The Enid live in Tring - review

A generic shot of a crowd at a gig
(Image credit: Katja Ogrin)

Creative mastermind Robert John Godfrey might not be here, but in a way, as with Gong and the sadly departed Daevid Allen, it doesn’t matter: The Enid are now less a band than a brand – an odd thing, perhaps, to call an outfit who always espoused the individual over the corporate. However, it means the music and message can endure, whoever is at hand to deliver them.

The Enid now comprise a bunch of young musicians, here to perform, in its entirety, the 1976 debut album In The Region Of The Summer Stars.

But before that – and this is a proper grown-up show of two halves, with an intermission – they play a smattering of tracks from the five decades of The Enid’s turbulent career as purveyors of symphonic prog.

Mayday Galliard is playful and rousing, with a pastoral flute section and layers of treated guitars providing the recurring melodic motif. The song reaches an orchestral crescendo, the multiple keyboardists doing a fine job of recreating the sound of strings.

Chaldean Crossing opens serenely, each head-nodding instrumentalist gradually entering the gentle melee as they create music somewhere between Eno-esque ambience and tribal electronica, building to a state of Flaming Lips-ish cosmic wonderment towards the climax.

Sheets Of Blue opens with gorgeous jazz rock keyboard arpeggios, like a stoned Steely Dan making muzak for a cheesy 70s sitcom – yes, it’s that good – before switching to harsher Fripp-style ‘hairy guitar’. It continues in this vein for 11 blissful minutes, shifting between angular and smooth with aplomb along the way.

The first half ends with a great rendition of Something Wicked This Way Comes, some marvellous sectional art rock mayhem leading to sheer harmonic overload.

In The Region Of The Summer Stars is afforded similarly grandiloquent treatment, with time signature changes galore, Zappaesque playfulness, textural richness and artful virtuosity. The Tower Of Babel more than merits the epithet ‘brainiac’, with a high quirk factor and an intricate lattice of musicians interlocking superbly. Someone from the audience is moved to shout, “Excellent!”

The Loved Ones is crying out to be used in the climactic scene of a Hollywood romance; conversely, The Demon King is more slasher movie. Somehow, they maintain the pace with music that is lavish and grandiose – think Genesis meeting Cecil B DeMille. No wonder they generate a standing ovation.

The Enid return for an encore of Dark Hydraulic Forces Of The Id, which adds dramatic dance music to their arsenal, with a martial sound that feels like a build-up to war, which is a relevant end to an excellent show.

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Paul Lester

Paul Lester is the editor of Record Collector. He began freelancing for Melody Maker in the late 80s, and was later made Features Editor. He was a member of the team that launched Uncut Magazine, where he became Deputy Editor. In 2006 he went freelance again and has written for The Guardian, The Times, the Sunday Times, the Telegraph, Classic Rock, Q and the Jewish Chronicle. He has also written books on Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Bjork, The Verve, Gang Of Four, Wire, Lady Gaga, Robbie Williams, the Spice Girls, and Pink.