You know, I am beginning to feel like the Alan Whicker of progressive music - travelling as I do to all these far-flung exotic locations to spread the good word to all you wonderful people out there.
And this week's journey takes me to the outer reaches of... Southampton. The Brook in Southampton to be exact, to see the band Jadis.
The Brook is a small, intimate but comfortable and friendly venue. A converted public house, it has a small stage and a small standing area in front, but a larger seated area in the upstairs balcony. Though the stage appears small, the band appear to have gotten all of their equipment on stage quite comfortably - as long as they don't breathe, that is.
A taped intro heralds the arrival of Jadis on stage, the taped intro actually being a section of the title track from the new album Fanatic. I had hoped that they may actually play this track, but it was not to be. Shame, as in my opinion it contains some of the best guitar work Gary Chandler has ever done.
In fact, the opening track is Yourself Alone, another piece from the new album. Heavier live than on record, it has one of those wonderful sing along chorus's that the band seem able to produce quite effortlessly. A very good opener.
Where In The World follows, an efficient reading of the song, but I have heard them play it better. Seems at this point as though the band still need to warm up and hit their stride.
A word about the sound at this point: The Brook being a reasonably small venue, it cannot be easy to get a decent mix. The effect that came across that night is that the drums seemed to dominate. I could not hear John Jowitt's bass as well as I would have liked, similarly with Martin Orford's keyboards. Gary's guitar was coming through loud and clear, though. Not a terrible mix, but not the greatest.
Take These Words was up next, another new track. I am glad I have spent time with the new album this past week, as this is where the band really started to come alive. Gary's guitar work on this one was nothing short of excellent, and drummer Steve Christey was kicking up hell of a storm at the back.
Guess they have just hit their stride...
Another great favourite and Jadis standard is Daylight Fades, with those familiar jangly opening chords. It's a wonderful, uplifting piece of music with yet another appealing chorus and again some great guitar work from Gary.
What Kind Of Reason slows the pace down somewhat, starting out as a gentle acoustic number, but with some passionate singing from Gary, and a rousing guitar solo to bring the song to a satisfying conclusion.
A mention must go here to the more than capable vocal talents of Martin Orford - as well as being a superb keyboard player, his backup vocals more than adequately compliment Gary's singing. They manage to produce some exquisite harmonies between them.
It was at this point that I realised that sitting in the balcony was a bit of a double edged sword - yes, it was nice to sit down and get a good view of the band, but it appeared to me that a lot of the people upstairs were not actually fans of the band, rather people who had just wandered in to see what was going on. There seemed to be lots of conversations going on around the room, and a lot of people not even watching the band at all. It certainly looked as though the real hard-core fans were in the downstairs standing area. But I thought what the hell - I was settled in, and decided to stay where I was and enjoy the gig anyway.
One of my all time fave Jadis songs is Wonderful World, from the album More Than Meets The Eye. Tonight's version was a powerful, emotional tour-de-force. Steve Christey really shone on this one, producing some superb drum fills, effortlessly tearing across his kit with lightning speed. Gary appeared to be making his guitar literally sing here - absolutely mesmerising. This is Jadis at their best, firing on all six cylinders.
Some intensely emotional vocals from Gary signal the opening of In Isolation, a track that always reminds me of Genesis' Squonk. An efficient, if occasionally messy version of the song.
Talking of favourites, we also got my all time favourite Jadis track - Sleepwalk. I just love this one, and they didn't disappoint. This was perfection itself. I was jumping around in my chair and playing imaginary drums and guitar on this one, but dammit I was enjoying myself even if no one else around me was making an effort.
For an encore, we got another of the bands classic epics - The Beginning And The End. A guy sitting next to me remarked that this is as good as anything Yes, Genesis, Floyd etc have ever written. And who am I to argue? Gary's guitar was spot on here, effortlessly switching between gentle chords and searing, melodic solos whilst often singing at the same time. And the solo at the end of this one was one of the best of the evening. I have said this before, but this guy must sleep with his guitar (wonder what his wife or girlfriend has to say about that). I have rarely seen a musician so at one with his instrument.
Sadly, it was a rather short set, about 100 mins worth, but 100 minutes of sheer quality. Rather than leaving me with a sense of disappointment, it just left me anxious to see them again - and soon.