Review by Paul Quinton; Pics by Rob Stanley
In these difficult times, you really can’t argue with three bands for twelve quid (a tenner if you booked in advance), and when one of the bands is one you’ve never seen before, but heard a lot of good things about, and then to proceed to really impress you at the first time of asking, it makes whole evening well worth while.
So it was with GREY LADY DOWN. When people talk about Prog in 2012, too often it’s imagined that you’re talking about bands that are influenced by the great names of the 70s, Yes, Genesis, Floyd etc. But more often these days, you’re more likely to pick up on influences from the Neo-Prog wave of the 1980s. Grey Lady Down had more than a touch of IQ about them, but managed to bring in some nice touches that brought things right up to date. Especially enjoyable were the twin guitars on The Flag, a song whose climax was greeted with a hail of paper aeroplanes from the punters at the front of the stage, while 24 was also enjoyably heavy. Best of all was a new song, In At The Deep End, which had some pleasingly proggy complex time signatures. A good band, who I’ll look forward to seeing again.
CREDO on the other hand lost out in comparison with the other two bands on tonight’s bill. They played the Robin this time last year, but then, for me, were overshadowed by the support, the highly promising UK symphonic metal band Winter In Eden, and they had much the same problem tonight, sandwiched between an excellent set from Grey Lady Down and the always entertaining headliners. The problem seems to be that while they’re obviously a very good band musically, particularly guitarist Tim Birrell and keyboard wiz Mike Varty, and lead singer Mark Colton worked really hard to win the crowd, they really don’t have much in the way of memorable material. Although Staring At The Sun, the second song in tonight’s set, is pretty good and has a nice hook, the rest of the set too often makes you think that the material is being stretched pretty thin. Four songs in 55 minutes is very Prog, but they didn’t really do enough to hold your attention.
SOLSTICE were making their second visit to The Robin this year, after supporting IO Earth here in April, and playing the Robin seems to agree with them as they put in another terrific set. Guitarist Andy Glass in particular was in spectacular form, at times making it sound as if Uli Jon Roth had joined Camel, but all the band seemed to be at the top of their game. An early highlight of the set was Earthsong, dating from the early days of the band. Underpinned by Jenny Newman’s superb violin playing, it was wasted in the confines of The Robin, its atmospherics more suited to a hot summers day at a festival – brilliantly atmospheric.
With the clothes, (there’s an awful lot of Indian cotton on stage), and some of the song themes, not to mention Andy Glass’ frequent use of the word ‘man’, it would be too easy to dismiss Solstice as some kind of Hippy jamming band, but there’s an awful lot more than that going on. Parts of Flight introduce a heavier element, verging on Prog metal, and it would also be unfair on the fine singing, particularly by lead vocalist Emma Brown, whose harmonies with Jenny Newman were excellent throughout. The band even gave us a new song, Keepers, from their planned new album, which was well up to the standard of the rest of the show.
With all this musical excellence, you could forgive the last song, Brave New World, for being a little over elaborate, and this did nothing to spoil what had been an excellent show, and made me not only want to see Solstice again, and soon, but also conduct a deep investigation of their back catalogue. Some appreciation, too, to the organisers for a gig that was excellent value for your hard-earned, not to mention greatly enjoyable. Good work, all round.
See all of Rob’s photos here: