Venue : The Luminaire, London
Date : Friday 10 September 2010
Date of writing this review : 2 October 2010 (seems to have been left until 6 January 2014)
I notice that Rob Cottingham and Adam Hodgson from Touchstone are in the audience, which is always good to see – both to see them, because they are always interesting to chat with, and to see bands supporting other bands, which is a very nice common feature within this current ‘scene’. And, of course, Touchstone and Tinyfish are playing on the same bill at The Peel for Christmas, on Saturday 11 December, and if there are still tickets available I suggest you get one fast before you find you have missed the show of the year. Bassist Paul Worwood seems to be having problems with his set-up, and drummer Leon Camfield sits down with the audience in front of the stage while things are sorted. Tommo, from the CRS, introduces the band, “all I want to say is…Tinyfish”, and Simon Godfrey comes on wearing a red tshirt which alludes to Top Gun, but does not quite say that. The sound begins from The Loose Ends, the opening track from the new album, The Big Red Spark, and Robert Ramsay appears on stage in a new costume, a long brown leather trenchcoat, tweed cap back to front, driving goggles, holding a book. Rob delivers the narrative which opens the new album, leading into the drums suddenly pounding, Simon riffing, the bass thumping and Jim Sanders’ guitar screeches sharp and precise into Rainland, which may well be the best new track you are going to hear this year. It thunders along with a stunning hook from Jim, slick, sharp, pointed, tight with the sound coming together to drive on hard, before holding as Simon’s rich vocals push through. Jim squeals out a part, pushing the notes as the vocals shout out and the drums pound away again as it kicks on hard, hard and loud with a tight, controlled sound. A higher sound circles from the guitar as it floats within the hardness and develops, the vocals soaring as the sound thumps on and kicks away into some wah wah guitar, thumping with crashing cymbals adding an edge to the heavy sound as the guitar works its way through before the track blasts open and then floats. The hi hat is tapping as Leon sings and Rob comes back on to the stage to deliver the next instalment of narrative. Rob is narrating as diverse sounds tumble through, while the bass and hi hat hold us in place, the guitars riffing under it all, before the drums kick and Jim’s guitar screeches out. Paul jams with Simon as Jim continues to develop his guitar part, scratching up the strings as the vocals growl in and the track builds and crashes on, the vocals soaring out as the song rumbles on into a sustained guitar note. Sound is crackling through as they continue straight on into I’m Not Crashing. If Rainland is not the best new track you hear this year it will only be because you prefer I’m Not Crashing. An electronic rhythm racks against circling feedback before the drums tap in and the guitar echoes through. The bass is thumping with the drums as Simon strums, with the sound settling as he sings into it before it eases away hard and melodic, Jim’s guitar flowing into the sound. It pauses and then fades into the vocals, before crashing off again with the vocals soaring, the guitar circling with a rounded sound, before it pauses again as Simon strums through, hitting off into Jim’s swirling guitar echoing, and they produce a sumptuous sound with the drums tapping it on. It pauses again before the vocals come through alone, then the vocals continue with some guitar, until it eases along with a melodic sound and the bass running under it. The drums pound, and blast it on into a screeching guitar part, then a lighter sound as it drives on and the vocals soar out, before the guitar pierces through with one high note to end the track.
Simon says, “thank you very much for turning up to see us tonight”, to which Leon adds, “it would have been shit if you hadn’t”, and the banter never stops. Simon says he would like to “dedicate this to the guys in Touchstone” after seeing them the week before at their sold out gig at The Borderline. “Tossers”. Though Leon is more animated by the fact he heard that “Rob Cottingham whipped out a keytar…go home !”. They continue with the title track from the new album, The Big Red Spark, one of the new tracks which they have played live before, and a huge sound surges out with the guitars strumming, the drums tapping and the bass rumbling, before the drums kick and it eases away, settling as Simon sings in with his excellent vocals. If they were underrated before then this album should alert people to how strong they are. It gradually builds, then drives into a soaring chorus, the guitar circling melodic as the vocals lead it on, then the drums are building the tempo again as the bass thumps, and once again it flows into soaring vocals as it drives into the chorus. The guitar is edging through before the tempo changes and it sways on, the vocals then pushing through as it pauses into them and holds until the vocals scream out and the guitar flows away with the drums rolling. The track is crashing on now, the guitar surging into a hard riff before the track then blasts into a sustained finish. Leon mentions the recent Tinyfish album special on The European Perspective and Rick shouts out “bangin’ metal” and wins himself a prize. Leon reveals that there are actually two volumes of bangin’ metal, which is the prize Rick wins – and if you want to understand the ins and outs of bangin’ metal you will need to listen to that Tinyfish special on The European Perspective podcast. The last hour of the show is the new album, in case you want to take a listen before you buy it, and you can find the reference to bangin’ metal some hours and a few minutes in. Jim riffs some bangin’ metal, Metallica’s Enter Sandman, I think, before Simon introduces Wide Awake At Midnight, another of the new tracks which we have heard them perform live before. Simon had told Rob that he did not want any dungeons and dragons or sci-fi on this album, because he felt that they had done enough of that on the first album. Rob said that was fine because he had a song about insomnia. Simon continues, “oh, good, because only every other band has written about insomnia”, and then Rob tells him the twist, that the man who suffers from insomnia is taken away by the fairies. Simon’s look of resignation says it all. He thanks Destroy All Monsters for their set and then strums in and it is all wrong, prompting Jim to say, “he had 10 minutes and it still fucked up.” The brilliant banter and rapport between band members and band and crowd (this is in no way an ‘audience’) really does never stop, and is an integral and enjoyable part of the gig experience. Simon gets it right the second time. The drums tap in as the guitar surges through, the bass rumbling as Leon adds some rhythm flourishes, and Simon sings out as the sound circles higher with a hard edge, before flowing away melodic and bouncing, upbeat, a complex sound with Jim’s guitar working under it all, which just goes to show how well the two guitars combine within the overall sound. The vocals soar out and it kicks away with Jim’s guitar strumming through, melodic, smooth and high as Nellie comes to look over my shoulder at what I am writing, and the track shuffles along with a hard edge with big riffing from Jim. The drums bite and the guitar flows away melodic, with the track pushing along sharp and a huge sound suddenly takes off. It is rumbling upbeat with the guitar running fast into drum bursts which pause the track as various sounds tumble from Leon’s box of tricks, and Simon sings on top of that with Leon using mallets on the cymbals as the atmospheric sounds continue, before the track blasts open, holds, and then repeats. The drums are pounding and then kick us away as the guitar is riffing through, and the vocals push in as it rolls on uptempo, a massive sound rumbling along now. Jim walks over to Leon and riffs through hard, then raises the horns in honour of bangin’ metal and the track continues on, melodic and bouncing before pounding away with the guitar screeching through, holding into the drums as the guitar gently develops and Paul comes over to jam with Jim as Simon sings. Then it bursts open, flowing away, hitting on hard as the vocals soar and the guitar screeches out before it fades down into crashing cymbals and a sharp end. Bangin’ metal, indeed. “It is the special edition we have got out today,” says Simon, “It’s actually got music on it.” Geoff comes on, who had been in Charlotte ’s Web with Jim, Paul and Jem Godfrey. “I’ve always wanted to play with this man”, says Simon. “Geoff Wooten, Richard Gough, Goughie”, says Simon. “This is called Ride”, says Geoff. Simon strums in and Geoff sings with a rich, deep voice as the song eases along with a melodic sound. Geoff’s vocals soar smoothly and the track continues to shuffle along, with Simon and Jim adding backing vocals. Leon is tapping away on his box of tricks, producing wonderful sounds, as always, and Paul adds in some bass notes which rumble under the sound. Simon is messing about as Geoff sings, but he sticks to his task well (aided by the fact that his eyes are closed through an emotional part, so he misses most of Simon’s distractions), and then the track breaks open with Jim’s guitar flowing out. The drums are crashing with the thumping bass as Jim develops the guitar part and eases it higher, then rolls it on as the drums are driving us hard, before the track changes and sways on with a hard edge, suddenly easing right down to Simon strumming with Geoff singing into the sound, and Leon’s box of tricks tumbles us lightly to the end. I have to say that was an excellent vocal performance from Geoff, and when you are singing in a set full of Simon Godfrey’s brilliant vocals you really do need to be putting in a fine performance to impress, and Geoff did just that. Simon said in his introduction that Geoff is currently looking for a band, and on the strength of this performance he will not be looking for long.
There are sound effects as Rob comes on for Motorville, wearing his shades and black hat, pin-stripe suit with a white shirt, Simon making hand gestures by way of illustration as Rob delivers the narrative. The drums bite and it kicks away with the bass running hard, the guitar holding until Jim scrapes up the strings and it flows off, the drums then rolling as it crashes on before settling into soaring guitar, then crashing on again. It pauses as the sounds swirl around, Jim picking a part and Simon singing into the track, the drums tapping as it circles with the vocals flowing through melodic and full, with Jim adding backing vocals. The drums continue tapping in until they kick the track on with the guitar surging through into the hard drum sound, a big cymbal sound, the whole thing tight as the vocals soar into the huge, crashing finish. Leon tells us that his “best friend is playing five doors down”, which would be Chris Hollis, the other half of Spandex Ballet. Simon taps on his strings to begin and Leon says, “that sounds weird and wrong”. We are treated to one of Leon ’s jokes while Simon tries to rectify matters – “Doctor, doctor, I feel like an apple. Cor !”, but all will have been lost in translation because (according to Leon ) you need to be able to see his face to appreciate it fully, if at all. Simon tells us that Leon is to be the new drummer for Dream Theater (which my pc is telling me is a typo. Apparently Mike Portnoy lurks on the Tinyfish forum, by the way), with Leon suggesting he would need to be beating off Henry Rogers before that happens. And Paul is forced to plead, “Please start the song !” Simon taps in on his strings again, this time without it sounding either weird or wrong, and Jim’s guitar flows through to begin Fly Like A Bird (though there appears to be a typo on the setlist I have in my photo album on here). Simon sings along with the gentle, melodic sound, while Paul’s bass is easing under it all as the drums tap and then push it hard into the chorus. It eases away with the guitar circling fast before Rob returns to the stage, this time wearing an American army dress jacket and peaked cap, to deliver his narrative into wah wah guitar which moves higher before slicing out of the narrative into thumping bass, and the guitar soars out, a bluesy sound as it screeches, with the drums kicking it on. The singing vocals come back into the big sound as it crashes along with the guitar shrieking into another crashing finish before piercing out to end it. Simon explains that they are not a band who ‘do’ encores, as such, and while everyone knows that while this next track is the last one in the set, there is really another one to follow it. So at the end of this track we must call for more. They then continue with Nine Months On Fire, a stunning track which I voted as my favourite Tinyfish track in a recent forum poll, although that was before I had heard the stunning Rainland. A melodic sound rumbles through and the two guitars riff into it as the drums blast on with the bass rumbling along, before Jim’s guitar soars out and then floats with the drums rolling under it. The vocals come in as it continues to rumble with a hard edge, circling upwards and the guitar shrieks out, Simon singing into the sound as the track holds, before it hits into sharp, hard bursts, then crashes away, driving uptempo, the drums really biting as it pushes into more hard bursts, the vocals soaring into a sudden, silent pause. Simon and Jim together say, “I like that bit”. Then the guitars gently sway out into a melodic sound with Simon singing on top, the drums tapping in as it eases along, Leon using mallets on the cymbals as it moves on before blasting open, the vocals soaring, the drums driving it, biting again as it keeps pushing and then releasing us as the strong vocals soar out once more, the guitar now circling through with a screeching edge before it holds into the vocals, then moves in bursts, the tempo rising into a sharp drum pattern which pounds and ends it. And as instructed, the crowd call for more. We would have anyway, after such an accomplished and entertaining performance.
They come back on for the encore with Leon enquiring, “do you mind if it’s 13 minutes long ?”, to which some wit in the crowd shouts “Grendel”. “Not while I still have strength in my body”, is the more than serious response from Leon . Simon tells us that they will be playing on the Friday at the Summer’s End festival, before Jem and John Mitchell and Pete Trewavas play a set as Defence Of The Realm. Simon was discussing this with John at the Touchstone gig, and John was explaining how it was all a WWII theme, with everyone dressing up, and that Tinyfish should join in with it, finishing with the suggestion “you should dress up as Nazis”. The guitar strums in to begin the epic All Hands Lost, gentle and melodic, rocking with the metaphorical waves as the bass softly thumps under it all and twinkles come through from Leon ’s box of tricks. Jim picks a gentle part and repeats it as the track still sways along with Simon now opening the vocals and the drums tap in. The sound grows and it rolls away upbeat, easing on with Jim strumming through, the sound still growing with the vocals and then soaring out, the drums rattling as the guitar pushes through into the chorus. The tempo rises out of the chorus and it kicks away, rocking hard now with the guitar screeching, then holding as Jim picks a part and Ashleaze is dancing down the front, none of your normal Prog crowd reservations from her, no flashing thoughts of taking her exuberance Undergound. Simon sings in as it continues to hold, the sound gradually growing with a hard edge, the drums then rattling it into a pause as the sound fades out, and Simon adds, “now, for the last time this evening, will you welcome, please, Mr Rob Ramsay”. Jim is pushing notes as Rob delivers the narrative, Simon circling on his guitar, twinkling sounds coming from Leon’s box of tricks, Paul’s bass rumbling, and as the loud applause for Rob dies down as he leaves the stage, the sound swirls, Leon taps his drumsticks together, encourages with a sharp “come on”, then pounds away and the track kicks on, the guitars strumming through hard as the bass thumps, the track driving headlong now, hitting into pounding bursts, full of life and energy, the guitar sound striking through sharply as the track continues crashing on with the vocals pushing out hard and powerful while Jim works the parts on guitar. It keeps driving on before hitting into a sudden pause, then flowing out, floating away, swaying as the guitar swirls, Simon singing in as all the rest of the sound drops behind him and just the cymbals tap. The sound opens up with the guitar echoing high and the bass pulsing as the vocals roll, before the guitar then scratches through and develops, gradually easing higher before flowing into the huge sound which is floating along, the vocals soaring out of that huge sound. It keeps driving along until the guitar develops again into a pause, with Simon saying, “we’ve been Tinyfish, you’ve been the audience, take care, see you soon”, and it pushes into an extended, sustained, crashing end to a superb performance. And going back to Simon’s closing words, you should make the point of seeing them soon based on the strength of this performance and the quality of the new album. You may have seen and heard Tinyfish before, but almost overnight (if 3 years can be considered ‘overnight’) they have jumped more than a few levels with their new material. As I mentioned within the review, they are playing on the Friday evening at the Summer’s End Festival, on 8 October, or you can catch them at The Peel on Saturday 11 December with Touchstone. Personally, I am going to both, and I would suggest you do too, if, again as I have suggested earlier, tickets are still available.