The Reasoning & Ashtar
20 July 2006, The Cartoon, Croyden, UK
21 July 2006, Club Riga, Southend, UK
An extremely sweaty, humid Friday night in Southend on one of the hottest
days of the year was not enough to dampen our enthusiasm for the evenings
entertainment to come.
We had watched both bands the previous night at the Cartoon Croydon, and
although the sound at the venue leaves something to be desired (if they
are going to attract more prog bands, they need to invest in a decent PA
system) and the stage area is very small, both bands managed to overcome
these difficulties to a large degree and give a good account of
For their first ever gig, The Reasoning made quite an impact. They
certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves and looked very relaxed,
performing with the competence and confidence of a band that has been
together for years. Ashtar did not fare quite as well, though through no
fault of their own. Having 7 members cramped onto the tiny Cartoon stage,
with 3 guitarists, violin, flutes, whistles, keyboards and drums certainly
put a strain on the venue's sound system. But they did not let it phase
them and played a very heavy, entertaining and interesting set.
But there were to be no such worries at Club Riga. It's an established
rock venue known for showcasing prog bands as well, with a superb sound
system. Thankfully this evening showed a far better turnout with a much
more enthusiastic and appreciative audience. And it's run by a very
friendly bunch of people with a genuine love of music who bend over
backwards to accommodate the bands needs.
With such a good venue and friendly atmosphere it felt like this was
shaping up to be a very good night, and indeed it was.
The Reasoning looked very relaxed and confident, and played with the
professionalism of an established band. No uncertainty whatsoever, which
when you consider their current drummer, the excellent Matt Whitney, has
only been with them 2 weeks and whilst learning their set has been playing
support sets with the likes of Feeder and Status Quo as well is quite
incredible. More importantly the songs made an impact - I have only heard
a few demo versions of the tracks so far (the bands debut album is
currently in the works), so some of the material is new to me. There are
occasional elements of prog here, but many other influences too, ranging
from Massive Attack, Tool, Muse, Soundgarden and no doubt many more.
Awakenings if an excellent song, and probably my fave and has been
getting a lot of play on my ipod recently (and is now available from the
bands website). Other songs such as Chasing Rainbows and Aching Hunger are
also very impressive and are already growing on me after just a couple of
listens. A rousing version of Deep Purple's Stormbringer went down a
treat with the audience too.
Vocal duties are shared between guitarist Dylan Thompson's expressive,
classic rock voice, perfectly counterpointed by keyboard player Gareth
Jones somewhat higher register. And it was nice to hear bass player Matt
Cohen more upfront too, giving us a chance to fully appreciate his
incredible, effortless abilities. With guitarist Lee Wright being
something of a whiz pulling off some very fine solo's, these guys are an
extremely tight and efficient unit with some very good material - I am
sure we are going to be hearing much more from these guys.
Because of the poor sound issues from the previous night, I could not
really make my mind up about Ashtar at first, and decided out of fairness
decided not to pass judgement based on the previous nights gig. Thankfully
the improved facilities at Club Riga showed them in a much more positive
light and I really quite enjoyed them. The band hail from Brazil but have
managed to fuse a strong celtic flavour into their sound, and the use of
traditional instruments such as whistles, bhodrans,violin and flutes
making for an interesting mixture of heavy rock and Scottish/Irish
flavoured jaunty reels - indeed the image is complete when the elfin
figure of singer Fernanda Gollo entertains us with a little jig
occasionally during the instrumental passages.
And believe me they can rock - occasionally they veer into Opeth/Pain Of
Salvation territory and can be quite intense. I suppose some people are
bound to compare them to a lot of the many female fronted bands out there,
and they certainly have a lot of competition. But they are a very
accomplished collective of musicians, and the Celtic influences are what
give them their uniqueness. They are also a very friendly bunch, had a
good chat with them after the gig and bought their new CD, Soaring.
Both bands put on fine shows over the two days despite the sound problems,
and both are most definitely deserving of a much wider audience.
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