Unfortunately, circumstances meant that I was mostly away from Celebr8, and so this will be my only review of the excellent weekend. I very much hope (and now expect (and now know)) that it will be run again next year, and I will make sure I can be at the whole thing next time. (And with the benefit of hindsight, Celebr8.2 did happen and you can read my review of the Saturday here, and of the Sunday here.)
Of course, I had to be at the final performance from Tinyfish, and before that I caught the ever-brilliant Dec Burke Band.
Dec and the band come on at 1410 and the sound gradually builds, very atmospheric, and Dec’s voice sounds great as the song rises and soars out. December Sun eases along melodic into very controlled screeching guitar. The jingling keyboards from Paddy Darlington take us into hard riffing and they kick into Signs Of Life, which bounces along upbeat, some wonderful vocal harmonies among the relentless, rattling rhythms from Tim Churchman on the drums. March Of The Androids starts with buzzing electronica and moves into hard riffing, with the bass thumping of Steve Woodcock alongside the pounding drums. It holds as Dec sings in and then blasts off into screaching guitar before settling and driving on, rocking on hard to a big finish.
They kick off hard with Days Like These, before it settles then grows into a forceful chorus which bursts out. Dec takes the solo, develops it until it screams out, and then they kick it on, upbeat, lively, bouncing. Some more of an electronica feel from the keyboards to open the next track, before riffing guitar and rumbling bass take it harder and it crashes open to soar out. Then it holds before bursting out again, the keyboards flowing, and a brilliant mixture of sounds as it pushes to a close. They continue with Destroy All Monsters, the keyboard rolling with a piano sound as the guitars build on top of it and it sways along. Then there is chiming guitar on top of sharp drums and it builds until both guitars pierce through, then the keyboards bring it down, it rumbles on and Dec’s guitar shrieks out until Hywel takes over and takes it higher, plays on the neck, then brings it down so it can rumble on again to a fading hold. It bursts out of that and pushes on to a crashing, sustained finish. Dec introduces the band, including Steve Woodcock on bass playing his first gig with them, and he has been a revelation. Dec’s echoing guitar eases us into Something Beautiful, and some floating melodic guitar from Hywel which closes to applause, and they sway on as the sound develops. A real anthemic ballad feel which leads into soaring guitar, and it continues on to rise into a screeching finish.
“I think we have time for one more. This is a Darwin’s Radio song.” Breathe It In has a big progressive metal feel. Lots of frenzied fingerwork on the guitars before it holds and develops again in bursts, and it was a fittingly big finish to a cracking set. I said at the beginning that this band are “ever-brilliant”, and they are, but I do have to add this was the best I have seen them perform so far. I think there is a lot more to come, and I am looking forward to it. (And with the benefit of hindsight, those turn into famous last words).
If you missed the Tinyfish soundcheck at Celebr8 then you missed something very special, in every sense of the word. More entertaining than many gigs I have been to as joke followed joke and comedic event followed total balls up, in many ways it was what we have come to expect from Tinyfish – pure entertainment. It seems everyone wants less of Simon in their monitors and that Leon has far too many sounds available to him. The interaction between Prog Princess Simon Godfrey and menacing everything-tech Andy Rotherham was both brilliant and beyond anything expected of two grown men and a roll of gaffer tape.
This was billed as Tinyfish’s last ever performance and it was promising to be everything we could have wished it to be. I had a feeling it would be, after the Swindon gig, which you can read about here. Actually, if you read that one then I could almost get away with just giving you some quotes from the stage for this one. I was at the front, near the middle, so I pretty much heard everything. “Without further a doo,” says Simon Godfrey, and this is The Sarcasm Never Stops, as they blast in and screech away. It is a storming start and hints at the high level to come. Leon Cam(p)field tells us that “old man Sanders was complaining that was too fast,” before asking, “are there any Prog bands out there who play live who are looking for a drummer?” They would have to be mad.
Then we are into a few tracks from their excellent album, The Big Red Spark, and they begin with my favourite from that album, Rainland, as they pound in and Jim Sanders really draws out those notes before riffing away. They are putting everything into this and Simon’s voice is on top form. The track could not be tighter as Leon and bassist, Paul Worwood, drive it into a pause and Robert Ramsay comes on to the stage for his first monlogue of the set, with the stage turning red for it, and as he closes the sound drives on once more to take the song to a sharp climax and then a fade as they carry straight on into I’m Not Crashing with a stunning guitar sound, and the overall sound at Celebr8 must be commended, with the track flowing along with those huge bursts. It feels so tight in all aspects, a real tour de force for an excellent track. The sound hangs, with Simon saying “As it’s Kingston,” as the uber-chav Robert Ramsay comes on for Refugee and takes a photo of Simon on his mobile, “we thought we’d bring one of the locals out” and Robert continues with his monologue. Everyone listens, transfixed.
They roll straight on into the anthemic The Big Red Spark, which builds very nicely into a stunning guitar solo from Jim, and then drives from that to an epic finish, a huge cheer from the crowd and Jim gives us a thumbs up. “That’s enough loud ones,” says Simon, before his question “We played Swindon on Friday, was anybody there ?” receives the response, “Was Dec there ?” from Leon. Simon takes a drink and introduces the members of the band, shaking hands with Jim and Paul, and putting two fingers up to Leon, prompting “it’s your last chance not to anger me ever !” before Leon goes into a rant about the jigsaw puzzle he received as a present at the Swindon gig. “Which is strangely what this song is about, it’s called Baking All Night.” And they flow through a very mellow and melodic rendition of a beautiful song which bursts open with a sharp vengeance before it flows mellow to its climatic finish.
Moving on, Simon says, “Is George here ? George and Mouse are the only redheads we know, and they are both drop-dead gorgeous”, to which Leon adds, “I think Sarah Ashley is a bit strawberry, at least.” Simon continues, “We’d like to thank the promoters for allowing us to come along and do our last gig in front of you poor sods.” We finally get to the next song, which they dedicate to Tim and George “because a guy from Classic Rock called this song Ginger. It’s not called Ginger, but I’m not going to tell you what it is called.” It is a jumping, bouncing, upbeat rocking slice of ginger, whatever it may be called. Leon puts up “Spandex Ballet as an opener for Summer’s End” (which has still not happened…yet). There is a tease before the next track. “You heard a little bit at the start. Yes, it is Supper’s Ready,” and they move on with the splendid Nine Months On Talc instead. This was my favourite Tinyfish track before The Big Red Spark came along with so many great tracks to rival it. It storms away and drives hard, tight, so tight and perfect. I am loving this. At the pause Simon stops, looks around, sighs, laughs, says “yeah, I’m ready,” and then continues with “love that bit” to a cheer from the crowd. As that mellow hold rolls along Leon is putting talcum powder on his cymbals and as the track blasts open so the talc is beaten into clouds around the drumkit. Jim turns round to see this, laughs, and clearly cannot quite believe it is happening.
He shakes his head, and cannot resist a second look as they continue, but has composed himself sufficiently for his wonderful guitar break before it pounds to a close and a huge cheer. The less said about cocaine and hookers at this point, the better. Robert comes on to a “Jesus Christ !” as he shocks Simon with his arrival. They look at each other, and Simon waves at him. “The actions will be performed by Mr Simon Godfrey,” and that is what happens as Robert speaks and Simon…waves his arms about, before stepping forward to kiss Robert on the cheek. “And what happens when Simon has to choke on his own guitar?” Robert continues and we get to Wide Awake At Midnight, the brilliant epic from The Big Red Spark. I get the feeling they have changed this one around a little for this performance, made it a bit bigger, added to that epic feel. Either way, it sounds awesome. It settles to the quieter section, and Simon comes to the line “You are tired of me” which he follows very quickly with a muffled “no you’re not,” before continuing with “I am tired of wasting time,” and Leon comes out with “I bloody am !” and it blasts open and kicks away with such a triumphant feel, big riffing between Simon and Jim before Jim takes that original theme and pushes it on, while Paul and Leon hold it tight. It sounds perfect. Oh, dear. The moment we had not been waiting for. “We’re going to go out playing the very first song we ever played, isn’t it. This is Puff The Magic Dragon” and Robert appears on stage looking like an extra Blues Brother and delivers his dramatic monologue with some assistance from Leon’s box of tricks. And with a “Robert Ramsay, ladies and gentlemen !” they kick into Motorville with the crowd clapping along. Maybe if we keep clapping they have to keep playing. The guitar break shoots out before everything settles as Jim develops it, and then we kick and clap away again and it feels like it could flow on forever. Simon sings in and it pushes along before kicking into that brilliant guitar break again and driving on to big, extended, crashing end. Simon waits for that last beat from Leon, then throws his guitar to the floor and storms off. Which is not the way he usually leaves the stage at the end of a gig.
There are tears among the hardened Prog crowd. I cannot believe this will be it. I refuse to believe this will be it.
But for now Tinyfish have left us with a stunning performance, showing just how very good they are musically and technically behind that entertaining exterior. This is a band who have always known how to enjoy themselves on stage while giving the audience what they want in terms of performance, and they will be sadly missed.
Bert comes on and yells “Tinyfish !” but there is no response from the back of the stage. “They may have left the building.” Fortunately, they are still with us and they come to the front of the stage to huge applause and loud cheering. We do not want them to go, but after a few bows they are gone, and now they really will be sadly missed.
Until they return…
Oh, and as I am writing this over a year late – buy Shineback !
And do pop along to see Simon Godfrey and Robert Ramsay perform as only they can at The Peel on Saturday 24 August 2013 – tickets are available in advance from The Merch Desk here.