And so The Peel, House of Progression Christmas party continued, and it was another packed house on the evening of Sunday 21 December. I will admit straight away that I knew nothing of Steve Thorne before this evening, and very little of It Bites, so it was always going to be a very interesting evening for me.
Steve Thorne was very entertaining and his tracks are all of the highest standardboth in terms of writing and playing, but I do not think I am alone in thinking that they would benefit so much from having a full band behind him, rather than him playing and singing to a backing track. When you take a look at the stunning guest list of musicians on his recordings, he must surely be able to put a band together. There is a fine mixture through the set of hard rocking, softer moments, always melodic compositions, some angry vocals, more bombastic touches, and tracks from his two cds and a new song. The track titles I managed to catch are Last Line, Ten Years, Well Outta That, The White Dove Song, Great Ordeal (which had not been played live before) and God Bless America (finished with the comment “what a sarcastic bastard I am”). There was a lot to enjoy within the set and I shall be keeping a look out for more from Steve Thorne now.
I knew two things about It Bites – they had just toured with Touchstone as their support, and they had released a critically aclaimed album in The Tall Ships. I had not been able to get to the tour, and had not yet bought the album. Oh, three things…I remembered Calling All The Heroes from 1986 because I am that old. I had never thought of them as being a ‘prog’ band, though. It was interesting to see John Mitchell stepping into a frontman role, from being the lead guitarist the previous evening, and he had an easy rapport with the audience, although there was not the same party atmosphere for me as there had been the night before. There seemed to be a good mix of the new and the old, as they opened with Oh My God and Ghosts off the new album before going into All In Red, then back to the new album for The Wind That Shakes The Barley, and then back in time again for Plastic Dreamer and The Ice Melts Into Water, and they worked together well. Steve Thorne joined them on stage to add some acoustic guitar, for the intro to Once Around The World, which led into Still Too Young To Remember, after which John Mitchall pointed out that Roger Whitaker got it easy sitting down and whistling. Great Disaster was followed by the announcement that “it’s prog o’clock, and that’s a good thing” as they went into Old Man And The Angel. They continued with Midnight, then John said he wanted to play something which had been amusing him all day, and there was no better place to do this than in Kingston in front of prog rock fans…and we were treated to the theme tune from Grange Hill and a rememberance of the image of the cartoon sausage on a fork going across the tv screen. Yellow Christian was followed by the plea that everyone bounce like they were big space hoppers…and everyone did, as they played Kiss Like Judas. Another one off the new album for the encore, and This Is England got an airing having not been played at the London date on the last tour. Then in the spirit of Christmas we got (an all-male) Fairytale of New York, and it worked well.
I am not sure what I was expecting from this gig. I’m pretty sure I was expecting Calling All The Heroes, and that did not happen. It would have been very hard pushed to have got near to the heights of the Frost gig, but it got close. The atmosphere was excellent, the technical quality of all those performing was top class, and I saw another side to the versatile John Mitchell, who most definitely impressed me, and there was a good feel to all the tracks they played – so whatever I might have been expecting, one thing I know now is that I am going to have to check out the It Bites back catalogue.