The Night Flight Orchestra are an intriguing proposition and proof that whatever their chosen musical field, musicians invariably draw on a love of other styles. In their case, singer Bjorn Strid and guitarist David Andersson of Swedish metallers Soilwork, discovered a shared love of late seventies AOR and soft rock, and took it into a side project which has now taken on a life of its own, and bringing other Scandinavian musicians with a background in bands such as Arch Enemy and King Diamond on board.
I was slow to cotton on but after their third and fourth albums, ‘Amber Galactic’ and this year’s ‘Sometimes The World Ain’t Enough’, began to receive rave reviews have become a firm convert and this date, to the best of my knowledge a UK debut, had been in my gig calendar for some months despite rival attractions the same night, notably Uli Jon Roth.
Most of the melodic rock gigs I attend at the Underworld are poorly attended and by the usual suspects well known to me, so I was rather taken aback by quite how packed the place was with a variety of unfamiliar faces, from fans of their parent bands to bearded guilty pleasure-style hipsters to a large number of European accents.
If the floor was cramped- and I was secretly relieved not to be in a bouncing mass of people at the front, then the stage was even more so with an eight piece band. NFO have accompanied their music with a crafted, opulent image that harks back to the seventies when, pre-budget airline, air travel was glamorous, complete with a pair of backing singers clad in pink air hostess outfits and singer Bjorn in a beret and colourful orange suit with Captain’s epaulettes.
As you would expect from their musical pedigree, they were extremely accomplished both in stage presence and musically – David’s fluent guitar solos in particular. They hit the ground running with the title track from ‘Sometimes The World Ain’t Enough’ , followed by ‘Living For The Nightime’ and another anthem in ‘Speedwagon’, just three songs in. My favourite though was ‘Midnight Flyer’ particularly when a harmony solo between David and second guitarist and percussionist Sebastian Forslund led into some keyboard wizardry from Richard Larsson.
Other than people pushing through the crowd with no regard for others, my one reservation was that Bjorn’s vocals, while certainly strong, reflected his musical origins and were somewhat on the gruff and harsh side to match the subtlety of the music, rendering the likes of ‘Gemini’ a tad unmelodic. However on the plus side I couldn’t really pick out the disco overtones others have commented on, which to my mind was a good thing.
Setting these quibbles aside, the set fairly flew by with one would be classic after another with ‘Josephine’ , ‘Paralyzed’ and ‘Something Mysterious’ with a massive AOR hook on the latter’s chorus, while ‘Cant Be That Bad’s lyric ‘can’t be that bad to feel this good’ certainly epitomised the mood.
There was minimal chat between songs or improvisation and the only break brought a huge smile to my face when the backing singers brought Bjorn a large glass of a suitably retro drink, that had me trying to bring order to my hazy memories of seventies adverts for the rest of the evening – was it a Campari or a Cinzano, and which was Joan Collins and which Lorraine Chase?
The set seemed to end in no time after an hour of wall to wall music but there was a generous three song encores – the first, two new numbers, as a naggingly familiar keyboard intro led into the Rainbow-ish ‘This Time’ before the more symphonic ‘Lovers In The Rain’. They closed with ‘West Ruth Avenue’ which being from their first album I wasn’t familiar with, but which drew a huge reception.
It had certainly been a striking UK debut in every sense, and while personally I regretted that some of the subtleties on record were lost in the live setting, the reaction both of their long term fans and friends of mine who were new converts suggested it was also a memorable one.
Review and photos by Andy Nathan
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