Fusion 4: Launch Event, 45 Live, Kidderminster
Thursday, 2nd March, 2023
Apologies for missing nearly all the set of openers Last Flight to Pluto – Unfortunately a tipper truck smashing into a gantry on the M5 closed it for virtually the whole day making the journey up from Devon rather lengthier than planned!
Ghost of the Machine made sure the weekend got off to a rousing start with a high quality set of well polished melodic Prog Rock which the crowd loved. Charlie Bramald was an expressive and dramatic front man, acting out the dark drama of Scissors. They played the whole of Scissorgames, one of the best debut albums of 2022, and the dual guitar attack of Graham Garbett and Scott Owens excelled. Mark Hagan showed his usual flair on keyboards, albeit a bit low in the mix. Definitely for lovers of early Marillion style so it will be interesting to see how they develop on their next album but this gig showed these guys have so much potential already. A great way to kick off the weekend.
Always great just to meet up with so many friends from far and wide… even if the chatter from the back was a little loud at times!
Kyros capped off a fine launch event with a high energy performance of modern techno-Prog music. Shelby Logan Warne was outstanding on keyboards, leading her talented band through an entertaining set, although her vocals were rather low in the mix. Sam Higgins made a cameo return on guitar, filling in admirably for their absent ‘token American’ Joey Frevola. Peter Episcopo was excellent in his fluid bass playing and Robin Johnson drove proceedings forward on drums, with a great set solo at the end.
The highlight of their set was a performance of the whole of their 2014 debut album Synaesthesia (also their original band name), including the epic Time, Tension and Intervention… the last time they will play that excellent album as they draw a line under it. Chock full of great riffs and hook-filled melodies, this went down very well with the crowd. The energy and brio this young band put into their quality performance was infectious… a great way to launch Fusion 4.
Fusion 4: Day One, The Civic Hall, Stourport
Friday, 3rd March, 2023
Beyond folk, at a tangent to rock, sits Davey Dodds, mandolinist extraordinaire. Based upon the folklore and spirit of the Southwest, in particular North Cornwall, Davey weaves some eight-string magic. So to the weather, North Cornwall being synonymous with all weather foul, and here Davey interprets this with the Storm Cat Song, taking in the mercurial characteristics. Moving on, the Rocky Road to Bodmin is possibly pointed at the Highways Agency. Davey’s mandolin with reverb mirrors the savagery of the storm season, Celtic and Druidic, offering up a unique perspective of Kernow. His appearance here was on the eve of St. Piran, and he created an other worldly atmosphere.
The Celtic roots shine through in ritual and a sense of the historic in The Red Stag, with its regular rhythm of 42bpm epitomising the essence of the natural world it comes from. To finish off this short set, Davey plays us Lucia, in the shape of the female pike and her dubious and savage habits, such a eating her young. A fine start to Fusion 4 Day One.
Such a popular band, and getting enormous traction now with lots of gigs and festivals under their belt. They start with an old favourite, When Darkness Falls, and move seamlessly into a new track from the forthcoming album, In Time, with a superb bass riff from David Greenaway and signature sax from Alan Carter. I’ve heard the demo before and this has progressed enormously – a step up for the next album. It really is quite something, and terribly exciting.
This band oozes confidence now. Eclectic, as ever, and their live performance is as good as they’ve ever been. Tree Stewart’s voice is sublime, Thomas Idris Jackson holds it all together, and I’ll say it again – he is one of the best Progressive drummers and percussionists on the circuit.
The London-based quintet steadily built up a head of steam with a well-judged set of old and new songs. Starting with a punchy Starstruck, the band then hit their full groove with more tracks shaped by their eclectic mix of prog, classical, ambient and psychedelic rock. The new song, Trickledown, impressed and the atmospheric, instrumental soundscapes of The Odd Particle was as dreamy as ever. Electric violinist Naomi Belshaw was at the centre of everything, ably supported by Simon Carbery’s vocals and soaring guitar.
Another new track, Gentlemen, It’s Time, had a Caravan/Canterbury vibe that steadily built up from the whimsical to the darkly haunting, and Rick Startin’s keyboards came to the fore on this track especially. John Silver’s bass propelled both the popular Arithmomania and the closing Angels of Peckham Rye, with powerful drumming from Ed Kontargyris ending the set well with a real flourish. Very enjoyable!
And here we go with the headliner for Day 1… Solstice. Full of joy and professional to the end. Wonderful crowd favourites, old and new. It’s rare that bands have to deal with broken guitar strings mid-set, and it is a risk that they all have to take. Andy Glass does it with MASSIVE aplomb and the band is so tight that they can break into riffs and jams to fill the time whilst Andy fixes his gear. VERY impressive.
This band has floated to the top of modern day folk prog. The new album, Light Up, is very well received by the crowd and it is clear that the band loves doing what they do. Jess Holland shines, Jenny Newman’s fiddle is always a true delight, Steven McDaniel looks a million dollars with his new hair-do (!), and the rhythm section with Robin Phillips on bass and Peter Hemsley on drums and percussion keep everything solid and… well… progressive. And the ladies at the back are a jewel!
This was a family outing for the band. They are a true joy to watch EVERY time they play, and they are a highlight of this festival.
And… Bulbul Tarang is my new favourite – that chord change at the end is musical genius!
The reviews in this update are based on the TPA Team’s ‘Live Updates’ posted on social media at the festival.