Lonely Robot / Tilt http://www.rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/c3/cf/4c/Lonely-Robot-Live-76-1511898079.jpg Hot

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Lonely Robot / Tilt - Ruby Lounge, Manchester (UK) - 18 August 2017

The last time I saw John Mitchell he was with It Bites; he was suffering from flu, unable to sing much and with John Beck, who had been told he wouldn't be allowed to speak at all. They split up shortly after. Not that Mitchell is twiddling his thumbs; this personable gent is well wanted in production and collaboration and quite right for such a talent. Lonely Robot is part of that excellence, not for everyone, but full of sumptuous and sweeping soundcapes. His new Robot release 'The Big Dream' is perhaps a little sharper and a jammed Ruby Lounge wanted to hear it.

First up it was Tilt, Mitchell proteges perhaps (Steve Vantsis pulls double bass duty, on this bill, Mitchell produced their last album) and having just released that big and impressive debut 'Hinterland', they do please the crowd here, but they need a little stagecraft to really delight. The atmosphere they create is of concentrated musical power, but that doesn't reach out to us and vocalist P.J. Dourley doesn't seem particularly confident. They please with their sounds and it would be good see them again, but a bit more connection would be nice.

Mitchell has no issue with that at all. He's a likeable bloke who those in attendance love and as he appears to be at one of us – it really works. He's in his spacesuit of course, and this brings a bit of oddly effective stage design with little fuss or cost, but the band and the music are the real focus here. They deliver this large, bothersome music with warmth, 'God Vs Man' relies on its great melodies, 'The Big Dream' is simply magisterial, unfolding slowly with an importance the music absolutely deserves, and if 'Are We Copies' is a little of a run through, even a surprising drum solo to lead off the encore can't dampen audience adulation.

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Then 'Sigma' takes us home with a size which could show an emptiness in other songs, but here it just shows the talent, artistry and modesty in equal measure. There's even a merch colleague in matching spacesuit to complete the family picture.

As in a lot of Prog, this has the feeling sometimes of an enjoyable secret and Mitchell absolutely gets that, his natural personality allows him to seem like an invitee to the meeting who absolutely wants to be there and will see you again next year. If this is a club, it has great members and a cracking house band.

Mitchell should be cherished. Tonight, Swirling Steve and Drifting Debbie did just that.

Steve Swift

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