Trinity Live 2014

 Trinity Live 2014 flyer

 

So, what started as a planned short tour with The Reasoning, Touchstone and Magenta turned into a special charity gig at Leamington Spa Assembly Rooms on 18 May 2014 with a greatly expanded and quite mouth-watering line-up.  It promised to be a great day – and with an auction, a raffle, assorted donations from the great and the good, a VIP lounge and a guest appearance by artist Rodney Matthews mooted, I was sure it wouldn’t disappoint!  And so it was that I took my good self off to the inaugural Trinity event for a birthday weekend treat with Messrs Woodley and Brew.  Here is my review.

Trinity Live - Leamington Spa Assembly Rooms

Kicking off proceedings is former Pallas man, Alan Reed,  who, aided and abetted by prog whore Mark Spencer (sorry Mark, couldn’t resist), produces a set of engaging, accessible and thought-provoking tunes. Apparently he’s a BBC journalist now! The set consists primarily of solo material with Pallas’s ‘Sanctuary’ (a song about Auschwitz) thrown in for good measure. The highlight, though, is a superb version of Twelfth Night’s ‘Love Song’, for which Reed and Spencer are joined by Kim Seviour of Touchstone.  It hits all the right buttons for the occasion. They keep things relatively simple and uncluttered, giving the voices and words room to breathe. Sadly the world still needs the light cast by the words and music of the late Geoff Mann. Moving stuff.  Post-performance, I pick up a copy of Reed’s First in a Field of One for good measure.

Trinity Live - Reed Seviour Spencer Love Song

Reed, Seviour, Spencer – ‘Love Song’

Matt Stevens is fast developing a reputation, not only as a gifted and original guitarist, but also as possibly the nicest man in prog. That means that he plays his ‘one man and his guitar’ (oh, and a loop pedal) set to a receptive and supportive audience that responds well to his unique brand of energetic and inventive music. Those who’ve not done so should check out Lucid, his recent solo album, and Spooky Action by The Fierce and the Dead.

Matt Stevens - Photo by Tim Laurie

Lucid moments – Matt Stevens entertains. (Photo by Tim Laurie)

Motorway traffic has delayed the unfortunate Heather Findlay, so an impromptu change to the running order sees an earlier than expected performance from Magenta.  The presence of vocalist Christina Booth delights everybody in the audience – it was, after all, her cancer treatment that inspired the Trinity event in the first place. She looks and sounds fantastic. It’s an impressive set with the band rocking surprisingly hard and material from latest offering, The Twenty Seven Club, standing out.  The highlight of the set, however, is again a cover, with Alan Reed joining the band for a very emotional version of ‘Don’t Give Up’, the Peter Gabriel/Kate Bush duet. (There’s a version knocking about on You Tube and Facebook, if you want to seek it out – check out the audience response!)

Trinity Magenta - photo by Ali Brew

Christina Booth and Magenta – photo by Ali Brew

When Heather Findlay does finally hit the stage she’s resplendent in a flowing white, sparkly dress, a veritable prog princess, whose powerful and striking voice delivers a shorter than planned six track set to a rapt and attentive audience. Joined by guitarist Chris Johnson, particularly impressive are the gentle and folky ‘Yellow Time’, and the classic (Mostly Autumn track) ‘Evergreen’. It really is a flying visit though, with Heather only able to stick around for half an hour or so before she’s off again. Bloody motorway traffic, eh?!

Trinity Live - Heather Findlay and Chris Johnson - photo by Ali Brew

Heather Findlay and Chris Johnson – photo by Ali Brew

Lost in Vegas are the band of Assembly Rooms owner and Trinity organiser Chris Lynch. They sound like my kind of thing – full-on hard rock. However, the unavailability of food in the venue (which doesn’t have a licence to serve food, apparently) means we’ve got to go out to eat sometime – and just a track or two in I leave with the others to feed my aching hunger.

Speaking of which, we make sure we’re back in time to catch the eagerly awaited return of The Reasoning, now a  six-piece with Robert Gerrard replacing Tony Turrell and giving the instrumental passages a new Purple-esque feel (that complements the guitar work of Keith Hawkins) and a new vocalist/acoustic guitarist in the form of Sebastien Flynn-Goze. It’s a storming set. Opener ‘Dark Angel’ sets the tone, followed by ‘The Thirteenth Hour’ . ‘Fallen Angel’ features a great vocal performance from Rachel Cohen, and two killer solos from Keith – such an important part of The Reasoning’s sound these days. ‘Awakening’ features a Bach-influenced organ intro from Robert, with the epic ‘Adventures in Neverland’, ‘A Musing Dream’ and, yes, crowd favourite ‘Aching Hunger’ drawing the well-chosen, career spanning set to a rousing conclusion. The band is currently working on a new album – and the vibe and performance auger well.

Trinity Live - The Reasoning

The Reasoning – the new look line-up rocks Trinity Live!

Touchstone are a band I usually want to like more than, in practice, I do. They have some very good moments, for sure, but despite the odd exceptional track, they’ve never quite done it for me. Until tonight that is! From the first note to the last, this is Touchstone with a BIG sound – more exuberant and confident than I’ve seen them before. Indeed, this is the first time I’ve seen them looking so ‘at home’ and using the full width of the stage to maximum effect. For me this is the performance of the day. I suspect they draw the biggest and most enthusiastic audience of the day too. Here is a band seemingly growing in stature before our very eyes, and it’s great to see. Though ‘Strange Days’ remains my personal favourite, it has to be said that with John Mitchell’s help they deliver a stunning cover of ‘Mad World’. You could be forgiven for thinking that they wrote it themselves!

Trinity Live - Touchstone

Touchstone and John Mitchell – powerful and persuasive!

That’s not to say that headliners Arena are in any way off the pace. They deliver a solid, enjoyable and highly-competent set with moments of genuine excitement. With Clive Nolan (and his rotating keyboard), John Mitchell and Mick Pointer in the ranks, it’s quite a line-up, and on this occasion Kylan Amos picks up bass duties in the absence of John Jowitt. Vocalist Paul Manzi is one of the most flamboyant front men I’ve seen in a while – nineteenth century dandy meets 1980s’  hair metal rock star! But there’s no doubt he has a good, strong rock voice, and visually he demands attention. Those untroubled by last trains and Monday morning work demands remain appreciative throughout and are well rewarded with a full-blooded and gutsy set. It’s a strong band performance and an entertaining end to a wonderful day.

Trinity - Arena Paul Manzi and John Mitchell

Headliners Arena – Paul Manzi and John Mitchell

A word too about the charity auction and raffle. An extraordinary number of bands donated all sorts of weird and wonderful paraphernalia – including Rush, Yes, Peter Gabriel, Steven Wilson, Marillion, The Pineapple Thief, Roger Glover, the Summer’s End Festival, The Reasoning, Steve Hackett, Touchstone, Flying Colors and Gordon Giltrap, to name a few! Artist Rodney Matthews even turned up to auction some of his own prints, including the ‘Heavy Metal Hero’, one of his favourite pieces. The biggest money was splashed on the Rush, Flying Colors and Steven Wilson items in particular, with my friend Ali delighted to secure The Pineapple Thief bundle!

 

Trinity - Rush Auction

 

The event apparently raised £12,000, which after operating costs enabled the Trinity Team to provide Breakthrough Breast Cancer, Cancer Research UK, and Brain Tumour Research with donations to the tune of £3,000 apiece.

There are plans to do it all again on 9 May next year, with work on assembling a killer line-up already underway. Make sure it’s in your diary!

 

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HRH Prog/AOR 2104

HRH Prog Panic Room - Gavin Griffiths and Anne Marie Helder

Spring 2014 turned out to be real Progfest, with both the Trinity Live charity event and HRH Prog coming along in quick succession.

The latter featured a stunning line-up that included the likes of The Flower Kings, Focus, The Enid, Purson, Panic Room, Fish and The Pineapple Thief (to name a few). With a number of ‘must-see’ acts over the AOR stage too – Tigertailz, Graham Bonnet and headliners UFO – it turned out to be a blissful 3 days of fabulous music and great company in the beautiful setting of North West Wales.

If you’d like to know what happened, check out my full review on the Uber Rock website.

Prog ‘n’ roll!

Prog Crew

HRH Prog Crew – all present but largely incorrect! Photo by Fiona Boubert

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Robbie Cavanagh: ‘The State of Maine’ Album Launch

 Robbie Cavanagh album launch

I’ve made no secret of my admiration for Robbie Cavanagh’s solo debut The State of Maine. (Check out my Über Röck review, for example.)

The announcement, therefore, of a series of three album launch gigs in Manchester, Liverpool and London sounded positively mouth-watering. Irresistible, in fact. And so it was that Jess and I rushed through Friday afternoon as quickly as we could, trading Welsh hills and Roman Baths for a small Baptist Church in Hampstead, London.

We only missed one turning. It just happened to be Junction 2 of the M4, and it set us back an hour. To our surprise and delight, however, we still manage to arrive before the gig starts – and boy was that lucky, with both support acts, Your Correspondent and Lovelace, turning in ‘not to be missed’ sets.

Your Correspondent, featuring Andrew D. Smith (vocals, guitar) and Edwin Ireland (cello), play without the violinist, drummer and backing vocalist who feature on their 4-track E.P. – not that you’d guess anything is missing from the assured performance and quality of the songs. Of particular note are ‘Watching the Storm’, ‘Spinning Globe’ and ‘The Violin Trees’. (The latter, about a man whose job it is to select the trees from which violins will be made, is given an added twist by the story of the band’s regular violinist owning an instrument made in 1751.)

Second act, singer-songwriter Lovelace, proves as quirky and engaging as the music she plays.  She seems to spend a lot of time in the USA – and regales us with tales of a songwriting trip to San Francisco that yielded just one track, and the Nevada festival that inspired the song ‘Burning Man’.  For the first time ever, it seems, Lovelace is joined on stage by three young vocalists – Ruth Corey, Hannah Murphy and Sian O’Gorman – who do a fine job replacing her loop station! It’s a veritable feast of melody, harmony and vocal gymnastics – hugely enjoyable stuff!

Robbie Cavanagh and Will RogersBut as good as the support acts are, within moments of him taking to the stage, all eyes and ears are on Robbie Cavanagh. He opens with ‘Deeper’, the first track of his album. It’s mesmerising – with the restrained drumming of brother Jamie and hummed backing of Messrs Brewin, Tosh and Rogers enhancing Cavanagh’s bleeding heart vocal and emotive guitar.

For this series of gigs Robbie has assembled nearly all the musicians who play on the album, namely Rick Brewin (percussion, bass, backing vocals), Rachel Shakespeare (cello), Melody Nairn (vocals), Jamie Cavanagh (drums), Will Rogers (guitar) and Drew Tosh (backing vocals). Keyboards this evening are provided by Liviu Gheorghe.

There is a warmth evident between the musicians, and, indeed, the contribution of the band to Robbie’s performance should not be underestimated. Rachel Shakespeare’s cello, for example, adds appropriate pathos, as on the enormously impressive ‘Heavy Heart’. Melody Nairn’s dreamy voice works particularly well on ‘1991’ (a personal favourite), the male/female vocal dynamic emphasising the significance and impact of the lyric. Group claps add percussive force to the flamenco-styled ‘Worn’ and contrast nicely with Robbie’s quieter guitar moments. The full band version of ‘Boy From The Fair’ is a treat. And ‘Choked Up’ is given an energy boost that has it sounding even more ‘countrified’ than on the album, the upbeat music clashing delightfully with the (relatively) dark lyrics.

The fact of the matter is that The State of Maine features some achingly beautiful and often delicate music. One of its strong points is its ‘realness’; the sense of ‘person’ you get from the songs. Seeing that same person perform the songs live reinforces this.

Cavanagh has presence but is unassuming. There is strength and emotion in the songs – he seems to feel every note and every lyric – but between songs his manner is gentle. He is charming but also modest.  “Thank you for clapping,” he says at one point, “it makes it better for us.”

He seems genuinely grateful for, and even surprised by, the enthusiastic response of his audience. His explanation for having chosen to play in a church is that: “You have to face the right way, and the doors are locked.” He is gracious towards the support acts with whom, he says, he has “fallen in love a little bit”.

This was an intentionally small and intimate gig attended by, perhaps, 50 people. (Apparently, he had half the cast of Channel 4’s Hollyoaks at the Liverpool gig.) Hopefully more gigs will follow. Check out the album, and if you do get a chance to see the man live, make sure you take it! As I said in my album review, here’s a musician, and a soul, on fire!

Robbie Cavanagh launch gig - stage shot

The State of Maine is available now on iTunes.

Physical copies are available from Big Cartel.

Check out Robbie Cavanagh’s Words and Music interview.

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Scott Ian: Speaking Words

Scott Ian - promo shotThe Gate, Roath, Cardiff, 25 May 2013

I’ve long thought that there’s a rich but seldom tapped seam of fan and musician experience linked to the music we love. It’s the motivation, indeed, for Words and Music, and it appears that Scott Ian has had a similar thought, or, at least, one very much like it.

Scott has embarked on his Speaking Words tour with the conviction that his stories, memories and reflections will strike a chord and be of interest “to a certain audience”. He is right, and for over two hours, one man, his microphone, and a well-chosen set of photos and comic strip overheads, keep an enthralled audience both entertained and on the edge of their seats.

The Gate - Scott Ian

Shot posted by Scott a couple of hours before gig time

The venue is perfect – a converted church, with most of the 120 or so present primed on Worship Music. We all know it’s a privilege to see and hear such a big name at such close quarters and in such intimate surroundings. And with the pre-gig playlist – touchingly triggered by Scott himself from his on-stage computer – including the likes of Judas Priest (‘The Hellion’/’Electric Eye’), Iron Maiden, Motorhead (‘Love Me Like a Reptile’), Thin Lizzy (‘Don’t Believe a Word’), Dio (‘Stand Up and Shout’) and Rainbow (‘Kill The King’), we just know it’s going to be a good night. So let us play …

The gig proper kicks off with a reading that appears to be about drug addiction. The well-chosen passage tightens the mood before a killer punchline releases the tension and sets the tone for the evening. Thereafter, we are treated to a well-constructed and quick-witted performance from a man who clearly has a lot to say and a lot to offer.

This may only be Scott’s fifth Speaking Words show, and he may “get more nervous at these shows than a Big Four or a stadium gig”, but he comes across as fluent, intelligent, confident and professional. He even takes it in his stride when, early in the show, a man collapses in the second row (the gentleman concerned received treatment and was thankfully ok). He may not be “a stand-up comedian” but he is also very, very funny.

Scott Ian tour promoThe stories come thick and fast: his upbringing in a Jewish family in New York; his experience of, and attitude towards, drugs; his first meeting with Lemmy (the moral of the story: “Don’t try to keep up with Lemmy!”); his meeting with a sinister-looking German doctor; his second meeting, and subsequent friendship, with Lemmy (“Why on earth would you try to keep up with me?!”); his memories of departed friends – Dimebag Darrell, Jeff Hanneman, Ronnie James Dio and Cliff Burton; his inopportune seizures; and how difficult he finds it leaving his two year old son to go on tour.

Some of the topics and reflections emerge from an open Q&A session, in which Scott honestly answers questions on everything thrown at him  – no sacred ground, not even in a church. He makes sure that everyone who wants to ask a question gets to ask one, and he even holds a free prize draw in which everyone gets a chance to win a tour merch bundle and a signed Jackson guitar.

I learnt some stuff too. Did you know that the Wales and British Lions rugby captain Sam Warburton named his book, Refuse To Be Denied: My Grand Slam Year, after the Anthrax track on the We’ve Come For You All album?

Scott ends the show with a list of things you are well advised NOT to say or do when you meet a rock star – a kind of top 10 compilation of things people say to him or shout at him as he goes about his business. You’ll laugh and maybe even cringe a bit as he runs through his list. You know the kind of thing:
Fan: “Hey, I know you, you’re the guy in that band.”
Scott: “Anthrax?”
Fan: “No, that’s not it.”

Throughout he is a warm and engaging host, and I came away feeling that I’d really seen something of the man behind the music, both in humorous and serious moments. “Music should be what you feel and what’s in your heart,” he says, to enthusiastic applause from all around the room. We sense there is something in this passionate statement that we share.

Scott reflects on Jeff Hanneman’s passing too, even though it is clearly (and unsurprisingly) still very raw.  It is the first time, says Scott, that he has really been moved to think about his own mortality. He has always taken the view that you should: “Play every show as though you’re going to jail the next day”, but Hanneman’s passing seems to have given his perspective a wider and more emotional significance.

As for the funny moments, well, Scott’s story about making Slayer smile onstage is hilarious, and I’ll never, ever be able to look at pictures of Sebastian Bach again (not that I make a habit of doing that) without giggling.

But hey, I don’t want to give out too many spoilers. If you wanna hear Scott’s stories, you’ve gotta see the show. And really, you’ve got to see this show.

In these days of carefully-packaged, superficial talent show bullshit, the words spoken by Scott Ian were very refreshing. Catch this tour if you can – you will not regret it.

Scott Ian

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Neil Jenkins (and his Randy pics)

Ozzy Osboure with Neil Jenkins

Regular visitors to the Words and Music website may recall my post about the ‘disputed’ Cardiff gig on Ozzy’s Diary of a Madman tour. There are those who believe that the entire UK leg of the Diary tour was cancelled. Neil Jenkins is not one of them. Neil Jenkins was there, and has provided me with some extremely rare photos of Ozzy and the late, great Randy Rhoads to prove it. In fact, Neil Jenkins is possibly one of the most experienced gig-goers I have ever met. He is an intrepid gig-goer par excellence. If Neil was a footballer, his fans would sing: “He’s here, he’s there, he’s every f****n’ where!” with both fondness and admiration.

This is clear Words and Music territory, especially given that I met Neil at a Magnum gig, and that the title of the gig chapter in Words and Music (‘This One Sacred Hour’) is drawn from a Magnum song. I spoke with Neil to find out more about his love of live music, his Randy Rhoads photos, his Blizzard of Ozz signatures and his Randy Rhoads portrait. Check out his stories and his Randy pics (you know what I mean) below.

Hi Neil, when we met at a recent Magnum gig you told me that you’d seen them 63 times, but I get the impression you’ve seen a lot of other bands too?
I’ve seen every band I’ve ever wanted to see except one – ELO. I would have loved to have seen ELO. Magnum, yes, I’ve seen them 63 times. I have been a huge fan since my school days. I still have the Kingdom of Madness tour programme!

What was your first gig?
The first gig I went to was Rainbow at the  Capitol Theatre [long since demolished – Ed] in Cardiff, on the Long Live Rock And Roll tour. Of course, Ronnie James Dio was in the band then. I still have the scarf.

What are the best gigs you’ve been to?
Well, it has to be the Ozzy gigs at Sophia Gardens, Cardiff on the Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman tours … and the Donington days and Reading Rock, if they count!

Your most disappointing gig?
Sabbath with Ian Gillan. He forgot his words, and the lowest part of the night was when he swore at the audience for booing when they did ‘Smoke on the Water’.  

Best and worst venues you’ve been to?
Well, the worst venue for me is St. David’s Hall, Cardiff – crap sound, terrible acoustics for rock music, and security will chuck you out for taking pictures! The venues I’ve been to that I like best are the Hammersmith Odeon, Bristol Colston Hall, and Sophia Gardens [also, of course, demolished – Ed] which has legendary status. The old venues are the best, and I quite like venues like the Ponty Arts Centre – cracking sound.

Looking at your photo collection, you’ve met a lot of musicians. What’s your best experience of meeting a rock star? 
Ronnie James Dio - Rest in PeaceI met Ronnie Jame Dio. He was so kind and made sure everyone got an autograph. True gentleman. I told him how much I enjoyed his concerts and he seemed genuinely interested in my experience of seeing the band. I know it sounds corny but the guy said “God bless mate,” and “See you soon”. I think it will stick in my mind. It’s so sad that he’s passed away.

Has anyone you’ve met given you a really hard time?
Yes, one. Malmsteen – wanker! My wife and I had guest passes for Cardiff. I bumped into him in the corridor in St. David’s Hall, asked for a picture and autograph and he said, “For fuck’s sake fuck off”!

Tell us about the signatures you got on the Blizzard of Ozz tour and what happened to them.
I sold the signatures to a guy in Australia for £600 in a moment of madness! And I sold the programme too. I didn’t meet Ozzy then mind, and I never met Randy. Someone else got the signatures for me. I got more Ozzy stuff later, from the Ultimate Sin and Bark at the Moon tours.

Blizzard of Ozz signatures

You have some extremely rare photos from the Cardiff gig on the Diary of a Madman tour. What do you remember about that gig?
Well, mainly the excitement of Ozzy coming. I am a huge Sabbath fan. Musically the best part of the night for me was ‘Revelation Mother Earth’/’Steal Away The Night’.

Randy Rhoads portraitI’m impressed with your Randy portrait – what you can tell us about that?
Well, there’s nothing hard in what I did there. It was all done on Photoshop – send me a picture and I’ll do the same for you!

How do you rate Randy as a guitarist?
Randy is an amazing guitarist. I like his style of playing, with the selector switch and the way he fills the song with those guitar neck techniques. That’s his trade mark and he has a distinctive sound as well. I like Brian May too, he has a good sort of style, nothing too flash. I don’t really like guitarists like Joe Satriani and Steve Vai, and instrumentals bore me.

And you’ve kept up with Ozzy’s career since?  Which tours and albums have impressed you?
Besides the Blizzard and Diary tours, I’d say The Ultimate Sin tour – I had fun that tour! I’ve seen Ozzy driving around in a beat-up Capri a few times!

I finally met him in Wembley at a Brit Awards ceremony. Magnum, Thunder and the Quireboys were on the bill and played for half an hour each. I remember buying the Just Say Ozzy CD there. I think it was around the time No More Tears was released.

To be honest, I think Sharon took pity on me and my wife outside the gates. She came out in a car, stopped and asked us what we were waiting for. I told her I was waiting for Ozzy to sign my album. She went somewhere then came back for us and took us backstage. She took us to a room where we mixed with a lot of ‘big wig’ people in suits.

You also sing in a band. Tell us about that.
Well, at the moment I’m in a duo called 48 Crash playing a lot of fun stuff like Madness and Bad Manners, and some rock like Rainbow and Sabbath – arse-moving music as I call it! Until last year I was in a band called Belladonic Haze doing Queen stuff. The name comes from a line in ‘Keep Yourself Alive’. I had a good laugh in that band, and we even managed to play the Liverpool Cavern. We sound-checked with Neil Murray too, at the last Queen Convention – though I found him quite rude, actually. He was trying to tell us we were playing a song too fast and he got really funny about it! We did, though, get quite a following among Queen fans. I think there are some reviews on Facebook!

What would you say to people who say that rock or the rock era is dead?
Bollocks! I would ask them why they would say that and in what way they think it’s dead. I could understand a person saying that if they didn’t like the music but in no way has it died in my eyes. It’s been a big part of my life both in terms of playing and listening. I have made a living playing and still enjoy it today, so … yeah, I think I would say to them what I just said to you!

Diary of a Madman tour photos
Sophia Gardens Cardiff, 30 November 1981

Please note: Neil’s photos come from a time which pre-dates the widespread availability of mobile phones and digital cameras. In those days, you weren’t allowed to take cameras into gigs either. Getting close enough to take any kind of snap was some achievement!

Ozzy Osbourne Randy Rhoads - Sophia Gardens Cardiff 30 November 1981

Ozzy Osbourne and Randy Rhoads on stage, Sophia Gardens Cardiff, 30 November 1981

Ozzy-Cardiff

Ozzy on stage

Randy Rhoads rocking out

Randy Rhoads rocking out, Sophia Gardens, Cardiff, 30 November 1981

Randy Rhoads on stage Diary of a Madman tour

Randy Rhoads on stage, Diary of a Madman tour, Cardiff, Wales 30 November 1981

Ozzy with bodyguard Cardiff 81

Ozzy with bodyguard, Sophia Gardens, Cardiff, 30 November, 1981

CHEERS NEIL!

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