Prog - - Limelight - FRASER LEWRY

Deep in sub­ur­ban south-east Lon­don, kin­dred Spirit are play­ing in the cor­ner of a pub be­neath a sign that reads, ‘one Prosecco, Two Prosecco, Three Prosecco, Floor’. There’s no stage, and they’re com­pet­ing with chat­ter from nearby ta­bles and the clat­ter of balls on the pool ta­ble. elaine Sa­muels is play­ing a gui­tar that looks less like an in­stru­ment and more like a piece of rev­o­lu­tion­ary fit­ness equip­ment, the kind of thing ad­ver­tised on late night shop­ping chan­nels. She also has what she de­scribes as a “stink­ing” cold, but you’d never know.

os­ten­si­bly a folk rock band with loftier am­bi­tions than most — new al­bum Phoenix Ris­ing fea­tures a cover of Amer­ica’s Horse With no name that’s half reel, half sup­per jazz — kin­dred Spirit’s songs tend to veer away from hey nonny nonny to­wards the big­ger pic­ture: sci­ence, fan­tasy, the fu­ture of hu­man­ity, that sort of thing. And while some of the lyrics might be con­sid­ered trite, the mu­sic is gen­uinely am­bi­tious, with thought­ful, grown-up ar­range­ments. Sa­muels’ sub­tle gui­tar work un­der­pins every­thing, while Martin Ash’s daz­zling vi­olin and Ste­vie Mitchell’s flute and sax lead the way. Ash is par­tic­u­larly en­ter­tain­ing, with a shaggy hair/beard combo and a pro­cliv­ity for leap­ing about. it all sits some­where be­tween Sol­stice, Lind­is­farne and The Moody Blues, and the first half high­lights in­clude the wist­ful, whim­si­cal Chil­dren of The Stars, and a ver­sion of Wolves At The Gate that feels gen­uinely cin­e­matic, even in these sur­round­ings.

The sec­ond half grav­i­tates to­wards older ma­te­rial, with two tracks from 2005’s in The Dog­house and four from 2009’s Meta­mor­pho­sis. Dur­ing the lat­ter’s ti­tle track, a bat­tered ice bucket is fer­ried around the pub so the grate­ful may re­ward the band. There’s even some at­tempts at au­di­ence par­tic­i­pa­tion, with re­quests to pump fists as the rous­ing Best Days peaks, and to point at fel­low pun­ters dur­ing one More Day.

The cli­max comes with a cover of Fleet­wood Mac’s The Chain, and even the bar staff ap­plaud. The crowd has thinned, and at this point kin­dred Spirit ap­pear to be play­ing as much for each other as for what’s left of the au­di­ence. They de­serve bet­ter, but seem de­ter­mined. “Give us a like or a share,” sug­gests Ash. “So we don’t feel friend­less and mis­er­able.”

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