By Paul Quinton
This column is respectfully dedicated to the memory and career of Jon Lord, who died recently. Seeing as you’re reading this column, I probably don’t need to repeat the details of his career and achievements, his influence as a writer is huge, and, as a keyboard player almost incalculable, not just on hard rock but unquestionably on what’s become known as Progressive Rock. When musicians were paying tribute, the one word that occurred often in their eulogies was ‘gentleman’. Put that alongside his enormous musical legacy and you have a fitting tribute to a genuine giant of rock music as a whole. He will be much missed.
There was also a fine set on the night from Panic Room, whose new album ‘Skin’ has just been released. Under the circumstances, it was a little surprising that they opted to include a cover, their swamp-blues version of ELP’s Bitches Crystal as well as one of Anne Marie Helder’s solo songs, and with their recent show at the Robin having been an absolute stormer. These are good times for the band. Also on the bill on the night were Sanguine Hum and Tin Spirits, who feature ex-XTC guitarist Dave Gregory in their ranks. Again it was disappointing that both bands resorted to using covers to pad out their set, but on the whole a great showcase for British music.
The same thing goes for the Cambridge Rock Festival, which always has a healthy selection of Prog, both Classic and new. Although Timeless Wavelengths couldn’t make the whole of the festival this year, and had to miss out on a very enticing Sunday menu that included Mr. So and So, Touchstone, Mostly Autumn and the highly promising Maschine, there was a lot more to enjoy on the other days. From a Prog point of view, particular highlights were the ever wonderful Heather Findlay, who makes far too few live appearances, but will be playing at the Robin in November, the excellent Jump, who played a set that you would have had to be stone dead not to have been entertained by, and, straying into symphonic metal territory, an absolutely thunderous set by Winter In Eden, that packed the Classic Rock Society stage and even had security staff queuing for CDs and T-shirts. Cambridge isn’t the biggest festival around, but always has a fantastic vibe and you’re never far away from some fine music.
There was also an interesting looking two day event in London this summer, the Celebr8 (I know, I know!) Festival in Kingston on Thames. It Bites, Magenta, IQ, Pallas and Touchstone were among those on the two-day bill, but it also included something quite sad, the live farewell of Tinyfish. Frontman Simon Godfrey has recently begun to suffer problems with his hearing, after being attacked at a railway station and this has come to mean that tinnitus has become such a problem that he has to give up live work. Something like this always an awful thing, but when it happens to a musician, it seems even more affecting. We wish Simon the best and hope that life brings hin health and success in the future. As for the festival itself, we wholeheartedly applaud the principle of a weekend-long Prog Festival, but in reality, compared to, say, Firefest, the ticket prices were a bit on the dear side for less music, and coupled with the expense of staying in London, it wasn’t a very attractive proposition for those of us living outside the M25. Next time, with a strong enough bill, who knows?
Looking forward, September has some highly mouthwatering gigs around the Midlands, and as usual the Robin in Bilston leads the way. The month starts with Mostly Autumn bringing their brand new Ghost Moon Orchestra tour to the Black Country, followed a week later by the rather excellent Magenta, who have a new live album, ‘Live: On Our way To Who Knows Where,’ out shortly., and later in the month there’s a fascinating triple bill of Also Eden, Mr. So and So and Crimson Sky, which is ridiculously good value for a tenner on the door. The month ends with the return of Karnataka, who play the first of several gigs around the Midlands this autumn. It will be interesting to see how singer Hayley Griffiths is settling in, as when the band played there last February, she didn’t look entirely comfortable in a rock context. It’s a quite a lengthy tour by the band, with shows also planned for Leicester, Derby, Bromsgrove and Leamington Assembly (the latter supported by Winter In Eden, no less) in support of their new DVD, ‘New Light; Live In Concert.’ Leamington also hosts the Flower Kings on the 22nd September, who are touring in support of their new album, ‘Banks of Eden’.
September also sees the minor matter of a UK tour by Marillion, who surely deserve the status of ‘legends’ by now, in advance of their new album ‘Sounds That Can’t Be Made’, which has a tremendously progtastic 17-mimute opening track, ‘Gaza.’ The tour stops off at Wolverhampton Civic on September 13th, and also includes a date in Cambridge on the 17th. Marillion have adopted the very praise worthy policy of giving the support slot to up and coming UK bands, and the very fine DeeExpus will be doing the job at the Civic. Do yourself a favour, get there early enough and check them out.
However, for this writer, the highlight of the month may well be the appearance by Headspace at The Musician in Leicester on September 21st. The band, including Adam Wakeman, Threshold vocalist Damian Wilson and It Bites/Steve Hackett bass player Lee Pomeroy, have largely been off the radar since supporting Ozzy at the NIA in 2007, but their new album, ‘I Am Anonymous’ is an absolute belter, and dare I say it, a contender for the Timeless Wavelengths Award for Best Album of 2012 So Far. With a new album by Threshold also imminent, there’s every chance Mr.Wilson will have more than one appearance when Best of 2012 lists are compiled.
There’s an awful lot going on and that’s only September. Just wait until October…….