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So this previous weekend (or 19th-22nd March 2015 in case you're reading this years in the future), I attended HRH Prog (which is part of a series of festivals organized by the same company, being the busy bees that they are), and I have to say it's the most diverse and enjoyable experience I've had in a live setting. Seeing the likes of The Enid, Steeleye Span, Rick Wakeman and Mostly Autumn amongst other grand acts perform on the same stage was awe-inspiring to say the least, and it's unfortunate that for most of these acts, it may have been my last time seeing them. That said, it's been something truly memorable, but it also opened my eyes to a whole new underground level of prog-related acts, most impressive of which were Sanguine Hum, Lithuania's The Skys and Knifeworld, two of which dedicated one song each in their performance to the late, great Daevid Allen. But much to my surprise, it wasn't just a music festival. There was a Sci-Fi convention happening across the road too-statuettes of characters from Alien, Star Wars and Star Trek among others were left to shine in front of everyone, and it just made the weekend experience more immersive.
So why have I decided to say all this in a list? Well, I thought it would be good to give everyone a little insight into the bands I experience live, and the albums tagged to them were the ones which dominated each bands' setlist. So, in no particular order, here goes...
All Around My Hat
Technically this was my first time seeing a folk band play live, and much to my surprise, it was a fun performance to witness. From the crowd sing-along of "All around my Hat" to the Terry-Pratchett co-written numbers of latest album 'Wintersmith', it really was a setlist tailor made to get the audience moving rather than just simply listening. The band brought with them a violinist who looks as if she just left school, but by god she has bags of talent on stage.
The Six Wives of Henry VIII
Rick Wakeman's performance was basically a best-of compilation detailing key moments in his musical career. With nothing but a grand piano on stage and a microphone in front of it (He didn't sing when he played, he only told us some very amusing stories giving insight into how each song was created), Wakeman appeared as a god in the vibrant lights behind him. It wasn't the biggest of stages (or venues, even), but Wakeman automatically made it feel like home. He ended up playing covers of The Beatles ('Help', 'Eleanor Rigby'), songs dedicated to the late Jon Lord, and alongside some of his own solo work, an exceptional rendition of 'And You and I' from the "Close to the Edge" record. Three facts I now know from listening to his many stories: He played in The Strawbs, he had a musical life lesson from David Bowie, and he accidentally pushed Salvador Dali off the stage (apparently). Marvellous.
From the very start, The Enid were on a mission to deliver. Joe Payne was elegant, Robert John Godfrey was in his element, and the band as a whole delivered an extravagant performance. Latest album "Invicta" dominated the setlist, which, because of how well each song flowed into the next, now seems like a masterpiece. Following that was a modern re-invention of 'Something Wicked this Way comes...' and 'Mockingbird', both of which also delivered on top level.
Dressed In Voices
Is Heather Findlay an angel? Maybe not, but her vocal performance was angelic enough to make you think so. Whilst it wasn't as dramatic or indeed conceptual as The Enid's performance, Mostly Autumn's show still detailed the best moments of their career so far. Interestingly, with the exception of 'Down By the River', every song was at least 7-8 moments, giving the band's instrumental side a chance to truly shine. They played 'Evergreen', a couple of songs off "Dressed in Voices" and finished off with a heartfelt encore of 'Heroes Never Die'.
This was potentially my last time seeing Touchstone, due to the fact that vocalist Kim Seviour is to leave the band for ongoing health problems. Nevertheless, it was a really great performance, and I'm glad I got see the band on the stage before moving on with other careers. The encore of 'Wintercoast' was excellent, but throughout Seviour glided across the stage as if it was HRH ballet instead of Prog, elegantly upping the ante on the backdrop of instrumental vigour.
Now I'm getting into lesser known territory, but Lifesigns are one of those groups you really shouldn't miss-or, at least, fans of John Young's work. This band is essentially his modern career path, but already the band have released a debut album, and it's a great record. The songs played live during their set were essentially based on the debut album, but on stage they feel much more vibrant and accessible, which is more than can be said for most bands who performed here.
Knifeworld are a very interesting group of 8 musicians. They have a brass section (Clarinet, Saxophone and Bassoon players as well as a typical rhythm section, a female vocalist and a keyboardist), but when playing each song live, it was as if an orchestra had rolled into North Wales and somehow come across an otherworldly dimension. It was both a gratifying and obscure experience to witness live, but also one heartfelt thanks to the tributes flooding in to Daevid Allen's and Terry Pratchett's absence. If you listen to any of the band's songs on their records, and then compare with what you hear live, you'll realize the band are practically note-for-note perfection, with a few odd time signature here and there to throw you off course.
I'll finish with Magenta, who played only six songs, one of which covered a whole 20-minute segment of the show. Yes, that's the long-winded but awesome 'Metamorphosis' song, and like Knifeworld's display of musical integrity, it was absolutely spot on. Christine Booth's vocal delivery was beautiful throughout, but it genuinely gave you the impression that the band were really having the time of their life. Plus Booth loves to get here audience to clap along.
|Rick Wakeman seems like he puts on such a great show, I'd love to see him play... Damn, these stories make me jealous. Glad you had fun man!|