Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Gig review - Magnum Live in Liverpool (16/04/2011)

A rare solo excursion out of London took me to Liverpool on the weekend, primarily to experience my first ‘proper’ Magnum gig (I’d previously seen their 40 minute set at High Voltage last year, which was great, but merely whet the appetite for more!). I’d be meaning to get to Liverpool for a while, and combined with the fact that only seeing Magnum once on their current tour (in London later this month) was never going to be enough for me, talking myself into making the trip was pretty easy.

Magnum are a band that refuse to live in the past, and as a result their High Voltage set came under criticism from some quarters, as it was weighted heavily towards recent material. While it was perhaps not as ‘festival-friendly’ as a set could be, few would deny that their recent run of albums have been as strong as any other that you’d care to name across their long history and it’s only natural that they’d want to showcase that. 

The current tour is, of course, in support of newly-released album The Visitation, which I’ve raved about in previous postings. We were treated to half of the songs from this latest opus, along with one or two tracks from each of the previous three, and of course a smattering of classics, including no less than four culled from 1985’s On a Storyteller’s Night, still regarded as their all-time masterpiece (and it really is difficult to argue against that assessment, even if most of their albums are just as good!). Tellingly, even the classics were of the album cut/fan favourite variety, with precisely zero of their charting singles getting an airing.

A highly receptive crowd proved once again that if you like Magnum, you love Magnum, as every song received a rapturous reception, and a sing-along party atmosphere was apparent from the outset. It was a diverse crowd too, with ages ranging from…well, not quite 7 to 70, but pretty close at both ends!

If I had one complaint (and to be honest, I didn’t…) about The Visitation it would be the comparatively small role played by Mark Stanway, but his keyboards are very much a vital ingredient of the Magnum sound, and really came to the fore in the live setting, as keenly demonstrated in the opening flourishes of All My Bridges and the haunting intro of Les Mort Dansant (possibly THE greatest Magnum song ever). Of course both Stanway and drummer Harry James are largely trapped behind their instruments, and guitarist Tony Clarkin has never been a showy performer. As a result much of the onstage energy radiated from frontman Bob Catley, and the baby in the group (at a mere 40-odd years in age),  bassist Al Barrow, who always looks like he’s having the time of his life. Catley was, as ever, in fine voice, although most of his between-song communication with the crowd was non-verbal, which surprised me, as he’s always struck me as the chatty type – I don’t think he even so much as uttered the phrase ‘this is from the new album’ once!

The set got off to a cracking start with the early non-album rarity Back to Earth, closely followed by the brilliant When We Were Younger, from 2007’s outstanding Princess Alice and the Broken Arrow.

The selections from The Visitation were well-chosen, and nicely sprinkled throughout the set. Freedom Day roared with life (in the process reasserting itself as my current favourite from the album), and Black Skies also came across even more powerfully than on the album, while Spin Like a Wheel proved an emotional roller-coaster.

The main set built to an explosive climax, ending with Storyteller’s All England’s Eyes and the title track of its follow-up Vigilante. Encores were further title tracks, this time from their debut album Kingdom of Madness and finally, On a Storyteller’s Night itself.

Earlier on Gwyn Ashton had got things off to a lively start with his two man blues army (consisting of himself and energetic drummer Kev Hickman, who, as he told me later loves his current role a damn sight more than his previous one – that of IT consultant to Santander – and it showed). His set was built largely around his own new album, but being in Liverpool for the first time, he also threw in a rocking cover of Beatles classic Eleanor Rigby, which they’d ‘knocked up in the van on the way over’ – it didn’t completely work, but it was a good attempt just the same.

As noted earlier the end of the month sees both bands arrive for a London gig, which is set to be filmed for future DVD release – so if you can’t make it to any of the remaining UK dates the tour will at least be available to you at some point in the future – miss it at your peril.


Given that I was only in Liverpool for roughly 24 hours I didn’t get to experience more than a taste of what the city has to offer, but did, of course, have to use some of that time to visit the Beatles Story, the unofficially official Beatles museum. Spread over two sites which you can flit between by foot or shuttle-bus – or, as I did, visit on consecutive days (tickets are valid for 48 hours).

The main exhibition at Albert Dock takes you on a chronological tour through the career of the greatest band in rock history (No, they’re not my favourite band - they come somewhere in the lower top 30 for me personally – but anybody who denies their greatness and importance is simply insane), combining audio-guide recollections from friends, family and other associates with recreations of some of the important sites (notably the Cavern Club), while the newer site at Pier Head features different exhibitions throughout the year, plus the FAB4D experience (Basically a 3D show, but with seats that move a couple of times and ‘real water’ that splashes…), which is good fun if rather slight.

Across the two sites there is plenty of interesting memorabilia on display (including a large number of US gold records and albums) and it does a very good job of catering to all levels of Beatles knowledge – I know a reasonable amount, but there were still some surprises in store, such as the loyal Liverpool Beatles fanbase refusing to buy first single Love Me Do, fearing that if it became a hit the band would leave the city! It probably goes without saying but any Beatles/music fan need to come here at least once.

Although my stay in Liverpool was brief I loved it to bits and will certainly be returning for a proper visit at some point. Obviously seeing Magnum as many times as possible anywhere they care to play is still a priority, and if the two should happen to combine again I won’t be complaining!

Friday, 8 April 2011

Is that a glow stick in your pocket (or are you just pleased to see Marillion?)

Holidays in Zélande: Marillion Weekend 25-28 March 2011 Part 3: Saturday and Sunday night gigs.
As you will have noted from the previous instalments, pretty much everything that takes place at a Marillion Weekend is special and enjoyable. Nevertheless the main attraction will always remain the gigs themselves. The band have made a habit of outdoing themselves time after time (a trajectory which surely must be near its end now? People have been saying this for years it seems…) and this weekend was no exception. The 2009 sets were impressive – the first celebrated h’s 20 years with the band (Yep, as his signature t-shirt from a few years back highlighted, he’s been the ‘new lead singer since 1989’…) by playing a song that represented each of those years (and ended with a couple of Fish-era goodies for the fun of it), while the Sunday night consisted solely of the band’s epics (and epic by Marillion standards means anything from 10-18 minutes in length). In previous years the themes have been announced (not necessarily officially!) in advance, but this year they were closely-guarded secrets…until we arrived on Friday we had no inkling of what lay ahead. Truth be told, even with the themes announced in the programme….we had no inkling of what lay ahead…

Saturday night: A-Z
This certainly caused a buzz with wild speculation as to what would be involved. A lot of people doubted that the band would really play 26 songs at all (and to be fair, they were right – just!) – after all, apart from it being a mammoth undertaking, what would they do about X and Z? Somebody suggested that the theme wasn’t literal, and that they’d do one song per album – someone else that the letters wouldn’t be represented by song titles (e.g. B could mean Bluebird, which would see Out of This World played – well, it was a nice idea…). 

As it turned out, it was the obvious route that was taken (albeit with a small amount of ‘cheating’) but, with a few exceptions, this is not to imply that the set list was in any way predictable! Indeed, after opener Asylum Satellite #1 h confirmed the theme, then added something along the lines of a self-deprecating, ‘To get the energy levels up….we’re going to play something even slower than the last one’. So, first I thought, ah, Between You and Me! Then, ooh, Brave! But it was, in fact, none of the above. From that moment I realised trying to predict what was coming was a futile exercise and it was best to just go along for the ride and allow the surprises to unfold in real time. Not that you couldn’t make educated guesses at times, based on what guitar God was being handed, or if h was making a move to sit at his keyboard – and sometimes the screens would display the relevant letter alongside artwork from the song’s parent album before h got around to introducing the next song, but for the most part h caused cheers of excitement and surprise with his announcements as the night progressed.

I won’t go over the full 25-song set in detail (yes, ‘only’ 25 songs – and if you’d care to guess which letter was skipped…well, I can pretty much guarantee that you’d be wrong…) but among the highlights for me were two tracks from The Hard Shoulder being given their first live airings – Especially True is a favourite of mine, while Half the World shone in a live setting. Sticking to the more recent material played we also heard a good chunk of 2007’s vastly underrated Somewhere Else album. Well, I thought it was underrated, but judging from the cheers for the likes of The Wound  and The Last Century For Man (which, if you believe everything you read on the MOLF – that’s the Marillion online forum, for the uninitiated – is pretty much the worst song ever) I’m far from the only one to appreciate it!

While the set was largely made up of the lesser-heard tracks (as has become a tradition for Saturday sets at conventions), a few fan favourites were also thrown into the mix – two obvious examples being Fantastic Place and King – the latter’s ever-building-crescendo of a climax seeming to go on somewhat longer than Rothers and Mark were expecting, judging by their glances in Ian Mosley’s direction, as they awaited his cue to ‘end the noise’ (indeed, being close enough to see the interplay between the band members during moments like this, was a right treat for me, these bits rarely make their way onto DVDs!)

To keep the set length below four hours a few odd choices had to be included, most noticeably the inclusion of one of the -2 minutes Marbles vignettes to represent ‘M’ (the sheer audacity of doing this made me chuckle, I have to say) and Misplaced Childhood’s two minute intro Pseudo Silk Kimono being performed by h for the very first time (with lasers! Actually the lasers popped up here and there across the Saturday and Sunday nights, but PSK is the only song I can definitely remember them being used for). The biggest cheat though came when, instead of doing Incommunicado or I Will Walk on Water (to name but two possibilities) ‘I’ became time for an ‘Intermission’ (actually the sheer audacity of doing this made me chuckle, I have to say – oh wait, have I already said that about something else?! Better not mention h's pirate joke then...). The intermission was short-lived (which caught out some folk out who’d popped off for a smoke – that’ll learn ‘em…) as the band came back without h (who needed a longer break than the rest of them, we were told) to perform Jigsaw – another track that had not been performed live since the 80s. The idea here was that the audience would do the singing, but sadly this didn’t quite come off as a) nobody was sure where to come in and b) it turned out we didn’t know the words quite as well as we should have. Whoops!

Thankfully we redeemed ourselves with a proper Fish-era singalong later on in the set (‘S is for…Steve Rothery’ h declared, as God played one of his signature guitar licks and we went a bit mental). The applause at the end was phenomenal – and it’s not as if it had been muted up to that point! This led very quickly to another key audience moment as during Three Minute Boy 3000 screaming lunatics ROARED (for about…yeah, three minutes!) at the relevant point during the line, ‘Now they scream as they run after him’. The band didn’t know what had hit them…I’m sure at least one band member was in danger of wetting themselves with laughter by the end of it…but we let them carry on with the song eventually…

Actually, there’s no getting away from the fact that the S/T section was the absolute highlight of the night, but the end of the show almost matched it, as XYZ were dealt with in different ways. Following the precedent set by the intermission I fully expected the band to turn into Snagglepuss and ‘eXit stage left’ for X, but instead they brought on Dave Gregory (ex–XTC, former h-band member and current Tin Spirits guitarist)  as a special guest and performed XTC’s Senses Working Overtime. Okay, so the song title didn’t begin with an ‘X’ but who cares? Y wasn’t a problem, with You’re Gone making a welcome return to the set, but as we reached the final number of the evening the band admitted that they’d struggled with coming up with anything for Z – even considering writing something especially for it. In the end by combining their own Separated Out with Led Zep classics Rock N Roll and Kashmir we got Zeparated Out, which proved the perfect end to an epic night. If you didn’t have a wide grin enveloping your entire head at the end of that there was something wrong with you, that’s for sure...

Sunday night: The Glow Must Go On
There was far less pre-gig speculation for Sunday night, mainly because nobody really had a clue as to what the theme could refer to. Shortly after the Tin Spirits had finished their opening set for the Sunday, Lucy came on stage to announce that glowsticks were going to be handed out to us all, and demonstrated the ‘snap and shake’ method required to ‘activate the glow’ (Hmmm, sounds like something out of Star Trek. Urgh!) Basically what we had to do was snap the stick….then shake the stick. Snap. And shake. Suffice to say, we all seemed to manage it (that girl could teach elephants to skateboard, I tells ya!) But we still didn’t know why we needed them…although the reason would soon become clear.

After opening with one of the all-time classics from their catalogue, Afraid of Sunlight h revealed that (with a few exceptions) we’d be voting on the setlist for the night. The band are clearly Tories, as we only had two songs to choose from each time, with the song receiving the most shouting and waving of glow sticks being ‘elected’ first-past-the-post style and performed. (Just as well really, if they’d given us 6 choices and trialled the AV voting system things could have dragged on a bit…) I don’t deliberately set out to be contrary, but I did seem to be voting against the grain of popular opinion for most of the night – this hardly mattered as whatever the band ended up playing was more than acceptable (well, okay, I admit I had a bit of a snooze during Brave, which works perfectly well in the context of the album, but in isolation is…well, not my favourite, it seems).

A combination of getting used to the voting system and technical problems (h’s in-ear monitors were playing up for starters, which meant he had to keep dashing off stage after each song to try and get them fixed) made the pacing a bit shambolic to begin with (albeit in a fun way) but once that side of things were sorted the stage was set for one of the best gigs in Marillion history.

The band clearly had an idea of what was going to be chosen at times, to the extent that when Made Again convincingly beat Beyond You they had to admit they had been so certain we wouldn’t want Made Again that they hadn’t rehearsed it – so played Beyond You. Made Again IS great, but who were the fools passing up an opportunity to hear Beyond You in the first place?! In the end they played the first section twice, being rudely interrupted by, well, the section of the audience that I was in, the first time as we gestured frantically for them to stop and send the medics over!  (A few rows behind me a chap had fallen over – initially that was all there was too it, but it soon became clear that he’d fainted and wasn’t waking up…and then he started vomiting – mercifully I didn’t know the last part until a few days later, but I believe he was fine in the end – eeek!) Afterwards Mark actually asked the others a couple of times if they were going to start again from the beginning, as though picking up where they’d left off was a viable option!

Other match-ups were clearly rigged, with fan-favourites being pitted against the likes of Most Toys and Hope For the Future (i.e. the complete opposite of fan favourites) and while I would genuinely have liked to hear HFTF even I wouldn’t have voted against Neverland for it!

By the same token there were others that went down to the wire, in fact when given the choice between Easter and The Great Escape it became obvious there was no clear winner, so a chant of ‘BOTH! BOTH! BOTH! BOTH!’ quickly grew in volume, in the end h decided that we should sing Easter to him (which meant I got to see Rothers perform THAT solo from just a few metres away – thanks h!). But that wasn’t the end of the story, as a new chant came for ‘GREAT ESCAPE!’ ‘GREAT ESCAPE!’ – the band had no option in the end but to give into public demand, although they didn’t let us get away with it again (as Pete said at one point, ‘If we keep doing both we’ll be here until Wednesday – that’s NOT a choice, by the way…’!) meaning we narrowly missed out on Estonia in favour of Out of This World and were treated to This Strange Engine as the final number at the expense of Ocean Cloud (which of course, led to the now infamous ‘cricket bat incident’, which I’d love to tell you all about, but can’t, as it’d mean having to explain far too much for the benefit of those who don’t know why h has a cricket bat in the first place…you’ll just have to hope it makes the DVD…)

Of course that wasn’t precisely that, and a final encore for the weekend was demanded. The printed setlist would later reveal that this was originally intended to be one final choice for us, but Mark announced that it had been a terrible idea giving us the vote and they were going back to being a dictatorship. I suspect a vote would have made little difference in any case, but the musical side of the weekend ended with Happiness is the Road, an obvious choice in many ways (but it was probably time for something obvious by this point!). With confetti cannons filling the venue with gold (a visual metaphor for the music played on the weekend.you might say..) and one last audience singalong the band had completed their marathon 3 day, 55+ song setlist.

Of course there were still parties (and too many farewells) to be had post-show, and then the agony of leaving our perfect bubble known as Marillion-World and returning to 'real' life (by which time another Holidays in Eden lyric had become apt: 'And I'm paying in pain...but it's the cost of the high') but we all knew we had witnessed something truly special and were blessed to have found our way into the cult of Marillion - I mean, really, what other band would ever attempt something like this? Let alone continue to improve on it every two years. If yourdoubt your favourite band would do this there is one easy solution - listen to Marillion and make them your new favourite band...they'll even help you start out for free with a sampler CD you can request here: http://www.marillion.com/listen/index.htm (if only I'd known about this I would have become a fan a good few years earlier myself, but never mind, I'm here now...) They're not for everyone, I'll grant you that, but that's only because not everyone has taste.

And the convention story isn't over completely, even for 2011 - while the taking over a holiday park aspect of it cannnot be recreated outside of Holland, the gigs are being performed, literally as I type, in Montreal, and then again in a month's time in the UK (see you there!) With the exception of Mark again organising a fun run (on his 50th birthday no less...Mark...cripes, whatever is wrong with you....etc!) in Montreal the events side of things is barren (but you try and prevent Marillion fans from taking over a bar or three and making their own fun) but as ever it's the music that matters the most. And there'll be plenty of that!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

You'll never guess what this is...sdrawkcab ti yalp I fI

Holidays in Zélande: Marillion Weekend 25-28 March 2011 Part 2: Support bands and other exciting events…

As mentioned in part one there was an awful lot to attend (or indeed, to miss out on...) beyond the nightly gigs, so for this instalment I’ll begin with the stuff that passed me by completely, although usually by choice it has to be said... 

5 events I missed completely… 
  1. The Saturday morning ‘Fun’ Run – Arranged by the band’s very own fitness freak Mark Kelly, this gave you the opportunity to join Mark and Pete T on a 10k run beginning at 9am on Saturday morning. Sadly I didn’t even wake up until 10…what a pity…
  2. International Web Fan Club Event – This was billed as a chance to find out more about what the various fan clubs do. Well I can tell you that anyway – they drink, listen to Marillion and wear blue t-shirts (seriously, the Dutch, French and Italian clubs all managed to get their special Marillion Weekend t-shirts in exactly the same shade of blue!)
  3. Marillioke – Yes, Marillion Karaoke. Sadly this clashed directly with the quiz, but my other chalet-mates were there, with Phil tackling Neverland. From all reports the standard of singing was pretty decent and a good time was had by all (maybe next year this could clash with the fun run???)
  4. Sunday Morning Football – Like the fun run, this involved exercise in the morning. Unlike the fun run there weren’t even any band members involved (at least as far as I know…) so I’m not at all sure what the point of it was? :p
  5. The wedding – Yep, a beautiful couple (erm, Mark and Vanessa I think…) actually got married in the midst of the convention. And to think I was going to mention getting the obligatory bout of food poisoning from ‘Billy’s Burgers’ before I remembered this…

Rock and Prog Discos

The band’s communications manager (no, this title doesn’t do her justice, take it up with the band would ya?) Lucy and convention organiser extraordinaire Stephanie have taken to having a ‘battle of the discos’ on convention Friday nights, with Lucy Dj-ing the rock disco and Stephanie hosting the Prog version – I flitted between the two, and while I don’t consider myself a serious prog-head, have to say that Stephanie won on this occasion with a nice mix of prog old (Genesis, Pink Floyd) and new (Porcupine Tree, Touchstone). Conversely the best thing played at the rock disco (Oh, okay, I’ll give you Killing in the Name of...) was actually a prog classic – Focus’ Hocus Pocus (memorably covered by the band a couple of conventions back). Good fun all round though and the perfect way for the weekend to continue to gain momentum following the first gig.

Marillion Quiz

Having only been to one pub quiz since arriving in the UK I’d been looking forward to this for some time, all I needed was a team to join...thankfully I spotted chums Kieron and Nathan in the quiz area, so imposed myself on them, only to find they weren’t planning to quiz anyway! Common sense prevailed (details are hazy...) but Nathan and I ended up as team ‘Geeky Boys’ (Kieron gave us our moniker, and it was rather apt, it has to be said!). So, armed with a combined period of Marillion fandom of a mere 10 years or so (Nathan’s 18 and I was late to the party for other reasons...) we embarked upon the 9-round quiz, where we did have one distinct advantage over many of the other 40+ teams taking part – English was our first language!

This was particularly helpful for the round where Marillion lyrics had been translated into various languages and then back into English for us to decipher anew, not to mention the infamous picture round where 10 Marillion song titles were depicted solely in picture form – to give you just one example a picture of a ladies bottom, a donkey and a chap in an ING cap could only mean one thing: Assassing! Yep, where others struggled gamely we got the full 10/10. 

No such advantage came for the round where obscure covers of Marillion tracks were played (backwards!) – mercifully this round only had 5 questions, as opposed to the usual 10...in any case, with final scores ranging from 19 to 88, we scored a highly respectable 71, putting us in ( I think) 7th place, which I might have mentioned once or twice since, apparently?! Jolly good fun for all concerned though, so thanks to the Cakeyboys for organising this, and making it look easy.

Marillion Museum

This year’s museum display was, quite naturally, focussed on the Holidays in Eden era, with all sorts of formats of singles, etc on display. It was great to see a real live copy of the original American pressing, which was clearly put together with as much though as American record executives can ever muster, okay, it wins bonus points for including the b-sides on the album, but frontloading the album with two of the singles and relegating opener Splintering Heart to third track in looks plain barmy, even 20 years later...looking at all this while h provided commentary via a contemporary TV interview was just delightful. The other highlight was the recently-unearthed collection of drummer Ian Mosley’s backstage passes from over the years (seems he had a habit of posting these to his Mum, and was completely unaware until recently that she’d kept them all!)

Swap the Band, etc

Sunday afternoon saw us all back in the gig-tent for all sorts of events, kicking off with the Quiz final – that’s right, the winners of Saturday’s quiz now had to go up another bunch of folk with a decent all-round knowledge of Marillion – the band themselves. Time limits saw this reduced from the planned 5 rounds to a mere 3, which may or may not have affected the outcome, namely that the band won by a whisker! This was followed by the raffle draw, (no luck for me, which was fine, don’t know what I’d have done with a signed guitar anyway...) and a brief Q&A where the band were asked such probing questions as, ‘Is everything fine with you?’

Swap the Band was up next, and gave the band yet another chance to demonstrate just how close their relationship with the fans is, as 6 fans got to sub with their relevant band member (or a sample in one case). Guest bass and keyboards were first, with a rendition of The Party, which h mentioned he’d stuffed up on the Friday night (can’t say I noticed, but I’ll believe him). Quartz followed, with a quite incredible Italian chap handling lead vocals, and making what is a rather difficult song to pull off entirely his own (and while the other fan-subs got to play with without the originals looking over their shoulders he also had to put up with h hanging around and playing maracas). Guitar-sub Carl was up next, performing what h described as, ‘one of our more obscure numbers’ – Kayleigh (i.e. the band’s biggest-ever single, for the true Marillionaphobes out there!). All of swap the band was great, but this was the highlight – just sublime. Deserve closed out this part of the weekend with fan guests on drums and sax – and hearing real sax (where usually a sample from the studio recording is used) was a true pleasure – more please!
Support Bands

The Royal Cartel were the first musical act of the weekend, and while they were proficient enough they were a bit heavy for my tastes (and I was probably still too excited about being there to really take them in properly anyway), but the fact that their guitarist is the son of The President himself (Ian Mosley) meant that the ‘family’ atmosphere was up and running from the beginning.

Saturday afternoon saw Jo McCafferty play the Adventure factory, making her the only act not to perform on the main stage. This setting suited her well, but sadly I wasn’t able to appreciate her properly either, as I elected to sit, and being a bit late meant the only seating wasn’t really near the stage (I knew I was going to need to be on my feet for 6 hours solid, so something had to give and this was it – sorry Jo!) From a personal point of view the ‘bad’ seat I had did put me in a good position for spotting people as they came and went, so enabled me to spot Annabel (a fellow Kiwi) and Alex, a pair of fans I’d met at the Live at Cadogan Hall DVD preview screening last year (from that point on we couldn’t go around a corner without bumping into each other...which was nice).

Back in the main performance tent shortly afterwards we were treated to Pete and Robin’s ‘musical whimsy’ – where Pete T was joined by his school friend (go on, guess his name!) for some acoustic playfulness. It’s possible these guys have made an EP together, but if that was the case surely they’d have mentioned it at least once during the ‘show’? (‘We’re only playing for 10 minutes, can we still call it a show?’ Pete asked at one point – to be fair it was half an hour or so, so ‘yes’ was the answer). A nice lighthearted and entertaining start to what was going to be a very full evening of music!

Not long after Pete and Robin had departed the stage Sun Domingo appeared, mostly performing songs from their brand new album, Songs For End Times (of which they sold a fair few copies on Sunday – and rightly so), although they did slip in an excellent cover of Bowie’s I’m Afraid of Americans for good measure (and to prove that, despite being American they don’t take themselves too seriously!). These guys were right up my street, and definitely my favourite of the supports across the weekend. The album features several noted guests on its tracks, and one of them was on hand to join the band on stage, noting he ‘didn’t have much else on’ that night. (Yes, it was h, how did you guess? Just for that you can watch it below). The band also deserve credit for surviving the ‘attack of the pumpkin balloons’ during their final number...

There was only one support band for the Sunday gig, but they were also top drawer. The Tin Spirits went down a storm, and why wouldn’t they? Mostly playing prog covers from the likes of Genesis, Radiohead and Rush (a cracking version of Tom Sawyer), but with at least one (13 minute) original from their own album, their musical proficiency had the audience in the palms of their hands within moments. Hmmm, did I say I earlier that I don’t consider myself to be a prog-head? Might have to rethink that one...

5 magical moments from the support bands/events side of things...

1.    The charades round from the Quiz final generally, and specifically the moment where a fan had to act out When I Meet God. All he had to do was shake Rother’s hand – gorgeous!

2.  The audience filming Cannibal Surf Babe – at the band’s request all those with a camera phone (or similar) were asked to record this performance in order for one giant edit to be made from all the footage – not sure if this will work (most of it will probably be of other people holding their phone’s up, but never mind) but it a) filled me with the utmost respect for the members of the filming team working with handheld cameras and b) had silly old h forgetting we were all holding cameras and trying to get us to clap along!

3. Carl’s aforementioned performance of Kayleigh. Pure class!

 4.  The band’s (well, h’s really) answer to the ‘Is everything fine with you’ question. We were touched.

5.   As the Tin Spirits played Radiohead’s Paranoid Android h and son Niall (also designated h-tech!) could be seen engaging in an air-guitar battle off stage (apparently h’s daughter Sofie was also present for this, but I didn’t see her!)
Right, so that’s all the ‘boring’ stuff covered (although despite the fact I said ‘all’ I am not claiming this as a definitive account by any means!) – next up is the real meat of the whole weekend, the two specially themed gigs from the Saturday and Sunday nights – stay tuned!