Published on 24th December 2018
Chris & Spike’s 2018 Gig Review
If you’ve been to a gig in or around London in 2018, it’s highly likely you will have seen either Chris Parkins or Spike Worsley in attendance. These two seasoned gig-goers have been to 327 gigs between them this past year. That might be an exaggeration, but not by much!
Who better to ask then, to compile a comprehensive gig diary for the year just gone than these two likeable chaps, who you will find are both a fountain of knowledge when it comes to getting around the capital, the accessibility of venues, and most importantly, where the best watering holes and eateries are to be found. Chris has even started a Facebook page, London Prog Gigs, to collate info on upcoming tours, pre-gig meets, etc., and a most helpful resource it is, too. Find it HERE.
Chris Parkins’ piece is as sent, in the form of diary notes, with some interesting observations on crowd sizes and demographics, whereas Spike Worsley’s piece is in the more traditional gig review format. Hopefully you will find some entertainment in the writings of these two Sonic Troopers!
Spike Worsley – My Most Enjoyable Gigs of 2018
Chosen with at least a smidgen of deliberation, the above title is intended to convey some of the difficulty in compiling a list of “best” or “top” gigs attended. To what extent I came away from a gig thinking “I really enjoyed that!” has helped me to whittle down 49 gigs to a mere 11 for the purposes of this blog. I’d have reviewed all of them but the Interweb only has so much room you know!
So, a Top 5 that I can honestly say were truly outstanding experiences, followed by briefer comments on six (in no particular order) which would have made the top five if not, errr, for The Top 5.
This has been my “leanest” year for gigs (!!! – Ed) for quite a while due to other life demands and I had tickets for but could not attend eight others for this reason. One cautionary tale though when using the excellent DICE App to buy tickets – make sure you at least print out a reminder that you have or haven’t bought a ticket! I missed the sold out Kikagaku Moyo gig at the Scala as I had convinced myself I’d already bought a ticket on DICE, but was mistaken. So, one of my most eagerly anticipated gigs of the year was missed and apparently it was a corker. @*&%!!!
The Top 5
All venues in London, except where stated.
1. BIG BIG TRAIN – The Anvil, Basingstoke AND Night Of The Prog Festival, Loreley, Germany (11th/13th July)
I’m counting the warm-up gig and this band’s first-ever festival appearance as one, being just a couple of days apart. Hard to believe that The Anvil outing was only BBT’s seventh ever gig (in recent history at least), as they exude a confidence and display a level of musicianship on stage that is truly impressive.
After the traditional gathering of 50 or so ‘Passengers’ for a pre-gig curry, the Basingstoke performance (which clashed with England’s World Cup semi-final match – testimony to the excellent standard of behaviour of the audience that not one single phone beep was heard throughout!) was as accomplished as ever, with a new set list which drew some genuine gasps of delight, particularly as The Permanent Way segued into (one of) the band’s tour de force, East Coast Racer. The 13 musicians on stage didn’t skip a beat, and with music this demanding to play things boded well for the Germany performance. [TPA Gig Review HERE.]
The Basingstoke gig was played to a dedicated crowd of about 1,200, but an outdoor festival in an iconic amphitheatre, to a crowd who were there to see other bands also, numbering 6,500, out of the Blighty comfort zone, in the library with a revolver…? Ahem.
Riverside played a total blinder before BBT were due to headline on the first day. Night had fallen now to cool the air slightly and those of us who had travelled together to be at this magnificent venue glanced around a bit nervously, hoping the band could hold their nerve and just somehow win over some of the vast crowd at this coming-of-age event.
What were we thinking?! They totally bossed it from the first moment David Longdon strode down the runway to greet the crowd, mug of tea held aloft, and the band roared into life – the sound was crystal clear, the playing from everyone was world class and the crowd lapped it up. Even Rachel Hall did an impromptu runway stint with her new electric violin and of course the brass section added their usual spine-tingling warmth and power. BBT’s rite of passage was complete and next year’s Reflectors of Light DVD (taken from the 2017 Cadogan Hall gigs) will show just how great a live band these 13 have become. My Gig of the Year for sure and possibly gig of my lifetime, so far… [TPA Night of the Prog XIII Photoblog HERE.]
2. SOUP – The Black Heart (19th November)
As has sadly become an all too common feature of gigs by hugely talented bands these days, a sparse (but very enthusiastic) crowd of around 30 gathered on a bleak Monday evening in the – thankfully – cosy upstairs room where Norwegian combo Soup were the only dish on the menu. With music this tasty, no other course was needed. Last year’s album Remedies featured heavily of course and the brand new album Live Cuts was on sale at the merch stall. To say Soup make a bowlful of majestic, soaring, thrilling music, replete with croutons of melody, atmosphere and great playing would be spot on. We lapped it up and were left sated, by some brief but truly delicious fare. It was just enough, and superbly nutritious for the soul. Next time they deserve a much bigger audience and perhaps a weekend date.
3. NILS FRAHM – Eventim Apollo (aka The Hammy) (4th December)
This guy must be one of the fittest musicians on the planet! I couldn’t move that fast between keyboards and oscillators, let along twiddle the knobs and finger the keys to such incredible effect. A sold out crowd at The Hammy (first of two nights) had me dreading the scourge of modern-day gig-going. Yappers. You know, people who go to gigs to say they’ve been and spend all evening gossiping at the tops of their drunken voices. Well, they’d all stayed at home – the (mainly) youngish crowd were extremely reverential and absolutely silent in the places that required it. And this guy’s music deserves respect, the composition is jaw-dropping, and then there’s the multi-layered soundscape he weaves. Check out his latest album All Melody for a taster but don’t miss the absolutely blinding number Says. A great stage presence too – disarming, witty and grateful for his audience’s attention. Well done everybody!
4. VILLAGERS – EaRtH, Hackney (23rd October)
My first visit to this charming venue got off to a great start thanks to some exceptional customer service. My partner required priority seating that evening and a phone call to the venue was returned within 10 minutes with an assurance we would be met at the door, taken to a rear entrance where there are less steps and given a proper chair (instead of the concrete bench arrangement). And we were, seated in the company of a performer I’ve met and admired for many years, Lucy Rose, and a rather snappily dressed mod-type chap with bleached hair who used to be in a band called Marmalade, or Fruit Preserve or something (It’s not Chutney, is it? – Ed). Anyway, they were there as they both appeared on the latest Villagers album, being huge fans of Conor O’Brien’s simply stunning songwriting.
I first stumbled across this band by accident – I’d gone to see another artist supporting them at The Barbican and was amazed to see it had sold out. I’d never heard of them. I left feeling I’d witnessed something musically spiritual, a simple stage set of a carpet, lampstand, harp, drum kit and keyboard was perfect for the achingly (ACHINGLY!) beautiful songs that Conor writes. Something reminded me of Paddy McAloon’s way with a melody and I’m sure Burt B himself would have loved to have penned some of these choons.
Anyway, that was 3 years ago and tonight would be my third Villaging – and possibly the very best. With a drummer who plays French horn (no, not simultaneously) and a keyboardist who is equally adept on trumpet and effects, the band provide just the right level of exquisite lusciousness this music deserves. See them if you get a chance. Lucy and Paul have great taste too.
5. MAJOR PARKINSON – The Water Rats (28th September)
A solid mention for the two exceptional support acts, who helped make this a fantastic night of what is commonly known amongst aficionados of the sub-genre as “bonkers music”! The Display Team and Sterbus were superb in every way – in fact it would have to take something truly special to steal the spotlight and, well, MP were just that. This gig has already been excellently reviewed in this place so I refer you to that for more, better words. (Aw, shucks – Ed. It’s HERE by the way)
A matinee, added as the evening performance sold out. They performed the album Frengers in its entirety with a string quartet to mark its 15th anniversary plus a set of other great songs. I didn’t know much of their music but have now put that well and truly right. Fantastic stuff.
7. THE FIERCE AND THE DEAD – The Lexington (10th November)
I’ve now seen Rushden’s finest at least 10 times and always leave with a huge grin on my face (I find it’s the best place for a grin). Supported by the outstanding KYLVER, this was a brilliant night out and the first full performance of The Euphoric album with brilliant light show made it an evening to remember.
8. STEVEN WILSON – Royal Albert Hall (28th March)
He puts on a terrific show. I saw the terrific performance at which he supported himself. It was terrific.
9. SWEET BILLY PILGRIM – Stretham House Concert (15th September)
My first ever house concert, hosted near Ely in Cambridgeshire by the excellent hosts Geoff and Beth Parks. It won’t be the last as it was a very special, intimate evening of absolutely beautiful soulful music.
10. KNIFEWORLD – The Lexington (20th January)
A “Knifeworld supported by Knifeworld” evening (is this now a thing?) – a stirring acoustic set followed by the full-on electric experience. Another band I’ve seen about 10 times, balancing the massive sound of this 8-piece combo is a challenge not always successfully met it must be said. Not tonight – it was spot on and they were on fire! A freezing cold January day ended red hot.
11. TALLEST MAN ON EARTH – Union Chapel (24th September)
This Swedish singer-songwriter (Kristian Matsson) is a tour de force. Performing with just a guitar, a mic, bags of energy and a playing ability that draws comparisons to Richard Thompson in places, he put on a fantastic show on this first of two sold out nights at The Chapel.
And the rest, in chronological order… with four major events still to attend at the time of writing.
Prescott/Lost Crowns – Servant’s Jazz Quarters
Steve Hackett DVD Premiere – Everyman Cinema, King’s Cross
Judy Dyble and others – Union Chapel Daylight Concert
Sivu – King’s Place
An evening of Mozart music – Cadogan Hall
Simply Gershwin – Queen Elizabeth Hall
Belle Mt – St Pancras Old Church (This is my son’s band so absence of nepotism forced me to exclude this from my Top 11)
Yes – The Palladium
Magenta – The Dome
Peter Hammill – Queen Elizabeth Hall
Tangerine Dream – Union Chapel
Jimmy Webb – The Roundhouse
Mr Jukes/Cory Henry – The Roundhouse
Luke Sital Singh – Queen Elizabeth Hall
Trinity III Festival – Islington Assembly Hall
Tim Bowness/God Is An Astronaut – Electric Brixton
The Fierce And The Dead – The Black Heart
Gazpacho – The Dome
Dave Stewart & Barbara Gaskin – Bush Hall
Resonate Festival – Islington O2
Wooden Shjips – Heaven
Gryphon – Union Chapel
KScope 10th Anniversary Gig – Union Chapel
Steve Hackett & Orchestra – Queen Elizabeth Hall
Danny Baker – Alban Centre, St Albans
The Necks – Café Oto
King Crimson – The Palladium
Lindisfarne – Union Chapel
Caravan/Curved Air – ULU
James Taylor Quartet – Cadogan Hall
Big Big Train DVD Premiere – Everyman Cinema, King’s Cross
Damanek/Southern Empire – Boston Music Rooms
Bill Nelson – Clothworker’s Hall, Leeds
Sir Henry At Rawlinson End – Bloomsbury Theatre
And still to attend…
Spock’s Beard/The Flower Kings – Islington Assembly Hall
IQ – Islington Assembly Hall
Rick Wakeman – Union Chapel
Knifeworld/Spratley’s Japs – Garage, Islington
Thanks Spike… and that folks, is a “lean” year – Crikey!
Chris Parkins – Gigs and notes 2018
04/01/18 – Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate @ Dublin Castle
Support Russell Swallow, just a guy with a guitar but I thought he was very good.
Hats Off – very enjoyable indeed, great sound from two guys. Malcolm is a really nice bloke.
11/01/18 – Prescott @ Servant Jazz Quarters
No notes taken but from memory an excellent gig. Wasn’t amazingly taken with Kavus Torabi’s solo support set though, although everyone else seemed to think it was great.
13/02/18 – Ian Anderson – A word in your ear @ The Islington
What a grumpy git he is. Never meet your idols… Fascinating nonetheless.
03/03/18 – The Gift / When Mary @ Oslo Club (Midnight Sun didn’t make it due to bad weather)
Absolutely loved When Mary. Seen The Gift a couple of times before but possibly enjoyed them the most this time.
09/03/18 – Rocket Recordings 20th Anniv. event @ The Garage
2-day festival but I only saw a couple of bands:
Julie’s Haircut – just as wonderful as they always are.
Josefin Öhrn + The Liberation – OK but not as good as I thought they were going to be; mind you Julie’s Haircut should have been the headliners IMHO.
14/03/18 – IT / Servants of Science / Taikenaut @ 229 The Venue
No notes taken at the time; from memory IT were great as usual, Servants of Science seemed a little ‘green’ but have potential, can’t remember Taikenaut (sorry!).
22/03/18 – Electric Octopus / Of Petra @ 93 Feet East
Interesting venue in Brick Lane occupied by an exclusively younger crowd (except me). Electric Octopus are wonderful, one of those modern instrumental bands that more Prog people should be into (but have never heard of). (I have 🙂 – Ed)
27/03/18 – Steven Wilson @ Royal Albert Hall
Extremely competent and of course the God of modern prog (aaarrgggh! – Ed) but I have little else to say.
01/04/18 – Oxley / Meier Quartet @ Chandos Arms Jazz
Great local jazz gig.
05/04/18 – Cellar Darling @ Boston Music Room
My pre-gig notes about whether to go to Cellar Darling or Magenta: “So here’s a bit of a quandry. Two female-fronted heavy proggy rock bands playing in Tuffnell Park this week; on Saturday it’s Magenta at The Dome, who are great of course, but who are a long-established band that I’ve seen before, and while it will doubtless be a great show there’s nothing really new for me here. On Thursday, though, Cellar Darling are playing at the smaller venue, the Boston Music Room. They are a Swiss band formed just a couple of years ago, who describe their music as “confidently fusing heavy alternative rock with strong folk influences and poetic lyrical tales, creating what you may very well call a New Wave Of Folk Rock”. And listening to their album This is the Sound, it’s very interesting indeed to my ears. So – old and reliable, or new and unproven? I must say I’m tempted to go with the latter…”
Turns out they were very enjoyable indeed and I will go and see them again. Got a good crowd – younger set though, no prog types there at all (except me). Love the girl singer playing the hurdy-gurdy against the metal guitar.
06/04/18 – Earthless @ Islington Assembly Hall
No notes taken but well attended and enjoyable gig.
12/04/18 – Coldbones /Blanket (plus 2 other bands) @ 229 The Venue
No notes taken. Enjoyed all the bands – all post-rock.
24/04/18 – Mystery / Damian Wilson / Midnight Sun @ Boston Music Room
Midnight Sun – 6 piece band. Pretty good if vaguely unmemorable.
Damian Wilson (Headspace/Threshold) – solo with guitar. Quite a patter, very good voice when he lets rip.
Mystery – also a 6 piece, more established and confident. French Canadian. Did some of the Delusional Rain album that I recall liking. Heavy melodic prog. Very professional and accomplished set. By no means full but reasonable size audience, mostly middle aged blokes, 40s & 50s.
12/05/18 – TRINITY (Steve Rothery / Ghost Community / Touchstone / Knifeworld / Last Flight to Pluto / Jennifer Rothery & Riccardo Romano) @ Islington Assembly Hall
Jennifer Rothery & Riccardo Romano – pleasant enough. Singer and piano/singer. Daylight music stuff tbo though.
Last Flight to Pluto – 5-piece (4 guitars and drums), non-glam female singer. Very good, rocky rhythmic slightly proggy tuneful stuff. Some rapping! Some folky elements. Great!
Ghost Community – delayed start waiting for singer. Very competent but more like a ’70s heavy rock band trad 5-piece with keyboards, Deep Purple style. Singer a bit like David Coverdale in fact, or Ozzy. Good, entertaining but I’m not rushing to listen to them again.
(Had to go home due domestic emergency and missed evening set).
13/05/18 – Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate / The Tirith / Servants of Science @ Fiddler’s Elbow
Servants of Science – seem to be a bit more confident than last time I saw them (229 with IT). Pretty good, Floydy stuff.
The Tirith – 3-piece. Pretty good. OK but not excellent vocalist. Entertaining enough although not ‘special’. Good though and would have no problem watching them again.
Hats Off – this time with added flute from Mrs Malcolm. Really do like them. Could do with a live drummer though to add visually.
18/05/18 – The Fierce and the Dead @ The Black Heart
Mark Buckingham support – his first ever gig I think and the crowd are very welcoming.
TFATD – do their wonderful thing as they do. Album launch for The Euphoric. Enthusiastic sold-out crowd. TPA Gig Review HERE.]
28/05/18 – Gazpacho @ The Dome
Slow start. Is it just a little slow and moany? In a Radiohead sort of way. Not particularly exciting to look at, although light show and back screen quite good. Nicked from progarchive review: “slow, plodding post-rock with melancholy melodies, diverse instruments and wistful vocals”. And largely samey. The good stuff is very good, though, particularly when they really go for it, which they don’t do enough IMHO. Quite a lot of use of violin (always good). [TPA Gig Review HERE.]
01/06/18 – Church of the Cosmic Skull / Dead Witches @ Boston Music Room
Support Dead Witches. Very heavy black metal stuff. Female vocalist, who gets on the floor a lot for some reason. Lots of attitude if not really my thing. ‘Songs to dig graves to’. Really quite painfully loud, even with earplugs. No real tunes, just noise and shouting. Not altogether bad, though. (You’re too kind! 🙂 – Ed)
CotCS – distinctive look, good psychedelic rock sound. Ultimately lacking something but that may just be my mood.
Pretty good crowd; not heaving but fuller than I usually see here. Very chatty though.
09/06/18 – The Gift / Kaprekar’s Constant / Unreal City @ Boston Music Room
Unreal City – Italian Prog band. Traditional prog, quite keyboard heavy, a bit noodly here and there. Keyboardist sings, also a girl singer but lots of instrumental. Quite retro Europrog sound but entertaining and enjoyable enough.
Kaprekar’s Constant – blend in tapes of stuff like PSB. Pretty good, but does the lead vocalist sound a little dull/flat? David Jackson (VDGG) impressive double sax. Hmm, maybe not flat but a little bland. Good band though
The Gift – probably the best band on the bill, in fact.
17/06/18 – Midas Fall @ Southbank Centre (Meltdown Festival)
Lovely to see that at last this post-rock band that I’ve been following for years has recently been noticed by Prog Magazine. Long delay due to technical problems and only a short set played, unfortunately.
20/06/18 – Blanket @ Thousand Island
Missed all support bands; Blanket enjoyable post-rock as before.
03/07/18 – Voyager / Sumer @ The Borderline
Hot summer day. Much more crowded than I expected, despite England World Cup match. Generally younger more metal crowd, plus smattering of old metal guys. Lots of younger people, and girls.
Missed the first band (Temples on Mars). Lee Davidson said they were pretty good and had got better from last time he saw them.
Sumer – very loud heavy driving rhythms, interspersed with a more subtle bits and general doom style lyrics. Pretty good. No growling; def prog/metal. 5-piece, three guitars/girl bass player/drums.
Voyager – very energetic and entertaining Australian 5-piece Prog/metal band. Two guitars (one a girl), bass drums and a lead singer with a more traditional rock (rather than metal) style, bass does backing vocals and the odd growl. Lots of stage presence and general having a good time stuff. Quite an appealing mix of hard rock/prog metal, not all that proggy but quite accessible. Lot of fun to watch.
06/07/18 – A Sudden Burst of Colour / a-tota-so / Theo @ The Black Heart
Theo – One guy with a guitar and a drum kit. Plays a guitar riff, loops it and whacks the hell out of the drum kit to it. Impressive.
a-tota-so – 3-piece instrumental band. New, first album out in September. Very good; there’s a sort of Brackish/TFATD vibe going on. Irish I think, guitarist anyway. Thoroughly enjoyable.
(I am the oldest guy in the room. Largely late 20s to mid 30s I reckon. But only about 40/50 in the room, half of whom prob guests.)
A Sudden Burst of Colour – Very competent post-rock in the Blanket, etc. mould. A tad po-faced and humourless perhaps? Scottish 4-piece instrumental. I like them quite a lot but the sound is not that distinctive. Enjoyable and competent but seem to be lacking something maybe.
11/07/18 – Big Big Train @ The Anvil, Basingstoke **HIGHLIGHT GIG**
Usual classy ‘event’ show as expected from BBT and does not disappoint.
14/07/18 – Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate @ Heath Street Baptist Church (2pm start)
‘Family-friendly’ gig with some covers and some less heavy material.
20/07/18 – Dave Kerzner / Dave Bainbridge & Sally Minnear @ Boston Music Room **HIGHLIGHT GIG**
About 30 people in the room to start, prompt 7.30pm.
Dave Bainbridge & Sally Minnear: Carol’s Theme start, atmospheric, Sally on drum. Lovely folk-rock stuff, along the lines of early Steeleye. Sally beautiful voice. Dave as always equally adept on guitar and piano. Intersperses instrumental solos between songs, Sally sings. Another maybe 20 people arrive during the set. Sally ducks down on stage when not doing anything as can’t really get off stage. Finished with Today.
Dave Kerzner – Really good. 4-piece, Dave on vocals and keyboards, plus guitar/bass/drums. Dave’s voice is fine, but on the edge of being good enough for lead singer, I can see why Simon Collins did lead vocals in Sound of Contact. Not the most exciting of stage acts visually; no lighting effects or changes at all, just pale green/blue hue throughout. Nonetheless the music does all the talking; surely this is one of the most accessible modern prog acts for traditional prog ears that isn’t a tribute band; fairly hard prog but not at all metal, with resulting lack of any metal audience, or indeed anyone younger than about 40 in the crowd. Set mostly drawn from New World and Static.
Fuck me this is just so enjoyable! Dave plays guitar (borrowed from Sally Minnear) for a song (I think called Chain Reaction, quite rocky). Dave Bainbridge & Sally join on stage for an ‘encore’ (they didn’t actually leave the stage) called Not Coming Down.
25/07/18 – Franck Carducci / That Joe Payne @ Boston Music Room **HIGHLIGHT GIG**
Mary Renaud – nice French woman with guitar. Sweet, nice voice, full guitar sound. Came back later with the band in sex bomb mode!
Joe Payne – just him and an electric piano. He’s really rather sweet. Quite like him. First time I’ve enjoyed his stuff really. Cute how he makes mistakes and laughs about them. Not a bad crowd; possibly slightly more than Dave Kerzner last week, but still less than 100. Very comfortable from punters viewpoint and not embarrassing but you can’t make a living, band or promoter.
Franck Carducci Band – interesting and entertaining. Billed as rock’n’roll theatre and more or less true. Not prog at all, just rock, but good entertaining stuff. Mary is in the band and very sexy. OMG on the theremin. Don’t know why I’m reminded of Alice Cooper. TBH the music is well played but unmemorable, but as a live experience it’s great.
29/07/18 – Yawning Man / Sons of Alpha Centauri @ The Black Heart
Sons of Alpha Centauri: Driving rhythm 4-piece instrumental. One guy has some electronics box (sitting down low). It’s OK. Nothing particularly standout but is what it is. Kinda like the heavier end of Hawkwind without so much of the spacey stuff (but has some, hence stoner psychedelic genre). No talk from them. Bassist does some semi/spoken vocals at one point, oddly reminds me of Captain Beefheart. They saved their best stuff for the end, which was pretty good.
(Usual young-ish metal-ish crowd. About half full at start of set, much fuller by the end. Not heaving, some space at back but a good respectable size crowd. 75% plus.)
Yawning Man kick off and it’s immediately apparent they’re in a different league. Just three of them, but what a sound! No vocals, no talking, they just get on with it. Super jam psych stoner desert rock. Crazy loud; anyone without earplugs must be well deafened.
06/08/18 – Sumer / Deity’s Muse /Voices From The Fuselage @ The Black Heart
Hot day but AC good.
Missed first band (Visionist) but looked growly.
Voices From The Fuselage – interesting. Two guitars, bass, drums and a lead singer who is youngish, campy and good looking and sings in a poppy sort of way while the band play heavy post rock metal. So – interesting. Good? Doesn’t entirely work for me.
Usual Black Heart sort of crowd. Some older guys but majority younger, lots of women. No proggers I recognise, apart from perhaps the long haired younger guy I have met before with Jerry Ewing (didn’t check).
‘Voices’ maybe had a bit of a fan base as the room seemed emptier when Deity’s Muse came on. 4-piece, one of the two guitarists sings lead vocals (has Billy Gibbons beard). Other guitarist and bass do backing vocals. Good stuff, in a fairly standard prog metal post rock sort of way. South African band. Room filled up again during the set, not heaving though. Mind you it’s a Monday.
Sumer – 5-piece, three guitars and a girl bassist and drums. Jesus fuck that’s loud, and they really go for it! Absolutely right that they’re the headline act here. Tremendous power. Quite possibly the best prog metal band I have seen. Although it is towards the end of the evening and I have had a few. All the guitarists rock; very visual.
(The next morning I realise that I saw Sumer just a few weeks ago supporting Voyager at the Borderline. Odd – they didn’t stand out so much to me then – this gig was much better.)
09/08/18 – Sendelica / Fuschia @ The Half Moon, Putney
Arrived after GBBF so somewhat worse for wear at start. Small standing venue, but stuffy hot & sweaty.
Saw only a couple of numbers of Fertility Cult but pretty good. Lots of sax.
Fushcia – older guy Australian lead singer. Very self-effacing and funny. Psyche folk, females violinist and cellist, younger guitarist and bass. Took a song or two but I really got into them. But they overran and didn’t leave much time for…
Sendelica – a wonderful band who should have had a longer set!
19/08/18 – Plini / Toska / JacubZytecki @ Islington Assembly Hall
Long queue to get in. Predominantly 20/30s. Very full and crowded. Bar run out of draft beer (they fixed it in due course). Glad I bought balcony ticket but full up here too.
JacubZytecki – Second support. Basically a young Polish guy with noodling electric guitar, plus a bassist and a drummer. Perfectly OK but reaction of crowd surprises me, they all seem to know him and the music. Apparently he’s the guitarist from DispersE (see Progarchives).
Toska got cheers when they popped onstage to tune up. 3-piece traditional guitar bass drums. No vocals heavy progressive instrumental prog (but not a prog audience). Not prog meta heavy though. Again, enthusiastic audience who seem well acquainted with them. And they’re very good! They feel like a headline band. But I’ve seen lots of bands at Boston Music Room and Black Heart with less than 100 people; why are these guys so well-know when others aren’t?
Plini – Two guitars, bass, drums. And a periodic sax player. And a keyboard. More fairly standard (albeit excellent) guitar based instrumental progressive rock, but with wild enthusiasm from big audience. Some of this is clearly jazz/prog ffs. But the young audience are greeting it with wild enthusiasm (rightly). Really funny droll self-effacing guy. Tremendous stuff, really, but I am wowed by his popularity in comparison with most stuff I see.
22/08/18 – The Black Angels / Thee Hypnotics / Follakzoid / Omni @ KOKO
Omni – saw end of set only. Kinda pop/rock.
Follakzoid – instrumental rhythms. Seems to be an androgynous (but male) guitarist putting down loops, plus a drummer and keyboard/synthesizer guy. Sort of trance stuff I think. Simple but very good (bearing in mind I’ve had a few). Usual mixed predominantly younger crowd. He/she lies on the floor a lot.
Thee Hypnotics – standard 4-piece with fairly dynamic lead singer. Sort of heavy risk really, a tad shouty. There’s a sort of ’69ish blues vibe here, Cream almost, but the lead singer is too shouty and up himself. But got better. Last song about 10 mins had a bluesy Led Zep vibe.
The Black Angels – instantly see why they’re headlining. 6-piece, drummer at the front. Excellent psyche rock. Really good. Not far off early Floyd in some ways but with a modern take. Enthusiastic crowd moshing in the front. Deservedly headliners. Actually quite a number of bald heads in the audience.
22/09/18 – The Left Outsides / Sister Cookie / Albecq @ Union Chapel (noon start)
Sister Cookie – big black woman, jazzy blues rocky singer and a drummer, guitar, sax, electric double bass. Nothing exceptional but good time stuff.
The Left Outsides – husband/wife acid folk stuff. A bit more straight folk than I expected after listening to their albums. Good, but not as good as I was expecting.
23/09/18 – Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate / IT / The Wood Demons @ Fiddler’s Elbow
Wood Demons – 5-piece, lead guitar/vocals, bass, girl violinist, keyboards/guitar, drums. Nice melodic prog; violin adds very well. Vocals a little weak but OK. Lefty themes. They can rock, too. Some Genesis in the mix. Even a little bit of Hawkwind. Really rather good, in a civilised and a gentle sort of way.
(About 40 people here, mostly band members and guests I reckon. Maybe 20 tickets actually sold.)
IT great as usual. Only 4 of them – lineup change? Some keyboard backing tracks. Revolution is a great track. Finished with God is Dead.
Down to about 25 people in the room now. Most stayed for HOGIA. Good as usual, new songs good too.
24/09/18 – Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets @ The Roundhouse
Support odd choice, really quiet, nobody listening.
Don’t like standing downstairs on my own here; noisy drunk pushy bunch. Back to upstairs for me next time at the Roundhouse.
Band were as good as they were last time, of course.
28/09/18 – Major Parkinson / Sterbus / The Display Team @ The Water Rats **HIGHLIGHT GIG**
Display Team – one of those loud somewhat discordant arty bands. Pretty good though. Loads of them. Trumpet, trombone, three guitars & drums (drummer main vocalist).
Sterbus – Italian. Keys, trumpet, guitar/lead vocals, bass, girl oboe/backing vocals, drums. Not sure what to make of them. Classy though.
(The gig is sold out but not a big place, 200 capacity I think , maybe less in the music room. Good age range of audience; average younger than straight prog but still a good range.)
Solo girl violinist doing loops. Wearing a kimono.
Major Parkinson – Wow. Odd. Nothing really comparable with this. Fuck me. Girl violin, two keys, drums, guitar, bass, amazing lead vocalist with a touch of Tom Waits. Astonishing, nothing else like this, wonderful. Love them. Slightly odd Brexit comments considering they’re Norwegian.
[TPA Gig Review HERE.]
02/10/18 – 10 Years of Kscope: ft. Anathema / Paul Draper / Godsticks / Gleb Kolyadin @ Union Chapel
Missed the NoSound guy.
GlebKolyadin (from iamthemorning): very accomplished tinkly piano, unfortunately I missed half his set. Wildly enthusiastic reception though, place 80% full maybe.
Steve Hogarth appears (unbilled) for a duet, then a couple of songs on his own with him playing piano. OK but I can live without.
Godsticks – another surprise. As a 3-piece, played a couple of songs in acoustic format.
Paul Draper – singer with guitar and another bloke on guitar. Some versions of Mansun songs. Ho hum.
Anathema – playing acoustic(ish) tour. Big headliners and obvs a big draw; lots of folk here in mid 30s to mid 40s, big cheers and lots of enthusiasm. Gets everyone to stand. I feel a little alienated as the audience are evidently big fans. Not very prog though, more sort of stadium indie stuff. Difficult to warm to them, may have been better in a different venue and with beer. Anna Phoebe guest on violin. Wasn’t feeling it and left early.
04/10/18 – Lazuli / Sumer / Splink @ The Underworld
Splink – 3-piece instrumental prog. Really rather good. On the psychedelic spectrum. Hints of Sendelica. And the odd Floydy bit (riff from Shameless).
Sumer – As before. Don’t seem as suited for this audience as they were at the Black Heart recently, which is still a little sparse. Quieter stuff is OK but I like the noise they make when they really go for it.
Lazuli – Such a superb band. Nothing much to add.
14/10/18 – Edensong / IT @ 229 The Venue
Wet Sunday night, pretty small crowd.
IT do their excellent thing. Open with Revolution, finish with God is Dead.
Edensong – 5-piece, guitar, bass, flute, drums, odd koto thing? Overall unusual Jethro Tull go heavy metal sound. Bit of a mixed bag but when it works it really works. Drum solo perhaps unnecessary. Crowd thinned out before the end despite early finish.
17/10/18 – Fairport Convention @ Nell’s Jazz & Blues
Five guys, violin, guitar, small electric percussion, bass, violin/mandolin(?). Very nice, gentle electric folk stuff as usual. Very good at what they do. Saw first half of set only.
Nice club. Bar and tables/chairs at back, dance floor at front with loose chairs. Wide but low stage.
20/10/18 – Mew @ The Barbican
Probably wouldn’t have come except for lunch opportunity with Spike, Rick, Chris Topham, and Greg Spawton of BBT.
Not originally known to me, have checked out Mew but wasn’t overly impressed, but live they were very much better than I thought. A touch of A-Ha about their sound but alternately proggy, arty, post-rocky and rocky, very good. Excellent visuals too on backdrop, lots of cars and dolls but inventive and interesting. Standard 5-pice lineup with a string quartet for some songs.
21/10/18 – ZIO @ The Half Moon
Support Zev/Steph? Guy with guitar. OK.
ZIO – Drums, keys, guitar, bass (girl). Instrumental in first half of set. Pretty good, sort of proggy blues. Drum solo, unsurprising as drummer is the band leader. Second half with Haley Griffiths (Karnataka) and Joe Payne on vocals. Good entertaining stuff including a few covers (Don’t Stop Me Now, Kashmir).
02/11/18 & 03/11/18 – King Crimson @ London Palladium **HIGHLIGHT GIG**
Predominantly old guy audience but some more youthful and some women.
Three drummers in front and five guys on raised platform behind.
No light show, no visuals. Just unchanging white light on performers. Music does the talking. Definitive prog. As good as it gets. No talking or any audience interaction.
ITCOTCK didn’t get rapturous reception I expected. However audience is generally reserved and respectful.
Starless gets a round of applause. Lights turn red at end of this
Second encore! Schizoid Man. Stunning.
04/11/18 – Groundhogs / Paradise 9 @ The Half Moon
Paradise 9 open with Something for Tomorrow (took video). Core four guys (guitarist an old member back for the evening) plus on/off guest girl backing singer, bingo player, flautist. Still do the pinkyspacerock thing and I still like it. Loud!
(Ken Pustelnik’s) Groundhogs – Very competent driving blues rock stuff. Just drummer original member but vocals/guitar guy very good and age appropriate, wonder who he is? I don’t know the music but sounds very good. Not prog of course but ‘progressive’ in that late ’60s/early ’70s way. Again, very loud, metal earplugs needed. Have to say they’re very good; of course I can’t compare them with the original band, but they do indeed rock.
08/11/18 – Kikagaku Moyo / Faux Real @ Scala
Faux Real – Sort of power pop? Dunno. Interesting two lead singer format, similarly dressed. Plus bass, guitar, drums, bass/keyboards. One of the singers plays a flute sometimes. Maybe not power pop. Dunno. I was liking them by the end though.
(Interesting audience mix; mostly younger, many older, male & female, more occidental than usual, obvs. Sold out!)
Kikagaku Moyu – lovely dreamy psychedelic stuff. Five long-haired Japanese guys; drums bass, two guitars and a sitar(?)/keys player. One guitarist and drummer sings a bit. Interesting trad Japanese style influences here and there. Long rhythmic passages, almost stoner stuff. Sudden reorganisation and a few of them switch instruments. Crowd goes wild in places. Some of this reminds me of Camel (Lady Fantasy). Slow numbers possibly a tad insipid here and there, the rockier numbers are better.
10/11/18 – The Fierce and The Dead / Kylver @ The Lexington **HIGHLIGHT GIG**
Kylver – 4-piece proggy instrumental heavy riff stuff. Quite good but nothing particularly special. Enjoyable nonetheless.
TFATD do their thing. Bigger show than the last one at the Black Heart, with some visuals. Bigger venue but feels less crowded, possibly not sold so well, shame. Visuals/backdrop very good. They are so good. Very heavy but continually interesting.
16/11/18 – Endless Boogie / Mildred Maude @ Moth Club
Mildred Maude – 3-piece improvisational noise band from Cornwall. Basically one long heavy riff going on for ages. Pretty good though.
(Sold out gig, fair age range from 30s to 50s. Mostly blokes but some women (with blokes!).
Endless Boogie – As the name implies, long riff stuff but more tuneful and with a growling (not metal growling) vocalist. Just like they are on album. Tremendous. Singer/guitarist surely wearing a wig?
19/11/18 – Soup @ The Black Heart
No support. Smaller audience than I expected, although Monday night, prob ~50 people, mostly 40/50s so they’ve failed to attract the younger crowd. Shame, as they could do. Unusual amount of tall people though.
5-piece, two guitars, keyboard player sings (when he does). Like the album, largely laid back atmospheric stuff, building to big crescendos. All a bit doom/end of days, truth be told. Possibly less distinctive than I thought it would be; I liked their album a lot but it was a couple of years ago. Very good, nonetheless. I’d have thought the CBP crowd would like this stuff.
21/11/18 – Afro Celt Sound System @ The Barbican **HIGHLIGHT GIG**
Decided to go to this at the last minute. Audience mostly white middle aged Barbican types. (There’s a Barbican “type”? Who knew?! – Ed)
Colourful. Multicultural. Bit of a lion king vibe. Bloody loads of musicians on stage. What is the name of this harp thing the lead guy plays? Afro Celt – as it says on the tin – a truly joyous mixture of African rhythms (bongos, percussion and drums) and Celtic melodies (violin, flute) and four other singers (sometimes backing, sometimes lead) plus keys, acoustic guitar, other stuff.
Astonishing drum solo on a tambourine thing. The punky Sikh guy with the double drum thing 😜(dhol) is a character. African drum rhythms with Irish jigs – who knew it could work so bloody well? Infectiously wonderful – should be a standing venue though (not that this crowd would do standing venues). In fact in the last number the band got everyone to stand, and all the better for it. Continued to stand for encore, After the Rain, old tune but obviously signature. Met David and Yvette Elliot.
23/11/18 – The C:live Collective / Mellotronanism @ The Water Rats
Support: Mellotronanism, but as a solo – just one guy (Ed Percival) playing guitar. Great pedigree although I’m not familiar with the band he was in back in the ’80s (Airbridge). Quite humorous – ‘shoestring prog’ he calls it. There’s a limit to what you can do with one man and a guitar playing proggy songs, but as far as it goes this is pretty good.
C:live – very interesting rock theatre stuff. Actual music pretty good too, when they do it. Clive Mitten on bass vocals (narration rather than singing) and keyboards (quite a few backing tapes), plus two guitars and drums. There’s an overall narrative about the decline of the British Empire and the rise of populism, or something along those lines. If I was to be critical, the ratio of not much happening to actually very good music (instrumental prog) is low. When they go for it the music is great but there are big long gaps of arty and quiet bits. Guitarist starts doing some actual singing after a while and we get some actual songs, which are really very good. Great voice. Apparently plays bass in Galahad but not singer. Some of this stuff is so good I wonder why they don’t just be a band (as presumably they were, back in the day – Twelfth Night). The whole of the second half of the set and the encore is just music, and extremely good.
Looks like a pretty full house (albeit Water Rats is a small venue). Mostly the older set.
26/11/18 – The Strawbs @ Under The Bridge
Reasonable house, usual older set although prob not all prog fans.
Interesting to see a band that I am so totally familiar with, after seeing so many bands for the first time over the last year. The place has a very good stage, backscreen with lights and effects.
Dave Cousins in tuneful sweet voice, Dave Lambert hides his vocal shortcomings well. New World continues to be moving, even after so many performances. Instrumental intro and then Promised Land. Struggling for high notes a touch but good. DC wanders offstage and they play The Ten Commandments after a false start due to a tuning problem. Dave Bainbridge really adds a lot to this band, swaps keys for guitar and duets with Lambert – very good. Lay Down to finish. Encore We Have the Power.
28/11/18 – Hawklords @ Boston Music Room
No support. Not heaving but a fairly good attendance of the usual sort of older slightly rougher crowd. Nik Turner ‘guest’ on sax but permanently onstage (although sits down from time to time and doesn’t play). Lighting just plain red but with projected background psychedelic effects. Some stuff I don’t know, some I do. Aerospace Age Inferno. It’s a joy actually to hear these old songs in the old Hawkwind style – long driving heavy riffing without being so metal as the current style, and more spacey. Uncle Sam’s on Mars. Guitar/bass/keys (Harvey Bainbridge) /sax/drums. Everyone sings a bit but Jerry Richards (guitar) does most. Bit of a singalong on Psi Power. Ron Tree is not here. Bass is a younger guy, don’t know who he is.
Encore Master of the Universe, lights change to blue, Nik sings this one. One last song with a guest vocalist (oddly not a song I recognise).
30/11/18 – Southern Empire / Damanek @ Boston Music Room **HIGHLIGHT GIG**
Damanek – Nice melodic prog. Good enough audience – Jon says 100+ tickets sold, seems happy. Keys/vocals front of stage, sax, guitar, bass, drums. Sean Timms (from Southern Empire) at the back on keys. Quite jazzy in places. Don’t want to damn with faint praise but this is pleasant music.
Southern Empire – Seems to be the bigger draw of the evening. Very good, hit the ProgRock sweet spot very well. 6-piece. Very impressive, top band in this field. Some really lovely melodic sax in the mix. Wish that red headed woman by the bar would STF up, she just goes on and on. Band is very loud though. Great mix of classic and modern prog styles. Bits of Genesis here and there, bits of Camel-esque stuff, quiet passages, heavy sections, they gave the lot. The more they play the more I like them.
02/12/18 – Karmamoi / Midnight Sun @ Boston Music Room
Rather embarrassingly poor attendance, no more than 20 in the room including the band.
Midnight Sun – 6-piece band from Wales. Two guitars, singer, bass, drums, keys. Melodic prog with heavy bits. They’re pretty good, but seem somehow to lack a distinctive sound. Lead singer can sing.
Karmamoi – Italian 4-piece, guitar, bass, drums and girl singer. Not the usual prog blonde though; French woman with lowish (possibly a little flat here and there but it doesn’t really matter) voice and plenty of attitude. Just a touch of Sonja Kristina perhaps. Sings in English. Not a pin-up chosen for her looks, but undeniably sexy. She introduces a song about Grendel and leaves stage for the three others to do as instrumental. Generally heavy melodic stuff but they do have their own sound. Very good in fact. The quiet bits work less well for me, at least in the live situation.
Maybe another dozen people in the room now, but still a low turn-out, even for a Sunday evening, shame.
11/12/18 – Groundhogs / Xander & The Peace Pirates @ 100 Club
Here after a whole day drinking with Andy & Martin.
Support: Glas. Difficult to say anything about this 3-piece. Unmemorable pub rock.
Xander – Curiously unengaging at first but settled into a groove after a few songs. Five blokes; two guitars, bass, acoustic guitar and drums. Not entirely feeling it; not sure what attracted me on record. Competent blues stuff though, just lacking any prog edge. Quite enjoyable when I got into it, but I am royally pissed.
Groundhogs are a better band. Masters of the extended groove. Crowd thinned out a bit; a number seemed to leave after Xander.
14/12/18 – Uriah Heep / Gun / Von Hertzen Bros @ Shepherds Bush Empire 14/12/18
Deliberately arrived late so as to miss Gun, but turned out VHB were on first and I missed all of their set! Seriously pissed off.
Gun – competent enough rock band but nothing distinctive about them. Apparently had a hit with a cover of Word Up which was OK.
Uriah Heep – never saw them back in the day. Still haven’t really as only Mick Box is original member. Give a very good show though. Does sound a little old-fashioned but enjoyable nonetheless. Singer Bernie Shaw is very good in a Ronnie James Dio sort of way.
17/12/18 – Daniel Cavanagh / Marjana Semkina @ Black Heart **HIGHLIGHT GIG**
Pretty well attended, especially for a Monday.
Marjana – just her and Charlie Cawood (Knifeworld) on guitar. Mostly songs I don’t know but also plays a few iamthemorning songs. She is her usual lovely perky self with the voice of an angel. Jokes a lot about her ‘funeral songs’.
Daniel Cavanagh – uses backing tracks/looping to get a very full sound. Plays a lot of Anathema tracks, which go down very well with the audience. Not the first time I have been surprised at just how popular Anathema are. There’s a real stadium rock quality about them (although just one guy here tonight of course). They know the songs and sing along with the anthemic stuff. I doubt that all these people are prog fans, there’s a crossover. It is, incidentally, very good.
I like the way Marjana wanders around watching the set. Nobody hassles her. Marjana joins Daniel on stage. Does a couple of songs including big Anathema singalongs. Daniel solo again. Does Pink Floyd’s High Hopes. Brother Vincent Cavanagh joins him onstage. A few Anathema singalongs. The Wall. This has somewhat unexpectedly turned into a top gig!
…and there Chris’s diary ends. No doubt he will cram in another 20 gigs before the years ends!
Here’s to many more wonderful live shows in 2019!
All photos bt Chris Parkins.