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Fusion 5: Day Two

The Civic Hall, Stourport
Saturday, 2nd March 2024
(David Edwards)

Ruby Dawn at Fusion

Carola Baer’s Ruby Dawn started proceedings wonderfully on Day 2 of Fusion 5 – with another captivating, dreamy and hypnotic set of prog and groove-led rhythm, focusing on their debut album, Beyond Tomorrow. Keith Buckman (of The Far Meadow and Kindred Spirit fame) deputised for Ian Turner on bass, but supported drummer Adam Perry on that signature rhythmic toe-tapping beat, with Dave Salsbury adding Floydian flourishes on electric guitar.

Carola’s keyboards and emotionally wrought vocals (with that lovely Stevie Nicks timbre to my ears) were as expressive as ever, as they started with a driving Star on You, a brooding Breakdown and the yearning Save the Day. The Eastern-tinged psychedelia of Into The Sun and then a dynamic Dances on Mars were particular highlights. After Save Me, the band performed their powerful new single Alice Come Home, before the anthematic Other Side.

A quality performance and I look forward to the release of their second album in the months to come.

(Richard Swan)

Flamborough Head at Fusion

Another personal delight for me to see Flamborough Head, who have travelled all the way from Holland, specially for this gig at Fusion 5.
Predominantly symphonic melodic prog seated in the 70’s, with more than a touch of folk added, this certainly got my attention from the outset. Glorious guitar solos from Hans Spitzen, melodic keys from Edo Spanninga and a tight rhythm section comprising Peter Spel on bass and Koen Roozen on drums. But the jewel in the crown is the dulcet tones of Margriet Boomsma on vocals, flute and recorder and she has great stage presence. I have now found my new favourite lady vocalist. Dreamy and tonally perfect….

I’m reminded very much of Kaprekar’s Constant and Renaissance. Annie Hallam and Judie Tzuke have met their match in Margriet…. Drawing mostly from their recent album, Jumping The Milestone, with a couple of other tracks from 2013’s Lost In Time and 2005’s Tales Of Imperfection to illustrate depth in their discography, my favourite tracks were Maureen and Jumping The Milestone; well, all of them really….

Despite some minor technical difficulties with the on-stage monitor sound, they held it together impeccably, and you would not really have noticed from an audience perspective. I strongly recommend you check out their records. I could listen to them all day. You won’t be disappointed. This band is likely to be my top one of the festival. There you go, I’ve said it… .

(Owy Thomas)

Ebb at Fusion

I have seen Ebb a few times now, and they have impressed me more each successive time, with their consummate musicianship, stagecraft, and, above all, remarkable compositional skill. A very welcome late addition to the Fusion bill this year, I was delighted they could join us. Judging from the number of Ebb T shirts amongst the audience, their following is growing steadily.

Down one member, Kitty Biscuits suffering a family emergency (all the best to her of course – and she was definitely missed), and suffering a few technical issues, all dealt with admirably professionally, we were nonetheless treated to some superb tracks from their new EP The Management of Consequences, as well as more familiar material from their most recent album Mad & Killing Time.

I cannot quite believe it’s only a year ago that I hardly knew this band – these songs feel such a part of me now. This band is highly skilled at connecting meaningfully with their audience, in a way which is really quite difficult to fully identify or describe – (as you can probably tell). For me, it’s a combination of innovative approach, musical familiarity reformulated into an oblique yet streamlined presentation, unbelievable musicianship, and crafted composition. It’s thrilling and comforting simultaneously. A truly remarkable band I will seek to see again and again. And I reckon I won’t be alone.

(David Edwards)

Kite Parade at Fusion

Third band of the day is the impressive Kite Parade, led by the multi-talented Andy Foster. What was particularly remarkable about this performance is that this was only Kite Parade’s second gig as a band (after their great debut at Songs from the Wood in Blackwood last September). They confidently and smoothly played a great set of accessible rock with a progressive edge. There were slight sounds of nerves understandably in the first song, but they were very soon into an intoxicating groove with great songs drawn from their recent second album Retro and their outstanding debut The Way Home. Wonderful was touchingly dedicated to Pete Smith who wrote the lyrics but who sadly died recently.
Andy Foster was assured in his vocals and on guitar and towards the end he even blasted some sax! Foster has assembled a highly talented and largely young band, and with a debut this good the future bodes very well for Kite Parade who will surely rise high.

(Graham Thomas)

Landmarq at Fusion

Brushing aside a few technical gremlins, and the near loss of a MacBook, Landmarq treated us to a career spanning energetic set. Apparently, this was their last live show for a while, as they have determined at long last to record a new album! We shall see!

A new song from this promised album, Horizon, a reflective ballad, bodes well. We shall have to wait and see if the finished song develops any further. In contrast, they went right back to their debut with Solitary Witness, and covered much ground in between. Wolf seems comfortable out front with his self-deprecating humour, and keeps us entertained throughout. Personal Universe is a personal favourite of mine, and the set ends with a rousing Mountains of Anglia, the crowd participating with enthusiasm. A satisfying set then, well done Landmarq; just don’t leave us waiting too long for this threatened new music please!

(Richard Swan)

Pearl Handled Revolver at Fusion

The last time I saw Pearl Handled Revolver at a Fusion festival, I was a Pearl Handled Revolver ‘newbie’. I described it then as high energy, excitement, incredible musicianship, harmonica (oh my God!) and visions of Spaghetti Western movie soundtracks. Late night, smoky club atmosphere, raw and raspy vocals from front man, Lee Vernon, one of the most charismatic and coolest people on the planet. Well, I say it again and again, because that’s what we get in spades…. If ever there was to be the opportunity for an out of body experience, a good one, this is it.

The band: Simon Rinaldo on keys, lots of them, providing the gorgeous 60’s mellotron and Hammond organ sound, is mesmerising; Andy Harris on guitars, very ably supported by Lucas Rinaldo, and Chris Thatcher on stripped down (in more ways than one) but no less effective drums, bashing the hell out of the skins frenetically and giving Animal from The Muppet Show a huge run for his money. The set is hugely varied with two new songs, Gilding The Lily and Courageous in classic Pearl Handled Revolver style. The crowd favourites are all there, including Rabbit Hole, Belly of The Whale, Help Me Down and Peace by Piece.

I still remain transfixed by this band. Clearly others do too. They are a sight to behold and a seriously class stage act. Two years ago, I nearly choked on my pint. Best go get another… And I want those boots….

(Owy Thomas)

Franck Carducci at Fusion

Feeling like a bit of a Carducci veteran, having seen him a number of times in recent years, we were ready for the expected unforgettable evening as always. We certainly got that. No sooner had the band ripped into their opening number, Slave to Rock n Roll, when we all had to evacuate the building due to a fire alarm. Everyone filed out dutifully and stood in the car park wondering when we might be able to get back in. Franck and the Squad however, in inimitable style, the ‘slaves to rock n roll’ they all truly are, decided to continue the show on the steps outside the venue with an acoustic guitar and acapella formation. It was delightful and thoroughly sums up what they are all about. The show must go on, WHATEVER happens. Utterly fabulous, and exactly the attitude which has made us all love them.

Franck Carducci & The Fantastic Squad at Fusion

Eventually we were all allowed back in, and it was confirmed the show would continue. The set was hastily re formulated and a nevertheless flawlessly executed rock and roll extravaganza followed, including a shimmeringly beautiful performance by Mary Reynaud in The Angel and an adapted but still spectacular Alice’s Eerie Dream leaving the Fusion audience ecstatic.

Franck Carducci & The Fantastic Squad at Fusion

Franck Carducci & The Fantastic Squad at Fusion

This is what it’s all about. Hats off to Franck Carducci and his truly Fantastic Squad.

Franck Carducci & The Fantastic Squad at Fusion

Photographs courtesy of Progpics By StanS (Stan Siarkiewicz) used with kind permission.

(Please note that this collective review was adapted from TPA live social media updates posted during the festival. They have been collated and slightly edited here by Leo Trimming.)

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