This was the third time I saw RPWL live, the first time was during their God Has Failed Tour, the second during their Trying to Kiss the Sun Tour and now they were touring to support their brand new 'left-overs' album Stock.
The band was supported by Ritual, who played a set of an hour. Personally I can't really get excited about the music of these Scandinavians and their stage presence is a bit strange to watch as well. Imagine a long-haired 80s hard rocker (the lead singer/guitarist) being time-warped into a balding 21st century prog band. Surreal.
RPWL came on stage at 10 o'clock sharp and I was delighted to notice that they had once again brought their quadraphonic sound system.
The first song started with the familiar sound effects coming from all corners of the venue, which by the way was far from filled. I guess there were just about 100 people present. I'm not sure what caused this, maybe the choice of a combination with Ritual (a gig RPWL played with Mostly Autumn a couple of years ago was much better attended) or maybe the band hasn't really broken through in Holland yet.
I didn't know the first song the band played, so I assumed it was one of the new tunes from Stock. It did remind me a bit of Pink Floyd's Astronomy Domine, which later proved to be a correct hunch since it turned out to be Syd Barret's Opel. Not being that familiar with the solo work of 'Crazy Diamond' I'd not recognised it.
Next tune was another new one, well ... actually a very old one, harking back to the band's early days. This song, The Way It Is, had also been played live during the God Has Failed Tour.
Via an extended guitar intro the band continued with one of the favourites from the God Has Failed album, In Your Dreams. Another tune from the Stock album, Gentle Art of Swimming, followed. The quadraphonic system was used to it's full effect in this song, which featured lots of interesting instrumental sections. Another area of progress for the band was their light show, which now featured fully animated projections. Whereas the band had used oil slide projections in the past (in true Floydian style), like Pink Floyd they had now extended the animations to a full-size screen with splendid footage, which at times moved remarkably well in synch with the rhythm and riffs of the music the band was playing.
The band has been known to play the occasional cover, but instead of the usual Pink Floyd material (after all, the band started out as a Floyd cover band), they now played Steve Hillage's Inside Nature, from 1977's Green album, which was seemingly produced by Nick Mason (so, there's the Floydian connection for you).
Two more songs from God Has Failed followed: a nice version of Crazy Lane with a guitar/vocal-only first half followed by the Yes-pastiche Spring of Freedom, which once again featured an extended middle section, this time with a keyboard duet.
Tell me Why was the first song the band played of the Trying To Kiss The Sun album. After another favourite from their debut album, Who Do You Think We Are, another three songs from their second CD followed: the splendid Home Again, the extended Side By Side (which, like during the previous tour, featured a long freak-out section and a kick-ass ending) and the title track Trying to Kiss the Sun.
That's one of the great things about an RPWL concert; there's always a couple of surprises, whether it is a cover version or one of their own songs in an extended or re-arranged rendition. Almost all of the material the band played at this gig fell in one of these two categories making it a lot more interesting to watch and listen to than 80% of the other prog bands who prefer to play their studio material note-for-note instead. One small note though, not having the Stock album at the time and not being familiar with the two obscure
covers, there was almost half an hour of music I was not familiar with, which sometimes felt like a bit too much, especially since there is so much fine material on their first two albums to choose from.
After a short break the band returned to play some encores. First, the quadraphonic system sounded the effects of 'old time favourite' Hole in the Sky, which now also featured the lyrics of part 3 instead of just the guitar solo. After this fine tune the band called Ritual back on stage and asked for a minute of silence for those people who would die in the war in Iraq which had just started a few days before. I thought this was a nice gesture, but according to the opinions of some people I spoke with after the gig it was not to everybody's liking.
The band ended their performance with a catchy version of Peter Gabriel's Games Without Frontiers, which fitted perfectly in the context of the speech singer Yogi had just given. All in all the performance clocked in at nearly 2 hours.
Although I thought that the band didn't play as tight as the last time I saw them they once again provided a very enjoyable evening. A shame about the overdose of unfamiliar material and the low attendance of the gig, but there were enough highlights to make this another fine performance. All musicians played very well, and I was especially impressed by the replacement drummer who had learned all material in a matter of days after RPWL's drummer broke his hand just before the tour started. Singer Yogi still needs to work a bit on his stage presence since he once again seemed a bit uncomfortable or nervous when talking to the audience and he's still wandering around the stage
rather aimlessly at times, but he's getting there. If only more people would discover this band, which is one of the best prog acts from Germany at the moment.