The return of the irregular look at the world of Progressive rock…
Compiled while wearing the appropriate cape and batwing headdress by Paul Quinton
Greetings and welcome to the much delayed return of Timeless Wavelengths, covering the progressive rock scene around the Midlands and beyond. The last year has been overshadowed by the loss of far too many much-loved musicians, and the world of Prog was no exception, including the passing of some of the cornerstones of the entire genre, including Keith Emerson and Greg Lake, and as I was putting this together, the great John Wetton,. Bearing in mind that they also worked in bands like The Nice and King Crimson, it’s impossible to overestimate the influence Emerson and Lake had as Progressive Rock took shape in the early 70s.
I remember being at ELP’s final UK performance, The High Voltage Festival in London in 2011, and looking around me in awe at the number of well-known musicians in the immediate vicinity, who just wanted to be there to see the band in action, what was even then probably for the last time. As for Wetton, the list of bands he played in, including King Crimson, Asia, UK, Uriah Heep and Family, among many others, is testimony in itself to what he achieved in his career. This column is respectfully dedicated to their memory and the music they made.
So, to look forward to 2017, and concentrating on the Live scene, at the prestige end of the scale, Birmingham’s Symphony Hall has some prime gigs lined up for the first half of the year. Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman will be arriving with their ‘Evening of Yes Music And More’ Tour on 13th March and also at Nottingham Royal Concert Hall on March 21st. Billed as ARW reports from the band’s American dates have been overwhelmingly positive, but be warned, these dates are very close to selling out. Also on their way to Brum are the mighty DREAM THEATER who will be celebrating the 25th Anniversary of their breakthrough album, ‘Images and Words’ by playing the album in full, as well as a long list of other favourites, in Symphony Hall on April 18th, part of a very short trip around the UK. Not long afterwards comes the return of the great STEVE HACKETT touring in support of his latest studio album, ‘The Night Siren’. The tour is being billed as ‘Genesis revisited with Hackett Classics’, and visits Symphony hall on May Day, as well as Nottingham on May 11th and Oxford New Theatre on May 13th. If these dates are anything like as good as his previous visits to Symphony Hall, it will be some show. Interestingly, as he starts another of his successful Genesis oriented tours, there are yet more stories speculating on a reunion of the Banks/Rutherford/Collins line up, although how this will tie in with the run of confirmed Phil Collins dates this coming summer isn’t clear.
Elsewhere, as usual it’s the Robin 2 in Bilston that carries the Prog torch for the Midlands, with some excellent gigs lined up for the first half of the year. In April, there’s a very interesting all day event on the 2nd of the month, headlined by the very welcome return of MAGENTA, who will be playing a headline set in the evening. Hopefully we will be hearing some tracks from their as yet unconfirmed new album, although any chance to hear Christina Booth burst into song should be seized. During the afternoon, Nineteen73 Productions will be staging a showcase of newer bands, including Midnight Sun and Elaine Samuels and Kindred Spirit, with the afternoon headlined by CAIRO, the new project of ex-Touchstone man Rob Cottingham.
Later in April, on the 22nd, IQ make a just as welcome return to the Robin, while in May, PANIC ROOM play their first date there since their excellent Christmas show in 2016. June sees another mini festival-type event on the 25th, when local heroes IO EARTH headline their own event, christened ‘Harmonix Fest’ and held instead of their annual show at the Crescent Theatre in Birmingham. As well as IO Earth headlining, this will feature promising local band Oktopus, French American band Telescope Road and a rare visit to the Midlands for the US band Circuline. A very appetising bill.
June also sees MOSTLY AUTUMN touring, visiting the Robin on the 4th, in support of their new album ‘Sight Of Day’ and on the 18th, another good looking bill featuring The Gift and Tiger Moth Tales, the project featuring multi-instrumentalist Peter Jones, who caused a bit of a stir in The Robin when he supported Magenta there in 2015. There is one bit of bad news however, in that Lifesigns are cancelling all their live work, including a scheduled date at the Robin on June 11th, to concentrate on recording their new album. Hopefully it will be rearranged soon.
One more thing about the Robin is the introduction of the Robin 2 Prog Rock Club. Initially launched as a Facebook page to highlight forthcoming gigs at the Robin, the brains behind the concept, Robin regular Ken Slater, has wider ambitions and has already launched several competitions to win tickets for forthcoming gigs. I do have to say, however, that success seems to be based on your knowledge of obscure 70s bands, so be warned. I do know that Ken has bigger plans eventually, so naturally he has our best wishes, and we’ll do our best to keep you up to date
Away from the Robin, The Assembly in Leamington does its own bit in flying the Prog flag, including being part of the UK tour of the wonderful RIVERSIDE, on May 21st. This is the band’s first visit to these shores since the tragic, untimely death of guitarist Piotr Grudzinski early last year. The tour’s billed as the ‘Towards The Blue Horizon Tour’ and as yet there’s no news on a permanent replacement, with the band merely stating that they’ll play with a guest guitarist and including a lot of music they haven’t played live before. It will probably be an emotional night, but full of wonderful music.
Also at the Assembly, a few days later on May 27th, will be the second edition of the truly excellent TRINITY LIVE II event. The first time it was staged, in 2014, the event included performances by Arena, John Mitchell, Magenta, Touchstone and what proved to be the last performance by The Reasoning. Aided by a celebrity auction, it raised the impressive sum of over £12000 for cancer related charities. This year it will be headlined by John Mitchell’s Lonely Robot, and also feature the new line up of Touchstone, Ghost Community, the Dec Burke Band, a Formal Horse and, intriguingly, the debut gig of ex-Touchstone singer Kim Seviour’s new band. The celebrity auction, this time conducted by Prog Magazine editor Jerry Ewing, will also feature. If it’s anything like as good as the inaugural event, it should be a brilliant day and all for great causes. I really can’t recommend this enough.
And, just for the record, Ghost Community, will also play a short tour of their own in early May, including a date at Leicester Musician on May 5th, again part of a tempting bill including 25 Yard Screamer and Last Flight To Pluto.
A couple of bigger events in the first part of the year, including HRH Prog at the Hafan y Mor holiday Park in North Wales, from 16th – 19th March 2017, which includes Wishbone ash, Hawkwind, Barclay James Harvest (John Lees version), Pendragon, IQ, Atomic Rooster, Curved Air, Jump, Karnataka and many, many more. There’s usually something for everyone at these events, and even if all of the bands aren’t to your taste, the socialising and the surroundings can be more than enough to occupy your time. The on-site accommodation is pretty much sold out, but weekend and day passes are still available from the HRH Prog office. Looking further ahead, to the first weekend in October, the SUMMER’S END FESTIVAL team have done their usual excellent job in putting together an eclectic and enticing bill for the weekend, which takes place at the Drill Hall in Chepstow, including Frost, Franck Carducci, The Tangent, Karmakanic and the intriguing Russian band Iamthemorning. Stephen Lambe and his team always put together a fascinating bill, and if they can discover and bring over bands anything like as good as Lazuli ever so often, more power to them.
That brings down the curtain for this month, but in the next column, we’ll be looking at some of the less publicised progressive rock releases of the last few months, and also looking at the bills for the Rambling Man and Stone Free festivals.
In the meantime, no matter how elastic your definition of Prog is, if you’re band with a gig or an album you want people to know about, or anything of a proggy nature, let us know at Midlands Rocks.