Magenta, Friday 31st January 2003
Ynysddu Hotel, Ynysddu, South Wales, UK

By John Morley


The UK's 'Classic Rock Festival' gets underway

A mad dash up from London by train after work to South Wales for this gig, as this was unchartered territory for me, so I wanted to make sure I got there in plenty of time.

The venue was a pub-cum-guest-house, The Ynysddu Hotel, which was useful as I was able to stay the night after the gig. The actual concert was held in a reasonably large sized function room upstairs, with the stage at the far end of the room. The hotel is often used by the local guitar club run by Rob Southall, who was also instrumental in organising the gig.

This was only the band's second gig as Magenta, though keyboard player and vocalist Rob Reed has previously been involved with projects such as Trippa, Fyreworks, and Cyan, the latter also featuring vocals from Magenta vocalist Christina. Magenta have released just one CD so far called Revolutions (the follow up CD, currently titled Seven, is due for release shortly). The album consists of 4 main tracks, approx 20 mins apiece, with a couple of shorter tracks in between. The main songs are based around the concept of (occasionally misplaced) faith; faith in love, man-made objects, war, machines and genetics. The band also make it plain on the sleeve notes on the album that they make no bones about their prog influences, so you will hear very strong influences from Yes, Genesis, Tull, Oldfield, Renaissance, Marillion and many others.

Having lived with this album for over a year now I can testify to the fact that this is much better than it sounds on paper. Apart from being superb musicians and songwriters, the groups obvious love for the genre shines through, and transcends what could easily have been just another Yes/Genesis etc clone ­ of which there are too many out there already.

What we get at the gig is these four main songs played in their entirety; Children Of The Sun kicks off the proceedings with its slightly folky, Jethro Tull-ish feel. There were some slight sound problems here, Christina appeared to be struggling to hear her vocals occasionally, and the guitar seemed a little low in the mix in favour of the keyboards. But this did not detract from the overall sound, and was no fault of the bands, but probably down do the acoustics of the venue. Despite this, Christina showed herself to be an excellent singer and strong focal point for the band, and between her and Rob Reed handled the sometimes-complex vocal arrangements and harmonies extremely well.

Main guitarist Chris Fry is definitely a guitar hero in the making. One of those "busy" guitarists, always seemed to have something interesting up his sleeve to add a little flavour to the overall sound, but also able to handle the heavier sections when called upon.

I was initially slightly apprehensive about how the band were going to reproduce the complex sounds from the album live in a small venue, particularly the keyboard parts, as Rob Reed only had a single keyboard. But I need not have worried, as he seemed to have most of the necessary sounds at his fingertips, with the occasional keyboard part augmented by Chris Fry's guitar.

White Witch followed, an epic, very Marillion-like piece, sounding heavier than on record, and helped no end by the superb rhythm section of Matt Cohen on bass, Rhys Jones on drums, and second guitarist Martin Rosser. The track is brought to a rousing finish by some great guitar pyrotechnics by Chris Fry.

Next up was a slightly shortened version of Man the Machine, with very strong hints of Trick Of The Tail and Supper’s Ready era Genesis, with its strong guitar lines, multiple tempo changes, and some great keyboard work from Rob.

The closing track, Genetesis, was the highlight for me, with its very strong Yes flavour. Chris Fry pulled out all the stops on this one, effortlessly echoing Steve Howe’s unique style. A very upbeat, fast moving track (save for the Awaken-styled mid section) with some superb vocal work and some stunning Wakeman-like organ from Rob.

A very enjoyable gig, and quite an achievement to be able to reproduce the complex sound of the album in a small venue, occasional sound problems notwithstanding. It really would be wonderful to be able to catch them at a larger venue.  I understand the band is currently trying to set up a gig at the Classic Rock Society in Rotherham, Yorkshire. And those of you lucky to be attending this years Baja Prog Festival in Mexico are in for a treat, as they are on the bill.

If they can pull off a performance like this at only their second gig, then there is no stopping them.

Setlist:

Children Of The Sun
The White Witch
Man The Machine
Genetesis

 

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