The legendary Kayak made an appearance in European venues in early 2019. With an excellent new CD, Seventeen (not entirely coincidentally also the seventeenth studio album from the band), well received by both press and public. Revolving around founder/composer/keyboardist Ton Scherpenzeel, there’s a completely renewed line-up, the album combining the best of the music of the ’70s and ’80s with the sound of the new millennium, and it earned a place in my personal top 10 for 2018. After a short tour in early 2018 to support the release of the album, a more extensive tour of Dutch and foreign music venues followed in the first half of 2019, including shows at De Boerderij in Zoetermeer and the Pul in Uden. Recordings of both shows eventually ended up on a recently released live double CD that has the appropriate, if uninventive, title Kayak Live 2019.
The order of the songs on the CD closely follows the setlists from January and May 2019 respectively. To a large extent it consists of songs from the new album, seven in total, but in addition an eclectic collection of songs that go back to the roots of the band in the early seventies is played: no less than nine albums are represented.
Love of a Victim is the opening track followed by Rhea. The wah-wah of guitarist Marcel Singor sounds nice and fat in the mix. Ballad For A Lost Friend can be deemed a somewhat curious choice. It first appeared in 1976 as a Dutch-language single on a collectors album entitled Boezem. In the English version it is a melodic song with a lot of space for the keys.
Then it’s the turn of the beautiful ballad A Million Years, with an extraordinary performance by Kristoffer Gildenlöw on his six-string fretless bass guitar and excellent vocals by new vocalist Bart Schwertmann. Time for a trilogy of songs from the new album Seventeen. Catchy rocker Somebody is followed by La Peregrina, a twelve minute epic and in my opinion one of the better, if not the best track on the last album. Guitarist Marcel Singor goes wild on his handmade guitar, while the background vocals are even four-part this time. The sensitive ballad Falling is the third song in a row from the new album.
We go back in time, far back in time, to debut album See See the Sun from 1973. The famous carnival-like sounds of Mammoth pass by, featuring the singular voice of Singor. Daphne (Laurel Tree) has an outstanding, heavy symphonic piano intro, after which an up-tempo rock song develops like an explosion. Still My Heart Cries for You is a fitting tribute to the late drummer/composer Pim Koopman. Again this trademark of Kayak: a sensitive intro that turns out to be a heavy rock song. Merlin Bard Of The Unseen is one of my personal favourites, fireworks with some great keyboard wizardry Ton Scherpenzeel, unfortunately very rarely to be seen. Another brilliant prog song with some special magic in the short a capella part – goose bumps.
Bart Schwertmann is called ‘the best kept secret’ by Ton Scherpenzeel and I fully endorse his opinion. The somewhat corpulent singer is an absolute winner, with his great range and vibrato, but also with his extremely pleasant stage presentation. Second protagonist is the surprising Marcel Singor. What a talent, this rock guitarist; smooth, flowing lines and virtuosity coupled with lots of feeling, what more do you want? Drummer Hans Eijkenaar is no stranger to Kayak. He was a member between 2011 and 2014 and then replaced Collin Leijenaar in early 2019. His companion in the rhythm section is Kristoffer Gildenlöw, a brilliant bass player, both fretless and fretted.
But the boss always was and still is Ton Scherpenzeel, the undisputed leader of the band. The only musician who has always been present, right from the start, the numero uno behind the majority of the compositions and responsible for the sound of Kayak. There’s no Kayak without Scherpenzeel, as there’s no Focus without Thijs van Leer. His keyboard playing is characteristic and he also adds background vocals on this album. Although I would very much like to see him do the odd old-fashioned solo more often.
CD2 starts with an acoustic version of the ancient Seagull. With only three musicians on stage, two with an acoustic guitar and one keyboardist, whilst accompanied by brilliant harmony vocals. Alibi is a concise rock song, followed by Said No Word from 1975’s Royal Bed Bouncer, in turn taking us into yet another new track, the epic Cracks. This is Schwertmann at his best, the beautiful theme, the brilliant harmony vocals and virtuoso guitar solo do the rest on this superb prog song. FeathersaAnd Tar is a great straightforward rock song and offers a nice contrast to the melodic instrumental Irene with, once again, a prominent role for the guitar. For the time being, Walk Through Fire is the last song from Seventeen, bombastic prog with lots of drama.
Ruthless Queen is definitely a ‘must play’ song for the band, once a minor hit in the rendition of former singer Edward Reekers. He is not missed at all and that applies to all predecessors. A huge compliment to vocalist Schwertmann, this time accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. Chance For A Lifetime has been a great and rocking ending for years. The baroque duet between guitar and keys in particular gets a rapturous reception from the enthusiastic audience.
The encore consists of Starlight Dancer, a wonderful oldie in the best tradition of the band with a prominent place for vocals. Altogether an excellent showcase for the not insignificant musical capabilities of the individual band members. After such a song it takes some courage to end with the subdued To An End. The soulful last track from the new album is most appropriate and is well received by the fans, who had enjoyed high-quality prog for over two hours and fifteen minutes.
Let’s hope that Scherpenzeel will quickly recover from his health problems at the end of 2019. If the band can stay together and maintain this level of quality, both on record and live, they could last for years to come. And no doubt someday Eighteen will be added to the repertoire.
01. Love of a Victim (3:10)
02. Rhea (5:16)
03. Ballad for a Lost Friend (3:54)
04. A Million Years (4:44)
05. Somebody (2:58)
06. La Peregrina (11:51)
07. Falling (3:10)
08. Mammoth (2:51)
09. Daphne (Laurel Tree) (5:46)
10. Still My Heart Cries For You (5:11)
11. Merlin (7:59)
Time – 56:50
01. Seagull (4:12)
02. Alibi (3:46)
03. Said No Word (5:45)
04. Cracks (8:40)
05. Feathers and Tar (3:34)
06. Irene (3:15)
07. Walk Through Fire (9:56)
08. Ruthless Queen (5:04)
09. Chance for a Lifetime (4:23)
10. Starlight Dancer (5:33)
11. To An End (4:06)
Time – 58:14
Total Time – 115:04
Hans Eijkenaar – Drums, Sequencers
Kristoffer Gildenlöw – Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals
Ton Scherpenzeel – Keyboards, Background Vocals
Bart Schwertmann – Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Bass Guitar, Percussion
Marcel Singor – Electric & Acoustic Guitars, Vocals
Record Label: GlassVille Records
Date of Release: 27th March 2020
– Kayak Live 2019 (2020)
– Seventeen (2018)
– Journey Through Time (box) (2017)
– Cleopatra – The Crown Of Isis (2014)
– Pim Koopman Tribute Concert [DVD] (2011)
– Anywhere But There (2011)
– Letters From Utopia (2009)
– 35th Anniversary Box (DVD) (2008)
– 35th Anniversary Concert (2008)
– Coming Up For Air (2008)
– Kayakoustic (2007)
– Nostradamus – The Fate Of Man (2005)
– Merlin – Bard Of The Unseen (2003) (& DVD 2004)
– Chance For A Live Time (2001)
– Night Vision (2001)
– Close To The Fire (2000)
– Eyewitness (1981)
– Merlin (1981)
– Periscope Life (1980)
– Phantom of the Night (1979)
– Starlight Dancer (1977)
– The Last Encore (1976)
– Royal Red Bouncer (1975)
– Kayak II (1974)
– See The Sun (1973)