Bigelf / Bend Sinister / Jolly

Relentless Garage, London on Wed 19th Nov 2014

A night for prog rock falls upon London again as Los Angeles rockers Bigelf return to London for the first time in years with new album 'Into the Maelstrom' in tow. Despite having been away from the UK for some time, there is a strong number of attendees in the Garage for a mid-week show, illustrating that prog rock is only concerned with acts from the past as many would believe.

The opening act for tonight is Bigelf's labelmates Jolly from New York, last spotted in the capital in support of Polish prog rockers Riverside. Blending modern prog rock with alternative rock, thequartet constructs a surprisingly heavy creation with songs flooding the venue with either unbridled aggression or contemplative emotion. The setlist draws from the two albums of 'The Audio Guide to Happiness', igniting the set with 'Firewell' and continuing with 'Joy', 'As Heard on Tape' and 'Dust Nation Bleak'. The stage presence of the members is wildly dynamic and maintains the audience's attention throughout. Crowd interaction is employed successfully and it feels safe to state that Jolly have earned some new supporters tonight. Closer 'The Pattern' involves furious bursts of guitar riffing and a dosage of the technical, a punctuating way to conclude their set to a wall of applause.

Next up are Bend Sinister from Canada, enjoying their first time in the UK. Formed in 2001, this four-piece began life as an indie rock band before arming their music with a classic '70s rock and roll style alongside heavy doses of prog rock. Opening with 'Thunder and Lightning' from new album 'Animals', the energetic guitars and organ illustrate the theatrical rock, frolicking among a blended concoction of Queen, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin among others to producea vintage technicoloured rock opera. The stage presence of the band matches the music with an abundance of rocking movement.

'Teacher', 'It Will Never End' and 'Best of You' come from this year's album 'Animals', evoking further loud and bouncing tunes that destroy the stereotype that prog rock is old man's dusty and nerdy music. The crowd are definitely interested – Bend Sinister is not your everyday prog rock band – but as the set continues, the spectator number dwindles noticeably. The final track is a cover of English '70s rockers Supertramp's 'The Logical Song' with their jaunty spin on it. These Cannucks have certainly garnered interested here and given the current fixation of vintage/'70s rock that is in vogue now, perhaps this is the best time for them to reach a new audience.

Tonight's Bigelf show is no ordinary event as the Californians are joined by John Wesley of Porcupine Tree fame on guest guitars. Their set begins with 'The Evils of Rock and Roll' from penultimate album 'Cheat the Gallows', recreating their '70s psychedelic rock with a muscular Hammond organ and prog guitar work. Frontman Damon Fox – suited in Mad Hatter-esque attire- straddles vocal and keyboard duties superbly, while thinly masking his disappointment in his stage banter at the crowd's overall silence but happy to converse with individuals shouting “I love you” at him.

New album 'Into the Maelstrom' is the first Bigelf full-length in six years, reviving the band following a hiatus and continues their affinity for the '70s with some of their best songs to date. Plenty of this new release is served up tonight, including the stoner doom distorted 'Hypersleep', the bleak 'ITM' and the opening song'Incredible Time Machine'. Exercises in the weird, playing with sound effects and hard rock pomposity are all traceable in the new material. The thick bass of Duffy Snowhill arms the music with a crushing sound, complimented by drummer Baron Fox who has replaced Mike Portnoy and does an exceptional job. A solid selection of songs from 'Cheat the Gallows' appears in the set, including 'Money, It's Pure Evil' and 'Counting Sheep'. Older numbers 'Mad Hatter' and 'Pain Killers' appease any fans of the less talked about Bigelf songs.

The audience appreciates the headliners but their enthusiasm does not translate to well audibly, much to the disdain of Fox who attempts to lift the mood several times but turns quite dismissive when it turns out to be more of a struggle than he imagined. Returning for the encore, Bigelf launch into 'Incredible Time Machine' and raises the pulse of the crowd – heart-warming for a new album. This is followed by the dramatic 'Blackball' that closes the set.

Bigelf's return to London is one that is definitely appreciated after so many years but the audience's reservations appear to have left a bad taste in Fox's mouth. Hopefully he will be able to overlook this and remember those that were somewhat more vociferous in their response and will return to England again.

article by: Elena Francis

published: 24/11/2014 09:17


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