Luckily for myself and fellow Midlands rock fans Pendragon seem to have taken a shine to the Assembly holding a number of their rare UK performances at the venue, luckily they have a loyal following prepared to travel to see their musical heroes so the hall was busy and buzzing.
It seems a shame that most of mainland Europe’s rock fans seem to hold Pendragon, one of the greatest prog rock (with the emphasis on rock) bands around in more esteem than the general British rock fraternity but all we the enlightened can do is to keep spreading the word over here.
Support was a solo set by Gary Chandler, front man of melodic progressive rock band Jadis and included tracks from that band’s back catalogue and solo material, a rich vocalist and excellent guitarist his set which included use of backing/samples to enrich the sound along with his easy going stage manner quickly won the audience over.
The highlights included a superb, abridged version of Jadis number ‘Standing Still’ and from his solo output (and I think titled) ‘A Thousand Scary Eyes’, the latter full of funky backing sounds and hints of Spanish Style guitar was a slow burning delight of a number.
An impressive set from someone I will definitely check out, both his work with Jadis and on the solo side.
With no new album to plug on this tour Pendragon had free reign to put together a set stretching the breadth of their extensive back catalogue, including most of the classics (or as Nick Barrett puts it “All the Hits !!), while still visiting their more recent output and walking around the hall after the show just two of the comments I head were “that was just about a perfect set list” and “just how good was that”, so it looks like they got it just about right.
The usual intro snippets of classical music had the audience clapping along, building the atmosphere until the band hit the stage and then the place fair erupted.
A review recounting all the evenings highlights would be far to long and test the patience of even their biggest fans but a special mention for golden oldies an exquisite ‘Paintbox’, the medieval tinged ‘The Black Knight’ complete with the fabulous introduction on how it is the only Pendragon track that Nicks postman likes and ‘The Shadow’ (what a guitar solo!)
A real treat was the gentle, beautiful and rarely played ‘Fallen Dreams and Angels’ and following a rally cry of “Are you ready to rock” the room was jumping for ‘Nostradamus (Stargazing)’ while the epic, layered ‘Breaking the Spell’ was as breathtakingly good as ever.
As fans of the band know they are a real class act, led by one of the finest rock guitarists around in Nick Barrett who is as at home crashing out the riffs as he is delivering solos dripping with emotion (not a bad voice either), the rest of the band are Clive Nolan who supplies the keyboard magic (also for Arena), bass player supreme Pete Gee and on drums the Bonham like power of Scott Higham.
Material from the last two incredibly well received albums performed included with it’s Pink Floyd at their very best first section ‘This Green and Pleasant Land’ from ‘Passion’ an emotion packed delight as was’ ‘It’s Only Me’ from ‘Pure’, the more metal tinged edge on these releases was shown in blistering versions of ‘The Freak Show’, ‘Empathy’ and a massive ‘Indigo’.
The encore was no surprise as the band returned after nearly two and a half hours with a triumphant ‘Masters of Illusion’ with the audience rocking out as one, this ended a Pendragon show to remember for a very long time.
Review and photos by Andrew Lock
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Power Plays w/c 15 October 2018
BIRDSONG AT MORNING Waterfall (Blue Gentian Records)
GUN RUNNERS Save Our Souls (indie)
THE BUZNIKS Nail It To The Floor (3MS Music)
NAZARETH The Secret Is Out (Frontiers)
CITY OF THIEVES Fuel And Alcohol (Frontiers)
Featured Albums w/c 15 October (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 STEVE PERRY Traces (BMG)
12:00-13:00 URIAH HEEP Living The Dream (Frontiers)
14:00-16:00 BIRDSONG AT MORNING Signs And Wonders (Blue Gentian Records)
Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)
18:00-19:00 STEVE MORSE/SARAH SPENCER Angelfire (2010)
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