Band On The Wall is the perfect small venue for proggers. Bags of character, two bars and sharp-as-a-tack sound from speakers out of proportion to the room, it’s the venue of choice for Manchester’s left-field and musical globetrotters.
Tonight, though, its slick facade contrasts noticeably with the assembled and as-yet-unassimilated Ozric faithful: long hair and tie-dyed hoodies abound.
Project RnL are an Israeli rock band who have made a name reincarnating unlikely cover choices (among them Hanson’s Mmmbop) as progged-up jazz fantasies, and even count Dream Theater’s Jordan Rudess as a collaborator (on Another One). This is their first European tour, but they play without fear. Frontman Ray Livnat bounces his voice around like opposing hands on a piano, while keyboardist Eyal Amir runs the show. Guitarist Alon Tamir is equally accomplished, breaking from the band’s melodic meandering with bursts of celebratory technicality. What’s more, four of the five-piece have vocal mics and they actually use them to great effect, constructing harmonies like Zappa-esque mosaics.
Madcap covers pepper the set, including Blur’s Song 2 as you’ve never heard it: part math rock, part lounge sleaze, with a mid-song scat solo. It is, quite bizarrely, brilliant.
As the room fills in anticipation for the Ozrics, there’s an atmosphere of the type of reminiscence that’s primarily found among people who did naughty things in their youth. A colourfully clad punter stumbles straight into Prog and is guided out on the end of a bouncer’s arm. It’s apparent that some are still fighting the good fight!
The stage opens with bassist Brandi Wynne shaping horns in the air. Neo-spiritualist visualisations bombard the audience with yin-yang and Om symbols, as founding guitarist Ed Wynne channels wailing inter-dimensional guitar into O-I. Wynne, resplendent in – you guessed it – tie-dye, with frazzled hair and hangdog eyes, looks like a man who has lived several lifetimes, but he plays with a deft touch. Keyboardist offspring Silas Wynne, a contrastingly uncreased version of his tour-grizzled pa, is a faithful acolyte and a talent in his own right, sending out searing synths to lay the foundation for his dad’s beloved shimmerscapes and stratospheres – a real‑life sibling to his father’s brainchild.
The waves of sound and light repeatedly crash over the assembled throng and, despite the Windows 98 visuals and the occasionally maddening meandering of the family Wynne, nonetheless they draw the faithful into a trance-like fervour. Even as a rogue fire alarm attempts to break the spell, both band and audience press on regardless. If tonight proves anything, it’s that the Tentacles’ grasp remains a tight one.