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Touchstone at Boston Music Room, London - live review

Touchstone bring their new sound to London

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

The Boston Music Room is perhaps only one-third full when The Room take the stage tonight, and it remains stubbornly under-occupied for the remainder of the evening. It’s a Friday night, with two good bands – where were you all?

Those who did turn up will have seen The Room’s blend of AOR hooks and prog on full display in the opening Carrie, with drummer Chris York busting out some dextrous stick tricks. Their live sound has more meat on its bones than their studio output might suggest. The Book touches on Neal Morse Band territory, with a bouncing energy that nods towards 60s pop and features an impressive guitar solo from Steve Anderson.

In The Shadows moves through tempos and time signatures with ease, prompting frontman Martin Wilson to quip, “Who says The Room can’t prog?” afterwards. Meanwhile, they’re as tight as a drum on the stops and starts of The Hunter, which boasts a hefty neo-prog instrumental workout, and they then finish big with 16 Tonnes. The Room’s sound mix is balanced and clear, so it’s a surprise when headliners Touchstone kick off and their sound is a mess. With this new incarnation of the group, bassist Moo has assumed the backing vocal duties that former keys player Rob Cottingham used to handle. Perhaps it’s down to poor onstage monitoring, but Moo is consistently flat, and it only exacerbates the problem that his voice is louder in the mix than that of lead singer Aggie Figurska.

On previous sightings, drummer Henry Rogers invoked the spirit of Gavin Harrison with his nimble playing, but tonight he goes for the full Portnoy and hammers away from first beat to last. Unfortunately, he often swamps his bandmates in a wash of galloping fills and crashing cymbals. Figurska is clearly emerging as a terrific frontwoman, from belting out Spirit Of The Age to her dramatic stage presence. The only quibble is her confusing banter, covering alien visitations, the lost innocence of childhood and why we’re all stuck in a ‘frequency prison’.

The set includes two new songs. Evolve really allows Figurska to let rip and prove she has more power and presence than her predecessor, and the tune emphasises Touchstone’s metal influences. Stolen Moments, by contrast, has a wide-open rock feel, with a touch of Tears For Fears. The main set wraps on the epic Wintercoast and The City Sleeps, the band encoring with Lights In The Sky.

It’s a shame the mix is so poor tonight – too many of Adam Hodgson’s guitar solos are seen rather than heard – as this line-up boasts plenty of talent and, judging by the new songs, there’s some potent material in the pipeline.

After starting his writing career covering the unforgiving world of MMA, David moved into music journalism at Rhythm magazine, interviewing legends of the drum kit including Ginger Baker and Neil Peart. A regular contributor to Prog, he’s written for Metal Hammer, The Blues, Country Music Magazine and more. The author of Chasing Dragons: An Introduction To The Martial Arts Film, David shares his thoughts on kung fu movies in essays and videos for 88 Films, Arrow Films, and Eureka Entertainment. He firmly believes Steely Dan’s Reelin’ In The Years is the tuniest tune ever tuned.