Big Big Train – Live at Cadogan Hall, London 2017

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One year after booking the tickets the unmissable weekend of Big Big Train live at Cadogan Hall, London was finally here – and it proved to be well worth the flights from Toronto. Words and pictures by Tim Darbyshire.

There was a palpable sense of anticipation as people arrived at the 950 capacity Cadogan Hall last Friday evening, knowing they were about to witness something very special.  Big Big Train returned to the live stage in 2015 with three shows at Kings Place (also in London), and since then the hope of more live dates has been creating world wide excitement. Accordingly, these three gigs attracted fans from Australia, the US and of course Canada as well as many European countries.

It’s not long before the foyer is packed out, and the (very reasonably priced) merch desk is doing very brisk trade with men (and women) of a certain age helping themselves to t-shirts, signed posters, programmes and even umbrellas.  Inside the auditorium, it’s great to see all 13 musicians sharing the same stage – in 2015 the 5 piece brass section were tucked away up on a balcony.  Violinist Rachel Hall is first on stage playing a haunting prelude to ‘Folklore’ and it’s standing ovations all round as the rest of the band join her and launch into the title track of 2016’s highly acclaimed album of the same title.

The setlist is a well thought out nicely balanced mix of songs from 2009’s ‘The Underfall Yard’, ‘English Electric’ (2013) , ‘Folklore’ (2016) and ‘Grimspound’ (2017).  The long epics being interspersed with lighter numbers.  Big Big Train of course is all about story telling – ‘Brave Captain’ tells the story of World War I  pilot Albert Ball  with vocalist David Longdon enthusiastically acting out the part complete with flying goggles and old fashioned microphone. ‘Last Train’ poignantly documents the tale of the last station master at Hurn station in Dorset – the song tells the story of the final day as the last train departs in 1935.  ‘London Plane’ sends shivers down the spine, and is very apt considering where we are. The song is accompanied by a film projection on a large screen (as are all the songs).

Just three songs in and it’s evident just how talented the musicians on stage actually are.  Nick D’Virgilio relentlessly drives the band forward, aided in the rhythm section by Greg Spawton’s elegant bass lines and bone-shaking bass pedals. Big Big Train encompasses a wide sound palette with keyboards (including plenty of mellotron) provided by Danny Manners, Andy Poole and Rikard Sjoblom.  Sjoblom also turns his talents to searing lead guitar lines and gentle acoustic 12-string and if that isn’t enough, provides backing vocal harmonies. The guitar duties are also shared by legend Dave Gregory, and the line up is completed by Rachel Hall whose violin beautifully cuts above the mix and of course front man David Longdon. It is Longdon who is often the focus of attention, delivering every line as if his life depended on it.

The first set takes a change of pace with ‘Meadowland’ –  a delicate acoustic number dedicated to the late John Wetton.  It was John’s vocal support of the band that helped to propel Big Big Train to where they are today.  The first set is brought to a close with the lengthy  ‘A Mead Hall In Winter’ from the ‘Grimspound’ album with plenty of opportunity for audience sing alongs…….

‘Experimental Gentlemen – Part 2’  kicks off the second half of the show after a 20 minute interval. Next up is a song I’d been hoping they would play – ‘Swan Hunter’ from ‘English Electric’. Documenting the decline of the ship building industry in the North East, and backed up by a stunning image of a ship towering over terraced houses as children play in the deserted streets, this heavily emotional piece is elevated to new heights by the brass section.

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The mood is lightened as the band romp through another crowd favourite from ‘English Electric’, ‘Judas Unrepentant’. ‘Judas’ recounts the interesting story of art restorer turned forger Tom Keating who is eventually arrested for his crimes.

Greg Spawton’s ‘The Transit Of Venus Across The Sun’ is probably my favourite track from ‘Folklore’ and this follows ‘Judas’. The brass section once again are with us, adding the textures that only they can. Not even David Longdon’s forgetting to use the ‘expensive telescope prop’ twice in three attempts can stop the enjoyment of this song. At the Sunday matinee, an audience member pointed out he’d forgotten to use the telescope, leading to an impromptu replaying of the last couple of minutes of the song with the aforementioned telescope!

By now every song is greeted with a standing ovation – a trend that continues as the band play ‘East Coast Racer’, considered by many to be BBT’s finest moment it was voted #45 in a recent poll of Prog magazine’s Top 100 anthems. ‘East Coast Racer’ tells the story of the streamlined steam train Mallard and its record breaking 126mph run on the east coast mainline in 1938.  The mellotron and bass pedals towards the end of the song has the whole place flying.

‘Telling The Bees’ is delivered with a relaxed vibe and allows time for band introductions, before the set closer ‘Victorian Brickwork’.  I’m not sure what to write about this song, after all the preceding high points of the set I didn’t think it could get even better, but it did. Glancing around the audience as the song approached its climax there were many fighting back the tears as the brass lads do what only they can do.

Nick D’Virgilio is first out for the encore which begins with a short drum solo, he then introduces the brass section one by one and the funky jazzy groove develops into a rousing crowd pleasing ‘Wassail’ with singer Longdon donning his green man mask.  Three hours after the show started and it’s all over, with everyone wanting more.

Ten minutes later and the whole band are in the foyer taking the time to meet fans, sign stuff and chat – no cash grab expensive meet and greet packages here. Despite restricted sight lines for some of the gallery seats, and audio issues during the first half of the first show which were quickly resolved during the interval, the band have delivered on all levels. Loreley Night of the Prog festival is in for a real treat in Summer 2018.

Thanks to all involved in the Big Big Train extended family for an unforgettable weekend.

Setlist Friday/Saturday/Sunday:

First Set:
Folklore Overture
Folklore
Brave Captain
Last Train
London Plane
Meadowland
A Mead Hall In Winter

Second Set:
Experimental Gentlemen
Swan Hunter
Judas Unrepentant
The Transit of Venus Across The Sun
East Coast Racer
Telling The Bees
Victorian Brickwork

Encore:
Wassail Overture
Wassail

 

Big Big Train:

Andy Poole – keyboards, guitars, mandolin
Danny Manners – keyboards
Dave Gregory – guitars
David Longdon – vocals, flute
Greg Spawton – bass, bass pedals
Nick D’Virgilio – drums, backing vocals
Rachel Hall – violin, backing vocals
Rikard Sjoblom – guitars, keyboards, backing vocals

Brass Section:
Dave Desmond – trombone
John Storey – euphonium
Nick Stones – french horn
Jon Truscott – tuba
Ben Godfrey – trumpet

 

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Stick Men – The Garrison Toronto, 27th August. Photo Review.

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Stick Men made a welcome return to Toronto last week. Words by Tim Darbyshire, photos by Tim Darbyshire and Keith Quinn.

Straight after another touring cycle with King Crimson, Tony Levin and Pat Mastelotto once again joined forces with fellow stick man Markus Reuter and embarked on the ‘Prog Noir 2017 Tour’

The intimate setting of The Garrison provided the backdrop for the evening as Stick Men performed an eclectic set spanning their full career to date.  The latest studio album ‘Prog Noir’ provided 4 of the numbers and the usual King Crimson covers were eagerly lapped up by the enthusiastic crowd.

Seeing such quality musicians up close is always a treat, and with such a small stage, at times it felt like the band were playing in your living room.

Special mention too must go to SONAR, the Swiss support band who performed a excellent opening set of rythmic, interlocking instrumental tunes. For more information visit the SONAR website

Stick Men
Pat Mastelotto – Drums and percussion
Tony Levin – Chapman stick, vocals
Markus Reuter – Touch guitar

Setlist – The Garrison, Toronto – 27th August 2017

Hide The Trees
Cusp
Schattenhaft
Crack In The Sky
Breathless (Robert Fripp cover)
Open
Mirage (Mike Oldfield cover)
Plutonium
Horatio
Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Part Two (King Crimson cover)
Mantra
Prog Noir
Sartori In Tangier (King Crimson cover)
Level Five (King Crimson cover)

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SONAR

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Mew – Mod Club Toronto, 10th August

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Words and photos by Tim Darbyshire. Danish band Mew have recently released ‘Visuals’ their fifth studio album and just embarked on their ‘2017 Visuals North American Tour’ to promote it. I caught up with the band at Toronto’s Mod Club.

Mew are no strangers to the intimate Mod Club, having last played here in 2009. Their last visit to Toronto was in 2015 when they played at Lee’s Palace, a show at which although Mew delivered musically was strangely bereft of their intoxicating visual show. Happily Mew delivered on both fronts this time in front of an appreciative near sell out crowd.

Compared to previous Mew albums, ‘Visuals’ has a lighter, more poppy feel.  It sounds very smooth with infectious catchy melodies throughout.  Live, the new material merged seamlessly with older songs as the band flawlessly delivered an eclectic crowd pleasing set.

Mew started proceedings with ‘In A Better Place’ from the new album – one of five new songs – before heading into more familiar territory with ‘Special’ and ‘The Zookeeper’s Boy’, from 2005’s ‘And The Glass Handed Kites’. The show had many highlights, including ‘Introducing Palace Players’ from 2009’s ‘No More Stories’ , ‘Satellites’ from ‘Plus Minus’ and ‘Snow Brigade’ from 2003’s groundbreaking ‘Frengers’ album.  The extended encore ended with three more cuts from ‘Frengers’ – ‘Am I Wry, No’, ‘156’ and perhaps Mew’s defining song,  ‘Comforting Sounds’.

Mew are a cohesive live unit, full time members Jonas Bjerre (vocals/guitar), Johan Wohlert (bass) and Silas Utke Graae Jorgensen (drums) are joined by long time collaborator Nick Watts on keyboards and by guitarist Mads Wegner who undertook the arduous task of replacing founding member Bo Madsen on stage in 2015.

Especially impressive is the tight rhythm section, underpinning Jonas Bjerre’s uplifting vocals and Mads Wegner’s angular guitar work. The show is equally impressive visually, with all manner of projections on the large screen behind the band, after all who can ever get enough of violin playing cats?

‘Visuals’ was released just 2 years after 2015’s ‘Plus Minus’, a break with tradition for Mew who typically take their time between albums. Hopefully this trend continues and the Danes return to North America in the near future.

Set List
Mew , The Mod Club Toronto – 10th August 2017

In A Better Place
Special
The Zookeeper’s Boy
Satellites
Ay Ay Ay
Introducing Palace Players
Twist Quest
Start
Water Slides
Snow Brigade
Apocalypso
Saviours Of Jazz Ballet
Carry Me To Safety
—————————
Nothingness and No Regrets
Am I Wry, No
156
Comforting Sounds

 

Adrian Belew Power Trio – Live at The Mod Club, Toronto

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As The Adrian Belew Power Trio enters its last week of a mammoth 50 date North American and European tour, I caught the band at The Mod Club in Toronto. Words and pictures by Tim Darbyshire.

After playing The Mod Club in late 2014, Adrian Belew made a welcome return to the Mod Club last night, ably supported as ever by Julie Slick on bass and Tobias Ralph on drums.  Adrian and co treated the enthusiastic crowd to an eclectic mix of solo material and King Crimson numbers throughout the two hour show split over two sets.

Adrian Belew famously fronted legendary progressive band King Crimson for 30 years – unfortunately he’s not part of the current touring King Crimson – as well as working with such luminaries as Talking Heads, David Bowie, Frank Zappa and Nine Inch Nails to name but a few. The innovative guitar virtuoso sprinkled the Crimson content liberally throughout the two sets, including crowd favourites ‘Frame By Frame’, ‘Elephant Talk’, ‘Dinosaur’, ‘Neurotica’, ‘Heartbeat’, “One Time’, ‘Three of a Perfect Pair’ and finishing the second set with a rousing rendition of ‘Thela Hun Ginjeet’.

The chemistry on stage between the three talented musicians was great to see, clearly they were all enjoying themselves. Using guitar effects and looping phrases, Belew and the band build up an impressive crescendo of sound for just three performers. I’m not normally one for drum solos, but Tobias Ralph proved the exception to the rule with a precise and powerful display towards the end of the first set.

The solo material was as enjoyable, if less familiar – and the balance of old and new seemed about right. Songs ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘E’ and ‘Beat Box Guitar’ allowed more room for expression and improvisation. Hopefully Adrian will return before too long as the performance was at times mesmerising and always entertaining.

2017 is another busy year for the extended King Crimson family. In addition to the Adrian Belew Power Trio, Toronto will see King Crimson play Massey Hall on July 5th, and Stick Men (featuring current  members Tony Levin and Pat Mastelotto) playing at The Garrison on August 27th. These are shows not to be missed!

 

 

Steve Hackett – Live at The Oakville Centre, 2nd March 2017

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Steve Hackett made a welcome to Canada this week for a show at The Oakville Centre For The Performing Arts in Ontario. This was the penultimate performance of the North American leg of Steve’s  new ‘Genesis Revisited with Classic Hackett’ 2017 tour.

Review and photos by Tim Darbyshire

This was Steve Hackett’s fifth appearance at The Oakville Centre in just over three years and it’s always a pleasure to see him and his band play here. There’s not a bad seat in the house and the sound is always crystal clear in this compact 470 seat venue.  Despite being a frequent visitor, this year’s set list was very different to last year’s, such is the quality of Steve’s solo back catalogue as well as the depth of his work with Genesis.

This tour sees him showcasing new material from his as yet unreleased new studio album ‘The Night Siren’ (out later this month on Inside Out) as well as celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Genesis classic ‘Wind And Wuthering’.

The first half of the set focussed on the new material, including ‘In The Skeleton Gallery’ and ‘Behind The Smoke’ interspersed with some classic solo Hackett songs such as ‘Every Day’,  ‘The Steppes’ and ‘Shadow Of The Hierophant’.  ‘Hierophant’ ended the first part of the set with a climactic crescendo including Nick Beggs sitting cross-legged on the stage pounding his bass pedals with his fists.

Without having yet heard the ‘The Night Siren’, the songs played tonight seem to indicate that the new album is carrying on the Hackett tradition of a multicultural cross-genre collaborative approach, in a similar vein to 2015’s ‘Wolflight’, with many guest musicians from around the world. Rob Townsend (wind instruments) certainly proved his mettle on the newer songs with an impressive display and a variety of styles.

The second half concentrated on the ‘Wind And Wuthering’ album – ‘Eleventh Earl Of Mar’, ‘Blood On The Rooftops’ (with drummer Gary O’Toole providing the vocals), ‘In That Quiet Earth’, ‘Afterglow’ – and other familiar Genesis classics including ‘Firth of Fifth’ and ‘Dancing With The Moonlit Knight’.  Nad Sylvan once again handles the vocals for the Genesis material and seems to be developing his own style with the songs more and more.  Roger King plays Tony Banks’ keyboard parts effortlessly – including the notoriously tricky piano intro to ‘Firth Of Fifth’.  The major surprise of the night was the inclusion of ‘Supper’s Ready’ for the first time on this tour (at the expense of ‘One For The Vine’, ‘Dance On A Volcano’ and ‘Inside And Out’). With Steve and his band due to play ‘Supper’s Ready’ with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra the following night, I guess it’s not surprising they felt like giving it an outing. The appreciative audience was treated to ‘The Musical Box’ as the encore.

Backed as ever by his highly talented band (including the returning bassist Nick Beggs), Steve Hackett and co once again delivered a stellar performance lasting over two hours. Seeing Steve up close and playing the solo in ‘Firth of Fifth’ will always be a highlight of the show for me.

Touring continues in Europe in late March, April and May in Europe and the UK.  Steve seems to be currently on a two year new album/new tour cycle  – if so, hopefully he’ll return to Canada/North America next year when he is rumoured to be playing the Montreal and Quebec areas.

Set List – Steve Hackett, The Oakville Centre – 2nd March

Every Day
El Nino
Out of The Body
The Steppes
In The Skeleton Gallery
Behind The Smoke
Shadow Of The Hierophant (closing section)
Eleventh Earl Of Mar
Blood On The Rooftops
…In That Quiet Earth
Afterglow
Dancing With The Moonlit Knight
Firth of Fifth
Supper’s Ready

Encore
The Musical Box

Steve Hackett: Guitars, Vocals
Nad Sylvan: Vocals
Nick Beggs: Bass
Roger King: Keyboards
Gary O’Toole: Drums
Rob Townsend: Wind Instruments

Click here to read my review of Steve’s performance with The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra on March 3rd

Click here to read my interview with Steve Hackett, discussing ‘The Night Siren’

Steve Hackett – Live at Kleinhans Music Hall Buffalo with Philharmonic Orchestra, 3rd March 2017

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Steve Hackett wrapped up the North American leg of the ‘Genesis Revisited with Classic Hackett’ 2017 tour in Buffalo with a special one-off  show of predominantly Genesis songs with the Buffalo Symphony Orchestra at Kleinhans Music Hall – an event not to be missed.

Review and photos by Tim Darbyshire.

After months of detailed planning with conductor Bradley Thachuk of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, it was finally time to see Steve Hackett and band fuse classic Genesis material with a full orchestra.  There was a tangible sense of expectation as the audience filtered into the grand concert hall with the orchestra already seated and tuning up.

Seating 2400, Kleinhans is renowned for its excellent acoustics and as the band kicked off with ‘Dance On A Volcano’ it was clear we were in for a special evening. The orchestra added texture and colour, filling spaces normally occupied by Roger King’s lush keyboard sounds. Steve seemed to be playing with a permanent smile on his face, although the most animated person on stage was conductor Bradley Thachuk who was clearly having the time of his life.

The strong positive vibe continued throughout the show as Steve mixed full on Genesis classics such as ‘Firth of Fifth’, ‘Dancing With The Moonlit Knight’ and ‘Supper’s Ready’ with more subtle solo numbers which highlighted the orchestral contribution like ‘The Steppes’ and ‘Serpentine Song’. The rapturous applause after the set closer ‘Supper’s Ready’ was long lasting as the band and orchestra soaked up the sell out crowd’s appreciation. The band minus orchestra returned to the stage and finished the tour with a rousing version of ‘The Musical Box’.

Steve has of course been playing Genesis material on tour for the last four years, but having been influenced in so many ways by classical music this rare opportunity to play with the orchestra was one he clearly relished. Although not playing at the same volume as a regular gig,  Steve’s band delivered a superb performance as ever and special mention must go to the sound engineer Ben Fenner for giving us the perfect blend of electric band and orchestra.

I’m sure relief was among the emotions displayed at the end of the two hour show due to the nature of this one-off performance. Hopefully it’s an experiment Steve will be able to repeat again in the near future.

Setlist – Steve Hackett at Kleinhans Music Hall, Buffalo:

Set 1:
Dance On A Volcano
Out of The Body
The Steppes
Firth of Fifth
Dancing With The Moonlit Knight
Blood On The Rooftops
Shadow Of The Hierophant (closing section)

Set 2:
….In That Quiet Earth
Afterglow
Serpentine Song
Supper’s Ready

Encore:
The Musical Box

The 2017 Touring band:

Steve Hackett: Guitars, Vocals
Nad Sylvan: Vocals
Nick Beggs: Bass
Roger King: Keyboards
Gary O’Toole: Drums
Rob Townsend: Wind instruments

and The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Bradley Thachuk.

Click here to read my review of Steve’s performance in Oakville the night before.

Click hear to read my interview with Steve Hackett, discussing ‘The Night Siren’.

Big Big Train – Live Album ‘A Stone’s Throw From The Line’

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Recorded at the band’s sold out shows at London’s Kings Place in August 2015, ‘A Stone’s Throw From The Line’ documents Big Big Train’s return to the live stage after a 17 year absence. Review and photos by Tim Darbyshire.

Recorded over three nights (August 14th – 16th), each song performed over the three night residency is represented here, in the order they were played on this double cd. Such was the success of Big Big Train’s return to the live arena that they were awarded Prog Magazine’s prestigious ‘Live Event of the Year’ award.

Since the addition of vocalist David Longdon and drummer Nick D’Virgillo in 2009, Big Big Train have seen a welcome upturn in their fortunes. ‘The Underfall Yard’ (2009) and ‘English Electric Part One/Part Two’ (2012/13) have helped to expose the band to a wider audience. In 2014 it was decided they would plan for some live gigs, so the band assembled at Peter Gabriel’s Real World studios – some of them meeting each other for the first time – to see how their complex studio arrangements translated to the live environment. (This was captured on the 2016 blu-ray ‘Stone And Steel’).

Live, the band comprises founding members Greg Spawton (bass, backing vocals) and Andy Poole (guitars, bass, keyboards) along with  Danny Manners (keyboards, double bass, backing vocals), David Longdon (lead vocals, flute, banjo, percussion), Rikard Sjöblom (guitars, keyboards, backing vocals), Nick D’Virgilio (drums, backing vocals),  Dave Gregory (guitars, piano, backing vocals) and Rachel Hall (violin, backing vocals).  An additional five piece brass ensemble brings the number of musicians on stage up to a healthy thirteen! (Dave Desmond – trombone, Ben Godfrey – trumpet and cornet, Nick Stones – french horn,  John Storey – euphonium and Mike Poyser – tuba).

The setlist is not surprisingly dominated by songs from ‘English Electric’ (2012/13) and ‘The Underfall Yard’ (2009).  ‘Wassail’ from the then unreleased ‘Folklore’ also gets an outing.  Big Big Train are quintessentially English and take us on a two hour plus story-telling journey pinned by the epic ‘The Underfall Yard’ and the spectacular ‘East Coast Racer’. The musicianship is exemplary, providing the perfect backdrop for David Longdon’s passionate vocal performance. The band thrill their audiences with an eclectic array of dazzling melodies (‘Hedgerow’), crazy rhythms and time signatures  (‘Judas Unrepentant’) and soaring emotional songs (‘Curator Of Butterflies’), fully utilising the wide sound palette available to them.

The sound quality of the live recording is very good of course – recorded and mixed by long time band collaborator Rob Aubrey – and it’s a given that any Big Big Train fan should buy this release. As an introduction to the band though, I’d recommend ‘English Electric’ (recently remastered and repackaged), for the full lush studio experience.

Since these concerts, the band have released ‘Folklore’ – which is many people’s album of 2016 – and have announced three shows for late September 2017 at London’s Cadogan Hall, and at the time of writing some tickets remain for the last show.

The album comes in a gloss, laminated soft pack with a 40-page booklet and maintains the standard of high quality presentation we’ve come to expect from Big Big Train.

‘A Stone’s Throw From The Line’ is available now from The Merch Desk  and Burning Shed

Full track listing:

CD1
Make Some Noise
The First Rebreather
The Underfall Yard
Uncle Jack
Victorian Brickwork
CD2
Kingmaker
Wassail
Summoned By Bells
Judas Unrepentant
Curator Of Butterflies
East Coast Racer
Hedgerow

 

 

 

Steven Wilson – Roseland Theater, Portland – 3rd November 2016

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The final leg of Steven Wilson’s extended 2016 ‘Hand.Cannot.Erase’ Tour has reached the US. I caught the band at the first date at Roseland Theater in Portland, Oregon on Steven Wilson’s 49th birthday. Words and pictures by Tim Darbyshire.

In front of an expectant sell out crowd, birthday boy Steven Wilson and band delivered an expansive three hour set encompassing his whole solo career as well as delving into the Porcupine Tree back catalogue. The first set consisted of the entire ‘Hand.Cannot.Erase’ album. ‘Hand.Cannot.Erase’ was many people’s album of 2015, and it was a privilege to hear it performed again in full.

Instantly it’s evident just how good Steven Wilson’s band are. From the jazz tinged keyboard runs of Adam Holzman to the power and precision of 2016’s Drummer of the Year Craig Blundell, the smooth fluid guitar work of Dave Kilminster and the multi-talented stick man Nick Beggs, all are performing at the top of their game, complimenting without over shadowing main man Steven Wilson.

‘Hand.Cannot.Erase’ is a consistent album full of highlights. ‘3 Years Older’ begins proceedings like an unstoppable train, followed by the title track which is almost a catchy pop song in comparison, contrasting with the beatiful ‘Perfect Life’ and the powerful and emotionally moving ‘Routine’. ‘Home Invasion’ and ‘Regret #9’ offer Adam Holzman and Dave Kilminster the chance to shine, and before we know it, the heavy ‘Ancestral’ and uplifting ‘Happy Returns’ have brought the first set to a close.

The second set blended tracks from 2016’s ‘4 1/2’ – an interim mini album consisting of ‘orphaned’ songs from the ‘Hand.Cannot.Erase’ and ‘The Raven That Refused To Sing’ sessions as well as a reworking of the Porcupine Tree song ‘Dark Matter’ – and SW’s earlier solo releases, with a smattering of Porcupine Tree offerings.  The familiar curtain is dropped in front of the stage as the set closes with a barnstorming duo of ‘Vermillioncore’ and ‘Sleep Together’. The triple encore is brought to a close with ‘The Raven That Refused To Sing’, which is described by Wilson as the best song he has ever written.

Visually of course Steven Wilson delivers a stunning spectacle with large screens and effective lighting. The stage at The Roseland Theater however is quite small meaning the full effect of the spectacle is occassionally lost. The video to ‘Routine’ remains as moving as ever…..

What’s next for man of the moment Steven Wilson? He’s heading back to the studio after this tour to work on material for his eagerly awaited fifth studio album, the follow up to ‘Hand.Cannot.Erase’. Let’s hope the results are with us sooner rather than later and he returns with a new tour at some point in 2017.

Steven Wilson – vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards
Adam Holzman – keyboards
Craig Blundell – drums
Dave Kilminster – guitars
Nick Beggs – bass, stick, guitar, keyboards

 

First Set: Hand.Cannot.Erase.
First Regret
3 Years Older
Hand. Cannot. Erase.
Perfect Life
Routine
Home Invasion
Regret #9
Transience
Ancestral
Happy Returns
Ascendant Here On…

Second Set
Dark Matter
Index
My Book of Regrets
Lazarus
Harmony Korine
Don’t Hate Me
Vermillioncore
Sleep Together

Encore:
Sign “☮” the Times
The Sound of Muzak
The Raven That Refused to Sing

Marillion – Danforth Music Hall, Toronto – 31st October 2016

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To support the release of their eighteenth studio album  – F.E.A.R (Fuck Everyone And Run) – Marillion are back on the road. I caught the band at their recent Toronto show at The Danforth Music Hall. Words and pictures by Tim Darbyshire………….

In front of an enthusiastic near sell out crowd, Marillion delivered an eclectic two hours of music culled from all eras of their 35 year history. As well as focussing not surprisingly on material from the new album – F.E.A.R – Marillion wowed the crowd with favourites such as ‘The Invisible Man’, ‘King’ and ‘Neverland’ with the surprise final encore of ‘Kayleigh’, ‘Lavender’ and ‘Heart Of Lothian’ topping off a great evening.

‘The New Kings’ from ‘F.E.A.R’ certainly seemed to strike a chord with the majority of those in attendance. The message is clear,  corporate greed pervades society and human empathy seems to be dwindling.

Explaining the album’s title, Hogarth elaborates: “This title is adopted not in anger or with any intention to shock. It is adopted and sung (in the song “New Kings”) tenderly, in sadness and resignation inspired by an England, and a world, which increasingly functions on an “Every man for himself” philosophy. I won’t bore you with examples, they’re all over the newspapers every day. There’s a sense of foreboding that permeates much of this record. I have a feeling that we’re approaching some kind of sea-change in the world – an irreversible political, financial, humanitarian and environmental storm. I hope that I’m wrong. I hope that my FEAR of what “seems” to be approaching is just that, and not FEAR of what “is” actually about to happen”

Marillion have always done things differently of course. They are recognised as one of the first major bands to turn their backs on traditional record company involvement and have funded new releases by advance fan orders since 2001’s ‘Anoraknophopia’, including ‘F.E.A.R’. They have recognised the power of the internet, crowd funding and keeping everything in house to minimise costs. In exchange, fans are treated to signed limited editions, and ‘Marillion Weekends’ (fan conventions), and of course a band who can produce albums with no outside pressure from record company executives.

Hogarth naturally dominates proceeding throughout the evening – singing every word as if his life depends on it. Ably backed by almost ever-presents Steve Rothery, Mark Kelly, Pete Trewavas and Ian Mosley, he remains the centre of attention, and controls the stage by acting out the lyrics. The new material is greeted as enthusiastically as the earlier songs – I don’t know of many bands who would play a 16 minute new song – ‘El Dorado’ – as an encore. Clearly the band are relaxed on stage,  enjoying effortlessly playing complicated music live to devoted audiences.

It’s been four years since their last studio outing (‘Sounds That Can’t Be Made’), let’s hope we don’t have to wait that long for the next one.

Marillion are:
Steve ‘H’ Hogarth – vocals, keyboards, guitar
Steve Rothery – guitars
Mark Kelly  – keyboards
Pete Trewavas – bass
Ian Mosley – drums

Setist:
The Invisible Man
Power
Living in F E A R
Wave
Mad
Afraid of Sunlight
The New Kings: I. Fuck Everyone and Run
The New Kings: II. Russia’s Locked Doors
The New Kings: III. A Scary Sky
The New Kings: IV. Why Is Nothing Ever True?
King
Neverland

Encore:
El Dorado: I. Long-Shadowed Sun
El Dorado: II. The Gold
El Dorado: III. Demolished Lives
El Dorado: IV. F E A R
El Dorado: V. The Grandchildren of Apes

Encore 2:
Kayleigh
Lavender
Heart Of Lothian

Haken – Mod Club Toronto, 1st September 2016

Haken Mod Club Toronto 034-small

Haken’s ‘Affinitour v2.0’ in support of their fourth album ‘Affinity’ has reached Canada and the United States.   I caught the band live at Toronto’s Mod Club. Words and photos by Tim Darbyshire.

‘Affinity’ is already a strong contender to be Album of the Year for many people,  and as the band took to the stage the enthusiastic crowd greeted them like conquering heroes. Kicking off with ‘Initiate’ from the new album and ‘Falling Back To Earth’ (from 2013’s ‘The Mountain’), it was evident that this is a band playing at the top of their game. There’s a visible confidence emanating from all the band, almost a swagger – they know they’re good and they enjoy showing it.

Technically superb,  mixing out and out aural assault with refined quieter passages – where the crowd were almost singing as loudly as vocalist Ross Jennings – Haken deliver dizzying rhythms with rousing melodies. ‘1985’ is the standout track from ‘Affinity’  – keyboardist Diego Tejeide wants a piece of the action and takes centre stage with his keytar. Both guitar players – Rich Henshall and Charlie Griffiths – are playing 8 string guitars and Conner Green’s bass has 6 strings…..this is prog after all.

Most of the set is culled from the last 2 albums (‘Deathless’ and encore ‘Celestial Elixir’ being the exceptions). ‘The Architect’ – the longest track on ‘Affinity’ – takes us on a journey through many styles and allows both guitarists more space to shine with solos. The highlight of the evening for me, and clearly a crowd favourite, is a storming version of ‘Cockroach King’ , complete with its quirky time signatures and Gentle Giant style vocal harmonies, which has the whole club shaking to the rafters.

‘The Endless Knot’ brings the main set to a frenzied finale and the band sign off with encore ‘Celestial Elixir’ from 2010’s debut album ‘Aquarius’.

Haken of course cross the genres. It is heavy, it is loud, but they combine this with subtlety and emotion, weaving an intoxicating medley of styles. It’s all uplifting stuff, the affinity  between the band members themselves and the band and crowd. This is a band on a roll, that seemingly can do no wrong at present – catch them if you can.

My review of Haken’s  ‘Affinity’ album is here.

Setlist:
Affinity.exe
Initiate
Falling Back To Earth
1985
Earthrise
Pareidolia
The Architect
Keyboard Solo
Deathless
Cockroach King
The Endless Knot
Encore:
Celestial Elixir

Haken:
Ross Jennings – vocals
Rich Henshall – guitars
Ray Hearne – drums
Charlie Griffiths – guitars
Diego Tejeida – keyboards
Conner Green – bass

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Tour Dates – Affinitour v2.0 2016

haken tour