Review by Paul Quinton
The first Trinity show, in 2014, was set up as the result of a 3-band tour, featuring Magenta, Touchstone and The Reasoning, having to be cancelled when Magenta singer Christina Booth was diagnosed with cancer. While she was undergoing treatment, the three bands announced a one-off show in The Assembly in aid of cancer charities, headlined by Arena and featuring other acts alongside the three original bands, including, to everyone’s delight, Christina fronting Magenta and, as she was by then, well on the way to recovery. It’s fair to say the whole event was a triumph, with some great and emotional performances, and the not insignificant achievement of raising a five figure sum for the good causes.
The second edition of the show, again supporting cancer charities, was opened by Southampton-based quartet A Formal Horse, who had the task of opening the show in front of a steadily growing crowd at the somewhat un-Rock’n’Roll hour of 1.30 on a Saturday afternoon. The first thing to strike you visually about the band, at least for hardened Prog Geeks, is the fact that guitarist Benjamin Short uses that iconic instrument, a Gibson double neck, as his standard guitar, and switches between the 6 and 12 string necks regularly. This gives the band a definite Psych element, rather than straightforward Prog, emphasised by Hayley McDonnell’s often ethereal vocals. On the whole, though, the band have a real Prog ethos, with regular time changes and lengthy instrumental passages, even using the bass for solos, which brought to mind the likes of District 97 at times, although it did leave Hayley looking at a bit of a loss at times. If you haven’t heard the band before, there may be a lot to take in at one go, and the frequent instrumental breaks make it that much harder for their numbers to stick in the mind. They got a decent reception from an appreciative crowd, though.
As Prog Magazine editor Jerry Ewing noted when he introduced the next act, the hall was beginning to fill up a little as Dec Burke, sometime member of Frost* and Darwin’s Radio, brought his new band to The Assembly for one of their very first live shows, and although this was billed as a performance by The Dec Burke Band, he was pleased to reveal that the quartet were in future to be known as Dusk. The set didn’t get off to the best start, with the drums mixed far too loud and the vocals almost inaudible, but as this was rectified, the band, and the set, began to click. It’s much more of a melodic hard rock band than you might have expected from some of his earlier work, ‘Everlasting’ in particular had a touch of Blue Oyster Cult about it and for a debut gig, this was quietly impressive, with the band clicking really well, even with Carl Westholm having to fly over from the States for the show. As well as playing a song or two from the new project, there were several from over his career and overall this was a really enjoyable set. This new line up looks very promising.
It was a bit of a coup for Trinity to secure the debut performance by former Touchstone vocalist Kim Seviour and her new band, cunningly dubbed The Kim Seviour Band. She has a new record in the can, produced by John Mitchell, as well as a new 5-piece band, and being frank, apart from Kim herself, the only member who’d shown up on the radar before for me was keyboard player Moray McDonald, as a member of Ghost Community. Anyone expecting a retread of her Touchstone days in this set would have been surprised, although maybe it should have been expected with a closer listen to Touchstone’s last album. As she said, the bands she listened prior to joining that band included Fall Out Boy, Evanescence and Panic at the Disco, and if this set was anything to go by, her album is going to reflect all of these influences and more, and she’s showing an admirable degree of ambition in what she’s trying to do. The ballad ‘Where She Sleeps’, in particular gives her a real challenge vocally. As a debut set, there was a lot of promise here, and she does seem to have taken well to her new role, although I do think it would be good if some of the other members of the band took a little of the ‘crowd interaction’ load off her. She did manage to get the crowd joining in with an acapella version of ‘You Are My Sunshine’, and while it would be too much to expect a stellar performance at their debut gig, the Kim Saviour Band did more than enough to hint at a bright future.
After Kim’s set there was a two hour break, an admirable scheduling idea, allowing for the audience take a break, find something to eat and so on. The music was due to resume at 6.15, but as the crowd began to return, Ghost Community took the stage a good five minutes before their allotted time slot. Since I first saw them, about 18 months ago, when they were very much a work in progress, the band have really developed and become a much tighter, more focussed unit. Former Reasoning keyboard player Robert Gerrard was a temporary replacement for this gig, (it was announced later that he was join the band on a permanent basis) but the change did nothing to alter how this band grows in presence each time they play. ’Blue December Morning’, segueing into a brief excerpt of ‘Kashmir, was a highlight, as was set opener ‘Rise Up’, and it’s always a pleasure to watch Matt Cohen on bass and drummer Jake Bradford-Sharp at work, surely one of the most underrated rhythm sections in the whole genre. Considering that they only had a 40 minute set, the cover of Marillion’s ‘Uninvited Guest’ was a surprise, but finished off the set nicely.
After Ghost Community, the raffle, which had raised around £500, was drawn, with donated prizes including promos by Fish, Magenta, Heather Findlay and others, then the auction, conducted by Prog magazine editor Jerry Ewing, who on this evidence may have an alternative career to fall back on as he did a great job in cajoling the bidding along. There were rare items from Asia, Marillion (a FEAR box set eventually going for nearly £200), Steve Hackett and commemorative plaque, celebrating a sell out of Hammersmith Odeon by Steven Wilson.
Although most of the day had run smoothly, Touchstone had a comparatively lengthy soundcheck before their set, but it was well worth the wait, as for those who’ve seen them since Aggie Switka replaced Kim Seviour on vocals, the general impression is that the band seemed to have gained a new impetus, and her undeniable talent and impressive vocal range seem to have given the band the impetus to take their music into some different areas and onto a potentially higher level. Opener ‘Strange Days’ certainly had a kick, and for the newer song ‘Fear’, the band rocked as hard as I can ever remember. They also reinstated the epic ‘Wintercoast’ to the set, which went down really well, and allowed new keyboard player Liam Holmes to put his own mark on the song with a brief piano solo midway through. While Aggie did a fine job on the older songs, it was the new songs that really came over best in this set, ‘Tangled Lines’ and set closer ‘Lights from The Sky’ showing the band adding a heavier touch, with the band adding differing, Eastern-tinged textures that finished the set off superbly. It’s no exaggeration to say that Touchstone were the musical highlight of the whole day.
There was another interlude while Lonely Robot set up, which was a further opportunity for Jerry Ewing to display his burgeoning talent as auctioneer, and also for everyone present to remember the victims of the Manchester attack with a minute’s silence. Then it was time for the headliners, the project fronted by John Mitchell (It Bites, Arena, Frost and several others). This live version of Lonely Project is an enticing line up, including Steve Vatsis (Fish, Tilt) on bass, Liam Holmes on keys, pulling double duty after his Touchstone set, and CraigBlundell (Steven Wilson Band, Frost), and Mitchell has also done his bit to make this a multi media show, with video screens either side of the stage, space travel props around the stage and even two ‘extras’ walking around the audience throughout the set in space suits. Even though the second Lonely Robot had just been released, most of the set came from the first album, opening with the instrumental ‘Airlock’. Sadly, due to the overruns earlier, his set had to be curtailed, although there was plenty of time to enjoy ‘The Boy In The Radio’ and a brisk version of ‘Lonely Robot’ the song, before they was joined onstage by Kim Seviour for ‘Oubliette’, then with time running short, Mitchell half seriously asked the audience what should be played, which a very loud shout of ‘Contruct/Obstruct’, which turned out to be the best song in the set, followed by a nearly as good ‘Sigma’ from the new album. It was a shame that the set had to be curtailed, but it was a good note to end on for this version of Trinity.
As before, enormous credit must go all the organisers and everyone involved in Trinity, including the organisers and the assembly as a venue. As well as the good causes, it was a hugely enjoyable day, the venue was near perfect, and I hope, when the final figure is announced, that everyone’s efforts will be rewarded with a significant amount to donate. Here’s hoping for a Trinity III.