Jh kicks off this intriguing Bad Elephant showcase evening. New tune Penultimate establishes his credentials as a talented singer-songwriter majoring in biographical, often wryly humorous narratives, with the frequent feel of an unplugged IQ.
We Are Kin’s Emma Brewin-Caddy and Dan Zambas provide a stripped-back vocal and keyboard performance of songs from debut album Pandora, including the reflections on place in Home Sweet Home and a moving suite created by new tunes Exhale and Tides Of Midnight. Brewin-Caddy’s voice in particular impresses, with terrific clarity and warmth.
A dapper Tom Slatter unveils a set of songs built around his inimitable, bizarre and occasionally discomfiting steampunk visions. Some Of The Creatures Have Broken The Locks On The Door To Lab 558 ushers in a set representing his extensive back catalogue. Thoughtful and evocative closer Wizards Of This Town raises exciting questions of what possibilities a full band and a healthy production budget might unlock.
Despite releasing their debut album a decade ago, a shifting line-up and other issues mean The Gift aren’t a UK band on everyone’s radar. With new members Neil Hayman on drums and keyboard player Gabriele Baldocci alongside returning original guitarist Leroy James, frontman Mike Morton leads the band into storming opener I Sing Of Change… and we do mean storming! These guys are loud, and this obscures some of their nuances at times.
Running through tracks like The Willows and Walk Into The Water from 2014’s Land Of Shadows collection, the set highlight is a performance of the epic Awake And Dreaming suite in its entirety. Drawing on neo and classic prog tropes, with multi-part sections running from the fragile to the bludgeoning, it’s an ambitious and impressive piece. An encore of Seven Seas Of Rhye and a respectful Starman nod to Bowie wraps up a powerful set, suggesting this Gift will keep on giving.
As guitarists Matt Stevens and founding Genesis member Anthony Phillips stay to chat afterwards, tonight’s overriding impressions are of a label warmly embracing every possible shade of this thing we call prog.