Cambridge Rock Festival 2009 : Sunday (am) – Touchstone, Breathing Space, Morph, Jeavestone plus Sacred Heart

Venue : Main stage, Cambridge Rock Festival, Haggis Farm Polo Club
Miles travelled this weekend so far : 307
Date : Sunday 9 August 2009 (am)
Date of writing this review : 28 August 2009
So, after the Saturday night at the Fish Convention, enjoying outstanding sets from both Pendragon and Fish (plus the added bonus of hearing the new Touchstone album, Wintercoast, over the pa before both sets), I travelled back to the Travelodge, ready for the Sunday morning and afternoon at the Cambridge Rock Festival.  This time the day was going to be spent at the main stage, and I was particularly looking forward to Breathing Space and Touchstone.  As it turned out, they both more than lived up to my expectations and I came across some other excellent bands as well.
Sacred Heart
The dreaded morning shift, and especially so as I hear that Uriah Heap did not start their set the previous night until midnight, and that the Quireboys did not finish until around half past three in the morning !  There are people in, though, and quite a few people at that, and they want to be entertained.  They are not disappointed.  The band say that they sound like Warrant meets Nickelback, but when it came to choosing a band name they thought Sacred Heart sounded better than Winklerant…just !  It is not a bad way to describe their excellent sound.  They open with Shake, from their album of the same name, roaring off with Alex Burke’s drums kicking, Mark Stephenson’s guitar buzzing, the bass thumping from Nathan J. Lark, uptempo, driving along, Paul Stead’s vocals very smooth and melodic, and it rocks along into a wailing guitar part before hitting off to a close.  That’s woken us up nicely !  They follow it up with Lay It On The Line, the drums rattling in like Whitesnake’s Still Of The Night, vocals coming in on the guitar riff (which reminds me of Saxon’s 747 (Strangers In The Night)), and I am loving this sound.  It is driving along again, a great feel, rocking hard, the drums rolling us into a guitar solo which rises, intricate, then a big sound roars through (before a sound problem takes it down), and they roll on to a big finish.  Their next number, Tonight, has a slower opening, and features Paul on guitar as well, picking out a part as the drums tap in and the bass gently throbs.  It is flowing along as an easy paced, melodic ballad when there is a sudden change of sound as the guitar riff comes in, raw and then piercing, as the cymbals tap along, the guitar part really building up, wailing out, and as the bass rumbles with it, some feedback hits through it and the vocal sound disappears as the track runs to an end, which is a great shame, but does not diminish from an excellent song. They race away with a cover of Guns ‘n’ Roses’ Welcome To The Jungle, a wonderful basic sound, the guitar screeching through before shooting off and soaring, easing down a little as Paul is on tambourine and the guitar riff plays about to finish.  They follow this up with a new track, Best Of Me (or is it Best In Me, as it says on their MySpace profile), the guitar strumming in with the vocals melodic, then the drums kick off and the guitar rocks away and the bass rumbles through, and together they are producing a wonderful sound which reminds me of Dio or Magnum.  The guitar solo is considered and soars off before the track eases down and the vocals dominate.  Then the drums kick back in and the guitar riff has a hard sound to it to end things off.
The drums kick us off into Down and the guitar roars.  The vocals come in melodic and forceful, and the track rocks along with a great rhythm, the guitar solo bursting through before the track rocks on again.  Then we get another new one, Music Man, the cymbals tapping through, a slow opening with the focus on the great vocals, both the guitar and bass running low down in the sound, though there are some very thick bass notes adding depth.  The bass starts to up the tempo and the drums crash through, moving us into a stirring power ballad sound, and the guitar riff starts to build and the sound comes together to move into a big closing part.  On My Way is also a new one, and seemingly so new that it throws Paul for a second, “I’ve forgotten I’m playing on this one” – he straps on his guitar.  The drums lead us off and the guitar is melodic, easy paced.  The vocals are smooth and powerful, and lead us into a wailing guitar solo, before the track gently rolls on with a hard edge thrown in to finish it.  “You might know this one”, and they head off into Bon Jovi’s It’s My Life, the drums crashing in, big riffing, bass thumping, the guitar sound really cutting through, and this great version rocks along relentlessly into a big close.  Next up is Top Of The Class, the guitar rolling in, the drums picking it up and the track starts to build.  It bounces along with an easy beat, melodic and light, before rocking away to the finish.  They bring their brilliant set to an end with Rock ‘n’ Roll Away, starting with the band introductions and the drummer is new (his rhythm and their sound has been so tight it does not show at all), and the track has deep sounds to start, moving slowly then building, with the bass rumbling through again.  Then the drums kick in and the guitars throw out some very heavy riffs, with some flourishes biting through, and the track rocks along, a guitar solo screeching out, moving to a false end, and then into a bigger end to finish a thoroughly enjoyable set.
Sacred Heart are currently recording for their new album, Darkness Falls, but you should take the opportunity to see them on 20 September at JB’s in Dudley, where they will be playing with Bonfire and Crimes Of Passion (who I reviewed in yesterday’s account of the Cambridge Rock Festival) – it is an outstanding lineup.
Jeavestone
I took a look at my watch, and after one act we were running 20 minutes behind schedule.  This mattered to me because I wanted to get back to Leamington Spa for at least the Fish set, but also wanted to be here to see Touchstone.  And then it seemed to take an age to get Jeavestone set up (although that was hardly surprising given the complicated and vast nature of the band’s instrumentation), and sadly there also seemed to be sound problems throughout their set.  They still put in a stunning performance.  I have to admit I did not manage to get hold of their setlist on the day, so I am running somewhat blind here, with some valuable assistance from the band after the event.  My apologies to the band if the song titles are not in the absolute correct order, and if, as a result, this review becomes a little misleading in its descriptions.  Anyway, they had come all the way from Finland and produced a wonderful collection of sounds, describing themselves as an alternative indie crossover rock band !  They opened with !Quela Puente! from their 2008 album, Spices, Species And Poetry Petrol, the guitar strumming in with Angelina Galactque on flute, drumsticks tapping, then the sound explodes with big racing guitars, Tommy Glorioso’s bass thumping, Angelina now on keyboards and they are flowing, and there is a manic beat and a great big 60s psychedelic feel, flute coming through in bursts, Kingo’s drums now driving us on, and guitarist Mickey Maniac is now playing a melodica, and the song comes to a close as Angelina laughs at a wrong keyboard part.  They continue from that album with The Plastic Lanscaper, Mickey’s guitar riffs taking us off, the drums tapping out, upbeat, and Jim Goldworth’s strong vocals sing out as the guitar sound comes through hard.  The keyboards roll in and there is a Yes sound flowing through the track.  It is driving along with grand vocal harmonies, Jim, Angelina and Mickey combining very well, and it hits into a hard-edged solo from Mickey, before the keyboards come back in and the sound flows with stacatto drums behind it, lots of layers rolling on to the end.  Next up is Hot Summer Fun, and very appropriate it is too, because the sun is out again today.  The guitar starts off, jumping, the drums tap in, there is melodica mixed with flute, vocal harmonies, a wonderful mixture of bright sounds running around each other before coming together hard and fast and racing, before the track eases into vocal harmonies again, and then the flute comes through.  The sound dies down, then it picks up again into a big sound and races away, before piano notes bring it to a close.  The sound eases in melodic for Mirror Monologue, and it has a Beatles feel to it, then it gorws and blasts out, before easing off again, then growing once more.  An awkward keyboard sound comes in, the guitar sways through and then moves into a slide sound before easing again and some feedback hits.  The keyboards have a pointed sound and the track grows again and soars, a wild collection of sounds all coming together to close it out.
There is a gentle opening to Daytime Escape/Veijo The Rattlesnake, with the flute dominating and the cymbals tapping in as a melodic sounds floats out.  This gradually builds into a fuller sound, warm and airy, very pastoral, drifting along.  There are many layers in the track, and a sharp edge to the guitar, which then picks up and really hits through with that sharp edge, and makes me think of King Crimson.  The track rocks on with expansive vocal harmonies coming through, again with an edge to them, and now the guitar sound is scraping, wailing, piercing, and it is a feeling of chaos which cuts to the end.  The Secret Playhouse is from their first album, Mind The Soup, and has a flute introduction with the guitar jumping.  The bass rhythm is racing and the drums are tapping in.  The guitars build and flow and then ease as the flute comes in.  Then it is big riffing driving it on, some feedback wails, another wonderful King Crimson guitar sound, and the tempo eases down but the sound is still flying, the flute soaring now, before the guitar wails out again and soars, becoming more melodic as it slows to end.  Knights Of The Bottomline is also from their first album, and a big guitar intro bounces off with a hard edge, then shuffling along and adding in flourishes, and the track is rocking away now with a huge sound, before easing down to shuffle along some more.  Then the sound grows again and blasts away, before easing once more, but this time with a richer sound, and it rumbles to a close.  They finish their set with Your Turn To Run, from the Spices, Species And Poetry Petrol album.  A collection of sounds drifts in, then some guitar riffing moves it on, the drums driving this one, the bass rumbling, flute floating through before the whole thing launches into chaotic sounds, then comes together and rolls on, before the chaotic sounds burst through again, with more big riffing.  Then it hits off again with a driven hard sound, before easing down into a finish with the flute blasting out and the guitar leaving us with a riff.
It has been an excellent display of musicianship in a fascinating set, and I am glad I have been there to experience it, and to buy both their albums.  I do not know when they might come back to the UK, but I would recommend you look out for Jeavestone, and at the very least go and buy their albums.
Morph
Morph are certainly not little orange plasticine men designed for the entertainment of children.  By their look I am expecting a huge chunk of sleaze rock, and that is precisely what they deliver, to the delight of the assembled masses.  They open with Shadow Riding, from their current ep, gently easing in as Harry Pierson plays his guitar over his head and Mark Pascall’s vocals soar.  It almost stops, then really kicks in and blasts off.  It is melodic, racing in parts, has strong vocals, big riffing, and the vocals really push in on the guitar sound as it is buzzing through, leading into a screeching solo and the tempo races us on into an intricate wailing guitar part to close an explosive opening.  Joe Sansome’s drums crash us into another track from the ep, Change Your Mind, both Harry and Mark riff away on guitar and Sam Sansome’s bass thumps in.  The track is uptempo and rocks along melodic, moving into a swirling guitar solo from Harry, which builds and then soars, before the track rocks along hard again with a solid sound, and they continue straight on into the down and dirty I Do Cocaine, as it swaggers along with the guitars riffing, the bass rolling, drums crashing, the vocals very powerful.  It rumbles on with guitar bursts coming through, giving me a feeling of Thin Lizzy, to be honest, and then moves into a sumptuous solo which is sustained and racing, before the track rumbles away again to a close.  They return to their current ep with Stanley, melodic guitar rolling through in this slower number, then the drums kick in and it opens up, easing along with the vocals soaring as the sound grows bigger.  Harry’s guitar bites into a melodic, flowing solo which screeches out, before the track eases along again and the cymbals crash through to close it out.
Angels And Demons is from their first ep and crashes off very uptempo and rocking, with big riffing as Joe’s drums blast away.  It races along with guitar flourishes before the guitar solo echoes out, screaming through, and the track thunders on to a close.  They return to their current ep with Pick Up The Phone, the drums rumbling in, sharp riffing easing into a melodic part, the cymbals tapping through as the vocals soar out melodic and full.  The track starts to really build with big riffs, then holds, drifts, before kicking off again into a flying guitar solo, and thumps on to the close.  How To Live is another from their excellent current ep, and opens with a massive power chord, the drums tapping in and then kicking off, with the guitars swirling.  It is racing away now with the drums thumping and treble flourishes from the guitar sound, before it has another kick and rocks away with a huge guitar sound.  The drums thump as the track hits into a screeching guitar solo, then eases down before rocking off again with more guitar flourishes, going hard into a big ending.  They close their set with the title track from their first ep, Dead Pretty, the crowd clapping them in, and they really build it up before launching in, kicking off a big rocker, with guitar riffs bursting through.  It is uptempo with the drums driving, the guitars becoming more melodic and flowing, and they ease it off to get the crowd to scream for them, working it well.  Then it kicks back in and the guitar wails before the track really moves off again, then slows and rumbles to bring their high energy set to a screeching close.
Morph are playing at Caldicot Castle over the Bank Holiday weekend, before returning to the south west for more gigs in September.
Breathing Space
This was going to be my first time seeing Breathing Space since guitarist Mark Rowan had left the band, but more importantly since the release of their third album, Below The Radar.  In fact, they had encountered printing problems with the new album so had turned up with a limited edition release of the album instead, and it looked like all the copies they had were snapped up in minutes.  I got mine.  Guitarist on the album (and for the future) is Liam Davison, but for today for this performance we have someone else on guitar.  There is a big crowd in for their set, including Emerald Sky (whose excellent set on the Classic Rock Society stage I reviewed in yesterday’s blog).  They start at 1455 – they should have started at 1405.
They open with Forgive Or Surrender from the Iain Jennings album, Breathing Space, the keyboards floating in and then the sound buzzing as it grows.  Barry Cassells’ drums crash in and the bass rumbles and the guitar roars as Olivia Sparnenn comes on stage looking stunning, and as she sings with her clear, smooth vocals she clearly has a voice to match her look.  The track races along before easing down into a keyboard part from Iain, then heads off again as the keyboard sound rises.  Through it all, the drumbeat is relentless and now it drives us on to the end.  A melodic guitar riff takes us into The Senses, from the second album (and the first under the Breathing Space name), Coming Up For Air.  A bouncy beat within the sound flows into Olivia’s perfect vocals, which build and soar, and there is a great melody running through.  The track moves in waves, growing layer upon layer, the vocals dominate, becoming more powerful, and then Olivia makes an introduction, “this is Bryan Josh on lead guitar”, and he moves into a wonderfully considered, subdued solo, full of treble, which soars, before the track drives on and then eases to a close.  Next up is Clear, from the new album, Below The Radar, and Paul Teasdale’s bass thumps through as the guitar bites in, then the drums kick us off as the guitar soars, piercing and sharp.  The vocals come in and the keyboard sounds from Iain and Ben Jennings build and become more full, Bryan’s guitar still screeching through, sustained.  The chorus is more melodic as the keyboards flow through, and this very full sound continues to the close of an excellent new number for the band.  They continue with another one new one, The Night Takes You Home, with the keyboards rippling through, the drums kick in and the bass rumbles as the keyboards stay gentle, and the vocals come in and then soar as the guitar cuts through.  The track is still easy paced and drifting along, building into grander moments which flow.  The keyboard sounds shuffle through, then become sharp, off key in the background, as the track launches off into an epic part where the vocals soar once more, before easing down as it closes quietly.  The brilliant Coming Up For Air, from the album of the same name, is next and opens with Paul’s bass thumping in, and then Bryan’s riff copies it, before the vocals come in as the drums kick off.  There is a lovely hard bounce to the track, and the keyboards join in as Olivia’s vocals soar majestic.  The thumping bassline is still running through as it moves into another wonderfully majestic part and the guitar solo flows in, piercing, then soars and is sustained, while the drum beat hits under it, incessant.  The melody drives on through to a close with the bass and the guitar back on that original theme.
Wasted All The Time is another from the first album, and has the drums tapping in, the keyboards floating, with the vocals melodic.  The guitar comes in riffing but also melodic as the drums kick on some more, and the vocals soar with the keyboards into a big sound, with the guitar cutting through.  It eases into such very melodic vocals and drifts along with a strong beat under it, then the keyboards blast, the guitar cuts in and the sound is harder, driven, with Bryan riffing furiously into a big close.  Rain Song is a beautiful track off the second album, sounding lovely here as Iain’s keyboard comes in as raindrops and Olivia’s vocals float over the top of that sound.  Ben’s keyboards are providing substance to the sound as Iain plays out the melody, and the vocals come back in with the drums gently tapping along, the bass gently pulsing and the guitar flows in too.  The drums start to become harder and the track blasts open and the guitar roars through, before it eases as the keyboards flow and then builds again, the guitar soaring in bursts as the vocals float high and also soar.  Then it blasts open again and rolls off, an epic sound with the vocals dominating the melody, a wonderful power ballad which eases down into the keyboard raindrops and Olivia’s vocals soaring once more to finish.  Then the title track from the new album, Below The Radar, a harder sound to the guitar riff, the drums kicking off hard as well, while the keyboard sound flows, and the crowd are clapping along.  It has a wonderful melody with a very definite hard edge, and is driving along uptempo, building into an expansive chorus, then driving on into a flowing guitar solo which rocks with flourishes, and then it blasts on again, with the crowd clapping along once more, and pushes on to a big finish to an excellent track, with the keyboards continuing on into When I Hold On To You, everything else coming back in as it settles into the vocals.  The drums crash and the bass rumbles as the vocals soar, accompanied by some riffing guitar, the keyboards laying out a melody underneath it all, before it settles and bounces along, problems with the system meaning the sound goes and then comes back in again.  The keyboards are gentle now, followed by a guitar part which eases through, before the track picks up again and kicks off once more, Olivia’s wonderful vocals soaring through, before the track settles to drive on to a big close.  They close their set with Questioning Eyes, which is also the closing track from the new album.  Olivia thanks Radio Caroline for playing the album the previous night, and directs people to where they are selling their new album and tshirts.  Iain says, “the beautiful ladies are not for sale”, to which Olivia replies, “depends on how much.  Sorry mum !”.  The keyboards come in soft and melodic and floating, joined by vocals which are so smooth and gentle, and together they ease along.  The keyboards build and the drums kick in with the guitar, and the track has an epic feel now as it pushes on, a wonderful guitar sound floating across as the song builds some more and Olivia’s vocals soar within the fuller sound.  The keyboards have a very melodic sound as the vocals soar even higher, and the guitar pierces through and flies.  Olivia’s vocals are powerful, sustained, and drive us on before the track eases into a piano part and the vocals become more gentle.  The keyboards pick up, chiming, dramatic, and the drums kick off with the guitar flowing with some slide.  The tempo has risen and the track races, the slide guitar sound dominating, everything else running under it, and then Bryan loses the slide and screeches out big, piercing notes, then riffing furiously, the keyboards providing substance to his sound, the drums and bass relentless, and they all hit in to a big crash to finish, and the very sizeable crowd erupts with applause.
This has been a stunning performance, probably the best I have seen from Breathing Space, and the new material sounds brilliant.  I would worry about the new guitarist having to follow that performance from Bryan Josh if I did not already know Liam Davison’s work, and they could not have a better person to take things on from here.  The future is looking very bright, and I do not expect them to be flying below the radar from here.  You can catch them next at The Y Theatre in Leicester on 4 September.
Touchstone
I took a walk after Breathing Space to get something to eat and drink, and so missed Airrace, and also bumped into Anne-Marie Helder again (see yesterday’s blog review) who told me that because of the scheduling delays Karnataka had been pulled out of the bill to allow Focus and Asia to perform on time.  That was not great news for Karnataka, but I understand they will get a slot in next year’s festival – you can catch them at Summer’s End on Sunday 11 October.  I also came across Leon Camfield, drummer from Tinyfish (also featured in yesterday’s blog review) who was back to see Focus, and unknowingly spreading his swine flu, though not to me !  Touchstone were soundchecking and drummer Al Melville was clearly enjoying himself, and as he brings it to a close we cheer – that will be his drum solo for the day.  I have been anxiously looking at my watch, given that I want to be getting back to Leamington Spa, but also given that I am not leaving here until the Touchstone set is finished.  They should have come on at 1645, and actually come on at 1810.
And then the intro tape does not work for the opening track, Wintercoast, which also opens their new album of the same name.  Eventually it gets going and the voice of Jeremy Irons comes through as the band take to the stage one by one.  Al’s drums kick in and the bass of Andre P Moorghen (who ?  Moo !) rumbles, while Adam Hodgson’s guitar has a hard rocking sound and Rob Cottingham’s keyboards run under it all.  The sound opens up melodic and grand, and vocalist Kim Seviour (who ? Elkie !) makes her entrance…as Adam and Moo are engulfed in a thick cloud of dry ice.  The vocals start and feedback hits through, but now the track has eased into a more melodic part.  High vocals flow out and thankfully the sound is fine now, and the sound of the vocals is beautiful – it really is noticeable how far Elkie has come on in such a relatively short space of time, and her confidence on stage is clearly increased.  Right now, she is commanding the attention of the crowd.  The sound builds and the drums kick in again, and it rocks on, building with Elkie and Rob’s combined vocals, which certainly are a big part of Touchstone’s ‘sound’.  It quietens as the guitar builds, the crowd clapping along, the cymbals crash as the sound is building, aggressive, urgent, and then it kicks off again, guitar flourishes screeching as it drives on.  Then it holds, dies down into the keyboards and the crowd applaud (no, wait, there’s more !), and it continues as the keyboards ripple, the bass throbs, and now the crowd are clapping along.  Elkie’s vocals come back in with a gentle sound, occasionally rising, and the track flows out with a melodic sound before blasting out, epic, majestic, and Elkie’s vocals soar as it moves into an intricate, flowing, soaring, screeching guitar solo, sustained with the drums crashing around it.  The vocals come back in and the track powers on, coming through in waves, then racing off as the guitar soars again, moving into a big finish and the crowd erupt !  There is no stopping them as the drums kick in to Shadow, from the Discordant Dreams album, a wonderful keyboard sound bursting through, the bass bouncing along as the guitar flows out while the keyboards give the melody.  It eases as the vocals come in, then rolls along, crashing into a more dramatic part before bouncing off again, the guitar chiming through.  The hard edge to the track rumbles again, and the track pauses and the crowd are clapping as the guitar grows, riffing along with the bass.  The keyboards screech in and the drums roll and pound before the track holds.  The drums crash again and the track holds once more, before kicking off and flowing on melodic, the guitar starting to riff harder again, the track pausing slightly before blasting off again to close.  The drums pound out a heavy beat and a funky bassline rumbles into Zinomorph, from the new album.  Adam’s guitar riffs in light and flowing, and is joined by very melodic vocals from Elkie.  It eases into a harder part and then flows again, harder edged guitar now buzzing before it eases again into gentle vocals.  It grows again and then the guitar screeches through, cutting into the original riff, as the keyboards come in soaring.  It eases once more for the vocals and then kicks off again, back into the original theme, and the appreciative crowd clap along again as the band build on that theme into an intricate, flowing guitar solo, which in turn leads into a sharp end.  Al keeps hiting his drums, and Elkie does not like it, “he’s rude, isn’t he” – as it turns out, Al has not had any monitors up to this point, and has been playing on autopilot – it is to his credit that it was not noticeable from where I was standing and listening.  And then the guitar strums in to Blacktide, the bass joining it and cymbals crashing.  The drums start to beat as the vocals come in, and you can really feel the track building.  The bass rumbles through as it eases along with a growing sense of anticipation, the bass sound building, the drums now picking up the tempo, and it finally crashes open with Elkie’s vocals soaring into the chorus, before her voice really soars and she absolutely nails it.  The drums kick us off again, the sound opening up, very Rush-like, for me, and the drums kick once more into a great combination of keyboards and guitar, a grand sound flooding through.  Adam rips into an intricate, piercing solo, and the track builds as it blasts again, this time the keyboards soaring.  The bass rumbles through and the keyboards are very treble, and it is holding, holding, then moves into a massive sound to bring it to a close.  The crowd erupt with applause for what I believe remains Touchstone’s best song.
Al is a bad boy, hiting his drums whenever Elkie speaks.  Boo Moo says, “ignore us. Al’s showing off”, and then let him have more than 37.62 seconds of a drum solo – so his soundscheck really was just a soundcheck !  And a very fine solo it is too, with the crowd enjoying it and clapping along, and it looks like it goes on longer than Moo (the actor !) expected.  “Smartarse”, says Elkie.  And now the drums really kick in for the title track of their first album, Discordant Dreams, opening with the keyboards before the guitar cuts across them.  Moo’s bass rumbles and the track eases down as the vocals come in, with Al then standing up to play his cymbals as the sound gradually builds again, bouncing now (and I have written here ‘Moo dances’, but surely not…).  The melody flows into the chorus, then moves into some hard guitar flourishes, growing into a massive sound which kicks along into a piercing guitar solo, gradually climbing and then easing down, before the track hits off again with a faster tempo, the guitar riffs, the keyboards burst through, rippling hard and sharp, and the guitar soars before coming down into bass rumbling, a hard edge driving us, the sound throbbing and we are straight into The Beggar’s Song, with the vocals coming in low, subdued, almost stacatto, before the guitar screeches as the sound soars large.  The guitar sound continues, sustained, expanded, with the bass thumping alongside, and the vocals soar once more.  The sound rumbles on hard and fast, the keyboards soaring now, and it is a majestic sound which rolls to the close, and quite rightly Elkie has her arms aloft, triumphant.  Elkie tells about the forthcoming tour (details at the end of this review) and Moo says, “buy a tshirt, the dates are on the back and then you have no excuse” – and I did that and last night (in the strange time travel world which is my blog on here) I saw a brilliant performance from the band at the Peterborough Beer Festival (blog review to follow).  Elkie explains that Strange Days has a singalong part, but before she can explain any further Adam is off, launching into his sumptuous Van Halen-like riff, and leaving Moo laughing in his wake.  The song kicks off with the drums and bass, and that flowing guitar riff, running hard and heavy, but also bouncy.  Elkie’s vocals come in melodic, and those in the know singalong when it comes to the chorus – and by the sound of it, there are a lot of us.  The track drives along relentless before easing into a flowing guitar part which rises into Elkie, Rob and Moo on vocals, then moves into a guitar riff as the crowd clap along, launches again into the chorus, and on into another big finish.  The crowd erupt again – not bad for a new song !  Matters become a bit more mellow as they play Dignity, the keyboards rolling out a gentle melody, Elkie and Rob’s vocals combining again so well, and the drums tap in and the bass eases along, with some guitar flourishes coming through.  The sound gradually builds into a fuller ballad and then the guitar crunches through and the keyboards flow as the tempo rises, and then the keyboards take off and the track bounces away with guitar flourishes cutting in.  The drums drive us on and then ease us into a guitar solo which gently rises and then soars, and the track rocks away.  It dies down to vocals and then explodes and rocks into a keyboard part before fading to a close.  “This is the last one” and the guitar riffs cuts through with some high octane roaring.  “Get the beers in”, shouts Moo, and the drums smash and the crowd clap along to the heavy opening, and the vocals come in and Touchstone’s thrashing version of Tears For Fears’ Mad World bounces along, with a punky chorus blasting out, then crashing along loud, hard and heavy, with the guitar blazing through, keyboards bursting out, and it drives along clearing everything in its path into a great big finish, and a stunning reaction from an overwhelmed crowd.  This has been a thoroughly outstanding set, highlighting the strength of their material and their mastery of their instruments – Touchstone are a band who are going places.You need to catch Touchstone on their forthcoming tour because I suspect after that they will be stepping up a level with venues, away from the smaller gigs, simply to satisfy demand.  They kick off the tour at The Peel on 19 September with Crimson Sky in support, before playing a number of dates later in September with the excellent DeeExpus, then jetting off to CalProg in Whittier on 10 October (with It Bites), and returning to The Peel for the Christmas party with Magenta on 19 December.  And buy the new album, Wintercoast – there is a lot of excellent prog being released at the moment, but this album WILL be in your top 10 for 2009 at the end of the year.

The set finished at 1910 and I rushed off to my car, to begin the journey back to Leamington Spa, hopeful of getting there before Fish began his set.  And that is another blog.

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