It’s difficult to believe that Live In The Netherlands signals 10 years since the release of Lifesigns first self titled studio album. The brain child of John Young and featuring friends and neighbours Steve Rispin and Nick Beggs along with John Young Band drummer Martin ‘Frosty’ Beedle, Lifesigns was a prog dream come true for the Bonnie Tyler keyboard player and JYB leader. Despite a number of personnel changes since their inception there seems to be little room for egos within the Lifesigns family with previous guitarist Niko Tsonev appearing for a couple of tunes at the bands Half Moon gig in London earlier this year and original bass player Beggs shouting light-hearted heckles from the audience at a recent Milton Keynes show. One live album/DVD (2015’s Live In London – Under The Bridge) has already been released along with a trio of studio offerings and with the outstanding Altitude (reviewed elsewhere here) now under their belts the band seem to have settled on the stable line-up they require to take things to the next level. Young is now joined by the ever present Steve Rispin on sound, Dave Bainbridge (Iona/Strawbs) on guitar, Jon Poole (Cardiacs/Dr. Hook) on bass and latest addition Zoltan Csörsz (Flower Kings) on drums. Following the release of Altitude in 2021 the band have hit the road whenever logistically possible peaking in an overwhelming response from the audience in The Royal Theatre on the final night of CTTE 2022. So what is all the fuss about?
This new 2 CD live album was recorded at De Boerderij, Zoetermeer on the Altitude tour and finds the band and audience in a very buoyant mood. Each disc represents one of two sets performed in front of a healthy crowd of around 300 (Covid still very much a factor) on the night of 20th August 2022. Opening their “Greatest Hits”(?) set with ‘N’ the first track of the evening from second album Cardington and a bold statement introduction piece described in reviews as “adventurous”, “imaginative”, “symphonic” and “complex” at the time of its original release in 2017 and alongside that it now hammers home the pure quality and professionalism of the assembled artistes. ‘Open Skies’ harks back to Young’s Significance solo album (2002) but this version comes with additional vigour supplied by Dave Bainbridge adding an extra layer of keyboards before switching to shredding guitar. Returning to Cardington for ‘Different’ and a request to “clap along with Zoltan” as the off kilter rhythms of the intro leads into a roller coaster of a song. ‘At The End Of The World’ is the only track from the band’s debut but as a high point of that album it is more than welcome. The “happiest song about the end of the world” in the words of John Young (his banter is edited out throughout this release) this is a lesson in how to build a track from a gentle piano piece into a rousing, crowd pleasing anthem. New boy Zoltan maybe physically positioned at the back of the stage but especially here he is very much up front and centre. Closing the first set the last of the Cardington tracks ‘Impossible’ shows that Lifesigns don’t just do prog with added gusto but are just as capable of delivering radio friendly, sing-along rock to the audiences approval.
I would suggest at this point you get yourself a cup of tea or a glass of your chosen beverage because act two, the Altitude set is quite a journey. An almost full run through of the latest album (excerpts ‘Arkhangelsk’ and ‘Altitude Reprise’ are omitted) it leads in with the ambitious title track. Clocking in at around fifteen minutes and featuring the ethereal (sampled) backing vocals of Exploring Birdsongs Linsey Ward the track has already reached legendary status amongst the gathered Lifers and will only continue to gather momentum and stature driven my the military precision of Csörsz supported by Jon Poole’s solidly bouncy bassline. ‘Altitude’ is an example of every piece fitting perfectly and the response here is well deserved. The more straight forward ‘Gregarious’ bounces in with its Alex Harvey influences as Poole’s backing vocals lift it that extra notch. Introductions are made by “The Maestro” before the 15 years in the making (originally from 1999’s Life Underground JY album) ‘Ivory Tower’ finds its true home within the Lifesigns studio and live sets. Altitude is thought to have taken the band in a more jazz fusion direction and this is most evident on the powerful ‘Shoreline’/’Fortitude’ double whammy. Zultan’s jazz background makes an overriding imprint particularly across these live takes and builds and builds until the explosive finale of ‘Fortitude’. Into the home stretch and the emotional ‘Last One Home’ gives the crowd time to breath and take in all of the gloriousness of a Dave Bainbridge solo. It is not a rare sight at any Lifesigns show for the beauty of this track adopted by the late John Wetton to bring tears to the eyes of a number of attendees. Further introductions take place including Steve Rispin on sound a true fifth member without who none of this would be possible and all that is left is for the encore and what better way to end such a performance than with the instrumental ‘Kings’. Another song looking back to the JYB days but one that has found a new found clout which lends itself to the crescendo that is Lifesigns.
At the end of ‘Shoreline John Young says “we must do this again” and indeed they will on 1st July 2023 when Lifesigns return to the same Netherlands venue to celebrate the launch of this very release but ahead of that the band will continue to tour across the UK and Europe including an appearance at the 2023 Marillion Convention in Germany as well as John Young undertaking a number of “Past & Present” solo shows. Along with those live shows this live offering should hopefully keep the Lifesigns faithful happy until the next (work in progress) studio album sees the light of day sometime in 2024. Some may question whether there is a need to issue a second live CD when the band have only produced three studio albums but Live In The Netherlands finds the ultimate line-up delivering at the peak of their powers and as John Young states “people ask me if I could be in any band what band would it be? and my answer is THIS ONE”. The dream continues. Watch out for an accompanying Blu-ray before the end of the year. I’ll be putting that on Santa’s list.
- Reviewed By Peter Brockwell.
- Live In The Netherlands is released via Lifesigns Music on 3rd July 2023 (from here).
- Official Website
2. Open Skies
4. At The End Of The World
3. Ivory Tower
6. Last One Home