The Bevis Frond live review - Birthdays, Dalston

Eighties neo-psychers venture out to Hackney

crowd at a prog gig
(Image: © Katja Ogrin)

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Descending into the depths of this Dalston basement, barely lit except by films of dancing girls and mandalas projected on to the stage, you can’t help but think of the UFO Club or Middle Earth in the late 60s. Tonight, though, we’re here to see an outfit close to their 30th anniversary and promoting a reissue campaign, but who are crucially still at the top of the game, both live and in the studio. Although there’s reason enough to rejoice that records like New River Head and Any Gas Faster are back in print, it’s doubly satisfying that after a seven-year break, a return in 2011 has yielded three of the finest albums of their career, two of them doubles and one a triple.

The band slip into the traditional warm-up jam with the guitars of Nick Saloman and Paul Simmons circling one another, the rhythm section of drummer Dave Pearce and sometime Hawklords bassist Ade Shaw flexing their muscles beneath, until a dead stop leads into the opening riff of Hole Song #2.

The subsequent two hours mine gems from the band’s history: from the power chords of Maybe, from debut Miasma, to recent track Pale Blue Blood. They come via the pop smarts of Lights Are Changing and He’d Be A Diamond, the latter two covered by others appreciative of a killer melody and a strong lyric.

A switch by Saloman to electric sitar sees the Frond embark on a version of Superseded that breaks the 20-minute mark, its brooding menace fracturing into duelling solos and back again, hitting a middle section that borrows atmospherics from Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love and The Wipers’ Youth Of America.

Proving they can tear through a concise rocker as well as they can stretch to epic lengths, they blast through garage punker Undertaker and give a nod to the past with a cover of Blue Cheer’s arrangement of Parchment Farm.

The encore sees long-standing friend and occasional band member Bari Watts reluctantly get up to join in the fun, and he quickly slots into place for a barnstorming I’ve Got Eyes In The Back Of My Head.

Leaving the venue, our bus is full of noisily happy football fans, but tonight the celebrating began earlier in the evening, as an equally vocal faithful gathered to mark the Frond’s game of two halves.