Venue : The Underworld, Camden, London
Date : 14 April 2012
I had not been sure how my weekend was going to pan out, so it was only on the Friday that I actually bought a ticket for this Esoteric Antenna showcase event, even though it had been in my diary for some time as something I wanted to go to. It is good to see a record label out there which is devoted to Progressive Rock, and given that I already knew and liked the four bands on the bill it would have been silly not to be here. The drive down to Camden was easy, and finding somewhere to park was also easy enough, albeit expensive, and then it was just a matter of meeting up with a few people in the World’s End pub (including Rob Henderson and Purrdey (who was not late) from the Fishtank) before we joined the queue to get in to The Underworld. The last time I had been here was to see Big Elf and on walking in I seemed to have forgotten the way to the stage. Fortunately I spotted Andy Rotherham, who was tech for Tin Spirits this evening, and he was able to point me in the right direction. And almost immediately after that I spotted Steve Rothery (who I am sure you all know is the guitarist with Marillion), who has ties with The Reasoning as well as Tin Spirits. It was good to see him at an event like this. I went down into the standing area in front of the stage (there is also a raised area looking down on to it from two sides) and took some enjoyment from watching people stumbling on the last, shorter step into the standing area. A pool of spilt beer was gradually forming.
Anyway, I really should get to the review. I have seen The Reasoning a few times before, although the last time I saw them was at RoSfest in May 2011, so I was well overdue to see them again. Of course, this is a difficult time for them, with their guitarist, Owain Roberts, missing. We all hope that something is heard from him very soon. It got to 1728 and The Reasoning took to the stage with Dave Foster from Mr So & So (another band with a Steve Rothery connection) on guitar in the absence of Owain. And it was Dave who struck in hard and deep, circling fast to begin Dark Angel before Tony Turrell‘s keyboards twinkle through the big riffing as it bounces along. The track then settles and the guitar and keyboards flow as Rachel Cohen sings in with her wonderful deep and rich vocals and the song grows and kicks on again, rocking hard, rolling on through the chorus before the crowd clap along as it blasts off, still hard, heavy, with rumbling bass from Matt Cohen, crashing drums from Jake Bradford-Sharp, the guitar and keyboards combining so well, and the crowd sing along to the final part. The standing area in front of the stage is about a third filled and clearly all are here for The Reasoning. There are more people up in the raised areas around the edges, and it is not a bad sized crowd at all. The band continue on with sharp riffing into 14 from Adverse Camber, the cymbals tap and it drives away fast and furious with that excellent riff, wonderful rhythms, before settling with the keyboards swirling and Rachel sings in with lots of expression in her voice as the sounds move around her, with Matt singing the ‘take me in a new direction’ part. This is hard and heavy again – certainly a nod towards progressive metal but definitely not all the way over that side of the fence. The guitar screeches away high and fast, steadily growing and pushing into some more big riffing and as Rachel’s voice soars out of that sound I am very impressed with how Dave Foster has taken this on. It carries on through phases before the very full sound of the track drives to a fading finish and big applause, which is very well deserved. They have got off to a great start. “I hope you guys are ready for a seriously awesome evening,” says Rachel, before they continue with the track One By One from their new ep. High keyboards from Tony combine with circling guitar, Jake’s drums tapping with some thumping bass from Matt, and Rachel sings in as the song floats. This has an easier, lighter feel, until the drums blast through and it kicks away hard with a massive sound, then thunders into a guitar part and rolls to a close.
Rachel tells us that their new album due out in September and the next track, No Friend Of Mine, is from that. It opens with rumbling drums which for me have a hint of that original Sisters Of Mercy rhythm sound, and especially when they add in the heavy bass. Then we have the guitar riffing on top, keyboards pushing, before the track settles as Rachel sings in melodic, the track flowing along gently with a hard edge before blasting into a busy more open part. It settles again and then rolls on, and they are enjoying themselves up there as it moves to a fast shrieking guitar part, settles to keyboards and Rachel sings to a close with echoing guitar, which picks up a touch of feedback. On a first hearing it sounds like a good new one. “A huge thank you for the amazing Dave Foster,” says Rachel (and quite rightly) before she talks about Owain and reads a short extract from an email from his dad which they received yesterday. It is all very touching and emotional and while Rachel is crying she is also doing so well to hold it together. “So wherever you are, you stupid sod, come home because we miss you. This is for you.” We all echo those sentiments and hope that something will be heard very soon. The keyboards cut through with a guitar sound variation on the theme from 2001 A Space Odyssey and they crash on from that into Awakening, rocking away with another combination between guitar and keyboards before Tony sings, with Rachel joining in with him and it pushes hard. And it is at this point that I see Jerry Ewing, the editor of Prog Magazine (I think that is the new name now that they have ditched the Classic Rock Presents tag) is here, standing in the raised area to the left of the stage as we look at it. The track has a real edge to it, a pointed sound as it drives, and it contains the vocal harmonies we have come to associate with the band. The keyboards push on with the guitar as the crowd clap along and then it kicks away again with the guitar screeching out, hits into a big crashing finish and huge applause. “We’ll see you soon. Sing us out with this one. You know it.” says Rachel, and a piano sound is flowing as she talks. She sings with it and the crowd sing along to Aching Hunger. The drums rattle in, the bass thumps, and the guitar strums as the track blasts in bursts, settles and then rocks away hard and heavy, in the finest tradition of The Reasoning, with the guitar shrieking high. The crowd are in fine voice and in amongst them Steve Rothery also appears to be enjoying himself. The track rumbles along with wonderful guitar and keyboard bursts, and ever increasing singing from the crowd, before it fades to the keyboards and the crowd singing with Rachel and Tony until it finishes to loud cheers and clapping. That has been excellent fun, a great start to the showcase, and The Reasoning finish a top class set at 1815.