Acapela, Pentyrch, Cardiff
24th November 2018
This gathering at the lovely Acapela venue near Cardiff in November by Magenta and friends for a special acoustic show is now in its third year, fast becoming a ‘pre-Christmas’ tradition with a magic all of its own. The Acapela is a converted chapel with a unique atmosphere, filled to bursting with an enthusiastic sold out crowd, enjoying the fine pizza and drinks on offer. Tonight Magenta largely unplug their electric instruments and present their songs in sensitive and delightful arrangements, highlighting that whilst this band can certainly ‘Rock’ with the best of them they can also soothe the soul with impressive touch and emotion.
As is the tradition for these gigs the show is opened by a short set from a friend of the band, and Alan Reed entertains the crowd with a collection of high quality songs drawn from both his days with Pallas and his own impressive solo career. Greater Glory from Pallas’ The Cross and the Crucible album begins the evening with Reed’s passionate delivery conveying the drama of the song, seeing it become a mainstay of the full electric show Reed does with The Daughters of Expediency. It may just be Alan Reed and an acoustic guitar but there is real power in his performance, particularly with the hard hitting Who’s to Blame?, about the press, which seems fitting as Reed also has a career with the BBC. Reed concludes his set with the rousing Begin Again, inspired by his Scottish homeland… but it’s not the last we will see of this excellent performer this evening.
Greater Glory (Pallas Song)
Who’s to Blame? (Pallas Song)
Magenta Band Members: Solo Sets
The first half of this Acapela show is an opportunity for the Magenta band members to show their own individual talents in solo sets, and they do that in great style.
Chris commences with an interesting ‘New Song’ on acoustic guitar, displaying his delicate touch and skill. He beautifully moves on to a Magenta song from the Chameleon album called Reflections. His guitar skills are wonderfully accompanied by Claudine Cassidy on cello, Karla Powell on oboe and Katie Axelsen on flute. They particularly shine on the Spanish tinged Time from Fry’s own 2012 solo album Composed, in which he shows his great versatility and mastery of his instrument.
Reflections (Magenta Song)
Next up is Christina Booth’s golden voice, premiering a song called Gospel about living under the shadow of Mount Vesuvius. What follows is one of the surprises (for some!) and highlights of the evening as the Magenta drummer, Jonathan ‘Jiffy’ Griffiths, steps up to the grand piano and shows impressive skills on the ivories. Great on drums AND on piano?! – Don’t some people just make you sick!!
He skilfully accompanies Booth with a heart melting and shimmering version of the Leonard Cohen song Hallelujah (made famous by Jeff Buckley’s later legendary cover). It is a fantastic version which blows the crowd away – sometimes you don’t need to be plugged in to produce real electricity. Deep Oceans from Booth’s first solo album, 2010’s Broken Lives and Bleeding Hearts, finishes her set to deservedly great applause.
Gospel (New Song)
Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen Cover) – with Jiffy Griffiths on Piano
Alan Reed with Rob Reed
Alan Reed returns to sing with Rob Reed (no relation!!) on grand piano, and Rob confesses he remembers as a young lad buying the Pallas album on which the next song, Sanctuary, was first recorded – Alan Reed’s first release with Pallas in 1985. Alan wrote it for Pallas and he still showcases this epic and powerful song about the Holocaust with his band to this day to great effect. They outstandingly adapt this dark rock song into an impactful piano/vocal version, still able to convey the tragedy that pervades the piece. Simply one of the spine tingling highlights of the show.
Sanctuary (Pallas Cover)
Rob Reed Solo
Rob Reed is a man with many ‘irons in the fire’ musically and his short solo set showcases his versatility and history. He touchingly plays a lovely piano piece written by his 10 year old, Harry. Harry was due to play this song himself at the show, but a bug kept him away tonight so his Dad deputised for him and did not let his son down. The one and only CD recording of that song later raised £60 in a raffle to raise money for Harry’s chosen children’s charity. It will be interesting to see if young Harry follows in his father’s footsteps.
Rob then returned with support from the other musicians to delight the crowd with a dazzling instrumental take on his previous star studded ‘Kompendium’ project, with Cassidy on cello, Powell on oboe and Axelsen on flute really coming into their own, adding the necessary musical colours and contrasts. Reed’s self-confessed adoration of Mike Oldfield, who originally inspired him to take up music, is manifested wonderfully on an excerpt from Sanctuary 1, with Reed showing his own versatility by playing the electric guitar. In contrast the conclusion to Reed’s solo spot harks back to earlier days in a band with Booth, attempting to become ‘Pop Stars’ as Trippa. They recall those days with an adaptation of their song Shattered – it’s a fun way to conclude the first half of a special evening… and allow those expiring in the heat of the upper gallery to get a much needed drink – in hindsight perhaps the Top Hat was not such a great idea, but it was a special event!
Light ‘n’ Dark (Harry Reed Song)
Kompendium – Instrumental
Sanctuary 1 (Excerpt)
Shattered (Trippa Song)
The second half of the show is devoted to the whole Magenta band, with added classical instrumentalists, performing radically re-arranged versions of some of their best songs. Lust and Envy from their classic Seven album kick off this part of the show gloriously, with the classical instruments particularly evocative on the opening section of Lust. In a rare, more delicate moment from the darker and more sinister album Metamorphosis, Christina Booth shines vocally alongside Reed’s grand piano on the elegiac War Brides Prayer. The inner turmoil of Vincent Van Gogh is poetically described in a pared down but still very evocative Colours from their most recent album We Are Legend. Fry’s bluesy guitar licks stand out on this piece. Magenta then turn to the 2006 album Home with Reed on grand piano chiming out the lovely opening of Towers of Hope, backed with the cello and Booth’s pure voice, beautifully filling the room with feeling. The finale for the main set is a real surprise as Magenta reach right back to their origins with an at times punchy adaptation of Man Machine from the 2001 album Revolutions for a rousing end to their show with Jiffy Griffiths and Dan Nelson nailing down the whole show with their deft but perfectly judged drums and bass.
The encore is a real treat for a crowd which has feasted on a great evening of musical skill and artistry as Alan Reed returns to the stage. He sings an emotion filled duet with Christina Booth of the Peter Gabriel classic Don’t Give Up, reprising their now almost legendary duet at the Trinity Live event in 2014 marking Booth’s return to the stage after serious illness. This song clearly means a lot to both of these fine singers and they certainly touched the audience with this iconic and moving song.
The evening ends on a more upbeat note as the band return for one of their best ever songs with the audience joyfully clapping along with the wonderful The Lizard King.
This was truly a special evening in which we saw a subtler side of Magenta, expressed in delicate tones and softer musical hues. The implicit quality of the songs shine out, along with the high quality of the performers. The friendly cosiness of the venue also encourages a real sense of connection between the artists and the audience.
Magenta at Acapela next year anyone? Click Here.
After this experience I have already booked my tickets – don’t miss out in November 2019 – the Pizzas are great, the beer is fine, the company is friendly and the music is wonderful – what more do you want!?
[Photos by Nick Baker and Leo Trimming, used with kind permission.]
War Bride’s Prayer
Towers of Hope
Man Machine / Warning
Don’t Give Up (Peter Gabriel cover, with Alan Reed)
The Lizard King
Robert Reed – Grand Piano, Guitar, Backing Vocals
Christina Booth – Vocals, Tambourine
Chris Fry – Acoustic & Electric Guitars, Backing Vocals
Dan Nelson – Bass Guitar
Jonathan ‘Jiffy’ Griffiths – Drums & Percussion, Grand Piano
Alan Reed – Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Claudine Cassidy – Cello
Karla Powell – Oboe
Katie Axelsen – Flute