Tinyfish plus Sine Star Project

I was really looking forward to last night’s gig – the Tinyfish acoustic show before Christmas had been brilliant fun, and I had booked my flights to go over to Prog Rock 2009 in Poland, where they were part of the bill, so I was interested to see their electric set.  Add to that Sine Star Project, who had recently been on the Happiness road with Marillion, and it was set to be a great evening.  Then the cold snap hit and continued into the weekend and especially on Saturday where I was; and the part of the M25 which forms a major part of my journey was blocked so I had to find a way through Uxbridge and around Heathrow, and I just hate it when things seem not to be going to plan.  But I was there and in good time, and had an opportunity to chat with the guys from Tinyfish beforehand, when it became clear I probably had more information about Poland than they had been provided with to date !
There was a good audience in and Sine Star Project started with Wolf River, a slow, considered track from their first album.  Eternal Sadness For Man was next, from the new album Building Humans, and it was a very atmospheric, emotional track – and at this stage I was thinking current H-era Marillion, which I am coming to believe is not really my thing.  Here the tracks were being excellently performed and were good to listen to, but I was beginning to think I would not bother with buying the cd during the break.  Then came a soundscape instrumental which moved into the much harder sound of Brown Bread from the new album and I was taken.  Maybe it was Peter J Croissant moving from piano to guitar, or Mike Davies moving from the pedal steel to guitar, but the whole feel was transformed for me, and Strange Girl with its hard guitar intro kept that feeling going for me.  Chinese Drag Queen has a Muse feel to it, but by now I was also thinking that there was a lot here to remind me of parts from both Porcupine Tree and The Pineapple Thief, and seeing as how they are my two favourite bands, well…now I was really into it.  Next up was listed on the setlist as Mexican, and while it started off seemingly as a straightforward rocker, it suddenly got quirky (in a good way) and appeared to be driven by the drums.  For The Temptress the vocalist put down his guitar and the track certainly then used his voice to its full potential.  Bullet took us into The Green Man, which they said they had not played for a while, although you would not have noticed, and they closed out with the excellent Open Your Eyes, a laid back, gentle rocker.  And I was hooked and made my way to the merchandise stall to buy the new album.
Tinyfish have to be one of the most entertaining bands on the circuit, and that is even before they start to play.  There is a brilliant sense of humour running through the band which is well appreciated by their audience.  This gig started with Tim on the sounddesk trying to get Simon Godfrey’s guitar synth to work, and being introduced to the audience for his pains, before we hear the ‘Japan tribute band’ side to Tinyfish.  Thankfully Rob Ramsay was able to take the stage and restore some order with the intro to a very tight Motorville.  And so we were off, “We are Tinyfish.  Sorry” – and here they were playing a warm up show for the gig in Poland, playing quite a few songs from “all three albums”.  Hands up who thought there was only one album…but Curious Thing will be released at the Poland gig, and then there will be The Big Red Spark, and we got that title track now – lots of layers, Leon Camfield using both his full drum kit and his electronic box of tricks, and its a hard, heavy number with a sublime guitar solo from Jim Sanders.  Next up was Build Your Own Enemy, with Leon making the point, “haven’t we monkeyed with this song and changed it ?  Possibly when I wasn’t listening” – do Poland know what is coming their way ?  New song time, even though Leon had spent all week learning the wrong song, and Simon was debuting a new guitar (the out of tune guitar), and the sense of nervousness because this was a long song (I timed it at 10 minutes), and we got a long intro of baths, loofahs, triple word scores as Simon told us he had asked Rob for a song about something everyday that everyone could relate to, so this was a song about impotence.  Wide Awake At Midnight, a song about insomnia, is a real toe-tapper, with some heavy stuff from Paul Worwood’s bass over the top of some lighter work from Jim, very reminiscent of Steve Rothery’s work around Season’s End  for me (and that’s a very good thing, by the way), and some drum parts from Leon which had something of a Rush feel to them for me – and maybe more use of his electronic box of tricks than the rest of the band were expecting, because it has over 900 sounds in it, Poland want an hour and a half set, so “welcome to the test bed”.  I hope no-one missed the Run To The Hills moment.  Eat The Ashes is a track from the Curious Thing album and tonight we heard it with the ROCK intro, before Tinyfish resident 7 year old suggested the name be changed to Eat The Asses.  A mention of 50% of the loyal fanbase buggering off to Canada led to Simon saying it was 9 months since they had last played an electric gig, Leon asking if they should now set someone on fire, and the band launching into a blistering version of Nine Months On Fire, with a quite stunning breaks before the softer sections – seriously a wow moment.  Ride is another new song, and as Simon usually dedicates new songs when they are played he asked Rob who this should be dedicated to, and Rob said Bill Hicks, because that is who it is about.  But Simon had decided to dedicate this one to Rob, and said so…just as Rob had left the main room.  So, Rob, you cock, you’re fired.  Simon then started off in the wrong key…karma.  This is a softer track into a soaring guitar solo, and featured the ELC tambourine.  For me, this had been a ‘noisy’ gig, with a lot of chatter among the audience both through the tracks as well as inbetween songs, and part way through Driving All Night I have to admit I cracked and had my shut up moment, turning to those behind me and telling them in no uncertain terms to shut up so I could hear the band – I think what particularly annoys me is that there is another room within the venue where you could go and chat and still hear the band.  Or you could just go and join the strippers.  Too High For Low Company served to welcome us to the Tinyfish open rehearsal, before we were told that Rob (“he’s not a tramp…yet”) would be coming back on during the next track, and Leon wondered if Simon was going to tell us this was the last song of the set.  Simon admitted that as a band they are not very good at handling the concept of encores, Leon perhaps voicing a more succint point that for the gap before an encore they could either stay on stage or go back into the area with Ramsey – and they finished with an excellent Fly Like A Bird.  Sadly, the encore was not Iron Maiden’s Can I Play With Madness, but instead was Sine Star Rocks, “Baby, you don’t have to.  Baby, Sine Star rocks.” and All Hands Lost finished with You are the weakest link, goodbye, and an exceptional gig was brought to a close.  The band sound in excellent form and have a quality setlist as they prepare to take Poland.

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