Concert Review Archive

 

The Reasoning & Ashtar

20 July 2006, The Cartoon, Croyden, UK
21 July 2006, Club Riga, Southend, UK

By
John Morley

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 themselves.

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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