Support Act: The Sixxis
Review and photos by Yiannis (John) Stefanis
Over the last twelve years since I moved to the UK I have been to numerous gigs in many different venues around the country but both Tufnell Park and its local venue The Dome were new to me prior to Spock’s Beard’s latest show in London. I was surprised to discover one of the best and audience-friendly venues in the capital.
A quick chat with two fellow Progsters revealed much anticipation of the headliners’ show, but by this stage the opening act of the show – a US quintet called The Sixxis had started. Based on the crowd’s initial reaction to the first couple of songs, I realised I was not the only one unfamiliar with the band, but what we as the audience did know was that what we were in for was a real treat.
Blending Heavy Rock, Blues and Prog in equal measure, the music that these five guys produce is as much layers and thematically challenging as it is up-lifting and accessible with emphasis placed on Queen-like layered vocal melodies and amazing guitar solos, all of which went down really well with Spock’s Beard’s Prog-orientated crowd.
Clearly animated and in really high spirits, frontman Vladdy Iskhakov led his troops expertly and took every single opportunity to connect with the crowd, presenting us with songs of immense quality such as “Forgotten Son” and “Long Ago”.
By this stage, and while the last song of the night was still being performed, I was so impressed by what I was listening to that I ordered a copy of their debut album there and then. “Hollow Shrine” should hopefully be with me soon.
It took the roadies roughly twenty five minutes to clear the stage, the venue was becoming significantly more crowded and a pleasant buzz filled the air in anticipation of Spock’s Beard’s arrival.
That buzz turned into a massive roar of approval the moment drummer extraordinaire Jimmy Keegan appeared and bowed to the audience, with his smiling and highly-spirited band mates soon following suit.
I am sure that there are still fans of the band who are missing the presence of Neal Morse but even they cannot deny how well adapted Ted Leonard has become over the years – a fact that was made obvious by the way the opening track “Day For Night” was introduced to us by the massively tall frontman.
The song’s flamboyant guitar solos and intricate keyboard themes go down very well with the crowd, which starts clapping rhythmically to echo the technical dexterity of the song. The band is here of course to further promote last year’s “Brief Nocturnes And Dreamless Sleep” with “Hiding Out” being the first ambassador of said release.
Guitarist Alan Morse is in brilliant form, constantly throwing shapes and performing his solos sans-plectrum, while a bespectacled Ryo Okumoto battles his way through intricate piano/keyboard tunes surrounded by his numerous instruments.
“Harm’s Way” offers more moments of pompous brilliance while the follow-up “Something Very Strange” enables bassist Dave Meros to flex his incredible musical muscles.
Following a few short positive remarks about the quality of the venue, the band continues its set with “In The Mouth Of Madness” and an impressive “Snow” medley consisting of “Made Alive/Overture”-“Devil’s Got My Throat”- “Carie”, the later finding Jimmy Keegan showing off his vocal skills and receiving, as a result, the best reaction of the night.
The last part of the band’s main set includes technically challenging material such as “Submerged”, “Skeletons At The Feast” and “Waiting For Me” while sandwiched between them was a short moment where Jimmy Keegan decided to offer a cartoon-sounding short version of “Carie”, much to crowd’s and the rest of the band’s amusement.
Spock’s Beard are one of the few bands that I know of who can even contemplate performing a twenty five minute, one song encore but that’s exactly what they did with “The Healing Colours Of Sound” – a song which was performed expertly by the quintet and which concluded with Alan Morse almost about to throw his guitar onto the crowd and Ryo Okumoto performing balancing manoeuvres on top of his keyboard rig.
To some, Progressive Rock bands are too self-absorbed and serious about their craft to provide real entertainment in a live setting. Well, what the members of Spock’s Beard proved without a shadow of a doubt at the Dome on the evening of the 18th of September is that it is actually possible to be technically articulate and entertaining at the same time – an approach that many would have liked to follow but which only those really gifted are capable of doing .
I cannot remember the last time I had so much fun at a Progressive Rock concert and I’ll tell you this: next time these Californians decide to tour the UK I will make sure that I attend as many shows as possible!
Spock’s Beard Set List:
1. “Day For Night” 2. “Hiding Out” 3. “Harm’s Way” 4. “Something Very Strange” 5. “In The Mouth Of Madness” 6. “Made Alive / Overture” 7. “Devil’s Got My Throat” 8. “Carie” 9. “Submerged” 10. “Skeletons At The Fest” 11. “Waiting For Me” Encore: “The Healing Colors Of Sound”
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