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Concert Reviews

HRH Prog 2019

Added by Central Electronic Brain     December 02, 2019    
 
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HRH Prog 2019 - O2 Academy, Sheffield (UK) - 26-27 October 2019

Saturday

This was a first time for me at a HRH festival, and my first thought going there was "thank goodness it's indoors" as it was persisting it down, had been all night, and would be all day, according to the weather guessers. Now I didn't think the Academy at Sheffield was a large enough venue to stage a festival, and I assumed that there was only one stage, which was correct, but then I was basing my assumption on things like Download, Bloodstock and Stonefree. The set up here was very good, with no hassle and lots of help to do what you need to do, in a very relaxed atmosphere; not something that can always be said of others.

So, the first band up to start proceedings was Captain Starfighter And The Lockheeds, who started things off with an instrumental, and had a problem with the drum mics, which was probably a good thing as, without that, I don't think the vocalist would have stood up, as he seemed quite happy to sit on the riser for the evening. Their sound was, well, not the clearest, and the vocalist really didn't look like he wanted to be there, walking around the stage while singing with one hand in his pocket. One of the songs sounded too close for comfort to Hawkwind's 'Silver Machine' ('25 Years'), while another was like 'Born To Be Wild' ('Dead Love'), which got people dancing, but the sound was like sucking a very fizzy sweet at one point, affecting the ears the same way. Still, there was something to take your mind off it with the young lady on stage, wearing a mirrored body suit and dancing while waving around LED Angel's wings or a fibre optic whip. Not sure why, but there you go.

Delta Drive, The Aerospaceage, Inferno, Spirit Of The Age, 25 Years, Seven By Seven, Ned Ludd, Ejection.

Next band up then was Pre Med who featured a very nice young lady called Becky Summers on vocals, dressed in a night-dress and her underwear, but who had a really good voice. There was a slight feedback problem, but other than that the set was pretty good. There were elements of electronica in the music, but that just added a bit of extra colour. One song, 'Digital Age', was dedicated to Dave Saunders, who was the guy who started the band and who sadly passed away last December, while another asked 'Has The Whole World Gone Insane?' Not hard to answer, that one. The last song, which was ballad-like, reminded me of 'Time After Time' by Cindy Lauper.

Wallpaper Warriors, Digital Age, Up All Night, Bang Goes The Theory, Hassan I Sahba, (Hawkwind), Prescriptionised, Has The Whole World Gone Insane, Stargazer's Apprentice, Energize, Higher

The Hawklords featured an original member of Hawkwind from the sixties, Nic Turner on saxophone and vocals. Nic is now aged sixty-nine, so hats off to him for appearing. As we all know, most saxophonists like a bit of Jazz, and Nic is no different. The sound though was a little fuzzy, meaning the words were difficult to make out. I started to think that this whole thing had been sponsored by aircraft manufacturers, what with the name of the first band and the last song the Hawklords did being called SR71 (who anyone who knows anything about jet planes will know this was an American, high altitude spy plane commonly known as the Blackbird). There were some long, rambly bits in some songs, but most people seemed to appreciate things, and although we did get one Hawkwind song, I think we were all expecting, and hoping to get 'Silver Machine' but we didn't.

We Are One, The Aerospaceage Inferno (Robert Calvert song), Master Of The Universe (Hawkwind cover), One Way Trip, Standing Still, The Joker, Flight, SR-71.

When I saw the name Vintage Caravan, I thought I was going to see some original members of Caravan, who were not in the band any more (others probably attending tomorrow) performing some old material, as a sort of splinter group, but what we actually got was three young guys from Iceland who, quite simply, blew everyone away. It was one of those situations where you listen and think "how have I not heard of these before?" I couldn't help thinking of Rush, just because there was only three of them and a lot of sound was coming out, but they didn't sound like Rush at all. In fact, I couldn't think of anyone they did sound like, and I am a firm believer that there are not many "new" sounds to come up with any more, but maybe these guys have done it. And they were really into what they were doing, with energy in bucket loads, only standing still(ish) when having to stay at the microphone. Definitely a band to watch out for in the future.

Reflections, (Unknown), Reset, Innerverse, Babylon, On The Run, Expand Your Mind, Last Day Of Light, Midnight Meditation

I last saw Gong over ten years ago, when Daevid Allen was still with us, just down the road from here at the Leadmill. Their music is sometimes not the easiest to get your head round, but you have to listen carefully, and though it still may not make total sense to you, you just have to wonder how they can remember all of it. It's complicated, it's jazzy in places, spaced out in others and Gong has, for a long time, been one of those bands where musicians come and go. Some leave an indelible mark, such as Allen himself (obviously) and Steve Hillage, to name but two. But tonight, most of the set was fairly new stuff, written after Daevid's passing, by those musicians that are still left who can perform this style of Rock and carry on the Gong name. 'My Sawtooth Wake' impressed me tonight, with some really nice guitar riffage. One thing that did strike me though, was that front man Kavus Tobabi, is, I think, Syd Barrett reincarnate. They are touring in support of, and as Steve Hillage's backing band, so check them out yourself, and you will see what I mean.

You Can't Kill Me, Rejoice! (I'm Dead),My Sawtooth Wake, Master Builder, Forever Reoccurring, Insert Your Own Prophecy.

I think I can safely say that I have never seen Uriah Heep play a bad show. The one thing that always strikes me about them is that, even after twenty-five albums and all these years (fourty nine in total), they look as though they love what they are doing while up on stage. The energy that these guys put into their performance transfers to the audience, as does the joy of being surrounded by good music. And over the ninety minutes that they were on, there was old and new, from the early days with 'Gypsy' from the very first, self-titled album right up to the latest with 'Grazed By Heaven', 'Rocks In The Road' and 'Living The Dream.' All the old favourites were there, but they didn't overshadow the newer songs, which proves that Mick Box can still write good stuff, a fact pointed out to them by an audience member after they played 'July Morning'. Mick and vocalist Bernie Shaw are both consummate performers, Bernie striking dramatic poses and singing with total passion, and Mick playing with his trademark finger dancing. Mention must also be given to the new boys, Davey Rimmer with his bright blue, LED illuminated bass and Russell Gilbrook, the high energy powerhouse on the drums, who has only been with them since 2007, and who actually broke a drum during the first number, alongside old stalwart, keyboard player Phil Lanzon (who has been there quite a bit longer). Mick picked up his acoustic to play 'Lady In Black', incorporating audience participation, which has become a bit of a Heep tradition. Two songs for the encore, and we had a great end to a successful first day.

Grazed By Heaven, Too Scared To Run, Living The Dream, Take Away My Soul, Rainbow Demon, Rocks In The Road, Gypsy, Look At Yourself, July Morning, Lady In Black, Encore: Sunrise, Easy Livin'

Sunday

4th Labyrinth are a four-piece band from Cambridge with a keyboardist/vocalist who definitely isn't. Also acting as frontman and band spokesperson, Marcel Kunkel hails from Germany and, if nothing else, proved that Henning Wehn isn't the only person from that country who has a sense of humour. Wearing a top hat and drape coat and sitting centre stage, he reminded me of a circus ringmaster. The band were pretty good, much better than yesterday's openers, with a clear sound and precise performance. There was a real bundle of energy on the right side of the stage by the name of Claudia McKenzie, playing her bass guitar with her long pink dreadlocks flying everywhere all the way through. Marcel spoke about the "German Freddie Mercury", but said he would wait a while as nobody was yet drunk enough, then did his version of Freddie's famous "do what I do" section, and did it quite well. He then said he wanted to try something he had never done before, and got the audience to do a Mexican wave. The only criticism I would have was that he spent quite a bit of time between songs accessing sounds on his keyboards that left everybody waiting with nothing happening. He needs to learn some Peter Gabriel stories.

This Is Rock 'n' Roll, We Are Better Than This, I'm A Hunter, Darkness Calling, How Do I Make You Feel, This Feeling.

I am not sure I would call Pearl Handled Revolver a progressive band. The Bedford lads were more straightforward Rock and Roll with a touch of Southern Blues, particularly with the harmonica of vocalist Lee Vernon. The keyboard element of the sound does probably give it a "Prog" edge, and certainly the length of some of the instrumental sections would cause some people to label them that. The only problem I had was that those very same lengthy sections did go on a bit too long for me, without any changes. A tempo shift or a different key would have been effective, and would have kept my attention much more. Don't get me wrong, they weren't bad, but it didn't challenge me like, say, Gong did on the previous night. Apparently they have a new album out, and they played quite a few from that in the middle of the set. Again, the crowd over the weekend was quite appreciative, so they received a good round of applause for every song. One thing I did notice, was that there was no bass player, so I assume bass lines were done on the keyboard. Still, a bit unusual for a band these days.

Rabbit Hole, The Switch, Into The Blue, If The Devil Casts His Net, Siren, In My Blood, Help Me Down From The Trees, Machine Gun, Belly of the Whale.

Another three-piece band on the bill was Krankschaft, who, when they first started up in 1985/86, had ex Hawkwind member Robert Calvert with them. In fact, the only original member remaining, Steve Pond, had also worked with ex-Hawkwind and the Hawklords Nic Turner, in his previous band ICU. Pond told us that he usually talked a lot during their concerts, and he had been told not to on this occasion, as they only had an hour on stage. So, after telling us that they were using a sampler in track one so as not to "look" like Westlife, most of what he may have said came up on the screens at the rear and either side of the stage, and were quite humorous, although one did have an error, displaying "Soft human brians will be moulded." Or did it? The music was sometimes difficult to work out as the guitar was quite high in the mix, plus the lyrics were a little fuzzy and indiscernible, and it has to be said that the "light show" on screen behind all the words started to give me a headache. I was so pleased I was not epileptic, as that thing would have really freaked me out. I'm not sure now, but a small section of one song, it may have been 'The Great Procession' sounded very much like Elbow's 'One Day Like This'. Most of the songs received a good reception, and were quite informative telling us about 'Dark Energy', the World is hollow and also flat apparently. You learn something every day!

Dark Energy, Hollow Earth, Enlightenment, The Great Precession, Eurodonna, The World Is Flat, Moon, Binary Star, Who What Why? Raj Neesh

Soft Machine were probably the most "Prog" band on here tonight and maybe because of that the hardest to deal with, or listen too, depending on which way you look at it. One of the Canterbury scene bands (despite there not being an original member in it), it was one of those occasions where you listen, think "can I understand any of it" followed by "why are they doing that?" before coming to the conclusion that "Nope, this is just noises put together making no sense at all." No tune as such, no Iambic pentameter (look it up), each instrument playing notes that have nothing in common with anything else, and the sort of thing that some people will say "That was brilliant and very clever" just to look more superior than the rest of us. Or tone deaf for short. Too much like Jazz at its worst and Jazz/Rock at its best, it is not my favourite style of music. Guitarist John Etheridge made me think of Bill Bailey when he did the "concentrating on playing guitar with tongue stuck out" bit, which was a shame really as he showed on a couple of occasions, when he let rip, how good a guitarist he could be. Not my thing at all, and it's unusual that the drum solo was the highlight of the set.

Penny Hitch, Hidden Details, The Man Who Waved At Trains, Ground Lift / Heart Off Guard / Broken Hill, Gesolreut, Kings And Queens, The Relegation Of Pluto / Tarabos / Sideburn / Hazard Profile Part One, (Incl. Drum Solo), Chloe And The Pirates.

Caravan started ten minutes late due to technical problems, something which did happen a few times today. This was another band from the Canterbury Rock scene, and it would be tempting to classify them as Folk Rock, but they have a little more in their bag than that. Pye Hastings on guitar and vocals is the only original member of the band left, but he is surrounded by very competent and capable musicians. Geoffrey Richardson has to be mentioned as he played violin, flute and guitar, and he was no slouch when he did lead breaks later on 'Nightmare' either. Bass player Jim Leverton also sang vocals on 'Nine Feet Underground.' The audience reacted very positively to them, probably because it came as a light relief after watching the previous band, but they were very good.

Memory Lane, Hugh, Headloss, In The Land Of Grey And Pink, Golf Girl, Better Days Are To Come, Smoking Gu , Dead Man Walking, Nightmare, Nine Feet Underground.

And so we came to the final headliner The Pineapple Thief, who, once again, I had heard of, but never heard anything by. Well, maybe that's not true as I feel they may have played for the CRS many years ago as a support band when I was there. To be fair, their set did not overwhelm me, but what with my age and the amount of bands I have seen over time, and the amount of bands we had seen over the weekend, they would have had to perform miracles to do that. They also had technical difficulties as guitarist (who I believed to be) George Marios, had to re-set his effects unit before continuing with one song. There was also a lot of silence between songs, dead air as it's called on the radio, which was a little off-putting and quite a few people had left before the end of the show. They didn't do an encore as such, just asked the crowd if they wanted another song that they just had time for before the 11pm deadline.

Tear You Up, In Exile, Alone At Sea, Threatening War, Far Below, No Man's Land, That Shore, Uncovering Your Tracks, Shed A Light, 3000 Days, Part Zero, White Mist, Nothing At Best The Final Thing On My Mind.

And that was it for HRH Prog VIII, until March next year. There were ups and downs, as is the norm with all things of this nature, but on the whole it was a successful weekend all told. It must be very difficult to put on a line-up that pleases everybody, especially for Prog fans, who tend to be a breed apart from other genre's followers. But I think most of us went away with the feeling that there was another band to add to the list of recordings to be collected over time. And thanks to Toby Winch and his crew for making things so easy and showing me places that I didn't know existed.

Review by Andy B. and Lou C., photos Andy B.

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