen Taylor (harmony vocals). But I knew that would turn out just fine because if one band aims for the complete opposite of "static performance" then Solstice is a prime example.
Manoeuvrability for Steven McDaniel and Pete Hemsley, confined to their instruments of keys and drums respectively, was obviously limited. But the sight of their delightful flexible excellence in play is pleasantly fulfilling, much like Robin Phillips's (bass), whose freedom was limited to a few steps back and forth. One of the reasons for this being violinist Jenny Newman, who excelled in proximity beside him. The other major reason to be found is the bundle of energetic joy called Jess Holland, at times joined by Buckle and Taylor. Her captivating performances requires ample of free space to sing, hop, bounce, dance, and jump around in.
Which was something she most joyously engaged in, from the moment the concert started with the funky Shout. She miraculously managed to never tumble into mic-stands, fellow band members and other musical instruments as she swirled her way around the stage. Although, to the laughter of many, she did manage to mention the wrong city name when she addressed the audience shortly after. Glass took sweet revenge for the unfortunate events during the gig at De Boerderij (see review). This time he perfectly delivered the goods, smiling widely, while beautiful harmonies and lush violin parts captured the hearts of the crowd.
Dedicated to the many Solstice guardians gathered in the audience Guardian, then marked a sublime early highlight, irresistibly grooving onwards with a phenomenal blues guitar solo by Glass. The following Wongle No.9 raised the funk and dance bar through great harmonies, seductive violin melodies and another great solo by Glass. The momentum was easily picked up by the folky Mount Ephraim, which swung and swayed its way through engaging melodies of violin and virtuous keys.
Evidently having fun and feeling perfectly relaxed, the talkative Glass then announced the beautiful Morning Light, the oldest song in their set. After mentioning tonight's film crew, this was followed by a new song, recently baptised as Firefly. A magical song glowing with exuberant melodies in spirit of Solstice's recent album Light Up.
To the tasteful surprise of those attending, especially guardian "Barrie", Newman and other members then quickly disappeared backstage to fetch a balloon and several trays of "Solstice honey-cakes" to be shared among the cheerful audience in celebration of Barrie's birthday. Picking one from the tray as it passed a vibrant version of Bulbul Tarnang was performed, which managed to raise the energy levels through the roof as Holland, Buckle and Taylor dominated the stage with their animated dancing and divine close harmonies.
Not to wake the neighbours, which would have been a pretty scary sight in light of the adjacent graveyard, a curfew unfortunately meant the audience was left to choose between A New Day and Sacred Run to represent the final song of the evening. A decision ultimately befalling upon A New Day for which Solstice pulled out all the stops one final time, thus ending this excellent night on a mountainous high.
Thanking and reminding those present of Solstice's upcoming show at the prestigious Cropredy festival (on 12 August 2023), they finally waved their goodbyes and left the stage to later appear at the busy merch stand. A time I spent talking to various members.
Shout Guardian Wongle No.9 Mount Ephraim Morning Light Firefly Bulbul Tarang A New Day
Overall, it was a fantastic night and an eventful journey I would surely like to do all over again some day, although preferably a little closer to home. One part of that wish will be fulfilled because of Solstice's return to De Boerderij in 2024, supported by Ebony Buckle.
Maybe Trilogy can be invited as the third act? For now though, those in the vicinity of London and anxious to see Trilogy would do best to catch them in the act at the Craufurd Arms in Milton Keynes, together with Liaison on 6 October 2023, another band still high on my prog the boat list. Maybe next year...