I was really excited about this show, the chance to see Also Eden again, the first time to see Gazpacho, in their only UK date on this tour, and the chance to meet up with some friends, both old and new. And so it was that I took a wrong turn and stumbled across a brilliant free parking place for the O2 Academy in Islington, London on Wednesday 8 April. But I thought I was cutting it fine, so I rushed in, only to find that I was not cutting it fine, and had forgotten to bring any paper with me to take notes for my review – and there you were thinking I did all this from memory ! So I had to go back out, and one of the security guards signed my ticket to allow me re-entry. As it turned out, he was not the only person to sign my ticket that night.
I had seen Also Eden before at the Robin2 in Bilston and enjoyed them so much I bought both their albums on the spot, and they have been well-played since. They had brought in a new drummer (very) recently, so it was going to be interesting to hear how that worked. We had to wait for what seemed to be a few minor technical problems, but once they were sorted out the band opened with Star, from their most recent album, It’s kind of you to ask. Now, when my 7 year old son first heard the opening to this track he told me, in a good way, that it sounded like Teletubbies music, and I cannot shift that idea from my head. You probably cannot either now. Sorry. It’s the keyboards twinkling melody, a bass undertone, very atmospheric, and it really does have a lovely sound to it as it drifts along before the guitar, bass and drums come in and it kicks off into a more solid melody, Simon Rogers’ guitar is biting, Ian Hodson still building the atmosphere on the keyboards, then the guitar riff cuts in, the keyboards flow and take us off, and finally vocalist Huw Lloyd-Jones makes his entrance on to the stage. They have built such a big sound now, and I have to say that the sound quality in the venue is excellent, and this suits the melodic keyboard part being created in phases, a real, traditional progressive rock soud to it (which is a good thing), and a wonderful counterpoint to the brooding feel to the vocals, Huw pacing around on stage, a dominant figure up there. The guitar sound soars fast, then suddenly halts into the keyboard twinkling sound, before the vocals come back in, then some thumping bass from Steve Dunn, and there is a hard edge to the guitar, a sense of anger and frustration in the vocals, a guitar solo which is cutting, piercing, occasionally rises high, and then the track eases into the vocals and fades to an end. It has been an excellent opening, and a guitar part picks things up quickly and we are into Artificial Light, the guitar circling now as we take in an uptempo beat from Dave Roelofs’ drums. Huw’s vocals are more laid back, certainly less intense, and as the track builds they get stronger, fuller, more melodic. The guitar sound is rolling along now, swirling around before moving into harder riffing, the bass rumbling, such a deep sound, some intricate flourishes from Dave on the drums, then it eases into a keyboard solo from Ian, very melodic sound, soaring at times, very atmospheric, and then a sharp end.
This is their first gig in central London, and Huw points out that we can tell they are in London because he is wearing a short shirt – if they were back in Gloucestershire it would be a long shirt. Next up is Between The Lines, from their first album, About time, and the keyboard opening is fast paced, the guitar also riffing fast, treble sound from the keyboards building in layers, higher and higher, wailing as the vocals come in and the track gains some structure, a hard edge to the guitar. It is rolling along now, a truly great beat from Dave’s drums, and powerful, emotional vocals as the track continues, a crescendo taking us to something of a false ending, the melody continuing, a big burst from the drums and bass, and the guitar and keyboards are bouncy now, almost a Genesis 70s feel, but darker, much darker, then the guitar takes us off again, flying, soaring, a sustained sound, rolling on with some bite from the drums, then the guitar sound is melodic, then more cutting, as it takes us to the end. And as Huw says, “no-one is going to accuse us of keeping it short and simple. And to the point.” and they really do produce some epic compositions, full of intelligence in both the music and the lyrics. Which leads us neatly into Skimming Stones, another from their latest album, and this time about the sadness inherent in heroin addiction – a dark subject for a somewhat dark band. The guitar intro is coming through in waves, the vocals are melodic, and together they are producing a beautiful sound. The drums tap in lightly and Dave appears to be using fans at this point, rather than sticks, before switching to his sticks to kick in with Steve’s bass and the sound roars out. The keyboards are flowing through now, and there is something of a swaying feel to the track. A big, full sound leads into a considered guitar solo, then as the vocals soar the guitar gets an edge to it, a hard sound, moves into big riffing, with the keyboards providing the melody to the close of the track. They finish their set by “moving from an accidental death to a deliberate one”, and the poignant For Bumble from their first album. Light, melodic guitar opens the track, and then a very melodic bass line joins in, the keyboards now creating flowing sounds. The guitar picking gets faster and the vocals come in, leading us to a gentle flow within the track, and then the drums kick in and the sound is harder, but still flowing, the guitar riff giving an edge against the keyboard melody. The words are coming across as more of a narrative than a lyric at this stage, and the sound eases before building again into a harder part, a big, thick keyboard sound, with the drums kicking into that sound, accompanied by the bass, the guitar riffing as the keyboards flow through a solo, easing into a vocal part, both the keyboards and guitar giving melody now, before the drums roll us off again into another considered guitar solo, very intricate in parts, and the keyboards come in all treble sounds and we rush off into another big Genesis sound. The vocals come back in with strumming guitar, the keyboards floating over the top, and the vocals are anguished, angry, accusing – very dramatic, powerful, emotional – and then the track rocks into a massive sound which fades to the end, and a comment from Huw that “there are more tracks on the cds which are on sale at the back” – and after a stunning set like that I am sure they must have sold most of them. They certainly deserved to.
They will be playing in Utrecht on Saturday and Verviers on Sunday, before returning to play in the UK at the end of this month. You can also catch them over the summer at the festivals in Loreley and Denia, and at Summer’s End.
Gazpacho were an exciting prospect for me because while I had heard practically nothing by them before coming along to the show, I had only heard good reports from others. And so it was that I waited in anticipation as the band came on to a stage which now had candles all round the edges, and a screen which featured the airplane mobile image from their latest album, Tick Tock. They opened with Desert Flight, the opening track from that new album, and from the moment Jon-Arne Vilbo’s guitar cut in with the vocals and Robert Risberget Johansen’s drums hit in to take us rolling off with the vocals providing a light melody, I was hooked. And then when Mikael Kromer’s violin came in with a keyboard melody from Thomas Andersen and the guitar riffing, I was hooked even more. Such a sumptuous sound, delightfully constructed, and wonderfully performed with enthusiasm and clearly with joy. A bit of an Americana feel within it. The track itself then went into a big riff before the vocals come back in, eases into a keyboard melody then kicks off again, rumbling along, before quietening into vocalist Jan Henrik Ohme saying this is the “opening of Tick Tock, our new album”, and on the screen clouds are flowing towards us. The keyboards are now accompanied by a circling guitar sound, the violin adding some structure within a very atmospheric phase, and then the drums kick in and absolutely change the feel, adding an edge, speeding it up, building the sound, some frantic violin now, a sharp hit from the drums throws us into a violin solo which takes us through to the end of a breathtaking opening track. The airplane mobile image is back on the screen and Jan tells us we are “continuing the story from the new album” with The Walk. There is a rhythm track and floating chords from the keyboards, and together with the sublime vocals the feeling is laid back, gentle. The guitar is picking out notes as the track sways, the vocals now emotional, forceful at times. The drums come in, the keyboard sound builds the atmosphere, providing a base from which the guitar and violin work with their melodies. The violin sound really comes through as the vocals soar and the tempo picks up. The whole sound has really grown big and now there are bursts from the guitar before the track settles again. Then a huge burst of melody takes us into another lovely violin part, something special within their sound, which itself eases into the guitar strumming, and then fades to the original rhythm track and light keyboards. There is a movie of a sunset on the screen as the guitar picks out notes and the keyboards now provide substance to the sound, an arabic sound which grows with the violin, and the atmosphere in the venue is completed with the image on the screen showing a brick tower with the sunset on the horizon and then clouds drifting past. The music grows and the screen image returns to the airplane mobile, and the vocals come in and the melody is floating. There is an edge added to the sound as the drums return and get us rolling along, the guitar is strumming and Mikael is now on mandolin, a wonderfully rounded sound, and the keyboard rhythm track is running through it all, a gentle beat, almost bouncy, and now there is an intricate bass part from Kristian Olav Torp running through it as well, the keyboards throbbing through, then the track bursts out and the sound soars to take us through to the end, and the crowd erupt !
There is now an intricate clock on the screen, and we are going into Tick Tock, a very clear ticking sound going through the venue, the sound of a storm brewing as well, a throbbing beat, then the vocals come in with Jon-Arne picking out notes on his guitar, adding melody to the growing atmosphere, then the bass rumbling through, everything circling now, building anticipation, and the incessant ticking has got a hard crunch to it. The guitar treble sounds are on the edge of feedback as the circling expands, the drums kick in but still it holds, there is still the ticking, then (at last !) the drums blast and move us off, with all sorts of melodies mixing, but then the drums ease off again, the mandolin building the track now, the guitar soaring with a fuller sound, and there is wording on the screen – from the Cyrillic alphabet, by the looks of it – then chanting in a soundtrack, and on the screen people are walking down a hill, while on stage the drums burst in and die, repeating as the screen shows a tree being blown in a storm, and the guitar comes in as the clock reappears on the screen, and the guitar sound is rough, harsh and seems to be taking us on before easing, then picking up again but this time with more melody within it, but at the same time the ticking seems more accentuated. The vocals come back in with guitar and piano chords, a more gentle sound now and the guitar is chiming, the vocals are emotional, they soar, and the track bursts out, and Mikael is on electric guitar as well now. The track has a freer feel, rolling out, the keyboard chords soaring, with a large rhythm sound behind it as the guitar takes off and Mikael is now back on violin ! And it sounds like a different ticking is coming through, not as disciplined a sound, and Mikael has swapped back to guitar again, and the two guitars together are producing a huge sound, taking us into a flowing, soaring, crunching solo by Jon-Arne, which then eases into a piano part with deep bass chords, and the ticking has a more disciplined feel to it again. The vocals come back in, this time with wailing guitar bursts, and the track explodes into a massive sound, big guitar riffs, solid keyboard chords, the drums and bass rumbling under it all, the vocals melodic and flowing, before it halts into the keyboards, with ticking and vocals. The drums kick in again, the guitar sound is wailing and soaring again, intricate, circling now, then it all eases into keyboard chords and vocals to close. It has been epic and immense. Jan clearly wants to be more mobile and looks at his microphone and tells us that “if we become superstars then this will be wireless. It looks stupid too.” He says they have been “playing around with some acoustic numbers”, and that is their cue to go into When Earth Lets Go, a big, full piano sound with Jan’s vocals mellow, but also emotional, straining. The tempo starts to build, then eases as the piano plays more treble notes, and repeats a simple, beautiful melody, with occasional flourishes, before working into more treble notes again, moving higher, then the track opens out into a bigger melody, and not for the first time at a recent concert for me, a security radio blasts out during a quieter part ! Fortunately, it has not spoilt the atmosphere of a wonderful song.
Jan has his setlist written on a silver plate, and tells us that they will be playing Dream Of Stone next. As it turns out, they play most of their fourth album, Night, and as I am not yet familiar enough with their music to be able to distinguish between the parts which make up the full song, I will deal with them all in the same stream of consciousness way. I believe they played Dream Of Stone, Chequered Light Buildings, Upside Down and Massive Illusion, and throughout they had images from the album artwork on the screen at the back of the stage. It sounds like a storm building, an atmosphere, the melody almost scary as the drums tap in and the bass rumbles, the guitar floating, airy, some mandolin in there as well, then a drum flourish and the vocals come in, the bass now thumping through a beat, while a spacey guitar sound is created through an eBow. Mellow, laid back now as it builds, guitar chords breaking through, the sound growing layer on layer, the mandolin sound very rounded, soaring, being joined by more sounds created on the guitar by the eBow, before guitar riffing gives the sound a harder edge, and it has really grown big, before easing off to allow the vocals to dominate until the guitar cuts in again and soars high, taking the rest of the sound with it, and now circling, swooping, soaring again, then the guitar part is being picked out as the drums rumble, and the mandolin echoes through, being hit by a chunky guitar riff, and all the time the keyboards are giving an underlying melody. The violin comes in all melancholy, beautiful, joined by a wonderful piano sound, and there is crowd applause as the drums tap in (and a wild guess would suggest we were going into Chequered Light Buildings now), the guitar eBow sound soars, the rounded mandolin sound providing substance, the drums kick in, the guitar screeches, a sustained noise, Jon-Arne down on one knee, and the sound eases as Jan returns to the stage, ruffling Jon-Arne’s hair as he walks past him. The piano keeps the track going, the vocals come in – they actually come in a little high, “sorry about that”, says Jan – and there is a mellow feel as the drums tap in, the piano having something of a strident feel now, then big bursts into the track, the violin flowing through, and now the guitar cutting through as the vocals rise and the tempo builds and then runs, big guitar riffing against violin flourishes. It has built to a massive sound and is rolling along with a solid beat before it hits into a stop, and the piano comes through to close it off. And as the screen now has the wording Upside Down, I can make another guess as to where we have reached. Strumming guitar takes us straight off again, the mandolin flooding us with beefy notes, the piano notes coming in over the top of it all, the track breaks out, the guitar flows, soars again then settles, then rolls on once more, and the guitar surges through then settles three more times, and Kristian throws out a funky bass line, and the sound bursts through with the guitar rising high again, the mandolin piercing as the track rolls along, settles, then bursts again into an absolutely wonderful guitar sound, which maybe takes us to the end of another part. The keyboards keep the melody going, the violin moving over the top, together producing a flowing melody, and on the screen we have a movie newsreel of Marilyn Monroe, which includes her playing a trumpet, and we get snippets of her voice. The drums tap us into a keyboard melody, the guitar has that chiming sound again as the cymbals crash through, and the mandolin is throwing out notes which rise and then soar higher, and the drums come in with a fuller beat as the guitar sound circles, the notes being picked out, the tempo picks up and the audience clap along. It is a rolling sound, something of a Native American beat to it, the vocals closer to chanting than singing at times. The drums crack, the guitar strums, the track sways, it builds, it soars, really pushing along now, the guitar has a hard sound, it bites, it wails, it soars, while the keyboards are more airy, floating, and they have created a big noise to close with. And the crowd erupts with applause and cheering once more – and very well deserved for such a brilliant, awesome performance.
Of course they come back for more ! Jan tells us it is lucky the tour is over because they have flu on the bus and they have all got it – so the front row get one week off work, compliments of Gazpacho. The complete the playing of the new album, Tick Tock, tonight by opening the encore with Winter is never. The keyboards provide a rhythm track and melody, with the vocals flowing over the top of that, the track building slowly, gradually. The bass rumbles through, guitar floating in, lots of weaving rhythms and melodies. And Jan is such an amiable guy – it seems like the whole gig he has had a smile on his face, and it is most definitely there now. The guitar sound is floating through now until the tempo picks up and then it gets a harder edge, and the track is rocking now and has built up a massive sound, layer upon layer and it has suddenly come together. Jan takes this moment to introduce each of the band members and still smiling he says, “hope you enjoyed this. We did !” and he gets a guitar himself to join in to the close, and the track soars once more and rocks on before easing to fade, with Jan saying, “thank you very very much.” They finish off the night with Bravo, from their debut album of the same name, the drums tapping in as big piano chords mix with the bass and the vocals flow through on top of that sound. Once again they are constructing a track, and you can feel the layers drifting in one by one, the guitar strumming now, the violin mixing with the piano, the piano rhythm off balance with the drums, the vocals dominating, then the drums kick in, bring it all together and the track takes off, building another big sound before easing into the piano part. Now the violin flows through as the track rolls off again, easing into the violin swooping down, almost a jig, and then it is a jig ! The vocals have become forceful as we are into a full-on jig, the crowd clapping along, the drums taking us on, more flourishes from the violin before we hit a sharp close, and as one the crowd erupt again. Just time for a parting word from Jan, “take care of yourself. See you at the bar !”
It has been a truly memorable night, two superb performances from two bands I hope to see at Loreley, and for me it was a wonderful introduction to Gazpacho. It was great to see them selling out of merchandise at the end of the tour, and the only moan I would have is to the fans of progressive rock out there – where were you ? There could have been far more there for the only UK date of this tour. It did not detract from the evening at all, but if they do come back later this year (Jan indicated afterwards that they might) then it would be good to see more people getting along. And who else signed my ticket ? Well, not the band, because I restricted myself to asking them to sign my copy of Tick Tock, and they were all delighted to do so. My ticket was signed by Steve Hogarth, vocalist with Marillion, and it was heartening to see him there supporting Gazpacho.