Monday, 1 December 2014

What a weekend!

Over the last few years I've managed to get to a lot more gigs than I have in the past 20, due in equal measure to having a little more disposable income due to children growing up and becoming independent, and the resurgence of my preferred genre of Progressive music. So far this year I've managed to catch Clive Nolan; Camel; various bands including Focus, The Enid, The Flower Kings, Panic Room & Fish at HRH Prog; Genesis tribute band Mama; Yes; Rick Wakeman; Andy Tillison; Jeff Green & The Watch. Some good, some excellent, some outstanding.

But this last weekend was an overdose of awesome! It began with a trip over the Pennines (something which, as a Yorkshireman, I try to avoid if possible) for my first visit to Manchester for the double-header of Sweden's Moon Safari & Lazuli, from France. Both were bands with whom I was somewhat familiar, but that familiarity didn't fully prepare me for the delight of their live show.

Moon Safari opened in the somewhat cramped surroundings of 'Sound Control' - so cramped in fact that neither of the bands could fit all their equipment & personnel on the stage. Their music is generally a joyous celebration of life, full of lyrical beauty, musical dexterity and stunning 3-, 4-, 5- and even 6-part harmonies. The set included live standards such as 'A Kid Called Panic', 'Heartland' and the epic 'Lover's End Part 3 - Skellefteå Serenade', a 25-minute paean to their hometown in northern Sweden, alongside the a capella charm of 'Constant Bloom'. A beautiful, energetic and emotionally-charged performance, which thrilled the 70-odd of us who had made the show.

Moon Safari
Lazuli
They were followed by Lazuli, a band I find difficult to describe other than as unique and mind-blowing. Led by the charismatic Dominique Leonetti (guitars & vocals) with his brother Claude on Léode, a purpose-built one-handed kind-of guitar/ synthesiser which gives the band their unique sound, and the powerhouse of Gédéric Byar (guitar), Romain Thorel (keys & french horn) & Vincent Barnavol (drums & marimba), they produced a wall of thumping, North African inspired, francophone rock that left the room breathless yet wanting more. For their encore they gave us their '9 hands round a marimba', a wonderful piece of timing and musical dexterity, which for a time morphed into 'Solsbury Hill'.

Which links in to the final part of the weekend, which was Peter Gabriel's 'Back to the Front' concert at the Sheffield Arena. A 2½ hour aural and visual treat, with material from his early works (including a storming rendition of the aforementioned 'Solsbury Hill', and an absolutely stunning version of 'Family Snapshot', probably my all-time favourite of his), some newer material, including what he described as a 'work in progress', and as a climax to the show a full reworking of his 1986 album 'So'. Ably supported by the original 'So' touring band, Tony Levin (bass), David Rhodes (guitars), David Sancious (keys) & Manu Katche (drums) and vocals backed up by Jennie Abrahamson & Linnea Olsson, who also acted as support act, this was a musical tour-de-force which left the crowd longing for more, yet ready to go following a heart-rending finale of 'Biko'.

An amazing weekend, demonstrating that inventive, entertaining music is still alive. Long may it continue!

The light show for 'Red Rain'