Poppodium Boerderij, Zoetermeer, The Netherlands
Sunday, 9th 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.]
After a past of frequent left-wing and green voting, this pop temple in Zoetermeer is the only farm (Boerderij) I dare to enter. Fortunately, I am not the only one, because at half-past-two in the afternoon about one hundred people have already gathered. Upon entering I even seem to be doubly welcome. This is because I am both a ‘crew member’ of Yuval Ron and on the guest list for Progwereld as a critic. When asked, I explain to the security guard at the entrance ‘both of me are present’, which – partly probably because of the pleasant spring weather – puts a minor smile on his face. On day three of ProgDreams X, the program is filled with the likes of Yuval Ron, Kyros, RanestRane, Dutch band Galaxy and closing act Icefish.
I first saw the Berlin-based group around Israeli guitarist Yuval Ron last year at the Calling Occupants Festival in Den Bosch. The band impressed me a lot at this performance, with their complex fusion space rock that also has sufficient visual quality to be an experience on stage. The band is dressed in the iconic white NASA suits and indicate that they have just landed. In the audience there is also someone dressed in an astronaut costume; first thing he wants is a selfie with the band. After that, the trio starts with the title track from their latest album. I don’t particularly fancy this choice; the song differs a lot from the others due to a number of digital loops and wordless vocals and is also not a suitable track to get into for the band.
As of second track, Wifi in Emerald City, a show full of adventurous, abstract and otherworldly fun follows. The band plays along with a tape containing keyboards and sound effects, which ensures that every performance is somewhat the same. It does put the band in control to achieve a good sound at De Boerderij as well. Yuval Ron’s guitar style can best be compared to that of Allan Holdsworth, although Yuval Ron sounds a little less fluid staccato and a little more metallic. The Discovery of Phoebe is the melodic highlight of the set, in this mystical atmosphere Victor Nissim’s bass solo stands out specifically. With I Believe in Astronauts, the band launches such a heroic theme that one can almost speak of a love child of Star Wars and fusion band Return To Forever. The audience is instructed in advance thus enabling the crowd to clap along to the band’s music in a time signature of seven beats per round. By the way, said audience, despite the fact that this may be a tad too experimental for many of them, remains almost hypnotised, staring at the stage during this performance. If the band would switch to interludes instead of talking to the audience, it might immerse their spectators even further in Yuval Ron’s otherworldly space.
Somewhere In This Universe, Somebody Hits A Drum
Wifi In Emerald City
The Discovery Of Phoebe
I Believe In Astronauts
Yatziv Caspi – Drums
Victor Nissim – Bass Guitar
Yuval Ron – Guitars, Vocals, Effects
When the English band Kyros enters the stage, I am somewhat surprised; I seem to remember distinctly that this was a group of four or five gentlemen. However, it soon becomes clear that charming Shelby Logan Warne in her black leather dress, fishnet tights and part black, part blue hair steals the show. With her graceful movements, visible pleasure behind the keyboards and expression on her face while singing, it’s simply impossible to look away from this show. What’s going on here? There is no question of a personnel change, but a lady in transition who has given the band a new face with a (for us) new identity. A unique and fresh appearance in the male-dominated progressive rock genre. Unfortunately, the transition from album music to the stage goes less smoothly; the band struggles with the technique that should allow the guitar sounds to change automatically with the different sections within the songs. This accounts for a shaky start and therefore some discomfort on stage. In addition, the band, which with predecessor Synaestesia included, already has four albums to its name, does not radiate much seniority on stage. This has more to do with the presentation than the musicianship, because the band is clearly very talented. For example, the small, long-haired guitarist Joey Frevola, a kind of fusion metal teddy bear, plays his fast solos and runs with apparent ease. These musicians may show a little more pride, swagger and interest in the audience as far as I’m concerned. Maybe one of them could get a sordid tattoo.
Kyros’ music is a modern crossover of neo-prog and synthpop and has this hyper-produced sound in the vein of Frost*, for example. In fact, much of this is watered down and the full electronic sound of the band is not clearly audible at the Boerderij. When I watch an earlier live show by the band, in London from 2021 (highly recommended by the way!), you can hear how punctual they really are in a live setting. It may have been a rocky start, but the band nevertheless strikes a chord with the audience, that enthusiastically shows its appreciation after each and every song. After the last song, at a slower pace and a larger dramatic build-up, the band manages to get an excited response from the audience. All in all, we can speak here of a technically challenged and yet successful exhibition by Kyros. I would definitely like to see the band again on an night when the technical aspect does not leave its mark on the whole.
Technology Killed The Kids
Persistence Of Perfection
The End In Mind
Peter Episcopo – Bass Guitar, Vocals
Joey Frevola – Guitars
Robin Johnson – Drums, Percussion
Shelby Logan Warne – Vocals, Keyboards
Italians RanestRane have recently managed to win over more and more people with their latest release, Apocalypse Now. From the first notes it is clear: old hands, top-notch musicians, veterans. Rock solid. The band also managed to get the best sound in De Boerderij this particular day; it’s simply perfect. Guitarist Massimo Pomo proves once again that a few pedals and a gray Fender Twin Reverb, an amplifier that saw the light of day in 1965, still guarantee the most evocative guitar sounds. Digital stage productions really can’t compete with these analogue sounds. For fans of Steve Rothery or David Gilmour, this is probably the guitarist of the day. Drummer Daniele Pomo is also the singer and although this seems like an obstacle initially, nothing could be further from the truth. He’s a good frontman who gets into electronic drums during intro sections. Subsequently he knows how to evoke this wonderful passionate southern recital of bands like PFM and Le Orme with his Italian singing voice. If an Italian version of The Passion of the Christ was to be staged, I would like to nominate him for the perfect Jesus. The nice thing is that his performance art also reflects on his way of drumming. With his physique, he knows how to make clear what he thinks, what he does and why he does it. An art not given to many drummers. The bass player and keyboard player also move along with the music. The crowd responds very positively to RanestRane, there is a kind of relief; this band feels right. This is top notch.
The band bases all its music on films and also shows the images on a large screen in the background. The first half of the set is thus based on the album trilogy around Stanley Kubrick’s classic 2001: A Space Odyssey. This great work of art of the Twentieth Century happens to be one of my favourite movies of all time. That’s the way it is, but you can only go wrong with such a monumental film. The images of David Bowman, computer HAL and that iconic spaceship Discovery One are provided by Ranestrane with beautiful melancholic neo-prog, but I find that downright horrible. It is precisely Kubrick’s businesslike, phenomenological and documentary style that makes this film so impressive. There is no need for music to direct the viewer’s feelings. After this, pieces from Nosferatu and The Shining are dealt with and for the most part the same applies, although one piece does manage to connect to the well-known ‘Here’s Johnny!’ with sinister, dark sounds. I’d better focus on the music instead of the backdrop for this particular gig.
Ranestrane sounds very good, evokes fine musical associations and looks cool on stage. In the end it is a top-notch band that is still looking for the top-notch song, something that transcends the generic masses and has its own face and feeling. Then the film images can also be omitted, there is already more than sufficient dazzling musicianship to admire on stage.
Maurizio Meo – Bass
Daniele Pomo – Drums, Vocals
Massimo Pomo – Guitars
Riccardo Romano – Keyboards
The new Dutch promise for the 2022/2023 season will draw as many people to the room as is possible on Progdreams’ final day. The story of this twenty-five year old album that was finally released makes you curious. Just like this new musical environment around singer Bart Schwertmann, who managed to raise the last Kayak line-up to new heights with his voice. In short, the room is pleasantly full, the goodwill factor is omnipresent, the promise of an integral rendition, vinyl and CDs beautifully displayed at the merch desk; what else could go wrong?
One of the first things one notices is the fact that Schwertmann’s joy in performing and individual class as a singer also translates seamlessly to his work as a bass player. Of course this also takes up some space, without a free hand, but it is really an enrichment during the instrumental parts. Especially when he doubles complicated riffs with guitarist Niels Linkbeek, a wonderfully rousing sound is created. The latter also plays some commendable guitar parts with beautiful solos, although the guitar sounds a bit screeching. This could, of course, be a deliberate choice, because you can actually hear that he truly plays melodic solos. During the accompanying parts, the band evokes associations with Queensrÿche, Journey and even Dutch band Marathon. Keyboardist Ard Offers stands like a cheerful estate agent behind his keyboards; he is in charge of musical property. And he does so with a recognisable and beloved neo-prog type tapestry of sounds, in which there is also room for Marillion-like, contemplative seriousness. Galaxy isn’t about drama though, the band is almost always building towards that catchy, cathartic chorus. The last song, Runaway Man, is the most layered and passionate of them all. With this song, the group shows that it also has a lot to offer with a longer, sultry build-up. Another standout track from the setlist is the instrumental Gallery Play, billed as one that would be quite a challenge for the band to play. Here too, the band knows how to throw a party of progressive hard rock by pumping rhythmically, changing musical scenes and bringing the different instruments to the fore, one by one. Every now and then a little bit of Deep Purple and Rainbow-esque rock ‘n’ roll – or let’s just say sex – creeps into the music.
So. What else could go wrong? Nothing. Galaxy is a true prog party, neither pretentious nor particularly original, but very enjoyable symphonic rock with the emphasis on rock. Rock as in energy and gloriously demonstrating ones capabilities. If you put them in the beer tent at the local village festival, I’m guessing they will also manage to make a lasting impression on an unsuspecting pop audience. When I listen to the Runaway Men album at home, the desire for a CD of the entire live performance of this album immediately grows. Over the years, Schwertmann’s vocals have become even more impressive and the exciting stage dynamics of the band also deserve to be carefully recorded. Should the band decide to return to the studio, the international stages should still be within reach.
Look Into My Eyes
Never The Same
In Her Head
Lady Of Fire
Talk To Me
Niels Lingbeek – Backing Vocals, Guitars
Ard Offers – Backing Vocals, Keyboards
Nils Offers – Drums, Percussion
Bart Schwertmann – Lead Vocals, Bass
The band Icefish consists of professional musicians who have played with Allan Holdsworth, Steve Vai, James Labrie and Jordan Rudess, among others. The international progressive metal group leaves no doubt about it; with supremacy they play their very complex and heavy material. In terms of sound, the deep bass of singer Andrea Casali stands out, together with the heavy guitar of Marco Sfogli making the band sound voluptuous, as if there were two guitarists at work. His vocals are flawless, strong and in total control.
Alex Argento’s keyboards are a bit lost in the mix, although his Moog solos come out well. A pity, because the sci-fi setting in Icefish’s music gives the band just that little bit extra. Icefish’s music is basically quite abstract and ‘out there’, although the choruses are quite melodic. As a listener, I therefore experience more awe than involvement towards Icefish’s music. However, this type of technical metal can count on its own fan base, so a partially different audience has gathered in the room. They cheer and growl enthusiastically after each final chord. After playing a few songs from their debut album Human Hardware, the band giggles and announces that they are going to play a song from Yes. This turns out to be Owner of A Lonely Heart. Although I hardly know the original, Icefish seems to have found enough to update it in a Gojira-esque way.
For a band like this, I’m actually the wrong critic; I especially hear and see the giftedness of the individual band members. This impresses me. In fact, as a guitarist, it makes me jealous, but I just miss the (visual) story in the music. This may sound woolly; a musician who lets you have a peek into his or her soul. In times of advancing artificial intelligence, Icefish actually seems like the perfect soundtrack for this abstract concept, one of the hottest topics today. Is it alive or not? Does it have feelings or not? The album title, Human Hardware, also seems to fit in with this. A fan of technical metal should not skip this record, oozing with professionalism. This particular night – after a long day of Progdreams – I didn’t feel it because of my personal preferences. Icefish will undoubtedly be a hit at a festival like Progpower that focuses on the (heavy) progressive metal segment.
Owner Of A Lonely Heart
Show Me How To Live
Alex Argento – Keyboards
Andrea Casali – Bass Guitar, Vocals
Virgil Donati – Drums
Marco Sfogli – Guitars
In short: the tenth edition of ProgDreams is another one to add to the annals. From the gritty guys on Friday, the outstanding ladies on Saturday and astronauts and film music on the closing Sunday. Once again, the management of the Boerderij has presented us with an extremely varied program with a number of small gems, but also some minor disappointments. It remains difficult to get an interesting group of artists together each and every time, competition (Prognosis) is lurking and the number of visitors is declining. Nevertheless, they persevere, compliments to staff and employees, on to the eleventh edition!