Concert Review Archive

 

NIGHT OF THE PROG FESTIVAL V
Loreley (near Koblenz), Germany
Friday, 3rd & Saturday, 4th September 2010

Night of The Prog Festival V 2010

Article by Gert Hulshof, Joris Donkel & Mark Hughes
Photographs by Joris Donkel, Ian Murphy & Mark Hughes
Friday, 3rd September 2010

For the fifth time the Night Of The Prog Festival took place at the beautiful venue of the open air stage above the Rhine at the spot Loreley used to lure the boatmen to wreck their boats on the shore. Again spread over 2 days this year’s festival featured 11 bands. Due to circumstances the festival was planned this year in early September instead of the usual month of July which obviously resulted in a lower attendance than previous years. But everyone who still could squeeze in this date into their schedule and withstood the colder evenings was treated to another great line-up and terrific concerts.

It is 3rd September 2010, I am on my way to see my largest prog festival this year. I have prepared myself for two rough nights in a small tent on the slopes of the mountains near Loreley. That is where I am headed for this year’s festival The night of the prog V. The line up promises us a great festival 2 days of sheer progressive music.

I am in for a long drive first before I reach this festival, normally it takes about 4,5 hour drive from where I live in the Netherlands to reach Loreley, this time it nearly took 6,5 hours, due to traffic jams and detours. Great, I had travelled more than half the distance in less than 2 hours, so thought to myself half way in the journey. I will reach my destination in time, have enough time to put up a tent, and eat before the show starts. How wrong was I.

Reaching Loreley well into the concert of the openers for the festival. Galahad were near to finishing their show. Still I needed to put up my tent or I would have no room to put it. So I went and set it up. Ars Nova were already starting to play.

Finally reaching the festival area half way into the Ars Nova show.

First thing I spotted when I reached the area was the crowd, from years past I was used to a large crowd, almost filling the outdoor Theatre at Loreley. I must say it was not even half full. For such a festival. Not a good start, may be more people were delayed like myself I thought.

On the festival grounds there were your usual merchandising stands, after each show the musicians would go up to the market area to sign albums, autograph shirts or just to do some small talk. Mingle with the crowd, which is very pleasant.

Galahad

The fifth Night of the Prog Festival opened on a gloriously sunny Friday afternoon with Bournemouth stalwarts Galahad taking to the stage to a warm welcome. With advance tickets sales being lower than previous years and a queue of attendees still waiting to gain entrance to the site, the impressive open-air amphitheatre did appear rather sparsely occupied. However, this did not deter the five musicians who opened their set with the title track of their most popular album to date, Sleepers. From the off it was obvious that the band were in great form and vocalist Stu Nicholson in great voice. Fortunately, the illness to returning bassist Neil Pepper that had threatened to scupper the band's appearance, had improved sufficiently for him to make the trip and he appeared to more than relish being back on stage.

Anyone of the opinion that the band's best years are behind them obviously have not heard their latest CD Empires Never Last and it was the title track from the 2007 album that really set proceedings alight with drummer Spencer Luckman driving the bands to increasingly greater heights. With the flamboyant Roy Keyworth, resplendent in striped blazer and orange Doc Martens, knocking out the guitar chords left, right and centre, the band took a trip back a couple of decades to their first album and Richelieu's Prayer following it with a hyper-energetic version of Bugeye featuring 'DJ Deany B' on an extended 'techno prog' section that made full use of the various knobs, buttons and samplers on his keyboard rig. Looking towards the future, the band aired a new song officially called Seize The Day (don't ask what other names it goes under!). Even on first hearing, the number suggested that whenever the new album is released it threatens to be as impressive as Empires....

All too soon the time arrived for the last number of the set, a powerful rendition of Termination. Much to the delight of the, by now, very enthusiastic audience, a special guest took to the stage to add an additional guitar to the mix. Mark Spencer, for it was he, was almost unidentifiable with his short, spiked dyed red hair and tinted swimming goggles; even the band could not hide their surprise and amusement at the appearance of the tall apparition striding across the stage, thrashing away at the six string slung with careless abandon around his neck. A great end to the set and great start to the festival. There is no doubt that Galahad made plenty of new friends at Loreley and, based on the strength of their performance, 25 years has done little to dull the enthusiasm Galahad has for entertaining their friends. [Mark Hughes]

SET LIST
Sleeper
Empires Never Last
Richelieu's Prayer
Bugeye
Seize The Day
Termination


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Ars Nova

The group that travelled the longest distance by far came from Japan. It was announced that the group would perform in their good-old all-female line-up, but that appeared not to be the case as the drums were clearly beaten by the strong male hands of Hazime. Not only distinguished Ars Nova itself from the other groups by being the only not -European band, but also because they’re the only fully instrumental group and the only one where the women rule. The only other group on the bill featuring any women was Solstice. For many years I’ve been very keen on the powerful, sometimes bombastic sound of this Japanese trio and I was very eager to hear and see them live for the first time. And indeed it was a special experience.

It was quickly clear that Ars Nova did not intend to impress the audience by a magnificent stage show, but more by their music. During the whole gig, that featured just a basic light show, the movement of the 3 artists were kept to a minimum, of course drummer Hazime couldn’t sit still, but keyboard player Keiko Kumagai stood on one spot totally focused on her keyboards and could mainly only be seen from her side. Only in between the songs Keiko faced the audience to say a few words in a very cute poor English. Like many other bass players Shinko ‘Panky’ Shibata stood practically motionless plucking her bass snares; a lot of the stage stayed unused during this concert. Nevertheless the two women on stage did give some effort to still provide the eyes with something worthwhile to look at. Keyboard player Keiko was dressed up in a very pink kimono and wore a long blond wig decorated with a big flower with a few strains. Shinko also wore a kimono with a similar big flower in her (own) hair. So that was the optical attraction.

The music itself had much more to offer; incredible how just 3 people can produce this huge and full sound and I offer my greatest admiration for Keiko who, just backed up by a rhythm section of the other 2 group members, really provided all the icing on the cake and showered the audience with so many wonderful sounds just by herself. One small Japanese woman that can make a whole open air theatre tremble with her keyboards, amazing. I fully enjoyed the one hour show that only featured 6 songs, strangely enough none of their latest album Seventh Hell, but offered much to enjoy ... [Joris Donkel]

SET LIST
Fata Morgana
Transi
The 42 Gods
Horla Rising
Morgan
Succubus


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Three Friends

Being a long-time fan of Gentle Giant I was looking forward with great anticipation to the set by Three Friends featuring the talents of two ex-Giants, guitarist Gary Green and drummer Malcolm Mortimore. Although the Shulman brothers have no interest in resurrecting a performing career and Kerry Minnear having mysteriously resigned his position in the band (hence the original inspiration for the name of the group), their parts were played with aplomb by bassist Roger Carey, guitarist Andy Williams, keyboard player John Donaldson and vocalist Mick Wilson. Williams, Carey and Donaldson are leading lights of the British jazz scene with the latter being a previous winner in the piano category at the Marstons Pedigree British Jazz Awards. Meanwhile Mick Wilson has sung with an amazing variety of performers from the KLF to Kylie and from Cliff to Cooper (that's Richards and Alice!) and is also a member of the latest incarnation of 10cc.

With such a combined pedigree, one would expect nothing less than a truly polished performance and Three Friends delivered in style. The renditions of the classic songs were musically spot on with several numbers, such as Empty City, His Last Voyage and Mister Class And Quality, that were virtual strangers to Gentle Giant setlists getting a thoroughly deserved live airing. Vocally, the ensemble managed the complex arrangements with comparative ease and although, obviously, the blend of the individual voices was slightly different to what one is used to from Giant albums, they were still a treat to hear.

Some technical problems (apparently there was a distinct buzz plaguing the on-stage sound) resulted in the odd wayward harmony but nothing that distracted from the overall enjoyment of the performance. The appreciative audience (a fair number of whom were sporting GG T-shirts and I spotted at least one Giant For A Day mask!) seemed to spur the band on who once they had settled into the groove seemed to rather enjoy themselves on stage. Although the performers were pretty static throughout, the music was more than enough to engage the audience. Given that it was only something like their 18th gig the results were quite remarkable. Personal highlights were Boys In The Band and the ever brilliant Freehand, although I was disappointed that lack of time prevented performance of I Lost My Head, Peel The Paint and the lovely Think Of Me With Kindness. Oh well, maybe next time. [Mark Hughes]

SET LIST
Prologue
Playing The Game
The Advent Of Panurge
Empty City
Just The Same
Pantagruel's Nativity
Proclamation
Valedictory
His Last Voyage
The Boys In The Band
In A Glass House
School Days
Mister Class And Quality
Three Friends
Freehand


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Twelfth Night

The fourth band scheduled for the first day was Twelfth Night tonight renamed into Technical Problems Night. Nothing seemed to be working properly for them. The band were haunted by a ghosts to break down all the guitars in succession. Never mind all this, the guys of Twelfth Night sure put on a great show, bringing us fantastic music as if nothing was wrong with anything. Even joking around when another technicality seems to be happening. A show that will be remembered, not only because of the technical mishaps but also because of the excellent performance despite these mishaps. The inevitable mirror was present again in Take a look (at yourself). [Gert Hulshof]

SET LIST
The Ceiling Speaks
We Are Sane
Blondon Fair
This City / World Without End
The Collector
First New Day
Fact And Fiction
The Craft
CRAB / The Poet Sniffs A Flower
Take a Look
Encore: Love Song


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Pallas

Up next were Pallas as the headliner for the first day, Pallas were announced as playing the anniversary for their album The Sentinel. So I was prepared to hear The Sentinel from start to finish in one session. Boy was I wrong in this. The band started the set with The Cross And The Crucible and continuing the set with songs throughout the long Pallas era. A highlight in the concert to me was the song Ghostdancers, I have always loved this song ever since it was released in 2005 on The Dreams Of Men. This was the first ever live show I saw with their new singer Paul Mackey, He didn’t fail although I believe the vocals of Alan Reed do fit better with the music. Mr Mackey is a show monster. He showed us over and over, eventually the audience were singing along. Just a tiny bit before 01:00 September 4th the show ended, a great first night of the two nights of the prog 2010. [Gert Hulshof]

SET LIST
The Cross And The Crucible
For The Greater Glory
The Executioner
Rat Racing
Ghostdancers
Midas Touch
Falling Down (aka Fall and Rise)
Monster
Young God
Violet Sky
Rise and Fall
East West
March On Atlantis
Atlantis
encores:
Sanctuary
Cut and Run


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Saturday, 4th September 2010

Up for a good night sleep at the camping site, Life at a campsite at a festival is always very relaxing everyone is talking, music is usually playing. And the beer keeps flowing until real late. Not too late this night, all ended around 03:00. Then silence for the night. You need to try sleeping at a slope for yourself, each turn you slide down a bit, still I had a fair night.

As always, as I remember the people at the information centre at Loreley are in early on Saturday and Sunday and serve a neat breakfast for all the campers if they want. Friday night saw 5 wonderful shows I wondered if Saturday would be as good or even better.

The show started at 12:30 and I woke up around 8:00 so had a morning ahead of me. The country side near Loreley is absolute stunning, I went on a nice stroll along the river Rhine, admiring the views.

At 12:30 it was Moongarden to kick off for the day.

Moongarden

Now I barely know Moongarden's music and only heard their last effort A Vulgar Display Of Prog. I didn’t know what to expect really. I was pleasantly surprised by the show the band put down so early in the day. A spectacular show. Lights have no effect this early so it all came down to the band playing. In Simone they really have one showman at the front. Even at these early hours he was able to get the crowd going. Cheering along and singing to whatever they knew. The crowd was not even as big as the night before, maybe 400 – 500 prog lovers saw the Moongarden show. This is one band I will keep my eye on in the near future. [Gert Hulshof]

SET LIST
Boromir
Aesthetic Surgery
Mdma
Round Midnight
Wordz & Badge
Demetrio And Magdalen
Solaris
Enter The Modem Hero
It's You


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Solstice

Up next were Solstice. They have been around for ages and bring a blend of folky/progressive rock. As on day one the second band has ladies taking part of the show, this immediately makes it different. Solstice really did their best to continue what Moongarden had started an hour earlier but could not get the crowd quite as far. If you see a Solstice show it kinda looks like a hippy show, like they stepped right of the stage at Monterey or Woodstock early seventies. It is fun to see how well they have blended in the violin in their music. And of course the female voices. They put on a solid show with an amazingly long bass solo, well instrumental piece, with a bass solo. [Gert Hulshof]

SET LIST
Morning Light
New Life
Solomons Bridge
Sky Path West
Oberon's Folly
Ducks on the Pond
Here & Now
Flight
Brave New World
Sacred Run


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Sylvan

Third band of the day Sylvan, hailing from Germany you might say they were performing a home show. Sylvan have already created albums with solid progressive rock. I had never seen the band play live before, I was expecting a home show, a German speaking singer letting the crowds know - hey we are in Germany and we speak German. The brief speeches were in German, but they mainly concentrated on bringing us music from throughout their career. And actually got things started again. There still were no more than 500 people present but they did see a band playing at their best. Putting on a show that can compete with the Moongarden show of earlier that day. Sylvan is a great band in German prog tradition. They bring their music to life. [Gert Hulshof]
SET LIST
Presets
Force Of Gravity
One Step Beyond
Pane Of Truth
Answer To Life
A Kind Of Eden
Posthumous Silence
Deep Inside
King Porn
Heal
Vapour Trails


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Next up was Night Of the Progs own House band.

Gazpacho

Since guitar player Jon-Arne had just become a father he was replaced for this show and the next few to follow by the young talent Micheal Krumins (Green Carnation, Sirenia). And he brought some extra spice and hardrock posing into the show. Due to release a new album end of September expectations were high on if they were to play songs from this album already or if they would leave them out. Well expectations were met, they played two songs from their upcoming effort Missa Atropos. The song River and Defense Mechanism. As we are used to beautiful music almost classic intoned.

Gazpacho is a regular visitor at NOTP, Jan stated this himself by saying last time they tried some Tick Tock songs at NOTP this time around the Missa songs. Always exiting as he explained to try new material for the first time. For those among you that do not get the house band idea, Gazpacho management is the same management that organizes NOTP. The music Gazpacho gave us was from their entire career, every album has been visited. So sort of a best of live performance idea. Brilliant concert, the crowd was a tiny bit bigger already, and they were loud, singing a lot of songs together with Jan. [Gert Hulshof]

SET LIST
Put It On The Air
River (New Missa song)
Defense Mechanism (New Missa song)
Dream Of Stone
Chequered Light Buildings
Upside Down
Vulture
Sea Of Tranquility
Desert Flight
The Walk I
The Walk II
Winter Is Never
Encore: The Secret (extended version)


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Next up was the headliner. You could see this by looking at the crowd although still it was not a full house, gives you some thoughts doesn’t it, Is the venue area become too big for prog festivals? Or is prog back to obscurity again.

Marillion

First of all Marillion was loud, too loud I think, secondly Marillion had technical problems just like Twelfth Night, the night before. It sort of looked as though the sound was getting louder and louder instead of what the band indicated to the sound tech get the volume down. Especially Pete who was closest to the board made that clear ever so often to the soundtech at the side of the stage. Nevertheless the sound problems and the loudness, the music was brilliant. It had been ages since I saw them live, They were still performing with Fish, I still think is a shame this did not continue but hey that is me. Pete, Steve and Steve have done a special song this night for a lady that had come all the way to see the show even on her sick bed (real hospital bed). I forgot to take a note of the song but to my best remembrance this was Don’t Hurt Yourself.

Marillion still have it, although it seems that drawing a full, sold out show was too much this time around. Spectacular show. [Gert Hulshof]

SET LIST
Slainte Mhath
King
Fantastic Place
Out Of This World
This Strange Engine
Afraid Of Sunlight
The Great Escape
Asylum Satellite #1
The Invisible Man
Neverland
Don't Hurt Yourself
This Town
100 Nights
Easter


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The Enid

As a show stopper Wiv Entertainment brought The Enid to the festival, until late this was the first Enid concert on the mainland, only to be broken just before. The Enid played a concert at a venue in Holland the night before NOTP. Making this their second appearance on the mainland. Only a few handful festival people were left, what they saw and heard was near to unbelievable. The Enid music is bombastic near to classic music, instrumentation includes a vibraphone and other exotics. The Enid had been gone from the scene for a decade or more, they recently awoke with a brilliant album. And now a brilliant show.

Never mind again the technical problems at the start of the show as well as half way through. Robert John Godfrey is an entertainer extraordinaire, during the technical problems he played us some beautiful classical music. In short this was magnificent and a real surprise to the festival, The Enid are fabulous what a fantastic performance this was undoubtful the most complex music of the two days and played absolutely brilliant. [Gert Hulshof]

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That ended a festival of two days, a good night sleep and I am off back to the family. Until next year I hope with another fantastic show. The venue alone makes it your worthwhile.

Links
Galahad
Ars Nova
Three Friends
Twelfth Night
Pallas
Moongarden
Solstice
Sylvan
Gazpacho
Marillion
The Enid

 


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