By Paul Quinton
The main event in the Prog Universe this past month was the Prog Awards, organised by Prog magazine. This event is really giving the scene some welcome decent exposure, with mentions on BBC News, in mainstream magazines and even national newspapers, but I suppose that’s helped by being hosted by a BBC newsreader, longtime Prog fan Gavin Esler. The big award this year, ‘Band of The Year’ went to Marillion, no doubt to the surprise of my Midlands Rocks colleague Mr. Woodward, on the back of the success of their ‘Sounds That Can’t Be Made’ album and subsequent tour, although ‘Album Of The Year’ went to Steven Wilson’s ‘The Raven That Refused To Sing’. The latter of course will be playing the album in full at Wolverhampton Civic on October 17th, and in a recent interview, he also said there would be some new material in the show. There are two awards for up and coming acts, the Limelight award for New Blood was given to Sound of Contact, whereas the Breakthrough Award went to Big Big Train, on the heels of their rather splendid ‘English Electric’ albums. I’m not sure how this works, but there seem to be three awards for achievement over the length of a career, rather than during the year since the previous awards. The ‘Visionary’ Award, presented by Bill Oddie, honoured Steve Hillage, Hawkwind’s veteran leader Dave Brock took the ‘Lifetime Achievement’ award and finally Ian Anderson was honoured as this year’s Prog God, and presented with his award by the previous winner, Rick Wakeman. The whole thing tries to strike a balance between prog’s history and its present, and does it pretty well, it seems. The best song of the year, honoured by the ‘Anthem’ award went to the Von Hertzen Brothers, playing at The Robin in October of course, for ‘Flowers And Rust’, Lord Steven Hackett’s Genesis Revisited show at Hammersmith took the gong for best Live Event, and Neal Morse presented the ‘Virtuoso’ trophy to Mike Portnoy. There were also some ‘non-performer’ awards. The ‘Storm Thorgerson Grand Design Award’ going to the team responsible for the 14-CD box set of the entire Family back catalogue, and the Guiding Light trophy for services to the genre as a whole was presented by Roine Stolt to the founder of premiere Prog label, Inside Out, which is well deserved in our opinion. It will be interesting how the achievement awards are decided in future, how soon they can move away from the 70s and begin honouring more recent artists, although if Steve Hackett isn’t given the Prog God Award soon, there will have to be some good reasons why not.
In the last Timeless Wavelengths, we expressed some approval of bands coming together to organise and co-promote joint gigs and tours, allowing them to share the burdens of organising and logistics and giving the gig-goers more music for their money. No sooner had that column been put to bed, than we had the announcement of a perfect example of such a package, with the announcement of the Trinity Live tour, due to hit the road in May 2014. Comprising three of the very best bands on the UK scene at the moment, Magenta, The Reasoning and Touchstone, each band will feature an album from their back catalogue. For Magenta, this will be the ‘Seven’ album, The Reasoning will play through their debut ‘Awakening’ album, and Touchstone will feature ‘Discordant Dreams’. There are only two dates confirmed for this tour so far, including one at The Assembly, Leamington on May 18th, tickets are a very reasonable £20 plus fees and are available here. It’s hoped that this can become a regular event, with other bands included and more dates each time, but that obviously depends on the success of this mini-tour. I really can’t recommend strongly enough that prog fans in the Midlands and beyond get behind this venture. It’s a great idea, beginning with three cracking bands and should be a great night or two. One thing does make me think, though. To take two of the albums to be featured, ‘Seven’ weighs in at nearly a full CD’s worth at 76 minutes plus, whereas, Awakening is nearly half an hour shorter at around 48 minutes. Will The Reasoning add some ‘bonus’ tracks in to make up the difference? We’ll see.
Speaking of the great Mr. Hackett, the Genesis show at Symphony Hall has been one of the live highlights of 2013 so far, and the second leg of UK dates, including a return to Birmingham on October 22nd, is being marked by a sumptuous box-set release from the Hammersmith gig itself. The set includes the full show, which included guests Nik Kershaw, Jakko Jacsyk, John Wetton and Steve Rothery, captured on 3 CDs and 2 DVDs, comes out in late October, and previews do more than enough to demonstrate that this is going to be an absolutely essential purchase for any classic prog fan.
On the live scene, there are some very enticing looking shows during October. The aforementioned Von Hertzen Brothers show at The Robin on October 27th, is a joint headliner with Touchstone, who are just about to release their new album, ‘Oceans of Time’, and already have a single, ‘Flux,’ available for download. Also at the Robin, as well as regular visitors Focus on October 14th, October 10th finds the Martin Barre Band in Bilston (see our album review here). The former Jethro Tull Guitarist has just released his own album, ‘Away With Words’, and early publicity for the tour also indicates a healthy sprinkling of Tull classics during the set. We should also mention the Lacuna Coil/Paradise Lost bill at Wolverhampton’s Wulfrun Hall on October 30th. Not that those two bands are particularly prog in themselves, good as they both are, but for the late addition of Katatonia to the show. Now that is good value for your ticket money.
Looking further forward, Yes have announced another UK tour, again with new singer Jon Davison, but this time, rather than promote a new album, they’ll be playing three of their classic albums in sequence, ‘The Yes Album’, ‘Close To The Edge’ and ‘Going For The One’. The tour stops off at Symphony Hall on May 4th and Leicester De Montfort Hall on May 6th next year. ‘Close To The Edge’ incidentally, will shortly be issued in ‘Special Edition’ form, and although there are no details as yet, part of the bonus material will include a 5.1 Surround Sound remix. It may not be a surprise to learn that the new mix was carried out by Steven Wilson, as he seems to be everyone’s first choice for this kind of project, not just for his ability as a producer, but also for his knowledge and love of the whole genre. Staying with the Yes theme, also next Spring, Rick Wakeman will be touring a show based on his album ‘Journey To the Centre of The Earth. Complete with a stage set designed by the legendary Roger Dean, it includes a date at Birmingham’s NIA on April 29th and another has been added at the Capital FM Arena in Nottingham on 2nd May.
And that’s that for now, so as the future disappears into memory, see you next time.