Be Prog! My Friend 2018 - Day Two Review
The second day is even hotter, a scorcher, both on and off stage, and as yesterday was a prog metal feast today is more indulgent and traditional prog. With the queues to get into the arena non-existent to
Words: Diane Taylor | Photos: Anthony Firmin
On this lighter day, Mr Plini is the perfect foil in the afternoon sun and it warms the cockles that there is a fair sized crowd here so early too. The delicate instrumental guitar-scapes he and his band paint allow the crowd to drift away into Handmade Cities, an album that much of todays set is taken from along with Other Things. It would be easy to describe this as guitar wankery but Plini are much more than that in delivering their jazz inspired and flavoured prog.
For me, his time onstage is too short and I could have listened to this all evening. But with a beer in hand this can only be described as the perfect set for the perfect moment.
From guitarscapes to moonscapes, Norwegian progsters Gazpacho, who recently released their album Soyuz, fill the PA with melancholy and violins. Starting with Soyuz One they set the scene with a performance that is both emotionally charged and deeply immersive, describing the flight of Soyuz’s captain, Komarov, on his one way mission to the stars that is sadly destined to fail.
Such mournfulness sits uneasily in the heat and sun in the early evening at Poble Espanyol but it is all soaked up like a sponge by the dedicated crowd, who are wildly enthusiastic between songs and deathly quiet during them.
Black Lilly from the Night album is a special treat as is the first 15 minutes of Tick Tock (parts one and two). The only other track from their latest album is Emperor Bespoke which, with the lyric video playing behind, them helps drive the story home… “but you never made it home”.
But that violin sound, it adds such a sorrowfulness to the power of their music and lyrics, that it can easily bring a tear to the eye if you let it.
Sons Of Apollo
The crowd are wildly enthusiastic.
The band play faultlessly and triumphantly.
The set is played perfectly.
Everything is meticulous!
Let’s face it, on paper this is quite possibly the most super of supergroups with each member of the band having made substantial contributions to many bands over the years. A veritable who’s who of the rock music family tree. So, as you would expect, the musicianship is on another level, their stage presence excellent too - watching Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal and Billy Sheehan play off each other is an absolute pleasure and Sheehan's bass playing is a joy to see and hear too!
It won’t come as any surprise that eight out of the ten songs played this evening are from their debut album Psychotic Symphony with the remaining two from Dream Theater’s Falling Into Infinity album (Lines In the Sand and Just Let Me Breathe) which is the only studio album to feature both drummer Mike Portnoy and keyboardist Derek Sherinian.
Don’t get me wrong, this was thoroughly enjoyable to watch, it just left me feeling empty afterwards. And that is where the problem lies… live, there is little soul to the songs, there is nothing to take away from them.
The weekend has been a veritable journey through the various sub-genres of prog but Saturday’s headliner is prog royalty and shows the rest of them how it is done here in Barcelona; Ladies and Gentlemen, Steve Hackett and Genesis Revisited - or maybe not!
Interestingly, this is a set of two halves. Much to my delight (I am actually a bigger fan of his own work than his previous band) the first 50 minutes or so of Mr Hackett’s set is made up of his solo material and by opening with the powerful Please Don’t Touch he is certainly making a statement, it is punchy and gets the band flowing, following this up with a lighter song, Everyday and back to something darker with Behind The Smoke from his last album, The Night Siren.
The big surprise is the inclusion of When The Heart Rules The Mind (GTR revisited maybe) for which singer Nad Sylvan joins the band. The soul of Ritchie Havens soars during Icarus Ascending before he ends this quick solo journey with the ending of Shadow Of The Hierophant.
The opening notes to Dancing With A Moonlit Knight sends the crowd into a frenzy as the Genesis Revisited section starts, something Sylvan’s voice is perfect for and the rest of the band play faultlessly. This is followed by The Fountain Of Salmacis which again Sylvan nail’s totally convincingly as do the rest of the band. Firth Of Fifth and The Musical Box follow the same course - the crowd is enthralled as am I.
Hackett then plays his ace, Supper’s Ready, and it is, quite simply, the icing on the prog cake. This is one of those “you have to be there moments” as when it is performed live it gives you goose-bumps. It is eery how close to the original this is and goes to show how talented Hackett and his band are to be able to pull this off so well. At the end of the song the audience are ecstatic.
The band are called back for an encore, well, they haven’t really left the stage, and interestingly the band starts off with Myopia before morphing into Slogans from Hackett’s 1980 album Defector before the piece morphs once more into an old favourite from Trick Of The Tail, Los Endos, always the perfect ending to any Steve Hackett performance.
Swedish prog metallers Burst have reformed especially for the festival. Although the band split in 2009, their final album, Lazarus Bird, is their most accomplished work. The festival organisers are very excited to have them on the bill, an excitement that isn’t shared by me nor with a fair proportion of those who attended today as once more much of the crowd files out before they hit the stage.
Fortunately for me much of their set (7 out of 10 songs) is taken up with songs from Lazarus as I find their previous four albums far too hardcore and would find difficulty in calling any of it prog. Opening with (We Watched) The Silver Rain grips those who remain as do I Hold Vertigo and I Exterminate The I. And it was loud, possibly too loud and became a wall of sound at times.
We headed towards the exit as the band launched into their last song, City Cloaked, it was disappointing to see the crowd having thinned further although to be honest Burst would have been a much better fit for the Friday line-up.
What next for Burst? Is this just a one-off or will this invigorate the band and allow us to experience them again in the future?
This is always such an excellent festival for what is a niche musical genre. It makes a change that there is excellent food (the Korean beef and Malaysian chicken were outstanding) and no queues for the beer and overall prices that are reasonable.
Next year? It will just have to be done! And we are already making guesses as to who will be on the bill.