Panic Room Live In Merseyside

British proggers rise the rafters with a varied set of life and unplugged songs.

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Even the biggest bands must tire of the well-worn touring merry-go-round. Keeping their latest tour circuit fresh, tonight Panic Room present an ‘Evening With…’ – a short performance showcasing some new song arrangements as featured on their forthcoming acoustic album, followed up with a full band set. It’s a format that works well, particularly for some of the unplugged reworkings.

With the deceptively compact nature of the venue generating an intimate atmosphere, vocalist Anne-Marie Helder steps out onto the stage, an arresting vision of hippie chic, with candles behind her and the mic stand embellished with flowers, dry ice completing the perfect backdrop for opener Song For Tomorrow, a sublime Sunshine and, most startling of all, a reggae arrangement of Black Noise which breathes new life into the song.

Though possessed of superb musicianship already, new recruit and Mr So & So and Steve Rothery Band man Dave Foster is a delightful addition, and after a short break, the full band open with Into Temptation and the irrepressible Freedom To Breathe. Panic Room’s modus operandi has never been to specifically show off any prog chops they may have. Rather, they are all about ensemble playing in the service of the song, and it’s this that comes over again and again. Aided by the enthusiastic crowd and superb sound in this perfectly split standing/seated venue, tonight’s set is a perfectly judged selection of the cream of their four-album catalogue. The band are in high spirits, playing off each other to create a show which appears as much fun to play as it is to watch. Helder, in particular, grows in stature as a frontwoman with every new tour, and the band strive to match her.

Spurred on by excitement and confidence, when they truly scale the peaks, as on the darkly unsettling Dust, or magnificent encore Satellite, the results are remarkable. The crowd respond with a sea of raised hands as the immensely uplifting chorus of Satellite spirals up and up into the rafters – one of those rare moments where crowd and band become as one, and the music is transcendent.

Here Panic Room ascend to another level – prog or not, this is just great, generous, healing rock music, and that’s about the best you can ask from a night out, isn’t it?