This is the first part of a two-part special when Sonja Kristina chats about her early career and Curved Air (58:38). Part 2 is on Sunday 31 May at 16:00 GMT, and is now available at Mixcloud
It was a week that – for GRTR! – was almost bookended by two of the seminal female-fronted prog rock bands of the early 1970s. Now, only two octaves in singing terms and a missing G-string in the clothing department separates Annie Haslam and Sonja Kristina.
The G-string? Well, legend has it that Sonja left a diamond-enrusted one in the ladies loo at Birmingham University during the making of ‘Curriculee Curricula’, a TV play, in 1978. No doubt some former student is now wearing it – on the wall or on their person – as some sort of “trophy”. For me, I had to make do with a rather faded and crumpled “Sounds” poster of Sonja c.1971 when she looked over me in those “formative” years.
Curved Air were always an acquired taste even amongst prog fans, they used to call it art-rock back in the day. Amazingly, the band returned to live performance in 2008, the present line-up gestating a year later. Early in 2014 they released one of their best albums ‘North Star’, well represented in tonight’s show.
And, as on the album, they have been seemingly energised by the return of their guitarist (1972-3) Kirby Gregory. He adds a lot of oomph to their frequently fusion meanderings and joins the other “original”, drummer Florian Pilkington-Miska.
This is what I call a proper show – a full two hours plus encores giving the band the opportunity to explore back catalogue as well as the new stuff, and do it justice. Early on there was a double from ‘North Star’ – ‘Stay Human’ and ‘Time Games’ – only topped later by ‘Interplay’ with its long and impressive Kirby-fuelled coda.
With Paul Sax on violin and the formidable Robert Norton on keyboards the band has classicism at its roots as evidenced with a brief flourish of ‘Vivaldi’. If anything the earlier material sounds a little shaky and vulnerable these days, even if still a little charming. It is a shame that the band will always be defined by their best known song played here for their first encore, a nicely extended version of ‘Back Street Luv’.
Young, now old, men may have fantasised about Sonja and it seems that the myth is perpetuated on the merch stall. There’s a rather raunchy picture which looks like her “Hair” period and it’s printed on the thickest 10×8 substrate. Only a strong, waterproof, cover would finish the job.
Review and photos by David Randall
David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.
Album review (North Star)
19th April The Robin 2 The Robin 2
20-28 Mount Pleasant, Bilston Wolverhampton WV14 7LJ
Tickets 01902 401211
23rd April The Brook
466 Portswood Road, Portswood, Southampton SO17 3SD
Tickets 023 8055 5366
24th April Farncombe Music Club
St. John’s Street, Farncombe, Godalming GU7 3EH
Tickets 01483 421520
2nd May Teatro Cine Gouveia Art Rock Festival, Portugal
7th May The Flower Pot
23-25 King Street, Derby DE1 3DZ
Tickets 01332 204955
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Power Plays w/c 30 September (Mon-Fri)
HANFORD FLYOVER Just Another Day (Fruits de Mer)
MAVEN Stronger Than You (indie)
BETH HART Sugar Shack (Provogue)
YOGI LANG A Way Out Of Here (Gentle Art Of Music)
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09:00-12:00 AGE OF REFLECTION A New Dawn (AOR Heaven)
12:00-13:00 KXM Circle Of Dolls (Frontiers)
14:00-16:00 PAUL DUNTON ORCHESTRA Clearly Invisible (indie)
Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)
ROBIN TROWER In The Line Of Fire (1990)
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