TAKE A BOW

VENUE DRILL HALL, CHEPSTOW DATE 05-07/10/2018

Prog - - Contents - JERRY EWING/ALI­SON REI­J­MAN

We’ve been to the Sum­mer’s End Fes­ti­val and Ks­cope’s 10th birth­day party, and taken in shows by Nick Ma­son, Sons Of Apollo, Steve Hack­ett, The Pineap­ple Thief and many more…

What was once the an­nual trip to Chepstow (and pre­vi­ously Lyd­ney) to spend the week­end in the com­pany of a group of largely male prog fans of a cer­tain age has, for those that in­dulge, now be­come a six-monthly jaunt. The first Win­ter’s End took place in April and so it’s just six months later that Prog finds it­self back in Wales. It’s a slightly strange feel­ing of ‘Was I only here yes­ter­day?’ rather than

‘Ah, Chepstow, a week­end in the com­pany of a group of largely male prog fans of a cer­tain age…’ And to be hon­est, it throws you a tad.

So too does walk­ing into a packed Drill

Hall, not just to dis­cover that Cliff Richard is play­ing here next week, but to wit­ness prob­a­bly the most di­verse au­di­ence Sum­mer’s End has seen in a while. A fairer gen­der split, and a few younger fans to boot. They say time moves slowly. In prog it moves slower still, but with more in­ter­est­ing shifts. But this rep­re­sents a shift in the right di­rec­tion, we’d say.

FRI­DAY

Hol­land’s Sky Ar­chi­tect start Fri­day’s fes­tiv­i­ties on a high, their tech­ni­cally com­plex, fluid gui­tar- and key­boar­d­led songs show­ing a ma­tu­rity that be­lies their rel­a­tive youth. Deft changes of tempo, jazzy over­tones and strong nar­ra­tives, es­pe­cially in the ex­pan­sive Wood­cut­ters Vile, are im­pres­sive, as is the un­ex­pected trum­pet in­tro­duced on End­less Roads.

Less im­pres­sive, to be bru­tally hon­est, are Moon­par­ti­cle. It’s very rare a band comes a crop­per at Sum­mer’s End – the bill is too well cu­rated, the crowd of­ten too par­ti­san – but Niko Tsonev and gang came per­ilously close. Heck­ling at Sum­mer’s End is nor­mally at the level of good-na­tured ban­ter be­tween artist and crowd, so when some­one hollers out, “Hasn’t some­one stran­gled that cat yet?” mid­way through Moon­par­ti­cle’s head­line slot, you know things aren’t go­ing down too well. Singer Grog Lisee is the sub­ject of the put-down, the Die So Fluid singer’s art-rock pre­ten­sions and voice clearly not wow­ing the crowd. Tsonev’s a tal­ented guy, but live, like on record, Moon­par­ti­cle lack co­he­sion and di­rec­tion.

SATUR­DAY

Nor­we­gian dark elec­tro prog­gers When Mary get Satur­day un­der­way. They look like a strange propo­si­tion for Sum­mer’s End: for­mer White Wil­low singer Trude Eid­tang work­ing banks of synths and other in­stru­ments, Chris­tian Paulsen at her side like a de­mented Smeagol, thrash­ing away on gui­tar. It works though, their won­der­fully melodic and oc­ca­sion­ally dark poppy prog (or proggy pop) charm­ing the crowd. At one point Eid­tang asks the au­di­ence if they think the band are proggy enough. Thank­fully we’re spared the week­long de­bate that could po­ten­tially en­sue and are in­stead left with one of the best sets of the week­end.

It’s five years since Dutch sym­phonic neo-prog­gers Sil­hou­ette last graced Sum­mer’s End. An in­stru­men­tal pas­sage her­alds their ar­rival, which leads into the rous­ing March Of Peace. They show­case songs from lat­est al­bum The World Is Flat And

Other Al­ter­na­tive Facts, in­clud­ing the long and wind­ing The Flow, and the 17-minute Sym­phony For A Per­fect Mo­ment. Daniël van der Wei­jde’s flu­ent gui­tar so­los in­ject verve, to­gether with Erik Laan’s el­e­gant key­boards and his vo­cal har­monies with singer Brian de Graeve.

Ger­many’s Fre­quency Drift of­fer an in­ter­est­ing sound, al­though sadly for much of the set, Nerissa Sch­warz’s of­ten be­guil­ing harp is too low in the mix. But that small hic­cup is off­set by the whirl­wind per­for­mance of new singer Irini Alexia. One minute she’s jovially be­rat­ing the crowd with, “Don’t make me put on my Ger­man ac­cent,” de­liv­ered in mock over­done Teu­tonic tones, the next she’s wav­ing around a mas­sive winged cape to star­tling ef­fect. If it doesn’t all com­pletely hit the mark, it’s cer­tainly mov­ing in the right, cin­e­matic di­rec­tion.

A com­pletely re-en­er­gised Land­marq de­liver one of the week­end’s sur­prise pack­ages. singer Tracy Hitch­ings’ re­place­ment

Wolf Cam­pen pos­sesses a youth­ful, rest­less, sinewy pres­ence and a pow­er­ful voice that hints at Joe Payne. Fea­tured songs in­clude favourites from the Damian Wil­son and Hitch­ings eras. Tur­bu­lence proves the most chal­leng­ing in the high note depart­ment, while Cam­pen’s voice blends beau­ti­fully with key­boardist Mike Varty’s on Soli­tary Wit­ness. New drum­mer Andy Allen shows his met­tle

“LAZULI’S WELL-TUNED SET SHOWS A CON­FI­DENT BAND RID­ING THE CREST OF THEIR WAVE.”

in the dance-along Moun­tains Of Anglia. The dra­matic, at­mo­spheric Light­house closes this sig­nif­i­cant mile­stone for the vet­eran prog­gers. On this show­ing, a promised new al­bum next year could be some­thing spe­cial.

It’s been seven years since Lazuli graced a Sum­mer’s End (not to men­tion UK) stage for the first time, but the French quin­tet’s ap­pear­ance as head­lin­ers for Satur­day is a shin­ing ex­am­ple of how and why Sum­mer’s End works so well. Back then, few had ever heard of them. Now back for a third ap­pear­ance, they’re treated like the old friends that they have be­come. But with­out the or­gan­is­ers of Sum­mer’s End tak­ing that chance back in 2011, whither might they be?

Ad­mit­tedly, on tonight’s show­ing, Lazuli de­serve to be a much big­ger band than they are, and one can’t help but think that more as­tute man­age­ment and a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of pro­mo­tion would give them bet­ter mo­men­tum to get to where they de­serve to be. But with a well-tuned set built around lat­est al­bum Sai­son 8 and de­served dips back into the ex­cel­lent 4603 Bat­te­ments and Nos Âmes

Saoules, this is a con­fi­dent band rid­ing the crest of their wave. As for that old trope that prog fan­dom is male dom­i­nated? Well, you can’t see a male face in the au­di­ence go­ing back a good four or five rows!

SUN­DAY

Golden Caves, con­tenders for Prog’s 2018 Lime­light award, are a rev­e­la­tion. Af­ter a nervy start, the en­er­getic young Dutch prog­gers sud­denly ex­plode, the voice of dy­namic singer Romy Ouw­erk­erk soar­ing high over their edgy, heavy, melodic rock, es­pe­cially on killer song Hey You. Prog’s fu­ture is cer­tainly look­ing very ex­cit­ing.

The rather enig­matic qual­i­ties of

Kaprekar’s Con­stant con­tinue to con­found and de­light in equal mea­sure. This mu­si­cal col­lec­tive’s com­plex song-sto­ries sail along on a mel­low, al­most am­bi­ent groove, en­riched by the ex­tra­or­di­nary blasts from VdGG leg­end David Jack­son and his huge ar­moury of wind in­stru­ments. Selfdep­re­cat­ing, hu­mor­ous ban­ter be­tween songs from ge­nial bas­sist Nick Jef­fer­son and some very in­tri­cate, ex­pres­sive in­stru­men­ta­tion, es­pe­cially on the mov­ing Hall­sands, are the plusses. How­ever, vo­cal­ists Dorie Jack­son and Bill Jef­fer­son re­ally need to part with their mu­sic stands that serve as an un­con­scious bar­rier be­tween the band and the au­di­ence.

The jury is still out here.

There are no such bar­ri­ers for New York prog­gers Eden­song, who ami­ably con­found some of the au­di­ence with their be­tween-song ban­ter about lev­i­ta­tion and such­like. More than once we hear ut­ter­ances of “like Jethro Tull”, but re­ally? Barry Seroff plays the flute and prog­land ex­pects them to be decked out in tights and cod­pieces, pirou­et­ting on one leg? For­tu­nately they of­fer a heav­ier and more in­tri­cate take on pro­gres­sive mu­sic, and no doubt made plenty of friends on their first foray to the UK.

The ap­pear­ance of bass leg­end John Jowitt al­most threat­ens to up­stage his ‘boss’, Tim Bow­ness. The Master Of Me­lan­choly gives a mas­ter­class in art rock and it’s soul-achingly beau­ti­ful. Steve Bing­ham’s mourn­ful vi­o­lin per­fectly com­ple­ments the nu­ances of Bow­ness’s ex­pres­sive, in­ti­mate voice. Ex­tracts from the No-Man canon in­clude funky Time Travel In Texas, fol­lowed by All The Blue Changes, which grad­u­ally builds into a mind-melt­ing crescendo. Bow­ness even tells an un­ex­pected hu­mor­ous story about Ju­das Priest’s Rob Hal­ford need­ing a lyric crib sheet for Break­ing The Law to in­tro­duce the ex­quis­ite heart­breaker Sing

To Me. It’s one of the week­end’s tri­umphs.

It’s been said be­fore that the Sun­day head­line slot can be a thank­less billing. Three full days of prog­ging can take their toll on even the hardi­est Sum­mer’s En­der, but there’s nei­ther any sign of flag­ging, nor a di­min­ish­ing au­di­ence as Ma­genta take to the stage with Tro­jan from lat­est stu­dio al­bum We Are Leg­end. The bulk of tonight’s set comes from the band’s much-loved 2004 con­cept al­bum Seven, but be­fore that, Speech­less of­fers a glimpse of Rob Reed’s abil­ity to pen an ex­cel­lent prog pop song, and both Colours and The Lizard King show how the band have de­vel­oped from those early days.

The band are tight and hav­ing fun, Christina Booth good-na­turedly chid­ing the au­di­ence. She’s on top vo­cal form too, and al­though the Seven ma­te­rial shows how close the band sailed to he­roes Yes in the early days, this ranks as one of the best Ma­genta per­for­mances this writer has wit­nessed – and this writer has seen a few! Hav­ing dealt with six of the deadly sins, they re­turn for a shim­mer­ing Pride, round­ing off a thor­oughly en­joy­able week­end of prog in real style.

SKY AR­CHI­TECT OPEN THE FES­TI­VAL WITH A BANG.DUTCH NEO HE­ROES SIL­HOU­ETTE. FRE­QUENCY DRIFT’S NERISSA SCH­WARZ.

WHEN MARY’S TRUDE EID­TANG MIXES PROG AND POP WITH STYLE.

VDGG’S DAVID JACK­SONLEND­ING HIS LUNGS TO KAPREKAR’S CON­STANT. LAND­MARQ WITH NEW SINGER WOLF CAM­PEN (RIGHT).“MA­GENTA ARE TIGHT AND HAV­ING FUN – THIS IS ONE OF THE BAND’S BEST PER­FOR­MANCES.”SINFULLY GOOD: MA­GENTA RE­VISIT SEVEN FOR THEIR BRIL­LIANT HEAD­LINE SET.

GOLDEN CAVES: THE FU­TURE OF PROG ROCK.OR­CHES­TRAL HEAVY PROG­GERS EDEN­SONG. TIM BOW­NESS, THE MASTER OFME­LAN­CHOLY.

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