With the anniversary of the Manchester Arena attack not far behind us, this might be a good time to review the Tangekanic live release. Not to trivialise the atrocity in any way but because the album contains the most powerful and moving musical comment I’ve yet heard on the recent spate of horrific concert attacks. In between a selection of songs from the back catalogues of The Tangent and Karmakanic comes Sanctuary In Music, composed and performed by Andy Tillison. Now, some people think Mr Tillison’s voice is not the best in the world and it is true he is no Freddie Mercury, but there are times when a raw, honest, unaffected delivery of a lyric is what a song needs – and this is certainly one of those times.
A bit of background: In order to double their audience appeal The Tangent and Karmakanic joined forces and toured at the end of last year (I can see this taking off – anyone for Yes Club 7?). At the same time a crazy nutjob gunman opened fire on the audience at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas, killing 58 and injuring 851.
It was the worst mass shooting in U.S. history and came after the Manchester Arena bombing that killed 22 and the deadliest concert shooting of all time, Le Bataclan in Paris with a death toll of 130. When Tillison heard about the Las Vegas attack he scribbled some words together and performed the song at the Summer’s End festival, mostly just himself and a solo piano. He said:
“We were among friends wherever we went, and walking around the festival that day I just knew I had to say something about the special place that music holds for us and everyone in that audience. I went behind stage and scribbled some lyrics out and the band agreed to come on and join in at the end of the piece – which they’d never even heard on the first performance of it.”
In the hands of Roger Waters this would have involved a lot of swearing and manic screaming, his “Victor Meldrew on the verge of a nervous breakdown” schtick which, quite frankly, has become a bit wearing. That last album… pah! But Tillison performs it in a restrained, bitter-sweet style that lets the words speak for themselves. Over simple piano chords – A minor, F and the occasional tasty Bb major seventh – he expresses what I think most of us feel about the music we love, whether it’s prog, jazz or Ariana Grande.
“I claim sanctuary in music”, he sings. “It’s not a request; it’s a basic human right”, and he sings about a place we all can go to, a different kind of home “where the musings of the artists are similar to my own”. A place where we can lose ourselves in the sheer breathtaking, heart-lifting joy of music, whether from a little shiny disc or a collection of noughts and ones or live from a stage, in the company of like-minded celebrants wearing the same T-shirts and carrying the same pot-bellies. I am by no means a religious man but any spiritual moments I’ve experienced have been in a concert venue – frequently with the late Daevid Allen up on stage.
Because of music’s astonishing ability to inspire, to heal, to bring joy and banish pain, because a live concert is a celebration of creativity and a bringing together of people, the savage attacks seem so barbaric, so unfathomable, almost sacrilegious in their wanton destruction of something so beautiful and precious. How dare they invade our place.
Tillison’s song contains an unusual middle-eight – just 30 seconds of respectful silence. Just before that he sings the line that always brings a lump to my throat: “Dancing with their daughters for the last time”. I have two daughters and I want to dance with them until my ticker gives out, not when a sad sack of shit with a gun decides.
I wasn’t sure how to end this review, and I’m aware I’ve said very little about the other tracks on the album. But nothing else packs the same emotional punch as Sanctuary In Music and, quite frankly, everything else sort of fades to grey in comparison.
I think I can only say that I, too, claim sanctuary in music. And I’m thankful that I can share that sanctuary with artists whose musings are so similar to my own.
01. A Spark In The Aether [The Tangent] (5:41)
02. Doctor Livingstone (I Presume) [The Tangent] (12:13)
03. God, The Universe & Everything Else Nobody Cares About [Karmakanic] (25:48)
04. Sanctuary In Music [Tangekanic] (9:08)
05. Two Rope Swings [The Tangent] (9:47)
06. Steer By The Stars [Karmakanic] (14.42)
Total Time – 77:19
Andy Tillison – Keyboards, Vocals
Göran Edman – Vocals
Jonas Reingold – Bass Guitar, Pedalboard, Vocals
Steve Roberts – Drums
Luke Machin – Guitar, Vocals
Record Label: Reingold Records
Countries of Origin: U.K./Sweden
Date of Release: 11th February 2018