Openers Hekz offer an accomplished brand of prog metal with a hefty dollop of pomp pop: think Queen having a barney with Dream Theater as Rush and Iron Maiden duke it out on the sidelines. Their multi-sectional opus The Black Hand captures them at their best, with passages that are both pastoral and punishingly heavy.
Tonight is a treat for John Mitchell fans as the sometime It Bites, Arena, The Urbane, Kino and Frost* man, here in the guise of Lonely Robot, plays Please Come Home, No.8 in Prog’s top albums of 2015 chart, in its entirety.
It makes sense that he should begin his conceptual disquisition – covering time and space, the future of the cosmos and us as a species – with a boy in an astronaut suit and helmet, scrolling through images on a TV screen onstage. He departs, to be replaced by drummer Craig Blundell and two females – Lauren Storer on keyboards and Caroline Campbell on bass – flanking Mitchell, who assumes guitar and Peter Gabriel‑ish vocal duties.
Beside the players, there’s a table full of toys and mementos celebrating interstellar travel, somewhat apposite considering that Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens five days later.
Airlock is the rousing instrumental entrée, and is followed by God Vs Man, all powerful hooks and tempo shifts. Because Please Come Home is something of a guest-fest, it’s appropriate that Lonely Robot’s second-ever full band gig has a slew of appearances, some stellar, others familiar to prog aficionados. Mitchell tells a story about being a 12-year-old kid listening to Go West’s 1987 hit We Close Our Eyes (the missing link between soulful synth-pomp and prog?) on his Sony Walkman as a preamble to Peter Cox himself joining him for a rendition of The Boy In The Radio.
Why Do We Stay? is prefaced by Mitchell thanking us for coming out on a cold Sunday night before Christmas as Heather Findlay arrives in a glam sparkly dress for a near-homage to, or pastiche of, 80s power balladry. Mitchell’s Frost* bandmate Jem Godfey virtually bounds on to play keys for the album’s title track, which has the ambition and grandeur of stadium rock, barely scaled down for this London club.
A Godless Sea might explore notions of social disconnect in this TwitBook age, but there’s a communal delight at this mid‑tempo, expansive music that, depending on your viewpoint, is either utterly immersive and engrossing or ponderous and charmless
A Godless Sea might explore notions of social disconnect in this TwitBook age, but there’s a communal delight at this mid‑tempo, expansive music that, depending on your viewpoint, is either utterly immersive and engrossing or ponderous and charmless.
Kim Seviour, her fetching ballgown hardly in keeping with the outer space theme, then adds Celine Dion-ish warbles to symphonic prog duet Oubliette, while Construct/Obstruct (‘We are a strange species: we destroy as much as we create’) has the feel of 80s-era Genesis or Peter Gabriel.
That’s followed by Are We Copies?, accompanied by an orange-suited astronaut wandering across the firmament (well, the stage), bearing a camera. The set is completed by Humans Being and The Red Balloon, for which a kid in pyjamas pops on holding a (no prizes) red balloon. The encore features a drum solo and two covers: Black Light Machine by Frost* and Phil Collins’ Take Me Home, which is the cue for some seasonal snow to pour down from the rafters.