Venue : The Peel, Kingston-upon-Thames, London
Date : 3 June 2012

First of all, my apologies, because I thought this had been published months ago.  Instead, it was sitting in drafts waiting for someone to press the button…which I have now done…

This is a warm up gig for Twelfth Night before they head off to Nearfest.  The gig is going to have an early start, with the doors opening at 1830, and the venue eventually opens the outside doors just after 1800 to let us into the bar, and we can hear Art & Illusion being soundchecked.  Twice.  It is one of my favourite tracks of theirs and it is sounding good.  Robert Ramsay from Tinyfish is here, and Clive Nolan from Pendragon (and we discuss his new project, Alchemy, including the funding needed to make it happen – you really should check out the excellent website), and Stu Nicholson from Galahad, who ends up behind the merchandise stand.  There are quite a few here from the Fishtank and when we go through into the main venue the Tinyfish track Rainland, from their excellent album The Big Red Spark, comes on, and I suspect we have Twang to thank for that.  You can thank him in return by buying a ticket to Celebr8, which incidentally is going to be the last full electric performance by Tinyfish, and so something not to be missed.  Unless you missed it.

And then this latest lineup of Twelfth Night begin to gather on stage.  And then disappear again.  I am not sure why this was tagged as an early start/finish because they are not going to be on before 2000 at this rate.  Sadly the audience is looking sparse as we near a start time.  There are (at least) 3 laptops and 1 iPad contributing to tonight’s show, though.  At 2002 the backing track starts and they come on to begin The Ceiling Speaks, with Andy Sears on electric guitar as well as vocals.  Andy Faulkner (formerly of Jump and one of the driving forces behind the scenes at the Classic Rock Society) is on bass tonight, and we have the two guys from Galahad, Dean Baker on keyboards and Roy Keyworth on guitar, and, of course, Brian Devoil on drums.  The track kicks off out of the backing track with circling guitar, rattling drums, both bass pedals and thumping bass, before it comes together and rolls away uptempo.  The drums bite as it pounds into the chorus and then flows out of that, racing, before settling again, holding as the guitar develops against pulsing bass pedals.  Andy sings into it as the sound swirls and his voice grows, rises, soars into more biting drums, sharply circling guitar, and the track drives away uptempo again, crashing along.  Repeating, and still growing into a sharp close.  And I am pleased to note that the crowd behind me has grown since the gig started, and is now a decent size.  It is the Sunday evening of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations and Brian is sitting at his kit waving a Union Flag, while another two are taped to the back wall either side of a Twelfth Night banner.  “Well, seeing as how it is the Jubilee a little bit of Kings & Queens wouldn’t go amiss,” says Andy, and they kick in, circling melodic with a sharp edge before the sound settles to an extent, holding discordant, edgy, uneasy, striking against the keyboard sound, rolling away before holding into riffing guitar again, the bass thumping with rattling drums as the keyboard sound grows and then floods through as the guitar circles first and the vocals soar.  It is a full, busy sound as the guitar pierces through and develops.  It drives away again as Andy riffs with…Andy.  It holds to a thumping rhythm as the guitar develops, the snare bites and it kicks on to another sharp close.  Andy’s joke at this time does not bear repeating.  He remembers he needs to move to his keyboard for We Are Sane.  Then he remembers he needs to take his microphone.  He plays piano and sings along high, with the crowd joining in.  It is a very effective sound with little piano flourishes and wind chimes from Brian.  Dean’s keyboards flood through as it reaches the main part and Andy returns centre stage with his guitar.  The drums tap in as the sound grows, and Andy almost remembers all the narrative before it kicks off, buzzing with a real edge and driving into a soaring chorus, then pushing on relentless out of that.  The sound is so tight as it drives to a pause, kicks on, then pauses again into hard bursts before pounding out.  The hard bursts are repeated before the guitar comes flowing through, pushed along by the drums and bass until they slow it to a halt and the sound swirls against a pulse.  Both Andys do the narrative part as the keyboards flood through and float with an organ sound, and there are little bursts of screeching guitar before biting drums release us and we race away with stacatto vocals.  It comes together and rolls into soaring vocals, pounding along as the guitar screeches through again.  Once more it settles to forceful vocals and dies out to a silence before the crowd sing it out into organ sounds, riffing guitar and crashing drums.  Paddy takes Andy’s guitar.  “Don’t give it back,” says Dean.

Andy goes to his keyboard.  “Microphone,” shout the crowd.  “We’ll have two in America,” says Brian.  Andy plays in on the keyboards to begin The Craft, joined by some bass pedal, cymbal crashes in waves with mallets, more keyboards from Dean, and the bass adds depth to a big sound as Andy sings on top of it all.  It flows along melodic and the guitar echoes in too.  Suddenly it settles to Andy singing along to his piano playing, and then kicks away with a full sound, his voice soaring.  It crashes to a mixture of keyboards with his vocals, and a thumping beat, before it gradually dies down to finish with the piano.  Andy moves back to centre stage, Paddy returns his guitar, and it is “time for another classic”.  “This is Blondon Fair” and it bursts through with that sinister opening, the keyboards cutting across it as cymbals crash.  The drums kick, the bass rumbles, Andy sings in and it pounds along with the guitar streaking through against the deep sound.  Hard, harsh, edgy, they have perfected the sound in this track.  It thumps along in bursts, staying deep until high keyboards flood through, driving to a crashing halt.  Andy sings, the bass rumbles against him, and it kicks away again into controlled, developing guitar which moves to a shriek and gets some well deserved applause, and then the track swirls and floats out of that into heavy breathing and a sudden halt.  Andy says “let’s say thank you to Dean and Roy because they have been absolutely solid with us and have changed the sound a lot.” before he continues with,  “Andy (F) was introduced to me by Lord (Clive) Nolan and will be joining me on my solo album and I think he is fucking shit hot.”  The band then continue with the keyboards flooding through a pulse into This City and Andy singing, his voice rising and soaring into the chorus with the crowd before the drums kick through and push us on.  It bursts into the chorus again, the guitar edging through to take us on and the bass adds in as it moves along uptempo before settling to repeated vocals and fading keyboards to close it out.  Andy indulges in some vocal gymnastics with the crowd before they continue with Creepshow, with him picking out the opening on his guitar, the cymbals come through in softer waves with some wind chimes added, and the crowd sing along to the opening.  It is a gentle sound, melodic, until the drums drive through it, the vocals rise, the guitar shrieks, the bass rumbles and it moves along in bursts before settling to a swirling sound with the vocals pushing against it.  More harder waves of cymbals as the bass sound grows and the keyboards float around circling guitar.  The vocals soar into a martial beat, the bass thumps, Andy strums his guitar and Roy plays around on the neck of his.  Suddenly it is a frantic sound, driving, edgy, guitar shrieks as Andy narrates.  And it blasts away again, totally pumped, driving to high soaring vocals, holding with a martial snare.  “And now ladies and gentlemen we come to the bit I haven’t rehearsed,” improvises Andy, instead of following the normal narrative, before it kicks off with him shouting out, “who’s running this show anyway”, and then it holds, then soars anthemic, majestic and pounds along.  The guitar screeches through with a marvellous sound as it kicks away and big riffing keeps it going against the rattling drums.  It is a huge sound now which they triumphantly push on, and on this evidence Nearfest will not know what hit them as it blasts to a close.

Paddy takes Andy’s guitar, the crowd remind Andy to take his microphone, the rest of the band leave the stage, with Brian saying “good luck”, before Andy starts up Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen and the crowd sing it.  “Doing all right, I think we’ll go on,” he says, and it continues into the second verse, before tailing off.  “All right.  First New Day, I hope” and the piano rolls through before it settles and he sings in high and emotional on top of it.  It gradually grows as the piano develops, then pauses into some hard flourishes before rolling on lighter and returning through some deep chords.  “This is not my piano, and this is not my drum” he says as everything gets in the way of a complicated part.  It slows as he sings in again, then picks up again through a faster circling part, before settling back to the song and pushes along behind strong, forceful vocals, into deeper chords to finish.  “Come on, it’s our turn now,” says Brian, as the band return to the stage.  “The guys are going to do what was called CRAB but now Andy’s in the band…” it is called BARD.  And as Andy (S) leaves the stage it rumbles away with thick bass against rattling drums, the guitar and keyboards edging through carefully and developing.  The drums keep it moving and then with a flourish break it open and the guitar flies, before a sudden hold into rolling keyboards and rumbling bass moves into the guitar shrieking through again with a rounded sound and it all drives away hard into a big, crashing sustained finish which echoes on into The Poet Sniffs A Flower, rattling away with a thumping beat, flowing keyboards and melodic guitar which forces its way through, and it drives with purpose to a big finish.  Andy (S) comes back on with his guitar for Take A Look and it is his guitar which begins it, circling in sharp with crashing cymbals and flooding keyboards.  The drums kick in to release it and it drives away into swirling bursts.  The vocals come through as it pounds along, returning to that original theme with a big sound.  Driving hard and relentless into the chorus and soaring.  It settles out of that into pounding bursts and then settles some more into twinkling keyboards before it quietens for Andy on piano and singing, his voice growing and soaring high.  Dean adds some keyboards, some wind chimes and crashing waves of cymbals from Brian, and then the sound holds until the drums kick it into soaring developing guitar, bass pedals adding depth as the guitar rises.  A couple of shrieks and it drives on with a massive sound.  Suddenly it holds to keyboard sounds, the crowd clap along, Andy sings in, his voice rises, takes on an anxious sound and the track screams out of that and pounds along with another massive sound, driving into a soaring chorus with the crowd singing along.  The guitar pushes out of that and it is irresistible, the track pulling us along with it now as it repeats and develops its anthemic sound.  And it is that busy sound which takes us into a crashing, sustained finish.  Andy introduces the band over the applause, and Brian thanks the sound and lights people.  The crowd call for more as the band leave the stage.

They come back on.  Andy thanks the crowd, including a couple who have come over from Poland.  Andy tries to get anyone (Stacey) to come up on stage to sing Love Song.  No-one is brave enough (although later the next day Stu suggests he was up for it), so Andy sings it himself against his piano playing.  The crowd join in for the chorus and the piano flourishes underneath.  Keyboards flood through gently but the piano and Andy’s voice still dominate.  The drums kick through, the bass gently rumbles, the guitar comes through as the keyboards develop and it soars as it pushes along and drives into rising melodic guitar which develops into a controlled shriek as the drums keep us moving along.  It dies out to Andy’s vocals, the piano and some chimes, until the piano fades and the drums burst through with high, piercing guitar.  They drive the big sound on to a close as the centre microphone stand almost falls off the stage.  There is more applause as they make to walk off the stage, and then come back together to take a bow.  The crowd still call for more.  And eventually they come back.  “We haven’t rehearsed this one.  In fact we were arguing about whether it is in A or B” says Andy.  “We are not planning to do this in America, so see this as a bonus” says Brian.  “Let’s play it first before deciding if it was a bonus,” counters Andy.  They finally get to Art & Illusion with Andy suggesting “this is going to be bloody awful,” and it moves away uptempo, bouncing along as Andy sings into the driving sound, and it hits on hard into the chorus before flowing out melodic the other side.  The crowd sing along with the chorus and it all sounds more than fine to me as the guitar cuts through again.  A great way to bring the evening’s set to a close, and there is another very well deserved round of applause for Andy Faulkner at the end.  They finish pretty much spot on at 2200 and then we get This Green And Pleasant Land from Pendragon.  No complaints about that at all.

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