Panic Room plus Jump

I was talking to my fellow Liverpool fan and very amiable John Dexter Jones before the gig, mainly about football, it has to be said, but also a little about music matters.  He was making the very valid point that these days for gigs it is all about the ‘ticket’, and for me, Panic Room with Jump is an outstanding ticket.  It was about this time that the (verbally) warring, but essentially harmless, fans of AFC Wimbledon and Chelmsford City passed by us from the ‘other’ bar into this one on the way to the exit, quickly moving past all available weaponary in the form of bar stools and pool cues.  As John said, hooligans from his part of the world would have been having a proper fight by now.
The place is full, it’s a great turn out.  The stage is full too.  And Jump have not even gone on.  When they do come on I find by being in the front row I have become John Dexter Jones’ stella wallah, but at least I have not been squeezed in between the keyboards and some amps, which is the fate bestowed upon their bassist.  Doctor Spin is a great opener, rocking and riffing with a cutting guitar sound.  And John is on top form as one of the best frontmen out there today – “So here I am once more” being both a reference to this being a rearranged gig after a power cut brought a short end to the previous one, and a reference to him having done “that gig” one time down in Swindon.  Kingston Corner Blues is a song written in the car park of this venue about events which were unfolding over the other side of the hedge (in essence, two chavs having a go at each other), which showed the high esteem in which the venue is held – and the audience are loving the banter, and love the track, and I am instructed to write down that there was “sustained applause”.  When You Fall is a song about all the prog addicts, and leads us into When The Grinders Fire, a brand new song which has never been played before (I’m not going to say ‘and it showed’).  John assured us that the chances of them getting it wrong were very high, but in that eventuality they would have some blues riffs ready to fill the gaps – yes, they are that talented, and yet in the 19 years of their existence they have never won a Classic Rock Society award.  A light opening to the track goes into a much harder guitar part which is very heavy at times, and especially with the drums, and takes us to an extended, stunning guitar solo at the end from Steve ‘Ronnie’ Rundle – very reminiscent of The Wall-era Pink Floyd for me, although within the track I also caught traces of Rush in the drums and an overall Police feel – the band continue to defy definition.  Then they took things down a bit with Lennard’s Blues, a tale of playing the Subterranea in Swansea in days when they were famous and bands like Karnataka played first on the bill, about Gordon Lennard who was at the gig and found himself subsumed into a seething mess of drunken welshmen who were there regardless of the band, and held back by a line of five bouncers, bound arm in arm; of how no-one really said anything about the man himself at Gordon’s funeral, and the need to leave something in history to commemorate him, and it’s a wonderful rocking blues number with keyboard flourishes.  There followed a harsh critique of some poor sap who had bothered to review the band’s appearance at the Limelight club in Crewe before Christmas, a questioning of his comment on John Dexter Jones that “The songs seem to be stories from his life, and it sounds like a life well lived – although usually by other members of his extended family”, the retort that what is he to write about, “dragons and dungeons?”, and of course he is the most boring person in his family, which is why he is in a rock band.  OK, yes, that was my previous review…and all I can say is that maybe if they HAD been writing about dragons and dungeons for the last 19 years they might have won a CRS award by now – if you won’t do Grendel, how about something on Grendel’s mum ?  Anyway, John continued “this is about an uncle of mine who was torpedoed 3 times” and the room erupts in laughter – Down Three Times is a storming, brilliant number.  And it’s the end of the set, and they offer up a choice of Staring At The Rain or Free At Last, and a cry for Grendel falls on ever-deaf ears, and we have the excellent Free At Last, together with band intros.  Just a shame we did not get on to (Freedom Train To Float).
It IS all about the ticket, because the audience are all nicely warmed up now, up against the stage in anticipation of Panic Room, and the atmosphere is completely different to the previous night in Swansea – there is an edge, and the band feed off it.  Elektra City is very dramatic with the lighting and the dry ice, even if this does start an upward spiral of dry ice use by Anne-Marie Helder, and it’s an interesting new perspective for me as I am right in front of Paul Davies and get a very close look at his guitar work – I do not know how to play the guitar at all, but it seems to me that he does not do anything which is simple.  “It’s nice that we get a choice of light or dark tonight” says Anne-Marie as she takes up her acoustic guitar and they go into Reborn, with some lovely drum and cymbal intricacies from Gavin John Griffiths, and Anne-Marie’s voice is on top form in a song that really rocks on from the opener.  Banks Of The Ohio is a cover version from “Jon’s bizarre and eclectic record collection” and features some very delicate, intricate guitar parts from Paul in a bluesy number.  Sandstorms is a new track, featuring some lovely guitar flourishes with the keyboard intro, an edgy rhythm from Alun Vaughan’s bass, and Jonathan Edwards’ keyboards seem quite pointy on top, giving a hazy feel, moving to a subdued guitar sound which soars, and the whole atmosphere of the track makes me think of Pink Floyd at times.  The good news is that the new album is all ready…but now they just have to get into the studio to record it.  Endgame (Speed Of Life) sees more excess of dry ice and I am glad I am on the other side of the room.  Alun’s bass at the beginning is giving rhythm and melody, then pulsing, providing a solid backing to everything around it.  Gavin’s drums are driving the track, Anne-Marie’s vocals rise and swirl as the song builds into a more prominent keyboard sound, before the finale see Alun producing some nice effects with the bass sound.  And we get another new track with Go, the bass rhythm rolling along, not letting up and taking everything with it, giving bounce to the track as the vocals keep matters upbeat and the guitar flows over the top.  The music to the new track Yasuni is written by Paul, and the performance sees Anne-Marie on electric guitar, the two guitars mirroring before flourishes from Paul take him away from the main theme, the drums driving the song, some tapping bass, dramatic guitar interventions as the track builds from one plateau to the next, before it fades to its end.  Black Noise is introduced as a number written by Alun, “he’s a happy little soul, aren’t you”, and it’s a harsh, biting guitar sound to start it off, which becomes more rounded at times, pulsing, thumping bass as the track pusjes on and then opens out into a wider expanse, the drums stab into it with the bass, keyboards swirl in over the top of the rhythm attack as it races on to an end and suddenly stops.  Then another new song, “this is called The 5th Amendment”, and sees Anne-Marie on electric guitar in an upbeat number, the keyboards getting us going before Paul’s guitar cuts in.  And we reach Apocalypstick, the bass undertone, vocals with effects, guitar with effects, building that sound, keyboards and dry ice building the atmosphere, but less of an arabian feel than the night before in Swansea, with a guitar not having quite the flow and swirl of a violin, but instead they create a whirlwind of noise, conflicting, mixing, one flowing over another, drums trying to escape, the bass holding them in, a wonderful structured chaos.  And the set finishes with the “last one”, Blood Red Sky, from Anne-Marie’s solo album, dedicated to Jerry Ewing, who is in the audience, and the intro vocals are perfect, taking us into a powerful entry from the full band and the rocking feel is kept through to the whispered finale, which is treated with an awed silence by the crowd.  It has been a breathtaking ride tonight.
They encore with No Quarter, given a bit of a Panic Room twist, so “it’s slightly different now” and it’s their last last song, and Anne-Marie seems determined to use up the last last of the dry ice, and it is a wonderful bouncy, uptempo end to a very enjoyable evening – now just get into that studio and get the album recorded !

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