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Bigelf, live in London

Los Angeles rock proggers head into Highbury maelstrom

That Bigelf bloke Damon Fox, he's big. Especially when he's wearing his top hat. But Fox dominates the stage. He's set up right in the centre, standing flanked by keyboards. The Fox personality is as huge as his frame. This is his band, and he wants everyone to know it. Mind you, he's got the talent to back it all up. Here's what it all made us think.

There’s no Mike Portnoy Nope, the peripatetic drummer, who was on the road with the band for the first part of this European tour (having played on current album Into The Maelstrom), is off on another adventure. So, his place is taken by Baron Fox, who is Damon’s son. Now, he is good, but somehow you get the feeling Portnoy would have added an extra dimension, as a counterfoil for the lead Fox’s demeanour. Still, let’s not be hard on the younger Fox (he really should be called Kit!), because he’s more than proficient.

**John Wesley on guitar. That guy can play up a storm **The Porcupine Tree man is in stupendous form. His style melds perfectly with Fox’s overly exotic keyboards, and some of his playing is breathtaking. If Fox can hold on to him, and persuade Portnoy to return, then Bigelf could have a spectacular few years. However, given other commitments, don’t hold your breath!

It’s all Queen bombast Well, a lot of what makes Bigelf so enticing is the invocation of dramatic excess. Many of their songs have huge, keyboard swathed climaxes, which certainly grab the attention. This is particularly true of Money, It’s Pure Evil, which has a stunning clash of guitar and keyboards, each building above the other to a cinematic crescendo. In truth, the set should have ended there. But they then throw in Counting Sheep, which suffers as a consequence.

**The encore is the highlight, though **The way the band sift through The Incredible Time Machine and into Blackball is pure magnificence. It’s where showmanship smooches artistry, and encapsulates why this band have such a devoted following.

**Not a big following, though. The place is half empty **Well, yes. However, the devotees love every second. The elder Fox even goes for a walkabout around the front of the stage at one point. And the fans lap up the attention. Mind you, one wag towards the back of the venue does shout out “Leave the keyboards alone!”, and that doesn’t go down well with the keyboard player, who looks like he’s about to stomp offstage. Thankfully, Fox avoids such a catastrophe.

**You can understand, though, why so many people don’t ‘get’ Bigelf **There are no straightforward riffs or hooks for people to hang on to. Sometimes the music appears to veer almost drunkenly between introspection and outrageous P.T. Barnum style overkill. And Damon Fox can appear too prickly. But the very reasons why a lot of folk are turned off by Bigelf is exactly why we, the few, love them.

**Oh, and let’s mention Bend Sinister **Who? The main support band. They might have taken their name from the 1947 Nabokov novel, but this band’s sound is bright pop prog. It’s Jellyfish with a touch of the progressives about them. And when they finish the set with Supertramp’s The Logical Song, it’s all so… logical. They’ve a lot of creatively melodic songs of their own, and you can also hear 10cc as an influence. Bend Sinister appeal to prog fans, AOR fans and hard rock fans. It’s a joyous romp.

Malcolm Dome had an illustrious and celebrated career which stretched back to working for Record Mirror magazine in the late 70s and Metal Fury in the early 80s before joining Kerrang! at its launch in 1981. His first book, Encyclopedia Metallica (opens in new tab), published in 1981, may have been the inspiration for the name of a certain band formed that same year. Dome is also credited with inventing the term "thrash metal" while writing about the Anthrax song Metal Thrashing Mad in 1984. With the launch of Classic Rock magazine in 1998 he became involved with that title, sister magazine Metal Hammer, and was a contributor to Prog magazine since its inception in 2009.