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Pendragon – Everyone’s A VIP Weekend: Day One

Key Theatre, Peterborough
Saturday 11th May 2024

Following the success of last May’s ‘Everyone’s A VIP Weekend’ at The Platform in Morecambe, Pendragon successfully repeated the feat at the Key Theatre in Peterborough with another thoroughly enjoyable and sun-drenched weekend of classic neo-prog before their loyal fans. Nick Barrett, Clive Nolan and the band performed a range of classic songs from across their long career, including the whole of 2020’s Love Over Fear on Saturday evening, and then 1993’s The Window of Life on Sunday afternoon.

After last year’s triumph, you always doubt if they would be able to ‘pull the rabbit out of the hat’ again. Would we miss the eclectic, Edwardian charm of The Platform in Morecambe, along with the beach and the smell of candy floss across the promenade? Would the sun shine as well this time?Key Theatre Peterborough

Well, the sun shone brightly again on Peterborough (let’s face it, the school exam season was starting, which is always a guarantee of fine weather in the UK!); the River Nene was a reasonable enough replacement for Morecambe Bay; and in the Key Theatre we had a comfortable and intimate venue with excellent sightlines, lighting, and acoustics for the audience, due to its sloping tiered seating. All the ingredients we were for a special weekend, and Pendragon delivered in spades over both extended weekend performances.

(‘Love Over Fear’)

Rog Patterson at at VIP Weekend 2024Rog Patterson played another enjoyable support slot, and this time the more intimate theatre atmosphere meant that his quirky mix of anarcho-folk and edgy socio-political tales, played on acoustic 12-string guitar, received the attention they deserved. Echoes of Roy Harper, Strawbs and Ian Anderson for me again, all delivered with intricacy and passion on guitar. His ‘word-mangling’ and ‘string-strangling’ (to quote him) opened proceedings entertainingly, with Asylum and Flightless, amongst others, going down well.

Pendragon strode onto the dimly lit stage like returning heroes. Nick Barrett looked resplendent in a yellow and light blue harlequin-style jacket, with Clive Nolan majestic in a flowing red long coat – beginning the performance with the atmospheric opening keyboard chords and soaring, chiming guitar notes of If I Were The Wind (And You Were The Rain). With Peter Gee, fully relaxed in his customary baseball cap, Jan-Vincent Velazco, looking as cool and sharp as ever, and the lovely Johanna Stroud and Sally Minnear completing the back line, it was clear that we were going to be in for another great night. A beaming Nick was clearly in fine voice from the very start, and he received a great ovation as the album Love Over Fear was introduced and then kicked off with the majestic Everything.

Pendragon's Nick Barrett at VIP Weekend 2024 Every track from this now classic album hit the mark perfectly, with the beauty of Starfish and the Moon, the evocative mystery of True Lies and the playful acoustic, folk-driven charm of 360 Degrees (with Nick reunited with this red mandolin!) enchanting the audience, and with Rog Patterson now adding his sprinkling of acoustic 12-string guitar etc. as necessary.

The atmospheric Soul and the Sea took us into one of the weekend’s undoubted highlights for me, with Eternal Light and that stunning guitar solo at the end. The cinematic, widescreen splendour of Water followed a confession from Nick of his crush on the puppet, Marina from the 60s TV show, Stingray! The fact that myself and many others in the audience proceeded to sing the closing theme perfectly with him, suggested he might have not been alone!

The thoughtful Whirlwind, followed by the riff-driven power of Who Really Are We? and finally the wonderfully cathartic Afraid of Everything, completed another special journey through this modern prog masterpiece – one of their most consistent albums in their musical canon.

How to follow that? Well, it seemed appropriate for the band to road test their latest material from last year, with the pastoral prog ambience of North Star: Part 3 – Phoenician Skies – cut from the same cloth as Love Over Fear, with acoustic guitar giving way to flights of electric guitar later, over smooth flowing keyboards, with gentle and smooth bass and drums in support.

The start of Paintbox was greeted with a huge roar of approval and this perennial favourite still sounds as fresh as a daisy, even after 28 years. A rousing rendition of This Green and Pleasant Land ended the main set defiantly (and sadly as relevant as it was last year) with the memorable refrain of ‘Take only what you need and be on your way’ with Johanna and Sally’s powerful backing vocals joining those of Nick and the audience in spine-tingling fashion!

The intensity continued into the encore, with the sublime Indigo creating the perfect high-voltage dynamics to cap off the evening, with Peter and Jan-Vincent matching the drive of Nick and Clive throughout.

Pendragon VIP Weekend 2024

Practically all the audience stuck around for acoustic set, and it proved as vibrant and engaging as the main set. Starting with an ethereal, melancholic version of Come Home Jack and that poignant chorus of ‘Anomaly… exorior… memorium, to get back home!’ it was followed by North Star: Part 1 – A Boy and His Dog which, not surprisingly, worked marvellously well in an acoustic setting.

Clive’s rich keyboards and Nick’s classical guitar strains took us back in time with The Black Knight, and then back up to date with Fall Away. However, for me it was the exquisite King of the Castle, closing the evening that was another highlight of the evening and had me repeating the chorus in my head the rest of night, as we all left the theatre very contented, seeking our board for the night, or maybe a late-night pint to complete a lovely day.

Pendragon VIP Weekend 2024

If I Were the Wind (And You Were the Rain) [from ‘Not of This World’]
Love Over Fear
Starfish and the Moon
Truth and Lies
360 Degrees
Soul and the Sea
Eternal Light
Who Really Are We?
Afraid of Everything
North Star: Part 3 – Phoenician Skies [from ‘North Star’]
Paintbox [from ‘The Masquerade Overture’]
This Green and Pleasant Land [from ‘Passion’]
~ Encore
Indigo [from ‘Pure’]

– Acoustic Set –
Come Home Jack [from ‘Men Who Climb Mountains’]
North Star: Part 1 – A Boy and His Dog [from ‘North Star’]
The Black Knight [from ‘The Jewel’]
Fall Away [from ‘North Star’]
King of the Castle [from ‘The Masquerade Overture’]

Pendragon VIP Weekend 2024

[Live photos by David Edwards]

Nick Barratt – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Mandolin
Clive Nolan – Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Peter Gee – Bass, Keyboards
Jan-Vincent Velazco – Drums
~ With:
Rog Patterson – 12-String Guitar
Johanna Stroud – Violin, Backing Vocals
Sally Minnear – Backing Vocals

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