Cleft’s set is rendered more remarkable due to the news that they will be disbanding after releasing and touring their second album in 2016. The turbo-prog duo have been Prog favourites since their early days, and they’ll be missed. Tonight, however, it’s all smiles and exuberant riffs, backed by a medley of warped sounds and time signatures as the pair blast though older material, as well as some new tracks. From the evidence here, the farewell album’s going to be one hell of a parting gift.
Knifeworld, heirs apparent to the Cardiacs’ throne, are in similar high spirits. Barely managing to crowd on to the stage, they make a racket that sounds large even for the number of members as they scream through choice cuts like The Wretched Fathoms. The venue’s sound isn’t always perfect, but the audience are receptive as frontman Kavus Torabi plays the mad professor, pulling elastic rock shapes.
Finally though, cometh the hour, cometh the man: Mike Vennart and company – including, of course, fellow Oceansizers Gambler and Steve Durose – take the stage. After a UK tour and a summer playing festivals, the set is razor sharp. Gloriously gauzy 255 effortlessly flows into the stomping math prog of Doubt, and Infatuate is a stunning alt-rock anthem in proggy clothing. Don’t Forget The Joker’s ballad-like vibe carries across much better live, and the …Trail Of Dead-esque breakdown in Duke Fame proves precipitous and epic. The only gripe would be that Amends, the wonderful closer from Vennart’s The Demon Joke album, isn’t featured, but it’s a small complaint.
In the main set, there are two Oceansize tunes, namely staple Build Us A Rocket Then… as well as the more sedate Savant. At various shows they’ve covered a lot of ground where the old material is concerned, but it would be interesting to see if they could play a heavy, technical track like Sleeping Dogs And Dead Lions, one of the highlights of the Frames record, especially as they’d previously proved themselves equal to Part Cardiac, the monstrously heavy opener from fourth LP Self Preserved While The Bodies Float Up.
The encore starts with the slow burn and powerful release of Oceansize’s Only Twin. It’s an unusual choice. As Vennart screams, ‘I recoil from the blast!’ at the song’s explosive finale, you can almost feel the displaced current from the amp speakers as distortion cuts the air. They close by getting Kavus Torabi up to cover the Cardiacs’ Big Ship – it’sa nice touch, and the crowd lap it up.
With Biffy Clyro gearing up to an album in 2016, Mike is back to the day job soon. Let’s hope, though, that this isn’t the last we see of Vennart.