Spock's Beard / Sound of Contact / Beardfish

The Garage, London on Tuesday 7 May 2013

Tonight at Highbury's Garage yields an impressive line up of progressive rock goodness, headlined by Spock's Beard in honour of prog record label Inside Out's 20th anniversary. It has been three years since Spock’s Beard have headlined the UK and the queue snaking around the venue suggests the band has been missed.

Opening act Beardfish set the pace rather nicely with bold and strongly textured contemporary prog rock complete with a vintage '70s vibe. Opening with 'And the Stone Said: If I Could Speak' from 2012's 'Mammoth' album, the Swedes manage to enthral the audience straight off the bat. The remainder of the set comes from last year's 'The Void' full-length and the band's musicianship is on top form. The music is punctuated with moments of heaviness, encouraging more enthusiasm from the crowd and working excellently against the dream-like melodies. Frontman Rikard Sjöblom is extremely likeable and humble, engaging the audience with his quaint stage banter. Closing number is 'Voluntary Slavery' which Sjöblom introduces honestly as a song they want to play because they like it so much. This track is particularly metal inspired, complete with growled vocals that surely takes some of the audience by surprise. Nonetheless, it makes for a memorable conclusion to their set and the crowd are certainly highly entertained, judging by the ovation they cook up for Beardfish.

Next up is Sound of Contact whose line up features son of Phil Collins Simon Collins and Porcupine Tree guitarist John Wesley. The set begins with instrumental 'Möbius Slip, Part One: In The Difference Engine' from their forthcoming debut album 'Dimensionaut', the band weave a musical tapestry that incorporates modern prog rock, alternative rock and isolating ambient not unlike those sinister guitar and keyboard melodies that appear in Porcupine Tree's newest efforts. Rich in emotion, Simon Collin's vocals are a perfect fit for the band, and on stage the band appear entirely absorbed by their instruments. The closing song is yet another instrumental – 'Cosmic Distance Leader', which sees Collins follow in his father's footsteps and taking a seat behind the drum stool. The audience are completely won over by Sound of Contact, despite the majority being unfamiliar with them. They will certainly be ear-marked as a new act to watch in the prog rock scene.

When the band members take the stage, the audience greet Spock's Beard with fervent applause, particularly keyboard maestro Ryo Okumoto, who earns a football-style chant of "RYO! RYO!" from the fans. The set kicks off with 'Something Very Strange' off new album 'Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep'. The Stellar musicianship and compositions are married with ethereal melodies and a sweet dose of nostalgia, never veering into the melodramatic or saccharine. New-ish vocalist Ted Leonard is a fantastic entertainer to watch, slipping into the line up comfortably and seamlessly. Most of the setlist is hauled from the new album, which is fantastic given how strong the release is. The audience are genuinely pleased to hear the new material rather than roaring for the classics. 'Hiding Out', 'Submerged' and 'Afterthoughts' demonstrate that Spock's Beard's still have what it takes to write vast and memorable prog tracks, the latter song being a particular delight with the five-person a capella section that receives an ovation by itself. Older tracks included 'Crack the Sky', 'Walking on the Wind' and 'Cakewalk on Easy Street', devoured by the crowd with many singing along word-for-word.

The quirks in the music are mirrored on stage; the band members are not afraid to enjoy themselves and inject some humour into the show, soliciting plenty of laughter from the spectators. It is clear to see why Spock's Beard are entirely musically relevant when prog rock is way past being in vogue. Unfortunately, the venue's curfew strangles the band's set duration but Leonard says they will appear at the merch stall after the show to meet their fans, much to the delight of the audience. 'Waiting for Me' closes the main body of the set but the prog rockers return for an encore of the classic 'Go the Way You Go' from 'The Light'. This is a beautiful track that summarises the evening perfectly. Spock's Beard certainly need to be more widely recognised. Here's hoping for a return to London shortly.

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article by: Elena Francis

published: 13/05/2013 09:25