Concert Review Archive

 

Gavin Harrison & 05Ric
& Stick Men


Monday, 4th June 2012
O2 Academy, Birmingham, the UK

Article and photos by Ian Butler

Tuesday, 5th June 2012
Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff, Wales

Article by Jez Rowden

Thursday, 7th June 2012
O2 Academy Islington, London, the UK

Article and photos by Jon Bradshaw

O2 Academy by Ian Butler.

Having only really found out about who 05Ric are just days before the gig and that Gavin 'Mr Drums' Harrison himself was playing with them, it was a no brainer to go and see them. To then discover that the Stick Men, (Tony Levin - Chapman stick bass, Markus Reuter - touch guitar and Pat Mastelotto - drums) was there was more than the icing on the Jubilee cake! There was a choice between the Queen's Jubilee concert on TV with Robbie Williams and Gary Barlow or new gig with Harrison, Levin et al.

 

Stick Men

The venue was empty and again I appreciate the difficulty of the '(prog) stars' who have played in very influential bands, that are now reduced again to a 70 odd audience. It's just not fair, all that talent and no audience. It reminds me of seeing Beardfish, Ritual and The Tangent in Belgium all over again. Gavin Harrison introduced the Stick Men who thundered on stage and began with King Crimson's Vrooom Vroom. Markus Reuter playing the main scorching lead lines where Fripp/Belew normally would.

Stick Men

Sludge followed from their Absalom album, then Cusp a new un recorded track with it's angular riffing but funky as hell. How did you manage that? Slow Glide was next all with backing tracks, loops and groove with some kind of slower soundscapes where Tony Levin use a bow on his Chapman Stick, whilst Pat Mastelloto used on on his cymbals! Cool!

Breathless by Fripp from the Exposure album was suitably Frippesque and pretty 'heavy metal'. Open part3 from their improv album was great and reminded me of the vibe on Nuages from Three of a Perfect Pair, but don't exactly quote me on that one!! It was interesting to hear movements from Stravinsky's Firebird Suite. I *think* it was 4 movements and the finale (which I think Yes used to come on stage to!). This was nice and ambitous and provided a good contrast. Larks' Tongues in Aspic pt II from Larks' Tongues in Aspic finished the set to a well deserved round of applause and stunned audience!

Stick Men

I was really impressed with Stick Men live. They gelled really well and played a variety of tracks from their own and King Crimson repertoire. I enjoy Mastelotto's style and he makes you think about what he's playing. He's a great technical drummer and can pull obscure patterns out of his drum stool but for me he's a real 'it's what I don't play and when I don't play it'. Just go back to The Power To Believe by King Crimson for some out of the box drumming. Tony is a master and Markus is a new Fripp and concentrates entirely on stage. Tony and Pat came out to sign CD's and I ended up having a chat to Pat. He's a busy man and threw names into the conversation like David Lynch, touring with Dream Theater and Adrian Belew, Peter Gabriel, Manu Katche revisit the So album. "What do you have I can sign? he said..( i.e why haven't you bought a CD yet?) These guys are true musicians and genuine with the fans. Respect.

 

Gavin Harrison & 05Ric

This is 05Ric's second gig ever, so DPRP were proud to be there! I apologise in advance but I am not as well versed in the bands history and tracks etc, but I see it does go back with 3 albums, the most recent being The Man Who Sold Himself. On stage they were a little louder with 2 guitars, bass and Gavin Harrison behind the drum kit.

Gavin Harrison & 05Ric

I can only describe their live music I heard as experimental, technically excellent, not jazz, not prog, but all sorts of 'technical fusion' with vocals. The guitarists styles are slightly 'jazzy', no distortion, nice 'marbley clear' tones. Low bass and sometimes plain plucking funky on some tracks. It's quite musically and sonically challenging, including deceivingly deceptive simple songs with lots of technical depth. I think it's music that benefits from knowing the piece before you see it live. I can't think of any exact comparissons with other bands yet.

Gavin Harrison & 05Ric

They too had great musicians on stage, Tiago Coimrao - bass, Justin Dwyer - guitar, Gavin Harrison - drums and lead man 05ric -guitar (Ric Byer) took lead vocals. Ric sometimes sounds a little like David Sylvian (eg check out Sailing). He didn't play his famous touch guitar either, which was a little disappointing, but a Fender Stratocaster instead. Below is the set list, but I couldn't on the evening remember enough information about all the tracks they played. They played Circles, "try dancing to this" said Gavin Harrison, err yup impossible! As ever Gavin Harrison makes everything look easy with his precision engineering drumming and human dialogue with the audience. In track 107 where some parts do sound like 80's King Crimson, where patterned clean guitars were featured and this was a stand out track for me. Break - was also played where 05ric played with no pick, sort of 'Robben Ford meets Mike Stern tones'. Overall I feel they will develop as a band with confidence and it would be good to see them at the end of the tour. Perhaps the sound man can make the band as loud as Gavin Harrison, which sometimes makes it sound like Gavin Harrison is playing over the band and not with the band. There was a lot of good music to dig into and for a follow up CD purchase I think. Not sure which album to start with. It was a great evening of entertainment and expertise. If you were really savvy, you might have spotted Robert Fripp/Toyah Wilcox lurking in the background. I am sure that not many people actually saw them! Two great acts, go and see them on tour if you can.

Setlist Gavin Harrison & 05Ric
Unsettled
Sailing
Life
Circles
For Lack Of
Clock
107
Faith
Beyond The A
Break
Way
 

Clwb Ifor Bach by Jez Rowden.

When this little package was announced for a short tour of U.K. club venues I am not ashamed to say that I got very excited indeed. The fact that three members of the latest (last?) line-up of King Crimson would be involved made for the mouth watering possibility of a joint set of King Crimson material. Sadly, Tony Levin revealed in his tour diary that although they had planned just that they had to forego the opportunity as the stages at these venues were too small. Oh well, maybe next time. But never fear as both bands put on a great show and the evening turned into one of the most special and memorable gigs that I have been to in many years.

Clwb Ifor Bach is a compact 3rd floor venue half way down a narrow alley in the heart of Cardiff with a capacity approaching 400. I actually had a spare ticket that I was unable to even give away as most of those attending appeared to have purchased well in advance. I find it astonishing that a gig like this fails to sell out but an uneducated guess would be that the venue was half full. Luckily those who did attend were wildly enthusiastic and just thrilled to be there.

 

Gavin Harrison & 05Ric

With both drum kits already set up thoughts returned to the possibility of a King Crimson set and promptly at 8, none other than Tony Levin climbed onto the crowded stage to say a few words and introduce Gavin & 05Ric and their band to a warm reception. So, an unexpected switch with Stick Men to close the evening and it transpires that the acts have been swapping the headliner role from night to night. The band looked a little ill at ease to start with, Gavin explaining that this was only their third gig – third night of the tour? Do the maths! – but they proved to be well drilled and pulled off an exhilarating set comprising tracks from their 3 albums plus a newly written piece and grew in confidence as the set wore on. I didn’t manage to get a copy of the set list but recognised 4 or 5 tracks from 2010’s recommended Circles album. The sharpness of the quartet made the most of the material with Gavin taking the lead with his tricksy and mesmerizing rhythms, mixing well with the guitar and David Sylvian influenced voice of 05Ric with Justin Dwyer (guitar) and Tiago Coimbra (bass) supporting admirably. I had expected Ric to be playing his extended range bass but he stuck to guitar, his fluid lines working well with the more angular and fiery work of Dwyer which occasionally reminded me of Bill Frisell. Coimbra also impressed with wonderful tone and technique but most eyes remained on Harrison who put on a marvellous display of control and dexterity. The quartet brought the pieces to life, the intricate rhythms and lead lines providing an uplifting listen. Harrison did most of the talking and introductions from behind the kit in an engaging and entertaining way which set the scene and immediately got the crowd on side. The sound was slightly muddy and a bit too loud where I was but no matter, the results were very rewarding. Harrison and Ric have something here and hopefully a little more live work will really see it fly.

Probable GH & 05Ric set list
Unsettled
Sailing
Life
Circles
For Lack Of
Clock
107
Faith
Beyond the 'A'
Break
Scar
Way
 

Stick Men

Harrison’s huge kit remained untouched during the very efficient turnaround – was the King Crimson set actually going to happen? – and before we knew it Stick Men appeared to much cheering. The band only had the left hand side of the stage to work with, Pat Mastelotto’s much smaller kit in the back corner, Levin in front of him and Touch guitarist Markus Reuter stage centre.

Stick Men played these shows between a stint in Russia with the Adrian Belew Power Trio and a U.S. support slot with Dream Theater where they will merge with AB3 to form the The Crimson Projekct and play a full set of King Crimson material so it was natural that they included a selection of numbers from the parent band tonight kicking off with a spanking version of Vroom Vroom from Thrak. By the time they came on I’d managed to get myself to the front of the stage between Reuter and Levin and this is where things got really special. Both are fantastic players and to watch them from touching distance was an unbelievable treat. The whole show was breathtaking; the dexterity and musicality of the lead instruments coupled with Mastelotto’s brutal pounding and electronic effects with nothing to obscure the view was simply magical. Half way through the set I had to turn to my mate Mel and ask him if this was actually happening! The band’s own material fully displayed the capabilities of their instruments in a well constructed set that even took in a Robert Fripp solo piece, Breathless from Exposure. At times Mastelotto’s eyes just bored into the back of Levin, watching his every move and matching the flow of the music. Reuter, a much cooler presence, played most of the lead parts and some bass, sometimes at the same time, Levin’s trademark stick sounding as good as you’d expect it to, occasionally with the help of his violin bow. Much to everyone’s surprise towards the end of the set Levin announced that they would do a suite of three movements from Igor Stravinsky’s The Firebird which they pulled off with aplomb. Stick Men justified their headlining status tonight with an explosive Larks Tongues in Aspic, Part 2 to finish and left the stage to tumultuous applause.

Stick Men setlist
(amended from Markus Reuter’s list due to band discussion & mid-set change)
Vroom Vroom
Smudge
Cusp
Slowglide
Breathless
Open
Relentless
Firebird
Larks Tongue’s in Aspic (Part 2)
 
Almost immediately all of the players soon emerged to mingle with the audience and chat, sign, pose for photos (see tour diary) and generally hang out. Each one of them had all the time that everyone wanted to take and the atmosphere was very relaxed. I managed to have a great chat with all three of the Stick Men who were all eager to talk about anything and everything. When I offered my ticket to Tony for his signature he noticed that Gavin’s name had been misspelt (see here, half way down the page). I hadn’t noticed this but when he called Gavin over to show him I asked Gavin to correct it which he was happy to do by crossing out the extra ‘G’!

 

O2 Academy Islington by Jon Bradshaw.

The O2 Academy in Islington, London was healthily busy for this evening’s double- header of Stick Men and Gavin Harrison & Ø5Ric, perhaps not surprising given the bright stars in the firmament of progressive rock on show tonight. Tony Levin, Pat Mastelotto, and Gavin Harrison being the three notables with Markus Reuter as a (possibly) lesser known entity, Markus having played with The Crimson ProjecKt, The Europa String Choir and centrozoon as well as collaborations with Ian Boddy and Pat Mastelotto (as TUNER). On the other hand, perhaps it’s because, as Mr Harrison later reveals jokingly, half of the audience are on the guest list. Either way, I find it pleasantly reassuring to see so many folks turning out. Prog audiences are a wonderful thing: people of all ages from 16 to 70; men and women (of all ages); and appreciative, patient listening.

All of that being said, I must confess to having no knowledge of either act’s work so I have only a vague notion of what to expect. I like being in this position. Suffice it to say in the first place, it quickly becomes apparent that dancing/wigging out isn’t really on the agenda and this show would have been awesome if it had been a seated venue, allowing us to really, ‘get into it’. Does it need saying? This is not easy music - from either band. It is a display of prowess in composition and execution.

 

Stick Men

Stick Men

Stick Men are first to show. Given the demise of any further live work from King Crimson, this is about as close as anyone is going to get these days but don’t allow me to fool you into thinking that Stick Men are merely recycling former glories, far from it. They are their own beast and I think beast is an appropriate term. The set features work from their previous albums, Soup and Absalom as well as material from their new album Open and it is dense, visceral, jabbering, and wonderfully eclectic music.



Mastelotto is a revelation. Playing a regular kit and electronic percussion, I’ve rarely been so impressed by a drummer. The sound of his kit is immense and his control, technique and touch is staggering, not to mention the atomic-clock accuracy of his timing. He is evidently enjoying himself, grinning and gurning along with the set, bouncing on his stool with his whole body to measure off-beats (or maybe just get comfortable – either way it’s ‘in time’). Similarly, Tony Levin looks really pleased to be here, smiling and talking to us like old chums throughout. The Consultant Surgeon of all things Chapman stick, his playing is mind boggling to watch and listen too. How is what he does even possible? After all these years playing with King Crimson, I’ve kind of taken for granted his abilities. “Oh yeah, Tony Levin? He’s really good on that Chapman Stick thing.” I may find myself saying, but this in no way registers just how incredible his playing is until you are looking at it from a few feet away and then recognising that all of this ‘touching’ is creating an absolute cataract of sound.

Stick Men

Reuter is playing his own invention, the ‘Touch Guitar’ which is a ten string instrument combining the technique of the Chapman stick and a regular guitar. Reuter is new to Stick Men having only played on the new album, which is an improvisational affair and the material they play from it is breathtaking. Open Pt3, for example, is a steadily expanding supernova of sound, culminating in a devastating, pounding adhesion of complex rhythms and melodies.

Stick Men

Slowglide is quite the opposite, an ambient, spellbinding agglomeration of effects. Other highlights are the groovy, two-ton chunk of Big Dog and the dazzling finale in the form of Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. A rarely encountered rendition of Breathless from Robert Fripp’s first solo album, Exposure was also a delightful surprise. As they leave the stage, Levin takes pictures of an appreciative crowd and Stick Men beam humbly and gracefully from ear to ear as they take the bow on this UK leg of their international touring schedule.

 

Gavin Harrison & 05Ric

Gavin Harrison & 05Ric

I had no idea what to expect from Gavin Harrison & Ø5Ric. What they deliver is nothing like my best guesses. It’s incredibly complex music, some of which Gavin tells us is hard to play. I’m not surprised! At times it’s almost as if the band is attempting to combine two (or even three) completely opposable time signatures into the same song, yet somehow it coheres. Harrison has said in interviews that he tries to make 4/4 sound like it’s not 4/4 and he succeeds much to my bewilderment. The musicianship is once again incredible. Justin Dwyer plays a beautiful semi-acoustic that he hot-dog’s in a variety of styles: from the slick, melodious jazz approach of Wes Montgomery to the fervent intensity and speed of John McLaughlin by way of Carlos Santana and B.B King. I’ve no idea who he is, presumably someone from the Cambridge music scene where Ø5Ric originates, but he really deserves more exposure to the prog community.



Ric himself also contributes some blistering solos and the marriage and interplay between the two of them is chiming and utterly magical. Together they conjure a unique-sounding fusion of something ethnic and something jazzy. There’s a Latin American feel and an African feel going on that’s simultaneously rooted in the blues. It’s gentle, delicate, stately, elegant and lilting but abstract somehow. It’s difficult to describe but it’s very appealing.

Gavin Harrison & 05Ric

Ric is also an excellent vocalist, very tuneful and passionate he often put me in mind of David Sylvian’s plaintive and bittersweet tone as well as his idiosynchratic lyrical phrasing and eccentric melodic sensibilities. But then he’d open up his lungs and what would emerge was spine-tingling, and ecstatic, especially in Break. Underpinning them is some lovely funky, soulful bass from a chap whose name they said about 4 times, but I never quite caught – something in Spanish. Mr Harrison himself needs no explanation or description, suffice it to say that what he does is as impossible as what Tony Levin does. This is incredibly odd, diverse and baffling music but I am more than intrigued and very keen to buy the new album as I leave.

Gavin Harrison & 05Ric

An evening of unusual and intelligent music brilliantly played, with nothing showy about the live presence of either band to remark upon - they are about the music first and foremost. Considering I came into the gig with no pre-conceptions or expectations, I have come away pleasantly surprised and in every way converted.

Links

Gavin Harrison Official Website
Gavin Harrison Myspace

05Ric Official Website
05Ric Myspace

Stick Men Myspace

Tony Levin's tour diary

O2 Academy
Clwb Ifor Bach
O2 Academy Islington

 


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