Union Chapel, Islington, London
Friday, 29th May 2015
The spectacle of the stunningly beautiful Union Chapel, with it’s Arts and Crafts curves and shapes, is always a sight to behold. However, this evening the sight was enhanced by a colourful array of unusual musical instruments very carefully laid out on this busy stage. Yes, Gryphon are back and delightfully so.
On this beautiful Spring evening, Gryphon came to the stage at around 8.00pm to play an acoustic set, Brian Gulland’s beautifully colourful medieval coat setting the tone for the evening. The concert was centred around Red Queen to Gryphon Three, the band’s third album, however a particularly enjoyable part of this concert was when they played Midnight Mushrumps. This is a fine album and the band played it in a manner which was as close to the original as possible. All those years ago Gryphon had a clear vision of playing medieval music with rural English folk and just a hint of progressive.
The band are hugely accomplished musically and have a varied range of musical backgrounds. “After the band’s self-titled debut album, Gryphon expanded their sound to include electric guitars and keyboards as well as wind instruments, such as bassoons and crumhorns“ [I]. These instruments had never been previously – or probably, in the case of the crumhorn, since – been used by a rock band. “Gryphon’s music often sounded as much like rural English folk or Renaissance chansons as it did rock, at least on their early recordings”[I]. The vision of Richard Harvey was that Gryphon would be a group with strong folk roots and a hint of progressive music, the first four albums following this concept. However, when the band joined Harvest Records they produced the excellent, in my view, Treason which was clearly influenced by bands such as Yes. The fourth album, Rain Dance, heralded a move towards progressive music and Treason, Gryphon’s last studio album, was a complete departure from the original vision being a symphonic rock album. In truth, Treason was a fine album in it’s own right.
It was no coincidence that in 1974/75 Gryphon supported Yes on tour. This direction was not entirely popular with all the band members and shortly afterwards the band folded, so it really is a welcome return for this most original of bands.
Many would say that it was extraordinary that I attended this concert at all due to health issues, but hell and high water were not going to stop me from the rare opportunity to see this group of musicians live.
As soon as the first chords were struck it was clear how excellent the musicians who make up Gryphon are. The sheer quality of the playing cannot be under emphasised, the jovial and friendly bantering which went on throughout the concert, between Richard Harvey and Brian Gulland in particular, set the tone for the evening. I could not help but notice how precise everything was on the stage and the performance was clearly well rehearsed and the music beautifully played.
The concert drew an audience from far afield and it was clearly evident that everybody had a thoroughly enjoyable evening and adored what they heard. The rapport between the band and the audience was warm and both grew closer during the evening as this fine group of musicians played some old favourites. I am sure that for many present it brought back fond memories of university days. I was hoping to see Sir Roy Strong who, under his stewardship at the Victoria & Albert Museum, invited just one band to perform there. Not too unsurprisingly it was Gryphon.
I just hope that this is a new beginning and Gryphon release a sixth studio album.
Renaissance Dance Medley
The Unquiet Grave
Crossing The Stiles (Graeme Taylor solo)
Red Queen To Gryphon Three Muddley
Le Cabriolet Et Dans Le Mouchoir
Richard Harvey – Keyboards, Recorders, Crumhorn
Brian Gulland – Bassoon, Crumhorns
David Oberlé – Drums, Percussion & Tymps
Graeme Taylor – Guitars
John Davie – Bass Guitar
Graham Preskett – Multi-instrumentalist