Frost* - The Philadelphia Experiment album review

A welcome reappearance for the pop-proggers’ hard-to-find live album.

Frost* - The Philadelphia Experiment album artwork

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Despite a work ethic that makes Def Leppard look industrious – three studio albums in 10 years – prog pop favourites Frost* have managed to garner the kind of fans that can best be described as ardent. Not least in the colonies where this outing, as part of the 2009 RosFest bill from the Keswick Theatre, Philadelphia, is welcomed the way a dog greets a bone. While the band, in turn, address the audience like a well-heeled sixth form master taking morning assembly, as every utterance is greeted with a whoop or holler. To Frost*’s credit, this happy enthusiasm only spurs them on. It’s even more remarkable, given that drummer Nick d’Virgilio had only two days’ rehearsal time with the band before a two-hour show. “I love his playing on this album,” says Jem Godfrey (keyboards, vocals), “For me, he’s the star of this particular gig.”

Which is to undersell the rest of the band - Craig Blundell, Nathan King and John Mitchell of course – just a little. While this is a very real show, in the sense that it’s straight off the stage and into the mixing desk, the odd cue is missed, the occasional song restarted, it has the charm of the best bootlegs, resonating with the feeling that you’re in the room at just the right moment as the band clicks into place and shifts into overdrive.

That this collection features the only recording ever made of the band’s expansive The Dividing Line makes it akin to the Holy Grail for some fans (ardent, remember?), and even though it does act as the perfect full point for this album, it neither decries or overshadows what’s gone before.

Mixing hard pop with dexterous prog (you can see why John Mitchell got the It Bites gig) could quickly come unglued in less able hands, but here – the ebb and flow of Experiments In Mass Appeal, the brisk and bubbling The Forget You Song, the juddering Pocket Sun – the end result is considered anarchy, letting off fireworks sure of where every spark will land.

Philip Wilding

Philip Wilding is a novelist, journalist, scriptwriter, biographer and radio producer. As a young journalist he criss-crossed most of the United States with bands like Motley Crue, Kiss and Poison (think the Almost Famous movie but with more hairspray). More latterly, he’s sat down to chat with bands like the slightly more erudite Manic Street Preachers, Afghan Whigs, Rush and Marillion.