Review by Paul Quinton
The way this gig was put together is something I’m all in favour of, three up and coming bands for a tenner on the door, making it a value package for the casual punter. It’s a pity more people weren’t there, but those who organised this gig deserve every credit for what they tried to achieve.
The only other time I’ve seen Crimson Sky was a re-arranged gig at a community centre in Bristol. The venue had no PA, and whoever was in charge of the sound clearly couldn’t make sense of the instruction book for the hired in system. It was an awful gig, but unfair to judge them on that showing, so I was interested to see how they’d fair on a proper stage with decent sound. I feared the worst when there were sound problems in the first number, but when the sound was sorted out things picked up by the second song, ‘Ordinary Day’, so compared to the previous gig, this was like seeing a new band, and in the end, it wasn’t a bad set at all.
The biggest barrier to them moving forward now is that the musicians in the band are distinctly of the static, shoe-gazing persuasion. With one exception, there didn’t seem to be much inclination in the band to connect with the audience or put on a performance. Yes, the music is the message, but you have to work to win over the neutral, and, mostly the band didn’t seem to grasp this. The exception was singer Jane Setter, who turned out to have a strong and versatile voice and really tried to engage with the crowd. There’s some potential in this band, and with a following wind they’ll be worth watching in the future.
Mr. So And So were easily the longest established and most experienced on tonight’s bill, and to be honest it showed. With bassist Sean McGowan and Charlotte Evans sharing vocals, straight away you have a more visual band and the songwriting seemed to be more developed and mature. It also helps when you have an absolutely cracking guitarist in the form of Dave Foster. Even with all this comparative professionalism on view, though, they still managed some confusion over the set list, starting the wrong song at one stage, but redeeming themselves by giving the spotlight to Charlotte Evans for a cracking ballad, then unveiling some new material. Jingo, from an album due to be recorded next year, includes some very English pastoral prog themes before an acapella mid section and a rocking finish. It all sounded very promising.
The band weren’t immune to the sound problems as there was a brief break toward the end of the set while the sound was sorted out before the anti-war ‘You’re Coming Home’ rounded things off in emphatic style. Mr. So and So were easily the best band on the night, combining some excellent playing and singing with good songs and making a real effort to communicate and involve the crowd. A highly entertaining set and a band I’ll look forward to seeing again.
The headliners on the night were Bristol’s Also Eden. Fronted by Rich Harding, now happily well on the way to recovery after his near fatal road accident a couple of years ago, they were also keen to show off some new material, in the form of songs from their forthcoming album Redacted. Harding has a voice that is often very similar to that of Fish, and it sometimes seems as if they can let their early Marillion influences come a little too much to the fore, rather than trying to develop their own sound, although it’s odd how this influence comes through more in their newer material than the old. Having said that, some of their new songs, particularly ‘Red River’ and ‘Distortion Field’ show off an enjoyably heavier direction which bodes well for the album.
Harding apart, to a certain extent, we had the same problem as with Crimson Sky, namely that the band do lack a little in the performance department, rather than the playing. Yes, this music needs to be played properly, but sometimes you have to do a little more to keep the audience’s attention. Nevertheless, Also Eden contributed more than their fair share to a fascinating evening of music. For a tenner this was a very enjoyable way of spending a Sunday evening, and it’s worth repeating the pat on the back to all concerned. The Robin can be a bit of a big venue to fill and the effort to put on a show that has value for money and three very interesting bands can only be applauded. Tick, VG.