IO Earth plus Crimson Sky

Venue : The House of Progression at The Peel, Kingston-upon-Thames
Date : Saturday 6 February 2010
Date of writing this review : 7 March 2010
Interestingly, and whether by design or coincidence, this was the second Winter’s End double-bill in recent times at the House of Progression at The Peel, following the Christmas show featuring the two Winter’s End headliners, Touchstone and Magenta.  Tonight we had the pleasure of I/O Earth, who were making their debut at The Peel and had played a lovely set at Summer’s End (review to follow), and Crimson Sky, who had previously played a blinder at The Peel supporting Touchstone (review actually finally written here).  So this was shaping up to be an excellent evening, and it did not disappoint – and it was good to see Sarah back amongst us again, along with the other usual suspects from recent weeks, although Mick was up in Scunthorpe enjoying a Crystal Palace win…a life outside of Prog – what’s one of those then ?
The evening begins with Crimson Sky, up from Bristol and climbing on to the dry ice covered stage.  The keyboards flood in from Chris Cadey, growing, swirling through the mists, Martin Leamon’s guitar cutting in sharp, melodic, flowing, fast and intricate, racing ahead of the keyboards, flourishing and then fading out as the keyboards flow on through the big opening to the excellent After The Rain.  It pauses before the drums tap in from new drummer, Alistair Woodman, and it kicks away.  Vocalist Holly Thody comes up on stage now, fixes her microphone, and then sings through the melody, a deep sound with the guitar, pushing against the keyboards.  And now Clive Lambert’s bass rumbles with the drums and the track hits on, uptempo and bouncing, the guitar riff scratching through as the vocals soar, rocking into a hard guitar part as the vocals push through again into a high, intricate guitar part and the vocals soar again as the very solid rhythm drives us on, the guitar cutting through as it keeps going to a solid end of a great track, and then continues straight in to Turn It Up, the keyboards swirling in high, the bass rumbling with a thick sound, and the drums tap as the vocals grow and then shout out, the drums growing with the vocals and rumbling as the vocals scream, and the track kicks away, thundering along with hard riffing and bursts from the keyboards, the drums and bass rocking hard.  It pauses and holds as the vocals play with the guitar and the keyboards screech in, the drums rumbling with the bass as the keyboard sound pierces and the vocals scream out again, controlled and powerful, very effective in making their point, before the guitar cuts through high and intricate and phases along, the drums thumping it on as the keyboards pulse out against a hard and heavy sound which is maybe more Sisters Of Mercy than prog (and should be enough to warn you from trying to pigeonhole their sound), holding into the keyboards flooding through, the guitar cutting in high, and the vocals pushing through the rumbling bass, before it fades to an end.  “Thank you !  Hello, The Peel”, says Holly, and Martin wishes a happy birthday to Chriz, who has come all the way up from the deepest darkest south west for this one.  They continue with The Sea (which is part 2 of The Misunderstood Suite).  The keyboards ease in, rolling gently, and the guitar strums with them.  A wave of cymbals gently crashes through, Ali using mallets to produce the sound, and the vocals ease in.  The track begins to sway along as the vocals push through, and the drums kick and it moves on, a big, melodic sound with an edge to it.  The bass thumps with the drums as the guitar strums along, and the the guitar rips through and Holly’s microphone falls apart !  The guitar sound carried on regardless, rising before fading out as the track pushes on, and with the microphone repaired Holly’s vocals push through and rise into the big sound which is driving along, before the keyboards pierce the sound and roll on.  Now the guitar riffs against the keyboard sound and soars itself, flowing out melodic as the solid rhythm section keeps us moving along and Holly sways and dances on the stage.  The guitar sound grows, develops, circles around the solid rhythm, then drives on before pausing into the keyboards.  The drums tap, the vocals come back in, and it eases along again, the guitar strumming as the vocals push on top, underpined by some lovely bass work from Clive as it pushes into sharp, soaring vocals, with the guitar cutting against the keyboards and it rumbles to a close.  “And after that happy number”, says Holly, as they continue with Misunderstood II, the keyboards rolling in with a symphonic piano sound, the guitar picking out a part to roll with the keyboards, before the guitar circles as the piano sound develops, and then the vocals ease in, higher, melodic, joining with the guitar and keyboards, producing a very rounded sound before the drums hit into it and we bounce along with the bass thumping, upbeat, rocking.  The guitar strums hard as the keyboards flow, and the vocals are flowing through that sound as it blasts on with a pointed piano sound rolling, big flourishes from the keyboards, producing waves as his fingers run up and down the keyboard itself.  The track is racing along now with the drums and bass relentless as Holly is dancing centre stage again, then dancing with Martin as he riffs through, before a sudden pause into gently rolling piano, the vocals ease, and Ali rolls in with mallets on the cymbals to bring it to an end.
They continue with Season’s End, the keyboards surging through and then joined by the vocals, and the wonderful sound they create together sets me to thinking of how the vocals remind me of Julianne Regan from All About Eve, and how the band’s sound as a whole has that All About Eve, The Mission, Sisters Of Mercy feel to it at times.  Far more complicated than simply labelling them ‘prog’.  Anyway, I digress, so back to the music.  Keyboards surge through, joined by the vocals, and the guitar strums hard.  The drums kick and the track eases on with the bass rumbling, before the vocals grow and soar through, the drums kicking again with them, as the guitar riffs hard and pushes on, producing a hard rocking sound, with the keyboards surging in again.  The sound eases down a little as the guitar strums, with the keyboards still flowing through, the vocals pushing on as the drums and bass keep us moving, before the vocals scream out and it kicks on once again.  A high keyboard part pierces through as the guitar riffs hard, the keyboards continuing sustained and screeching against the vocals, before the sound drops down a bit and it pushes on, the drums rattling on as the keyboards play around and intricate guitar cuts in.  It rumbles on through an extended push, and the bass carries on into Another Life, with Holly now dancing to the rhythm from the drums, which suddenly stops as the keyboards flow in, then pulsing bangs from the drums.  The hi hat taps and the track eases on, added to by some melodic guitar, pushing along now with the keyboards swirling and atmospheric, the guitar melody rolling with the vocals as the drums and bass keep it moving along.  The vocals are high as the keyboards come driving through and the guitar develops high, sharp, cutting through before strumming on, easing back and then developing again, playing around the keyboard sound, creating something wonderful and melodic which is floating along, and as the keyboards and guitar play on Holly is watching them as much as we are, and they each produce flourishes as it pushes on, and cymbal flourishes with a piano sound take us to the end of the track.  “Our last two songs are our longest two songs”, and that goes down very well with the crowd.  The first of these is A Sleep That Burns, the guitar strumming in with the keyboards, the vocals flowing in with them, before the keyboards fly high as the guitar strums low, then the vocals come in again and it rolls along, then holding as the keyboards swirl and the guitar circles, and the vocals push through and it moves along melodic.  The drums kick and the bass thuds as the guitar now riffs and it hits off, racing along hard and heavy with the vocals flowing on top against the sharp guitar riff with a hard edge.  The keyboards flow through the hard, heavy sound, pausing into the drums with guitar bursts, the vocals stacatto before the track eases off with the vocals deep in the sound, pushing against the keyboards.  The drums hold as the bass rumbles, and the guitar produces extended circling alongside effects from the keyboards, and the vocals flow into the eastern theme they have created.  The track pushes on with the vocals surging, the rhythm driving us with a solid feel, more effects coming through from the keyboards, and the guitar cutting in and circling around it all.  The vocals mix in with the eastern sound again, and as the vocals rise the bass sound grows, with the guitar cutting through in bursts, the keyboards flooding through as it holds, before circling as the guitar strums.  It eases on as the vocals push in again, rolling on with the guitar part sliding in and then cutting through the keyboard sound, moving higher as the vocals soar.  The drums and bass are lively, still driving us as the bass rumbles on, an organ sound flowing us into a big extended end, with Holly riffing along with Martin as the huge sound pushes to a close.  “Last one – Misunderstood III.  Again, about an hour long” and as they are about to launch into it Martin says “see you all at Winter’s End” and the keyboards flood through, then become more pointed, rolling along as the guitar eases in and the bass rumbles.  Then the guitar strums out hard by itself, with the keyboards joining in in bursts, before it pauses for the vocals to come in, and the guitar strums with them.  The guitar part develops as the bass rumbles against it, with pointed keyboards rolling under the sound.  The drums kick and the track pushes on with sharp guitar flowing, the guitar sound adding flourishes, circling a hook and then developing it as the drums drive us along with support from the bass.  The guitar sound is rolling over the rhythm and the vocals flow back in on top of it all, the keyboards still staying deep in the sound as the guitar develops once more.  The vocals rise, push through, as the guitar sound moves to wah wah and the drums keep driving us along.  A wonderful guitar hook develops, brings on a fuller sound, as Holly dances to it, and solid bass thumps in as the track surges on and the vocals push in high.  It is racing now with the guitar riffing hard, driving along with a big sound as the guitar pushes through again with that glorious hook, the rest of the sound incessant and hard and heavy under the guitar, and the drums come crashing through and the track rattles away, plunging on with the guitar riffing fast, the drums really smashing away with the keyboards flowing, a brilliant relentless sound which hits into a big, extended finish to bring a very impressive set to a close.
You can catch them on the Sunday at Winter’s End, when they will be on stage from 1340 for an hour.  On this form it would be well worth getting along to see them.  And they are returning to The Peel on Saturday 26 June in a show which will also feature Tim Burness on the bill.
The cymbals crash into the swirling intro music to signal that I/O Earth have begun their set, and the guitar riffs through.  The drums kick away hard and the bass thumps as we move through Introduction into Storyteller, already producing a different sound than that you can hear on their excellent debut album – in all seriousness, and before I have even really begun the review, I have to say this is a band you must catch live to fully appreciate, as I was lucky enough to find out when they played Summer’s End last year (review still to follow).  So you may want to get yourself down to Winter’s End, if there are any tickets left.  Anyway, back to the music.  Dave Cureton’s guitar cuts through high, flowing, repeating, as Adam Gough’s keyboards flow under the screeching guitar and the track bounces along, with high, melodic keyboards pushing through in bursts.  The bass comes through harder from Marc Williams as the guitar shrieks and it settles into a piano sound with the guitar shooting through, as Dave plays around on the guitar with the tremolo bar.  Richard Cureton’s drums kick and the track thumps away again with more skrieking guitar, some intricate playing on the neck as the keyboards flow through high and piercing, before it settles into the piano sound again, with the guitar echoing around it, and Luke Shingler comes on stage with his soprano saxophone, plays into crashing cymbals and after a pause they move on into Smoky Wood, with the sound pushing on again and the saxophone soaring through, flowing and swirling, all the other sounds working around it now, producing a huge sound which is driving along as vocalist Claire Malin comes on to the stage and sings into the sound they have created.  It holds with a jazz feel as a piano sound rolls against the saxophone, some wonderful percussion from the drums, and the saxophone sound builds and the rounded vocals build with it, coming through in parts as the piano rolls in with the saxophone while the saxophone retains the main focus within the track, pushing it on to a big finish with rolling drums and the guitar frantically riffing, and as the track closes Luke leaves the stage.  The keyboards come through with individual notes before the sound kicks on again, moving from the First Movement (Water) of their album into the Second Movement (Earth) with the track Home, the bass rumbling hard with the drums, and as the guitar circles the keyboards flow through and the vocals ease in to the sound.  It moves along gently, atmospheric, swirling, then taking on a harder feel as the drums bite and drive it on, the vocals pushing through and soaring as the guitar riffs, before it settles as the guitar comes through high and melodic, a considered sound, then Dave picks a single note and lets it float out as the track moves on with the vocals coming back in, soaring with a full rounded sound.  The track kicks on hard and powerful before settling into tumbling keyboards and echoing guitar, the guitar circling as the vocals flow, and cymbals crash us to the end.  They continue with a part called Adams Ambients, which pretty much describes itself, and Luke comes back on to add his part to it as the keyboard sounds pierce through, an electronic sound with rhythm behind it which swirls and develops, with Dave adding some keyboard parts himself.  The cymbals crash through and some dreamy saxophone eases in as the cymbals continue to crash through in waves, the bass rumbling gently as the keyboards repeat under it, and it holds until the vocals come in and take us on into Mountains Start To Fall, the sound easing on as the vocals rise and flow against gently tapping cymbals and circling keyboards.  Then the drums kick and Luke adds to that sound on handheld drum pads, and Claire’s vocals rise high through the sound as it drives along.  The drums suddenly kick to a stop but the keyboards still flow on and it is only when Dave says “thanks” that the audience realise it has reached a close and there is huge applause.Richard and Marc leave the stage as Dave explains “we have an album you’re all going to buy, and on there we have a few poppy songs and Claire, Luke and Adam are now going to play one of those”.  A piano sound rolls through full and rounded to open Take Me, from the Third Movement (Air), and the saxophone flows in to jam with the piano sound and they develop together, easing along mellow before the saxophone drops out and the vocals flow in, and there is a lovely melody to the track as it rolls along, building and repeating through the chorus before the saxophone flows in again, developing the theme set out by the piano sound, and the piano rolls out of it to be joined by the vocals, then a harder piano sound as it rolls on with the vocals rising, then soaring, before the track settles and fades to a close.  Dave begins Come With Me, then “ahem, start again” and he picks out the guitar part again, melodic, rolling, intricate, certainly showing his prowess as a guitarist, and the keyboards roll with the sound he is creating before he throws in some big power chords and circles.  The sound eases as the vocals come in and the track gently moves along.  Claire’s vocals develop and rise as a piano sound rolls under them, the guitar playing around and developing the hook, the track easing on with a rounded sound.  The guitar is strumming through at times before moving into a floating sound, and then pushing into a solo, developing the notes with flourishes, considered and controlled, before becoming faster with some strumming added in, driving into a harder sound which takes us back into the vocals and the piano sound, then settles to ease along with flourishes from the piano, the guitar circling, the vocals rising again through the lovely melody before it suddenly ends.  Dave tells us that “prog is an excuse for ugly guys to get beautiful girls singing with them”, and as Luke comes back on to the stage he adds “not you yet, Luke – get off”, and the drums tap us into The Creation as they continue with a couple of tracks from the Second Movement (Earth), and the keyboards surge as the guitar echoes through and the bass thumps, before the guitar screeches in and the drums bite to push it on.  It is thudding along with a hard, heavy beat and the guitar swirling on top with a hard edge, and the drums hit us on with the bass thumping through as the guitar really works away on top of it all.  The track settles and the guitar echoes in, little parts screeching out, the keyboards flowing under that sound as the guitar develops, and the drums kick back in to release the sound as the guitar screeches through, shrieking higher, some fast, intricate finger work on the neck, floating a note through feedback, and the piano rolls in as the guitar continues to screech, the cymbals tapping as the guitar echoes through the piano sound, and then the drums kick again and the bass rumbles as the guitar continues to screech around, with the drums then kicking yet again and really do release us this time, with flourishes within the drum part, as the guitar cuts through, shrieking some more, and the drums hit along hard with another part from the guitar before a pointed piano sound rolls through and crashing cymbals take us to the close of a very powerful track.  They continue with Light And Shade, Dave telling us “this is a favourite of some people”, and the guitar riffs in with a sound which reminds me of Porcupine Tree from the In Absentia period, then the drums kick in harder with the bass, before it eases suddenly with Luke coming in on flute, high and floating.  Then the drums come back in with sharp guitar, the keyboards rolling under the guitar sound, and it eases along atmospheric with the flute developing, before the drums kick once more and the guitar cuts sharp against the flute, the sound holding as they both float now, lots of high swirls, before the drums crash in and the guitar shrieks away racing and intricate, the bass thudding through under it before the track holds.  Dave takes centre stage and starts playing around with the theme from Jean Michel Jarre’s Oxygene Part IV, before riffing hard for the drums to follow in bursts, and then it crashes away hard and heavy again, rocking on with the keyboards flowing and the bass rumbling, the drums still going with the guitar riff and it bounces along to a sharp end, and the crowd erupt.Dave takes the opportunity to introduce the band, getting Marc to show us his I/O Earth tshirt (available at the merchandise stand), introducing Claire with “on lead vocals, a bit of eye candy”, and even if the jokes he recounts which Adam was telling them on the drive down are not the best, Dave’s on-stage banter is full of good humour.  “Do you want to introduce me, Claire ?”, he asks.  “No, not really”, she replies.  They finish their set with a couple of tracks from the Third Movement (Air), starting with Sun Is Going Down, the drums hitting us in before it moves away with a funky feel and wah wah coming through the sound as Dave encourages the crowd to clap along.  The keyboards flow under the thumping bass and the saxophone roars in on top as the vocals flow through high, and the track has a real bite within it as it moves on.  The saxophone pushes through and swirls with a jazzy feel before the guitar cuts in intricate and flowing, and the two sounds come together, swapping hooks between them, flowing and developing, a wonderous sound, pushing high with the saxophone, lots of work on the guitar neck, and the guitar cuts through hard and sharp against the solid rhythm, the saxophone breaking in with a direct, piercing sound, before the track eases into trembling keyboards which run with the thumping rhythm, and the guitar riffs into it as the vocals soar out with the saxophone, and a sharp hit from the drums brings it to an end.  “This is our last song, but don’t worry, it’s about an hour long because it’s prog”, and the guitar echoes into Harmonix with the cymbals crashing and the bass rumbling, before the guitar rises higher with fast, intricate flourishes, then floats along with the crashing cymbals, cutting through with a harder edge while still flowing melodic and a masterful display here within this extended guitar part.  Then the piano rolls in with pointed notes and the drums bite and the guitar screeches through.  The keyboards flow under it as the bass thumps it on and the vocals roll in with the piano sound, the guitar shrieking through hard with the drums driving with it, and then it holds as the guitar develops, riffing hard as the drums roll and bite, still holding us, pointed piano bursts, before the vocals roll in against a tapping hi hat, and drum bursts into the guitar riffing, the bass thumping as the drums flourish with a strong sound, and the drums finally release us and the track flows away with the keyboards running under the guitar riff, then a sharp pause into the keyboards before it kicks on with the vocals flowing high, the guitar cutting against the circling keyboards and the drums hit us into a big extended finish, a “thank you, goodnight” from Dave, and the crowd erupt into applause for an outstanding set, and sadly there is no time available to provide the encore being loudly demanded by a very appreciative audience.

You can also catch them on the Sunday at Winter’s End, with their set running from 1600 for an hour.  They are also returning to The Peel, playing on a bill with Lee Abraham (who is also at Winter’s End, on the Saturday) on Saturday 31 July.  You would be missing out if you did not get along to at least one of those dates.
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