Gig review: BIGELF – The Garage, London, 19 November 2014

Support Acts: Bend Sinister / Jolly

Review by Yiannis (John) Stefanis

Photos by Yiannis (John) Stefanis

Though first formed in Los Angeles twenty three years ago, it took the US trio Bigelf plenty of personal effort and the committed support of one Mike Portnoy before they managed to make their name known in the world of Progressive Rock/Metal music.

My introduction to this fine musical ensemble took place back in 2009, when I saw them opening for Dream Theater during their Progressive Nation tour and, since then, I have been following their career with much interest.

Earlier this year the trio released a pretty impressive album in “Into The Maelstorm” so attending the band’s London show whose purpose was the further promotion of said album was really a no brainer.

My original intention was to arrive at the Garage twenty or so minutes prior to Bigelf hitting the stage, as no interview was arranged for me on the day, but those plans were completely dashed the moment I found out that the first supporting band of the night were the amazing Progressive Rock New Yorkers Jolly.

Already a massive fan of the Pink Floyd/Radiohead type of music, I made it inside the venue quite early, only to find out to my major disappointment that the people who were willing to support the band on their half hour set were few and far between – perhaps eighty or so people in total.

Slightly demoralised but willing to make the most out of their short performance, Jolly opened their set with “Firewell” and with bassist Anthony Rondinone politely asking the crowd to move closer to the stage.

While the sound was pretty average and the light support almost non-existent, it only took a couple of minutes for singer/guitarist Anadale to warm up the crowd and by the time the solid riff and clever vocal melodies of “Dust Nation Bleak” were performed, the crowd’s positive reaction had changed the mood amongst the members of the band.

Groovy in feel but fairly intricate in structure, the closing composition “The Pattern” was the highlight of the band’s show – a show that would have been much better had the New Yorkers were given the support and respect that they truly deserved.

Bend Sinister is a Progressive/Classic Rock quartet from Canada I knew absolutely nothing about prior to this show and, had it not been for Inside Out’s PR rep in London who convinced me to give the band a chance, I would have missed out on a very impressive performance indeed.

Focusing on the impressive skills of singer/pianist Daniel Moxon, these fine Canadians have created a style of music that is as much innovative as it is familiar, a result of their unique ability to incorporate into their music elements from bands as musically diverse as The Beatles, Credence Clearwater Revival and Black Sabbath.

Full of energy and groovy in feel, “Thunder And Lightning” opened the band’s set in a triumphal manner and received a very warm reaction from their numerous and pretty devoted fans which, by that stage, had made the venue look fairly full.

While Joseph Blood’s riffs are responsible for the accessible nature of “Don’t You Know” it is Moxon’s impressive vocal range that makes the Queen-like “Things Will Get Better” such an impressive offering, leaving the Hammond-led tunes and the up-tempo beat of “Teacher” to prove how influential Deep Purple’s music has been on the band’s musical upbringing.

Moody and featuring more outstanding vocals by Moxon, “Black Magic Woman” is another blues-based gem while more enjoyable tunes are offered by the duet “It Will Never End” / “Best Of You”. How does one end a successful show?

Opinions, of course, vary, but the four Canadians decided to send us all packing through an impressive version of Supertramp’s classic opus “Logical Son” – a song whose tunes even the venue’s employees seemed happy enough to sing along to behind the bar.

What happened next is one of the weirdest things I have experienced in my twelve years as a music journalist! In the twenty or so minutes that it took Bigelf’s road crew to make the Garage’s small stage hospitable towards Damon Fox’s impressive keyboard rigs, a significant number of fans starting leaving the venue.

Most importantly, the moment Bigelf first hit the stage with the atmospheric/rhythmical opus “The Evils Of Rock & Roll”, the sound quality had deteriorated to the same standards experienced during Jolly’s set.

Sporting hit trademark top hat and dressed up in a style expected of any flamboyant Rock Star of his stature, Damon Fox used every trick in the book of Rock to get his fans going and the result was a delight to watch.

When not torturing his elaborate keyboard set, the towering frontman was ever so close and personal with fans positioned in the first few rows, encouraging them to sing along to the lines of “Madhatter” or clap their hands rhythmically to the simple opening tempo of the groove-laden “Painkillers”.

It was the futuristic intro of the heavy-laden “Hyperspeed” that introduced material from the band’s latest album and the party continued with “Vertigod” and with Fox praising the laurels of John Welsey – Porcupine Tree’s guitarist who has offered Bigelf his services for the duration of this tour.

“Edge Of Oblivion”, “ITM”, “Money, It’s Pure Evil”…all these compositions were performed to perfection and with many added solos in support  while the energy generated by the band during “Money Machine” and “Counting Sheep” was such that led Fox and many of his front row fans to head bang to the song’s simple but commanding Floyd-sounding riff.

The departure of a few more fans following the culmination of the band’s main set raised fears of Fox and Co not returning on stage for an encore but the Californian-based quartet returned and provided triumphant renditions of my personal favourite “Incredible Time Machine” and “Blackball”, the later founding Fox climbing on top of his elaborate keyboard rig and finishing the band’s show with an impressive air kick.

The show that took place at the Garage on the 19th of November was one characterised by an equal number of highs and lows.

Though featuring three very special, unique-sounding and professionally-behaved bands the sound quality on offer was barely acceptable at times and the attendance numbers did not justify the quality of the bands in question.

I, for one, was quite pleased to see all three bands – I only hope that some of the less positive moments don’t  put off any of them from returning to London hopefully in the not so distant future.

 

Jolly Set List:

 

  1. “Firewell”
  2. “Joy”
  3. “As Heard On Tape”
  4. “Dust Nation Bleak”
  5. “The Pattern”

 

Bend Sinister Set List:

  1. “Thunder And Lightning”
  2. “Don’t You Know”
  3. “Things Will Get Better”
  4. “Teacher”
  5. “Black Magic Woman”
  6. “It Will Never End”
  7. “Best Of You”
  8. “Logical Son” (Supertramp cover)

 

 

Bigelf Set List:

  1. “Intro”
  2. “The Evils Of Rock & Roll”
  3.  “Madhatter”
  4. “Painkillers”
  5.  “Intro/Hypersleep”
  6. “Vertigod”
  7. “Edge Of Oblivion”
  8. “ITM”
  9. “Money, It’s Pure Evil”
  10. “Money Machine”
  11. “Counting Sheep”

 

Encore:

 

  1. “Incredible Time Machine”
  2. “Blackball”


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