True, Nowegian prog metallers Leprous only toured Europe (and the UK) six months ago, but with no disrespect to that tour’s support acts, Rendezvous Point and Sphere, this bill, with Aussies Voyager and Americans Earthside, is a far more mouth-watering prospect.
Taking in those cities missed out during October’s jaunt, and with Voyager on board as a thank you for the Perth quintet having Leprous support them on a recent trip Down Under, it’s a pity the effervescent Aussies are denied the chance to make more of an impact on British audiences. They went down so well when they played London’s Barfly in October 2014.
Musik & Frieden fittingly translates as Music & Peace, and is just inside where the Berlin Wall once stood. Inside the dark confines of the venue (think something similar to The Garage in the UK), a crowd is building. It’s interesting to note the differences between a German and UK prog audience – not many, if truth be told.
Leprous pull a similar youthful crowd here as they would in the UK, although whether, as would happen in the UK, the older prog crowd remain absent because they’re overly and incorrectly wary, Prog doesn’t know. There are certainly more females in the audience here tonight, but the display of prog-friendly T-shirts is the same as in the UK.
Earthside open proceedings, and their touring partners’ abundant screens and banners leave them so little room that by the end of opener The Closest I’ve Come, guitarist Jamie Van Dyck and keyboard player Frank Sacramone have already come too close and an untwining of limbs and instruments is required before they can continue.
As well as Leprous and Voyager’s stage gear, Earthside’s own screen is somewhat precariously balanced stage left. It eventually comes into play for A Dream In Static, on which TesseracT singer Daniel Tompkins appears, as does Sevendust’s Lajon Witherspoon later for the orchestral set closer Mob Mentality. It’s a move that could have stymied the flow of the band’s show, but in reality it enhances everything.
With Sacramone throwing all manner of shapes, and Van Dyck’s lively performance and humorous interaction with the crowd, Earthside’s intricate and complex progressive rock is transformed into a crowd-pleasing spectacle; an admirable achievement.
Voyager may hail from Perth, Australia, but frontman Daniel Estrin was born in Berlin and ingratiates himself to the home crowd by speaking in their native tongue. Not that the quintet need much to ingratiate themselves. Opening couplet Momentary Relapse Of Pain and Stare Into The Night (both from 2011’s The Meaning Of I) are slices of bouncy, energetic alt-prog, with a shift towards the band’s more overtly proggy sound through Misery Is Only Company from 2014’s V.
Again, it’s a highly visual performance, with the engaging Estrin backed by the constant shape-throwing of diminutive guitar queen Simone Dow, the music coming across like a delightful blend of hard-edged prog and Duran Duran-style anthemic choruses. They throw a cover of Darude’s Sandstorm into Lost, and epic single Hyperventilating has the whole room bouncing. They then thunder through Summer Always Comes Again, Seasons Of Age and The Meaning Of I. It’s the performance of the night – no mean feat on a bill like this.
While Earthside and Voyager combine visual panache with intricate music, Leprous seem more static, mainly because mainman Einar Solberg is stuck behind his keyboards (Estrin opted for a keytar!), and the band’s matching outfits give them a staid look. It’s the same set reviewed in Prog 61, but in the live setting, the band’s modernist take on prog is imbued with even more Marillion-like melody; something that would open the band up to a wider, older audience if that audience weren’t so stuck in their ways. It’s all carried off with a headliner’s style – another fine performance from a classily thought-out bill.