The Acorn, Penzance
Saturday, 2nd July 2022
Home. Homeward bound. The comfort zone. Feelings of warmth and familiarity as I get to see two things: firstly, a full set from The Emerald Dawn, and secondly, an encore that would never see the light of day in a support act or festival role. It was worth it.
The Acorn is a small venue, for around 150 punters, in a converted Methodist Hall now used for entertainment. It works and, in these post (??) Covid days, perhaps the sort of venue we should encourage more of. It’s comfortable, the beer is fair with some good prog choices (Betty Stoggs and Chapel Rock) and the band appear relaxed and ready for anything.
The sound isn’t bad, and after a few tweaks, near perfect. Tree Stewart presses a key and unlocks the ensuing performance. As you would expect from a church, the sound soars. It can be difficult to balance, but tonight a fair wind blows and all is good. Drums, bass, and guitar assemble the ensemble, and we are away with The Awakening. With tracks from all their albums it is a lovely set, and if you have some familiarity with albums one and two you notice how the songs have developed in the live environment. Tonight, we get the whole of To Touch the Sky, and pieces from the other three, and then a bonus.
On record there is a feeling of completeness with this band; four elements in harmony, a consummate whole. Live this is even more apparent, and without the pressures of providing support to someone awaiting their turn and who want you gone, this complementary structure is clear. There are a few bands nearer music central that would sell limbs to acquire the quality of performance produced by David Greenaway’s bass and Tom Jackson’s drums. We are blessed. Shadow in Light and Stranger in A Strange Land have grown from their original recordings, their shapes the same but with more meat on the skeleton. Tom seems much more at home with his own kit, rather than a festival kit, and a great looking kit it is too. Part one of tonight’s performance concludes with Music Noire; the trials and tribulations of the sound desk resolved, everyone is now crisp. It’s a hard life for a sound engineer, so many variables to account for, with prog being a particularly troublesome genre, but the balance is right.
After a brief interlude, Tree Stewart opens the proceedings for part two by demonstrating one of her other skills in the form of contact juggling, balancing and manipulating glass spheres while the band provide accompanying music. It is mesmerising to watch. Musically we start with a track from Nocturne, As Darkness Falls, beautiful with some amazing solo performances, Ally Carter’s guitar work as good as anyone you might wish to name.
And I Stood Transfixed has a stunning intro from Tree’s 12-string, with its hints of Wish You Were Here, moving into the heart of the piece, and while I collectively enjoy it all, this track remains my favourite. Why? Who knows, if we analyse everything the spirit becomes a fact. Mystery is more of a spiritual connection, and Transfixed just feels right.
The Ascent is our penultimate piece tonight, sustaining all the majesty and beauty of its recorded equivalent, Ally showing another aspect of his multi talents. It has been a delight, a wonderful evening, one I look forward to repeating. They conclude, we cheer, the man on the drums, he reappears! A brief, well executed drum solo leads us into The Calling, a revelation as it doesn’t appear in the recorded repertoire; it must, it must! As in contrast to the symphonic prog, The Emerald Dawn funk it up a little and rock out. It really is a great little number, and I hope they do release it as a single or perhaps an EP. It would be an awful shame if it was hidden from view as an occasional encore.
So there concluded a great evening’s entertainment, and a relatively low-key celebration of Ally’s 70th birthday a couple of days hence. Spirits are high, even the soft rain in the warm Penzance air cannot dispel the feelings inside. Happy Birthday Ally from all at The Progressive Aspect.
[Photos by Tony Colvill.]
01. The Awakening
02. Shadow in Light
03. Stranger in a Strange Land
04. Musique Noire
~ Break ~
05. Contact Juggling
06. As Darkness Falls
07. And I Stood Transfixed
08. The Ascent
09. The Calling
Ally Carter – Guitar, Saxophone, Occasional Keyboards
Tree Stewart – Keyboards, 12-string Guitar, Manipulated Spheres
David Greenaway – Bass
Tom Jackson – Drums