Remarkably, it’s been more than four years since I last caught up with Panic Room – at the Limelight in Crewe promoting their then newly released debut Visionary Position – at Christmas 2008, to be precise.
Plenty of water has passed under the Panic Room bridge since then, two first-rate albums – Satellite (2010) and Skin (2012), keyboard maestro Jon Edwards and Anne-Marie’s sublime acoustic chill out sojourn in the form of Luna Rossa last year, and now out touring their latest album release Incarnate.
As a body of work in the field of female fronted, mildly proggy, melodic rock incorporating elements of folk, electronic, pop, jazz and world music it’s unparalleled over recent years.
But it’s a sad fact that the genre attracts an inappropriately niche audience. I guess that’s simply fact of life in 2014, and perhaps the night of the opening fixture in the 2014 World Cup was not the best to play the soccer mad city of Liverpool. The Zanzibar, while welcoming, was inexcusably thinly populated.
While the core of Helder, Edwards and drummer Gavin Griffiths have been ever present since the band’s formation from the ashes of Karnataka, and with bassist Yatim Halimi now well established having joined the band for the recording of Skin, the most seismic line-up change in the band’s history has been the departure of guitarist and founder member Paul Davies prior to the recording of Incarnate.
Up to that time Panic Room, played with ‘three upfront’ – Anne-Marie ‘down the middle’ with Edwards and Davies on either wing. It was a hugely effective strike force, but with the loss of Davies Anne-Marie has been pushed up front into the ‘lone striker’ role, Edwards has dropped deep into the Stevie G holding midfield role, and rookie guitarist Adam ‘Adzo’ O’Sullivan brought off the bench to play ‘in the hole’.
And while Anne-Marie unquestionably has the charisma and talent to lead the line (was it a Freudian slip when she introduced ‘my’ band?) Davies loss continues to cast a long shadow.
To my eyes and ears, the new line up has not yet fully gelled. Playing a very generous two and half hours and spanning their complete catalogue, Edwards bossed the midfield and never missed a pass, but his forays to join the attack were sadly infrequent, Griffiths and Halimi were rock solid in defence, but in a fairly ‘full on’ rock set, O’Sullivan didn’t look entirely comfortable, linking up to best effect with a few deft jazzy twists and turns. It was Anne-Marie, playing with the assurance of Christiano Ronaldo, whose performance captured the spotlight.
In terms of match highlights, it was a dominant display – after the atmospheric opener ‘Into Temptation’, they immediately found the back of the net with the magnificent ‘Velocity’ (the opening track off Incarnate), ‘Freedom To Breathe’ from Satellite doubled the lead, and ‘Knives’ (off the same album and with an almost Curved Air groove) put them in an unassailable position. ‘All That We Are’ saw some marvellous ‘tic a tac’ interplay between Edwards and O’Sullivan, and Incarnate sealed the victory in time added on.
It was a comfortable win for the away side although it must have been disappointing to be faced with such a small crowd. But, undeterred, Panic Room put on an excellent display. It could be they need a close season big money signing if they’re to challenge for silverware next term, and bearing in mind Anne-Marie’s saucy quip about her ‘unruly bush’ (don’t ask) perhaps what is needed is a Brazilian?
Setlist: Into Temptation, Velocity, 5th Amendment, Chameleon, Freedom To Breathe, Start The Sound, I Wonder, Knives, Skin, Nothing New, Cat, Waterfall, All That We Are, Promises, Dust. Encores: Screens / Song For Tomorrow, Close The Door, Incarnate.
Review by Pete Whalley
Photos by David Randall
Album review (Incarnate)
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