The Enid, Live

When Robert John Godfrey picked up the Visionary Award at this year’s Prog Awards, he talked about the importance of youth to the genre’s future.

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He implored established musicians to “involve and engage the younger generation in their bands”.

True to his word, half of The Enid’s current line-up weren’t born when Aerie Faerie Nonsense was troubling the deepest recesses of the charts. The newest member is Dominic Tofield, who starts the set on bass but makes an impressive debut on the drum kit at half-time as long-time sticksman Dave Storey shifts to percussion. Singer Joe Payne, by dint of youth and theatricality, is the focus now that Godfrey is taking more of a back seat. He has a voice that isn’t too far from Freddie Mercury, and when he drops in a flawless falsetto on One And The Many, he does a pretty decent Montserrat Caballé as well. With rolling, guy-linered eyes and fluttering hands, he brings the showbiz: a touch of Bernstein’s West Side Story to Wings, and some Al Bowlly to the ever-haunting Something Wicked This Way Comes. The rest of the band are on similarly spectacular form, and the pin-drop silence is only interrupted by some squabbling bar staff and a chorus of “Shhh!” from the floor.

During the interval, as the band rearrange their equipment to accommodate the new drummer, Godfrey takes to the mic and talks to the audience. He speaks about being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease (“My poor little brain cells are getting a little lazy”), but is looking forward to one final creative spurt and completing the trilogy that began with Journey’s End and Invicta. He wants to finish the piano concerto he’s been working on. He talks about being signed – and then dropped – by Pye (“They asked, ‘Why don’t you sing like the guy in Uriah Heap?’ And I said, ‘Fuck off!’”). He talks about falling out with Francis Lickerish over whether trees have souls or not, how mobile phones have reduced the evidence of UFOs, and why Motörhead are Wagner with a drumbeat. He even mentions the Visionary Award, joking, “I don’t know what it was that I envisioned.” Then he orders a pint of bitter and heads back to the piano. Godfrey may not conduct the band with the extravagant, ecstatic arm sweeps he used to, but by the thundering climax of Dark Hydraulic – the Karl Jung-sampling ‘origin of evil’ section has never sounded more appropriate than it does in 2014 – he’s punching the air with delight, head bobbing from side to side, a look of sheer glee on his face. Wildly idiosyncratic and profoundly English, Godfrey is not just a visionary – he’s a national treasure too.

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.