Poppodium Boerderij, Zoetermeer, The Netherlands
Friday, 7th April, 2023
[This review first appeared in Dutch on the Progwereld website. You can read the original HERE, with huge thanks to the original contributors, and to Alex Driessen for the translation.]
Easter 2023 marks the date that famous rock stage Boerderij in Zoetermeer, the Netherlands, hosts the tenth edition of renowned indoor prog rock festival ProgDreams. After a two-year forced break in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, and a shortened two-day variant in 2022, the close of the second lustrum can finally be celebrated as the Boerderij management return to the proven three-day event format, starting on Friday evening and ending somewhere around midnight on Sunday. Whether the timing to coincide with Easter affects the number of visitors remains to be seen, but about 200 enthusiasts can be counted on opening night. The offer is varied, as always. On Saturday, among others, we can witness the debut on Dutch stages of the surprising Polish band Millenium and Solstice from English Solstice, resurrected from its ashes. On Sunday it will be the turn of the cinematographic music of RanestRane, from Italy, and legendary Australian drummer Virgil Donati with his band IceFish. I elect for the opening Friday night, only two bands but certainly not the least: the traditional Dutch (from The Hague) Supersister Projekt and the French prog rock formation Lazuli. They have my undivided attention.
After the stage manager’s announcement around 8 o’clock, it remains quiet and dark on stage for a while; could Alzheimer’s have already struck? Many similar jokes can be heard when the veteran musicians enter the stage after a few minutes of silence. Frontman Robert Jan Stips is the first to explain the late turnout with the necessary self-criticism and humour: the nursing home had let them go too late. The gritty guys immediately start the first song, Judy Goes on Holiday being introduced as a holiday song. According to Stips, there are four versions of the next song, Memories Are New; after all, memories are regularly updated. The opening tones of She Was Naked will sound familiar to even those unfamiliar with the band’s repertoire.
This applies to a lesser extent to A Girl Named You and the extremely topical Energy (Out of Future) in current circumstances. The latter is a heavy symphonic piece, a bit UK-like – goose-bumps, an absolute highlight. And to think that the majority of the songs are now over fifty years old. That definitely applies to the medley of older songs that follows. Stips recalls its origins as a series of forgotten recordings from the time when the newly formed band was still working on material in soggy basements. One of those tapes (remember Revox?) turned up some time ago, and the music found on it was deemed great. Surprisingly, it’s proving to be a favourite part of Supersister Projekt gigs these days, for band and audience alike. The jazzy I Am You Are Me/Transmitter is the penultimate song, after which the only minor hit these guys ever scored, Radio, brings the trio’s short performance to an end. After an enjoyable hour, that seemed to have gone in the blink of an eye, it’s all over.
Stips characterises his band’s music as ‘uncompromising’, he may very well be right. What about those abrupt endings that constantly mislead the audience. At times I get the feeling that I am watching a punk band that likes to play prog and psychedelic music. It should be noted that the average punk band does not yet have an ounce of the musicality this special trio possesses. It’s a strange, jumpy and jagged music, performed with great enthusiasm and dedication. The mutual joy on stage is contagious, Robert Jan’s funny boyish face certainly contributes to that, just like his witty introductions and anecdotes. His keyboard playing is second to none and his vocals are still in great shape, although certain high notes can obviously no longer be reached, he’s the first to admit it.
Drummer Leon Klaasse (Sweet d’Buster, Powerplay, the Analogues) is the youngest of the threesome. Due to the position of his drum set, directly opposite keyboard player Stips, with bassist Rinus Gerritsen between them, he keeps an overview and frequent eye contact with the bandleader. The veterans visibly enjoy every performance, I saw them play a successful concert last year at the Paard in The Hague. The special Hague humour goes down well with the fans. But for me, experienced bass player Rinus Gerritsen (Golden Earring) is the personification of this incarnation of Supersister. By now playing well within his comfort zone after many shows, the few mistakes are forgiven, this is really complex stuff. His face betrays concentration, the pick between his lips occasionally disappears into his mouth only to reappear at a later stage. We were able to enjoy these musicians and their special music for about an hour, a great opening of the festival.
Judy Goes on Holiday
Memories Are New
She Was Naked
A Girl Named You
Energy (Out of Future)
Medley of old songs
I Am You Are Me/Transmitter
Robert Jan Stips – Keyboards, Lead Vocals
Rinus Gerritsen – Bass
Leon Klaasse – Drums, Background Vocals
French prog rockers Lazuli have the honour of being the closing act for the first day of the festival – and they do so with gusto. With their eleventh album Onze just released and its well-received predecessor Le Fantastique Envol de Dieter Böhm not yet played in the Netherlands, a tried and tested quintet appears on the stage at De Boerderij, a place where these guys have already stood regularly, and which has always been good to them. This inspires confidence and is also reflected in the energetic and intense live set that is presented to the crowd. The choice of material is huge for the French but, not entirely surprisingly, the lion’s share of the setlist is determined by both aforementioned albums.
Lazuli kicks off the show with the first song from the new album Onze, Sillonner Des Océans De Vinyles, a hymn to the classic LP, supported by a colourful animated movie on the big screen. The melodic opener is followed by the rock-hard Déraille – quite a contrast. Another new song, Triste Carnival, an autobiographical piece about an embarrassing mistake with the date of a carnival. Qui D’autre Que L’autre is also from Onze. Then it’s time for a selection of songs from Le Fantastique Envol de Dieter Böhm from 2020. Les Chansons Sont Des Bouteilles á La Mer gets a heavy Léode treatment, while the same instrument ends up in an intriguing duet with Arnaud Beyney’s guitar in Mers Lacrymales. Dieter Böhm, Une Visage Lunaire and L’Homme Volant are the last songs about Dieter’s bizarre flight. Live in this shortened version of the album, the songs come into their own even better than on the studio album. The audience shows it’s appreciation by loudly clapping their hands.
The band continues the concert with a series of new songs, starting with Égoine, French for saw, with Romain Thorel’s French horn playing a leading role. The introduction is somewhat difficult, Dutch remains a difficult language for foreigners. Lagune Grise and Plureur Dans La Pluie, with slapstick film starring Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton among others, and a fantastic guitar solo by Beyney pass by.
Time for some old(er) songs: Un Linceul De Brume with Beyney on bass and Thorel on his electronic horn is followed by Chronique Canine, an indictment against the abandonment of pets. Mes Sembables is also razor-sharp in terms of both lyrics and music. After all this brute force, Parlons Du Temps is a wonderful breather, Claude Leonetti shares vocals with brother Dominique. La Bétaillière, the cattle truck, stands in sharp contrast to its predecessor; this is closer to the old Lazuli. Le Miroir Aux Alouettes comes from fifth album 4603 Battements from 2011. Arabic sounds, marimba and African drums accompany the musical saw, the Léode.
Les Courants Ascendants is often a highlight during Lazuli concerts. The song invites audience participation and just like at Loreley, their Night of the Prog 2022 highlight, the audience sings along, even when the song has long ended. ‘Domi’ moves in between the audience for a while, the atmosphere is buzzing. While all three guitarists leave the stage, keyboardist Romain Thorel and drummer Vincent Barnavol demonstrate what kind of pedigree they have as musicians. As a duo, alone on stage, Barnavol’s cannonball-like hits and Thorel’s virtuoso keyboard solo point the way to a swinging ending. For Les Mots Désuets, four musicians gather around one microphone. Domi plays guitar and sings, the others provide harmonious background vocals in this almost acoustic song from Onze. Then follows the almost traditional closing section of a Lazuli show: all musicians gather around the marimba for the ritual 9 Hands Around the Marimba. This time the Beatles’ Here Comes the Sun is the central theme.
This signals the end of the show, after two-and-a-quarter hours of play, just around midnight. The band is elated and happy with the warm applause of the audience. Only about 200 die-hards made it to the end, including a striking number of women. It remains a bit of a shame, so few visitors at the tenth edition of the festival, but Lazuli will not be worried, they mingle with the visitors after the show to support their merchandise, sign autographs and take pictures with the fans. A nice and fitting end to the first day of ProgDreams X.
Sillonner Des Océans De Vinyles
Qui D’Autre Que L’Autre
Les Chansons Sont Des Bouteilles á La Mer
Une Visage Lunaire
Plureur Dans La Pluie
Un Linceul De Brume
Parlons Du Temps
Le Miroir Aux Alouettes
Les Courants Ascendants
Les Mots Désuets
9 Hands Around The Marimba (feat. Here Comes The Sun)
Vincent Barnavol – Drums, Percussion, Marimba, Vocals
Arnaud Beyney – Guitars
Claude Leonetti – Léode
Dominique Leonetti – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Romain Thorel – Keyboards, French Horn