It may be cold, damp and dreary outside tonight, but genuine warmth greets opening act Red Bazar as they hit the stage to start a second night of varied prog line-ups in Tufnell Park.
The combined talents of guitarist Andy Wilson, drummer Paul Comerie and bassist Mick Wilson are clear right from the sweeping symphonic rock and hard-hitting prog metal set bookends of Queen Of The Night Part 1 And 2 and the likes of Calling Her On from last year’s Tales From The Bookcase album. With keyboardist Gary Marsh on a temporary leave of absence, attention is drawn inextricably to recent addition Peter Jones, who is centre stage. The band certainly sound great, there is no denying that, but a little self-editing and some more accessible hooks might make them into a more immediate live proposition.
Second up in tonight’s showcase is Dec Burke, who draws on his trio of solo albums, with an impressive line-up of a band that includes ex-Big Big Train drummer Steve Hughes and one half of Carptree, Carl Westholm, on keyboards.
Reflection and the hard-edged, aggressive As High As The Sun from Book Of Secrets kick things off wonderfully, and the strength of the contemporary pop/rock/metal material is immediately obvious from these, as well as on tracks like Days Like These later on. Although the impressive, big and ballsy Take rounds things off in undeniable style, sound issues and the fact that the band do not really gel tonight leave a tinge of disappointment.
Joined by the rest of Red Bazar, Peter Jones returns to the stage for an involving and evocative Tiger Moth Tales performance. The suitably epic Overture teases what’s to come, and on the double-barrelled Don’t Let Go, Feels Alright – which Prog believes wouldn’t feel out of place on many a Genesis album – Jones is just magnificent. It’s not just his spot-on vocal, keyboard, lead guitar (strapped horizontally over his keyboard) or sax performances – his sax solo on Don’t Let Go, Feels Alright is absolutely stunning – it’s also that he makes it look so easy. The Merry Vicar gives the audience a comedy singalong opportunity, yet takes on a slightly menacing, heavier edge live, and the powerful, affecting sentiment of Tigers In The Butter leaves grown men with tears in their eyes as it hits its ‘everything and the kitchen sink’ climax. The paean to the childhood world that never was, A Visit To Chigwick sees the whole band flexing their musical muscles and rounds off a superb set. On the basis of gigs like tonight, quite why Jones isn’t a huge star remains a bit of a mystery.