An edict goes out early on from on high (Nellie Pitts) [Not terribly high then - Ed.] that there will be no tourism opportunities between Cardiff and Manchester following the previous day’s disastrous detour to Stonehenge. Apart from rolling hills around Monmouth and Ross-on-Wye, the journey is miles upon miles of motorway drear only broken by the successful spotting of the church which appears on the Lifesigns album cover. Twenty points in the I-Spy book for that one.
Lodgings in Manchester is at a hotel that has overt religious overtones on the city’s outskirts with Moon Safari comfortably hunkering down in the main building, Lazuli and tour crew billeted in their own house within the complex, but more about that later.
The venue is the Sound Control, a nightclub complex, split into three areas. The show consigned to the smallest area in the joint with a stage probably no bigger than a snooker table.
Shoehorning in six strapping Scandinavians and five flamboyant Frenchman, albeit separately, into such a confined space would usually require the services of a set square and graph paper to work it all out area-wise.
In the event, there is little time so the show goes on with both bands adopting a split level approach to the dilemma by consigning their respective guitarists to floor level.
There is brisk business as more than 75 people cram into the “Cherry” area, most of them northern prog die-hards who are right to complain that not enough good live prog comes their way. There is even a contingent or two who have made their way over the border from Scotland.
Unfortunately, the damp Mancunian air has played havoc with the voice of Moon Safari singer/keyboards player Simon Akesson who has to dig deep to reach some of those harmonic high notes, but otherwise, it is another knock-out performance from the cool Swedes. Drummer Tobias Lundgren notices a small lad at the front, singing along to all the songs. It is said that afterwards, the band invited him to take part with them in an impromptu rendition of their a cappella showstopper, Constant Bloom.
It was sad to see a handful of people depart after Moon Safari which somewhat defeats the object of having a double headliner featuring an already tried and tested band combined with one of the best foreign “unknowns” around.
Lazuli give it their all again though the carefree pirouetting of frontman Domi Leonetti is somewhat curtailed by lack of space and his energetic jigging is done on what appears to be two front door mats.
However, he later joins guitarist Gédéric Byar down amongst the first front rows for a rousing reprise of Les Malveillants. Job done after another stunning Nine Hands Around A Marimba finale and it’s all hands to the deck to get the stage clear in half an hour before the Silly O’Clock Set arrives.
Back at the lodgings, there is a great sense of fraternité within the Lazuli camp, not just through heavily bearded and lavishly ponytailed brothers Domi and Claude Leonetti but as a team. It is their ever-present soundman Ali who becomes the butt of the late night jokes which your humble observer was alas not able to follow.
The kindness of the bands is also making its mark. Previously in Southampton, they and Moon Safari all signed their autographs for the daughter of a very smiley lady taking breakfast orders in Sainsbury’s. As a result, Lazuli drummer Vincent Barnavol received a message via social media from said daughter, thanking them for their signatures. Another convert to their music, we can only hope.
Meanwhile, the tour now moves south again today for tonight’s sell-out show at the Borderline in London to which famous prog personalities are rumoured to be coming along.
Just who they might be will be revealed tomorrow….