Gig review: LONELY ROBOT – The Scala, London, 20 December 2015

John Mitchell

So onto the final gig for 2015 for me and one I have been looking forward to as it is Lonely Robot, aka John Mitchell (It Bites/Frost*/Arena), whose debut album ‘Please Come Home’ is one of my top 5 albums of this year.

The Scala draws mixed responses from rock fans as it is predominantly used as a nightclub and the sound is a bit hit ‘n’ miss on previous gigs I have seen here like Frost* and the Alarm. Luckily tonight is was a good night and that benefited support band HeKz, who have been building a growing fan base with their hard edged prog rock sound.

They performed a five song set of which ‘The Black Hand’ was a highlight for me, a good mix of heavy guitar and a melodic chorus. For a young band they play with a musical tightness and professionalism ahead of their years and are definitely one to watch, plus do see live if you get the chance.

Lonely Robot were going to perform all of the album and anticipation in the crowd was high as there many of the album’s special guests would also make an appearance during the course of the night.

The set started with the boy from the video in a spacesuit watching a TV screen, which in fairness may have gone a tad too long as some wags in the audience were making comments.

The set started properly when John Mitchell and his band took to the stage to perform ‘Airlock’. This was quickly followed by ‘God Vs. Man’ and the band, completed by drummer Craig Blundell, bassist Caroline Campbell and Lauren Storer on keyboards, soon hit their stride. Considering this was only the second full band gig I think, they were note perfect throughout the set.

The first guest of the night was Go West’s Peter Cox, who received a rousing reception from the crowd and he is a big musical hero of John Mitchell’s. Peter Cox still has the voice as could be heard on ‘Boy On The Radio’ a song made for mainstream radio airplay. The next guest was former Mostly Autumn singer Heather Findlay who sang a duet with John Mitchell on ‘Why Do We Stay?’, a nice gentle number after the lively start to the set.

Some of the album’s guests couldn’t make the night like Marillion’s Steve Hogarth, who John Mitchell quipped ‘was washing his hair’. However, we did get Touchstone’s Kim Seviour on ‘Oubliette’, another song with wide appeal musical.

Lonely Robot may be classed as prog rock, however John Mitchell as an ear for a catchy melody, with a little nod to 80’s synth pop rock from the likes of Go West. His Frost* band mate Jem Godfey popped-up on keys for ‘Lonely Robot’, one my favourite songs on the album. Jem Godfrey always seems to be having such fun onstage and his infectious enthusiasm passes onto the band.

The main set closed with the short ‘The Red Balloon’ and what an amazing set, performed with passion and in the case of John Mitchell, battling a cold. The sound was fine throughout the set, although a couple of songs I was struggling to hear the vocals, possibly more due to his cold.

The encores started with a drum solo from Craig Blundell, who is one of the best drummers currently around and one recognised by his musical peers as he currently drums for Pendragon and Steven Wilson. Normally drum solos are a necessary evil, however this one I enjoyed and throughout the set his drumming/percussion playing was quite mesmerising to watch.

One Frost* song next, ‘Black Light Machine’ which although a cover technically I guess, there were ¾ of the band on stage! Caroline Campbell stayed on the stage to handle bass duties. Sunday night and public transport meant I missed the final encore, a Phil Collins cover ‘Take Me Home’ with Heather Findlay and Kim Seviour back on stage.

I came in with high expectations for tonight’s gig after enjoying the album so much and the gig didn’t disappoint. Hopefully there will be further live dates from Lonely Robot, the good news there is a new album due next year.

Review by Jason Ritchie

Lonely Robot setlist:

Airlock/ God vs. Man/ The Boy in the Radio/ Why Do We Stay?/ Lonely Robot/ A Godless Sea/ Oubliette/ Construct/Obstruct/ Are We Copies?/ Humans Being/ The Red Balloon/ Encore: Drum Solo/ Black Light Machine (Frost* cover)/ Take Me Home (Phil Collins cover)

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