The General Picton, Porthcawl
Friday, 13th October 2023
It might be getting decidedly autumnal outside, but it’s considerably warmer in the back room of The Picton as a full house of family and friends cheer Tribe3 on for both their first gig and the launch show for the excellent Tribe3 debut album.
The trio of Chris Jones, Steve Hughes and Jonathan Kinsey cover an awful lot of ground on the album, and I was intrigued as to how they would replicate this on stage. Almost inevitably, backing tracks were the order of the day, used where required to fill out the sound, but the biggest change was the use of a drum track to allow Jonathan to concentrate on singing, usually from a bank of keyboards. This really didn’t affect the performance, and probably enhanced it as it allowed him to ensure that he gave it his best shot – particularly as this was his first show as a lead singer! There’s an aim to get a live drummer involved at some point, but for now this setup works well.
From the off, the sound mix is very impressive for the relatively small room, so hats off to the engineer. After the first song or two, the volume increases slightly to ensure that the music receives the power it deserves, but the excellent clarity is retained.
Playing the whole of the album in order is a good move, and despite initial nerves the trio are on top form, and it really couldn’t have gone much better. Invictus is a fine opener, displaying a good overview of what the band do and allowing them to settle in. The album’s kinda first single, Fear is the Key draws out the subtle Rush influences that inhabit many of the songs, but these are integrated into the Tribe3 sound without becoming obtrusive. The concentration on the faces of all concerned underlines the complex nature of what they’re trying to do, but the warmth of the reception alleviates some of the tension and they relax into the set, with relieved smiles passing between the three.
With a wall of keyboards, his bass and bass pedals, Steve has a lot to do, but he anchors the sound beautifully, allowing Chris’ guitar to soar and Jon to deliver the words in an engaging style. The Downfall of the Birdwatcher comes across particularly well live, but it’s Lament that steals the show. Since I first heard the album, this is the one that really made its mark. The maturity of the arrangement and delivery are underlined in the live setting as both Jon and Chris fill it with emotion. Chris’ solos on this song really are second to none, and he nailed them tonight, particularly the anguish of the first one. A job very well done.
It’s fair to say that Jonathan Kinsey is outstanding in his new role, and he possesses a fantastic voice. He sings his heart out, and when not adding adding keyboard parts delivers the songs with a light-touch theatricality which adds a nice visual dimension, judicious props underlining the drama in the songs. When able, he leaves his keyboards stage right and moves across to where his instrumental compatriots beaver away. Kinsey’s vocal contribution probably reaches its zenith during a magnificent rendition of Calm Before the Storm, hitting the unfeasible high notes with a majestic ease.
Closing out a great set with a heartfelt take on Dawntreader, Tribe3 lap up the deserved applause. An exceptionally strong debut performance from a band that deserves to go far.
And if that sounded like something you’d enjoy, Tribe3 are playing the same venue – for free – at tea-time on Sunday 3rd December.
Fear is the Key
The Downfall of the Birdwatcher
Calm Before the Storm
Chris Jones – Guitars
Steve ‘Yip’ Hughes – Bass, Keyboards, Bass Pedals
Jonathan Kinsey – Vocals, Keyboards
I should probably have more knowledge of The Mighty Ra than I do, as their name has certainly come up quite frequently in the last couple of years. Their debut album All Secrets Known came out on White Knight Records, the link to label owner Rob Reed (of Magenta) forged many years ago when singer/guitarist Andy Edwards played with Reed’s Fyreworks and an older incarnation of Cyan. Edwards is also known for his work with Welsh band Ezra, and a number of its former members are in the audience for this performance – Chris and Steve from Tribe3 among them. The Mighty Ra line-up is complete by Rob Wilsher, a founding member of Multi Story, whose debut album (1985’s East/West) I always had a fondness for, plus the experienced rhythm section of drummer Rob Griffiths and singing bassist Dave Rowe. Since this show, it has been announced that Wilsher has left The Mighty Ra, which is a great shame as he adds so much to the band’s sound.
Disappointingly (but possibly not surprising) a section of the crowd left after Tribe3 (Andy Edwards asking at one point, “Where’s our audience gone?!”), but those that remain are treated to a textbook set of entertaining and melodic prog, the band playing all of the debut album, plus three additional songs, Controlling the Burn (from an EP released earlier this year), Stealing the Waters Away and Mr Disingenuous, the new tracks boding well for their next release.
The Ra immediately settle in with the Western tones of Freedom, showing their professionalism, collective talent and connection despite only having played a handful of gigs together themselves. They make for a particularly well-oiled machine, delivering Andy’s always interesting songs with skill and style. Dave does a fine job on harmony lead vocals and the guitar lines are smooth and flowing. It’s a punchy sound that keeps the room involved. Again, the mix and volume levels are spot on.
There’s an appealing directness in songs like Nothing Comes Easy, and Andy and Dave’s quick wit keeps everyone entertained. Will We Ever Know has an intriguing (and surprising) suggestion of Gong in the chugging rhythms and the spacey mysticism of its elongated riffs, and it ends like Hawkwind!
An enthralling set ends with the 12-minutes of Bigger Lie, probably the band’s killer blow, a moody and soaring piece that satisfyingly builds on its Pink Floyd influences, Andy channelling both his inner Gilmour and Waters. A rousing and epic finale.
A fine set that didn’t flag for a minute, and I’ll look forward to seeing The Mighty Ra again.
Nothing Comes Too Easy
Controlling the Burn
Will We Ever Know
All Secrets Known
Stealing the Waters Away
Andy Edwards – Guitar, Vocals
Dave Rowe – Bass Guitar, Vocals
Rob Griffiths – Drums, Percussion
Rob Wilsher – Keyboards