The Borderline is tightly packed for the opening set by Pete Jones, who may be familiar to anyone who remembers his involvement with The X Factor in 2004 and 2005. From playing soul music on TV, Jones has embraced his prog influences under the banner Tiger Moth Tales and his set showcases material from both Cocoon and his new album Story Tellers Part One.
The multi-instrumentalist alternates between keyboards and a guitar, which he plays laid flat, in the same style as the late bluesman Jeff Healey. But Jones’ most impressive weapon is his soulful voice, his delivery occasionally recalling Peter Gabriel, and it’s easy to hear the influence of 70s Genesis in his very English prog style.
More sombre tracks like Story Tellers are balanced by playful tunes like The Merry Vicar, and the crowd respond to it all with warmth and voluble enthusiasm. Who knew The X Factor would produce a prog talent of this calibre? Hopefully Jones can tour with a full band next.
In true rock legend style, Magenta’s drummer Steve Roberts has brought his gong out for the night. If you ever want to play the worst drinking game ever, take a drink every time a drummer with a gong actually plays it: you’ll be sober as a judge by the end of the show. Leaving the gong aside for a moment (but we wants it! We wants the precious!), Magenta jump in with the uptempo Glitterball, and although the band have hardly been very active over the last year while frontwoman Christina Booth recovered from cancer, there’s no ring rust in evidence. When keyboardist Rob Reed pauses to catch his breath after Guernica, Booth scolds him: “You write the songs, it’s your fault they’re so fucking long!”
Guitarist Chris Fry impresses throughout the night, from his jazzy solo in Lust, which starts slowly before building to a powerful crescendo, to a barnstorming lead workout in Demons, after which Booth exclaims: “How am I supposed to compete with that?”
The song selection includes gig mainstays like The Lizard King, which sounds as hugely catchy as ever, but the night also sees Magenta dust off songs from the vaults. “The next track terrifies the shit out of me,” confesses Booth before they play The Devil At The Crossroads live for the very first time – and flawlessly at that. Big Big Train’s David Longdon joins the band on Steve Hackett’s Spectral Mornings, contributing a flute solo for good measure.
That’s followed by the brooding Metamorphosis, introduced as “a nice little happy song about a serial killer” by Booth, and a final encore of the musical marathon that is The White Witch as the set sails past the two-hour mark. Epic stuff.