Pendragon, 21st May 2002
The Mean Fiddler, London, UK

By Craig O'Brien and Charlie Farrell

Craig's Review

Another rainy night in London for an all too rare live performance by Pendragon as part of a short European tour to promote their new live acoustic CD, Acoustically Challenged. This CD (particularly The Voyager and Fallen Dreams and Angels), in addition to the two acoustic tracks included on the Not of This World CD, clearly demonstrate that beneath Pendragon's wall of keyboards and guitars lurks some very strong songs and melodies and provides a good response to those people who have accused Pendragon of lacking originality and good songs. Nick Barrett

Although I've followed Pendragon for almost 20 years now, I've never had the chance to see them live before, so I was quite surprised to note tonight that by the end of the set, the band came across as more of a very strong rock band with the odd widdly-widdly keyboard sound and not as the over-the-top prog band which part of me had suspected.

So, to tonight's performance, by the time the band hit the stage at 8:30pm to the glorious sounds of the epic classical opening music, March of the Torreodores, a respectable size crowd had gathered. The band launched straight into the Walls of Babylon which had the appreciative audience singing along. Without a pause, the band continued with straight-ahead rock of The Mask, one of the better tracks from the Kowtow CD.

The first of many tracks from Not of This World came with the lengthy Dance of the Seven Veils. I had expected this track, and the others aired tonight from NotW, to be difficult for Nick Barrett to sing based upon the extremely personal nature of these compositions, however, Nick and the band were clearly enjoying playing these songs (indeed, their overall enjoyment was quite evident throughout the evening).

Pete Gee After a moody version of Breaking The Spell with some great lighting and that aching guitar solo, we were treated to a couple of acoustic numbers, 2am and The Voyager (which even though quite a "proggy" song, still sounded great in acoustic mode). As mentioned earlier in the review, a number of Pendragon's songs sound very strong stripped down and the choice of these two songs (both included on the new CD)particularly demonstrated how enjoyable the songs can be in this format.

Next up were some more tracks from Not of this World with If I was the Wind (easily the best track on the CD)which sounded big and powerful and Green Eyed Angel (with the stage bathed in green light, naturally!) sounding more aching live than it's studio counterpart.

The main set was then rounded off with two tracks from The Masquerade Overture. The excellent Paintbox was the penultimate song and shows Pendragon at their best with strong lyrics and wonderful musicianship. Lastly, the band ran through crowd favorite Master of Illusion which provided a perfect end to the set and held my attention from beginning to end.

The responsive crowd refused to let the band leave the stage in peace, so we were treated to two sets of encores, kicking off with the very popular Leviathan (which includes Pendragon's strangest lyrics!) from all the way back in the mid 1980's and then the encores focused more on the Window of Life CD with Stargazing getting the audience bouncing around and also an interesting medley including the rarely performed Midnight Running, a small bit of Sister Bluebird and finally ending with the epic Window of Life.

It can be tough going getting much out of a Tuesday night audience in London, but Pendragon delivered a extremely enjoyable set tonight which left smiles on the faces of all in attendance.

Charlie's Review

This date was the culmination of a short European tour to celebrate the release on DVD of Live at Last and the CD release of The History: 1984-2000 in Poland. Despite it being a rather wet Tuesday night, a good crowd of over 300 was in attendance, which is a decent crowd for a 'prog' gig in London, these days. Mike Stobie, John Mitchell (Arena) and a few other prog-related folks were in the crowd too.

The set opened rather slowly with the pleasant Babylon and the slightly more up-tempo The Mask, which got the crowd moving. "Is there anyone here from Scotland? Anyone from Wales?", asked singer Nick Barrett. The response went to prove that indeed a number of the audience had travelled some distance for the gig. Nick Barrett

They followed up with the first tune from Not Of This World, Dance of The 7 Veils, as haunting as ever. Then they played the much slower Breaking the spell from 1993's The Window Of Life with Peter also helping out on keyboards. Things continued in a slow vein as Nick Barrett and bassist Peter Gee both strapped on acoustics to play 2AM and Voyager, which were both pleasant enough without being really exciting.

Thankfully Nick returned to his electric guitar for If I were the Wind and the gig began to take off for me. Maybe it was because I was most familiar with the material on Not Of This World that I particularly enjoyed this tune and the title track which followed it, but there is a freshness and emotion there alongside the lush harmonies, which helps me connect with the music. Just when I thought things couldn't get better, they followed up with the awesome Leviathan from 1985's The Jewel. Simply too wonderful for words, or for me to have made any comprehensible notes.

I have to admit that Painbox is not my favourite tune as I find it a little twee, but it passed off pleasantly enough and the follow-up of Masters of Illusion was a nice foot-stomper and a good way to end the set. Encores were inevitable and we were treated to a lengthy medley of older tunes which satisfied the older fans in the audience before the band returned to play another big crowd pleaser in the form of Nostradamus. The final number Am I Really Losing You? was dedicated by Nick to a big Pendragon fan who had given birth earlier that day and understandably was unable to be present.

Nick Barrett and Clive Nolan in action

I'm not a huge fan of the band's music, but have to admit that they always perform an excellent set and the music pulls you in. Their music is very enjoyable, pleasant and melodic, without somehow ever really sticking in my mind. However the central part of the set was as good as anything I've heard from any band this year. All in all not a bad show and a excellent turnout for a tuesday night gig.



Intro - The March of the Torredenous
Walls of Babylon
The Mask
Dance of the Seven Veils
Breaking The Spell
2am (Acoustic)
The Voyager (Acoustic)
If I was the Wind
Not of This World
Green Eyed Angel
Master of Illusion

Medley: Midnight Running/Elephants/Sister Bluebird/Last Man On Earth

Nostradamus (Stargazing)
Am I really losing you?

All photos © Charlie Farrell


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