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Touchstone's Festive Cheer

Touchstone and Symphony Of Pain bring a touch of seasonal merriment to London's West End.

With free Santa hats at the door, Touchstone are in a festive mood for this pre-Christmas show at the Borderline.

Gothic prog rockers Symphony Of Pain, who are a sartorial symphony of crushed velvet, open the evening and bring the panto spirit to songs like Am I Dreaming? and Kiss The Bride. While frontman Tracie Law is obviously enjoying himself and has a good line in stage banter, he doesn’t have the voice to give this material much kick. Another point to note – apparently violin solos are the new guitar solos. Who knew?

When Touchstone take the stage, Kim ‘Elkie’ Seviour is wearing tinsel bracelets and bassist Moo is dressed as an elf, so Scrooge better check his sour attitude before joining this seasonal shindig. The mix is a little muddy in spots and some of the busy sections sound cluttered, but the band warm up the room nicely with Mad Hatters and then one of their more straight-ahead rock tracks, Strange Days. Discordant Dreams/The Beggar’s Song provides the first extended instrumental break and gives Seviour the chance to really cut loose. Her voice is one of the band’s great weapons and she’s at her best when belting it out and exploring the upper register of her impressive range. Seviour isn’t short of devoted fans. More than once her acolytes in the audience present her with little packets of Ferrero Rocher. None of the guys in the group receive similar offerings…

Zinomorph is another of the more ‘concise’ numbers, but that’s followed by the full-blown epic of Wintercoast, with an impressive melodic guitar solo from Adam Hodgson (kudos for not shredding, sir!) that leads to a powerful crescendo. Corridors is a reminder that Touchstone can rock out harder than many of their prog contemporaries, while The City Sleeps shows a little new wave influence, although the mix lets them down here, with a spoken narration from a hard drive being essentially unintelligible through the PA. And perhaps it’s the poor monitoring, too much mulled wine or that keyboard player Rob Cottingham’s voice is getting thin, but some of his vocals are a tad wobbly tonight.

The band get back to the epics for the excellent Oceans Of Time, before returning to encore with Contact, which provides another showcase for Seviour. Last but not least, they conclude the Yuletide celebrations with a medley of Wizzard’s I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday and Greg Lake’s I Believe In Father Christmas.

Seviour departs to enjoy her Ferrero Rocher. Everyone else leaves empty-handed. Hardly seems fair. Hopefully she’ll share.

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.